Plutonium “Pit” Production P.E.I.S. Lawsuit

Background

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is among a coalition of community and public interest groups that has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), challenging the federal agencies’ decision not to examine the possible wider impacts of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Savannah River Site in South Carolina producing these warhead triggers, also known as pits.

A plutonium pit is the heart and trigger of a nuclear bomb. Production involves the extensive processing and handling of extremely hazardous and radioactive materials. In 2018, the federal government called for producing at least 80 pits per year by 2030, including 30 or more at Los Alamos and 50 or more at the Savannah River Site. 

We have pushed for a full program review since 2019, reaching out to DOE and NNSA on six occasions over the legal requirement for a new or supplemental broad, nationwide programmatic environmental impact statement, or PEIS, for producing the larger number of plutonium pits at Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site. NNSA has only conducted fragmented and piecemeal reviews, looking at sites separately rather than examining their combined impacts and risks.

Click below to view official lawsuit documents and recent media articles

GENERAL DOCUMENTS

Letter of Demand filed April 20, 2021

NNSA failed to respond to this notice, and the following lawsuit was filed:

Lawsuit filed against NNSA for failure to prepare a Programmatic EIS (PEIS) on plutonium pit production (for nuclear weapons), June 29, 2021 – by South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), for SRS Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CAREs

Complaint filed, June 29, 2021:  complaint with case number marking June 29 2021

RULE 26 INTERROGATORIES, June 29, 2021:  RULE 26 INTERROGATORIES June 29 2021

07/01/2021 4 Summons Issued as to United States Department of Energy, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Attorney General. (cbru, ) (Entered: 07/01/2021)  document 4 July 1 2021 Summons Issued as to United States Department of Energy, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Attorney General.
07/01/2021 5 Summons Issued as to Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Attorney General. (cbru, ) (Entered: 07/01/2021)  document 5 July 1 2021 summons to Sec Granholm
07/01/2021 6 Summons Issued as to National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Attorney General. (cbru, ) (Entered: 07/01/2021)  document 6 July 1 2021 summons issued to NNSA
07/01/2021 7 Summons Issued as to Charles Verdon, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Attorney General. (cbru, ) (Entered: 07/01/2021)  document 7 July 1 2021 summons issued to NNSAs Charles Verndon

 

Affidavit of Service – by SCELP to DOE, NNSA, federal attorneys, July 30, 2021:  Affadavit of Service by SCELP to DOE, NNSA July 30 2021

 

Recent News

Lawsuit Filed Against Biden Administration Over Nuclear Bomb Core Production Plans

Federal agencies’ refusal to review cross-country expansion of plutonium pit production violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, groups say.

AIKEN, S.C. – Today, a coalition of community and public interest groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This legal action is prompted by the agencies’ failure to take the “hard look” required by the National Environmental Policy Act at their plans to more than quadruple the production of plutonium pits and split their production between the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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Feds face suit over plan to build atomic weapons component factory in SC

VIEW NEWS CONFERENCE & PRESS RELEASE ABOVE

(also archived on the Facebook page of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project: https://www.facebook.com/scelp.org)

BY: SAMMY FRETWELL

The government never finished this mixed oxide fuel plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This site would be converted to a pit plutonium factory, according to plans. COURTESY HIGH FLYER

Four public interest groups said Tuesday they are suing the federal government, seeking to stop construction of multi-billion dollar nuclear production factories in South Carolina and New Mexico that would make components for new atomic weapons.

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri Valley CARES and the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition are seeking an extensive study, known as a programmatic environmental impact statement, to weigh the effects of new pit plants on the environment and people who live near them.

Federal officials have sought the new plants to update the nuclear arsenal, a prospect that project boosters say could provide 1,000 jobs at the Savannah River Site, the Aiken area weapons complex where a pit factory would be located.

But critics say the promise of jobs isn’t worth the risk of environmental contamination or the cost, now estimated to be about $15 billion for the two plants. 

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South Carolina Environmental Law Project logo

MEDIA ADVISORY – South Carolina Environmental Law Project and Nuclear Watchdogs Hold Virtual Press Conference

WHAT:

Public interest groups will hold a press conference for a major announcement of a forthcoming legal action as the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration forge ahead with plans to drastically expand production of plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear weapons, at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The legal action follows previous unanswered requests from the groups to DOE and NNSA as seen in correspondence in February and April.

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Minorities threatened by atomic weapons plants in S. Carolina and NM, groups say

“As construction problems mounted, costs rose, and schedules slipped, (and) defendants hid the true status of the project,” the indictment said.
“…Delays and cost overruns — hidden by SCANA officials from the public and state regulators — eventually doomed the effort, making it one of the largest business failures in South Carolina history.”

BY SAMMY FRETWELL| April 22, 2021 thestate.com

A mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years. But the project has been scrapped and the federal government is looking to convert the site into a plutonium pit factory COURTESY HIGH FLYER

A coalition of environmental groups from the southern and western United States is threatening to sue the federal government over plans for plutonium pit factories in South Carolina and New Mexico that would produce components for additional atomic weapons.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a non-profit law firm said the government should prepare an extensive environmental study before deciding to establish pit production factories at the Savannah River Site near Aiken and the Los Alamos site near Santa Fe, N.M.

African American and Native American communities have been hurt by past activities at the nuclear sites, and President Joe Biden’s administration should consider how the production factories would add to that burden, according to the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a non-profit legal service in South Carolina.

Nine environmental groups, including SRS Watch, the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition, Tri-Valley Cares of California and Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are among those seeking more study.

The law project’s letter also was sent to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the energy department.

“The plans of DOE and NNSA to expand this production program will saddle the already-burdened communities represented by these groups with a significant amount of nuclear waste and pollution,’’ the letter from lawyer Leslie Lenhardt said.

Her letter said the pit production efforts are in “complete contravention’’ to an executive order by President Biden that federal agencies weigh the impact their policies and plans have on disadvantaged communities.

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