Andy Stiny | The Santa Fe New Mexican
Three nuclear watchdog groups across the U.S., including Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are accusing the National Nuclear Security Administration of creating a plan to increase production of plutonium bomb cores in violation of an environmental law.
The agency has failed to hold a review and public hearings on the plan, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the groups say.
Along with NukeWatch, Savannah River Site Watch in South Carolina and Livermore, Calif.-based Tri-Valley CAREs sent an Oct. 31 letter to NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, alleging the federal agency “explicitly plans to expand plutonium pit production but has made no visible effort to begin the legally required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.”
A spokeswoman for the NNSA said in an email Wednesday that “the pit production mission will be carried out in accordance with all applicable environmental and regulatory requirements.”
Plutonium cores, or “pits,” are the softball-sized components that initiate the detonation of a nuclear weapon. The NNSA announced in May that by 2030, 30 pits a year would be produced at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at least 50 a year at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
The watchdog groups’ letter says they are demanding an environmental review and public hearings because the agency has raised its projected production level above the currently sanctioned cap of 20 pits per year and also because it plans to establish pit production at a second site.
“Assuring the public’s ability to meaningfully comment is a key component of legal compliance,” the letter says.
The organizations are asking the NNSA to respond within 30 days.