Citizens’ Hearing Held at New Mexico Capitol about Increased Plutonium Pit Production at LANL

The Department of Energy (DOE) has approved its plans to increase plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) by 50 percent as a way to comply with what is described in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review as a need for “an effective, responsive, and resilient nuclear weapons infrastructure” that can “adapt flexibly to shifting requirements.”

The Pentagon has stated it needs annual production of 80 plutonium pits, the triggers for nuclear weapons.  The DOE has approved its Supplement Analyses for four possible ways to execute this upgrade.

  At LANL, DOE proposes upgrades to both LANL’s Plutonium Facility and the Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building which is part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project.

Despite a mission that has been re-directed and an expansion involving about $15 billion in upgrades for two major buildings and related infrastructure, DOE has decided not to undertake a new Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for LANL. and  Neither our congressional delegation nor our Governor has voiced disapproval of bypassing the SWEIS.

On Wednesday afternoon, October 7th, a citizens’ hearing was held outside the New Mexico State Capitol Building. Testimony was taken about DOE’s dramatic expansion plans for LANL that involve an installation of the size and importance and with the attendant dangers of the closed nuclear weapons plant at Rocky Flats, Colorado. The event, which provided a place for dozens of citizens to express their opposition to DOE’s plans in Northern New Mexico, was sponsored by the Los Alamos Study Group.

The DOE proposals are too broad and too expensive to go forward without an SWEIS with public review and comment opportunities.

Every day, new information is released about the increased hazards at LANL.  This week the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board issued a new report about the inconsistent and inappropriate consideration of potential energetic chemical reactions, or explosions, involving transuranic waste stored at LANL.  The Board conducted an analysis of transuranic, or plutonium-contaminated, wastes stored at the Plutonium Facility, the old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility, the Transuranic Waste Facility, and Area G and the potential for explosions.  It found that LANL has not fully analyzed for possible explosions involving transuranic waste stored at these facilities that would result in high exposures to workers and the public.

The Board asked DOE to respond within 120 days.

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