Atomic Histories & Nuclear Testing
LANL’s Central Mission: Los Alamos Lab officials have recently claimed that LANL has moved away from primarily nuclear weapons to “national security”, but what truly remains as the Labs central mission? Here’s the answer from one of its own documents:
LANL’s “Central Mission”- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications (PDF) 4/27/11
The Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted a report to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declaring its preferred plan to “cap and cover” radioactive and toxic wastes at one of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) oldest dumps. DOE’s $12 million cleanup-on-the-cheap plan for Material Disposal Area C will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above our regional groundwater. In contrast, DOE has asked Congress for one billion dollars for expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production at LANL for fiscal year 2022 alone.
LANL used to falsely claim that groundwater contamination was impossible and even asked NMED for a waiver from even having to monitor for it. We now know that there is extensive groundwater contamination from hexavalent chromium (the carcinogen in the Erin Brockovich movie) and high explosives. Traces of plutonium have been detected 1,300 feet under Area C in regional groundwater monitoring wells. The dump also has a large toxic gaseous plume of industrial solvents known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which threatens nearby facilities. LANL is banking on a cap of less than five feet of soil and gravel to protect northern New Mexico from these wastes for a thousand years. But bomb-making plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years and is generally considered dangerous for 100,000 years. Finally, as an internal Lab document concluded, “Future contamination at additional locations is expected over a period of decades to centuries as more of the contaminant inventory reaches the water table.”
The Lab claims that the cap and cover will be protective for 1,000 years. However, Area C is loaded with radioactive transuranic (TRU) wastes, defined as wastes that contain manmade elements heavier than uranium on the periodic table (e.g. plutonium). Therefore, Area C should be required to meet DOE regulations for TRU wastes containment for 10,000 years. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which was built to dispose of transuranic wastes, meets DOE’s requirement of a reasonable expectation of containment for 10,000 years and is 2,150 feet deep. Area C is 25 feet deep at the deepest and should not be allowed to become a permanent dump for plutonium and other dangerous transuranic bomb-making materials.
Read/Download the full fact sheet pdf HERE
Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. Their production has always been a chokepoint of resumed industrial-scale U.S. nuclear weapons production ever since a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. In 1997 the mission of plutonium pit production was officially transferred to its birthplace, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico, but officially capped at not more than 20 pits per year. However, in 2015 Congress required expanded pit production by 2030 whether or not the existing nuclear weapons stockpile actually needs it. This will support new military capabilities for nuclear weapons and their potential use. Read/Download the full fact sheet pdf HERE
Click the image to view and download this large printable map of DOE sites, commercial reactors, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear transportation routes, surface waters near sites and transport routes, and underlying aquifers. This map was prepared by Deborah Reade for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
Nuclear Watch Interactive Map – U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex