Citizens Rebut Government Attempt To Continue Illegal Construction Of Nuclear Weapons Plant

12 November 2019 for immediate release

Calling the National Nuclear Security Administration’s brazen disregard for a federal court’s September 24, 2019, ruling an “abuse of the judicial process,” the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with four individual plaintiffs, returned to federal court in Knoxville, TN, today to file a rebuttal of the NNSA’s argument that the agency should be allowed to continue construction on a new nuclear weapons production plant “in the interim”—even while they are preparing the studies that will tell them whether the facilities can be made safe for workers and the public in the event of an earthquake.

“If it turns out that the old buildings can not be made safe enough to operate for 20-30 more years, their entire plan, and a couple billion taxpayer dollars, goes ‘poof!’” said OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison. “Because the current strategy is completely co-dependent. In order to meet their mission requirements, they need not only the new bomb plant, the Uranium Processing Facility, but also the old, unsafe buildings. Without the old buildings, it’s back to the drawing board.”

The latest filing by OREPA and its co-plaintiffs puts the matter back on US Chief Federal Judge Pamela Reeves’s desk.

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PLANTIFFS’ FILED MOTION TO ENFORCE COURT JUDGMENT

Plaintiffs file this Motion to Enforce the Court’s Judgment of September 24, 2019, ECF No. 64, because the Department of Energy (“DOE”) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (“NNSA”) have issued a new Amended Record of Decision (“2019 AROD”), see 84 Fed. Reg. 53,133 (Attachment A), that is fundamentally inconsistent with this Court’s Judgment, ECF No. 64, and Memorandum Opinion and Order (“Opinion”), ECF No. 63. Based on a finding that the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321–4347, by failing to properly consider new information about seismic hazards in eastern Tennessee, this Court vacated the NNSA’s previous 2016 AROD and associated 2016 Supplement Analysis (“SA”) and 2018 SA, and ordered the agencies to prepare a new analysis of seismic risks on remand.

However, a mere three days after this Court issued its Opinion and Judgment, NNSA issued the 2019 AROD, which effectively adopted the same decision this Court vacated—and did so without preparing any analysis of seismic risks that complies with this Court’s Opinion. Accordingly, Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enforce its Judgment of September 24, 2019, ECF No. 64, by declaring that the 2019 AROD is inconsistent with this Court’s Opinion, vacating the 2019 AROD, and declaring that any subsequent AROD that allows NNSA to conduct further construction or related activities before NNSA completes the legally required NEPA analysis this Court ordered will likewise be inconsistent with this Court’s Judgment.

FULL DOCUMENT

Calling the National Nuclear Security Administration's latest Record of Decision (Federal Register, October 4, 2019) for the Continued Operation of the Y-12 National Security Complex , "an obvious attempt by the government to deliberately circumvent this Court's ruling," the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the Natural Resources Defense Council and four individual co-plaintiffs today filed a Motion to Enforce the judgment handed down in federal court in September by Chief United States District Judge Pamela Reeves.

"Within hours of the Judge's September ruling, NNSA told reporters that it would keep right on doing what it was doing, including building the UPF bomb plant. Then they published the new Record of Decision which is a direct challenge to the Court—it says they have decided they will comply with the Court's order at some uncertain date in the future, and in the meantime, it's business as usual. We went to court in the first place, because 'business as usual' was violating the law." — OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison

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NNSA Review of UPF Compounds Legal Violations, Environmental Groups Say

OCTOBER 18, 2018
NNSA Review of UPF Compounds Legal Violations, Environmental Groups Say
BY EXCHANGE MONITOR

A September review by the Department of Energy compounded the agency’s alleged transgressions of federal environmental law stemming from a 2016 design change to a next-generation uranium plant under construction at the Oak Ridge Site in Tennessee, a band of environmental groups said this week in an amended federal lawsuit.

The supplemental analysis DOE’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published last month on the Uranium Processing Facility “not only failed to correct the NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] violations identified in Plaintiffs’ original Complaint, but also revealed additional ways in which the NNSA was continuing to violate NEPA,” the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in an amended complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Tennessee.

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Y-12 OREPA protest 2011

Challenging the UPF Bomb Plant – Y-12 Supplement Analysis Comments

On July 5, 2018, OREPA and Nuclear Watch New Mexico—along with many of you!—submitted formal comments on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s plan for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN. The gist of our comments is that NNSA is required to prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement, or at least a thorough Supplemental EIS, and can’t move forward with the UPF bomb plant until they have done so.

The comments, which you can read or download here, now become part of the Administrative Record which the judge hearing our legal challenge will use to decide the case.

We believe the government’s attempt to rectify their past errors is way too little and way too late, and the Supplement Analysis has effectively strengthened our argument. In addition to the comments, we also submitted attachments, including expert declarations on the NNSA’s plans, the seismic risks they are overlooking, and the unsuitability of a piecemeal approach to planning at Y12. You can read or download the attachments here

Joseph Rotblat

“Nuclear disarmament is not just an ardent desire of the people, as expressed in many resolutions of the United Nations. It is a legal commitment by the five official nuclear states, entered into when they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

-Nobel Laureate Joseph Rotblat

United States To Begin Construction Of New Nuclear Bomb Plant

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on Friday, March 23, that it was authorizing the start of construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) and two sub-projects at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The UPF is a facility dedicated solely to the manufacture of thermonuclear cores for US nuclear bombs and warheads.

Citizen watchdog groups are responding by filing an expedited Freedom of Information Act request demanding a full fiscal accounting of the UPF bomb plant- something the NNSA has refused to provide for the last five years, including to Congress, despite repeated assurances that the project is “on budget.”
“This project is already a classic boondoggle, and they are just getting started,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Worse, it undermines US efforts to discourage nuclear proliferation around the world. How can we oppose the nuclear ambitions of other countries when we are building a bomb plant here to manufacture 80 thermonuclear cores for warheads every year?”

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Oak Ridge Environmental and Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and The Natural Resources Defense Council File Lawsuit Against New Nuclear Bomb Plant

Washington, DC Today, the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit to stop construction of the problem-plagued Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) until legally required environmental review is completed. The UPF, located at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Y-12 production plant near Oak Ridge, TN, is slated to produce new thermonuclear weapons components until the year 2080. The UPF is the tip of the spear for the U.S.’s planned one trillion dollar-plus make over of its nuclear weapons arsenal, delivery systems, and production plants.

“The story of this new bomb plant is a long tale of outrageous waste and mismanagement, false starts and re-dos, a federal agency that refuses to meet its legal obligation to engage the public, and a Senator that is bent on protecting this piece of prime nuclear pork for his home state,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA. “But the short version is this: when the NNSA made dramatic changes to the UPF, and admitted that it intends to continue to operate dangerous, already contaminated facilities for another twenty or thirty years, they ran afoul of the National Environmental Policy Act. Our complaint demands that the NNSA complete a supplemental environmental impact statement on the latest iteration of its flawed plans.”

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Watchdog Groups Call For New Environmental Impact Study For Nuclear Bomb Plant

Cite Worker And Public Risks, New Seismic Information

“The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and Nuclear Watch New Mexico today released a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz calling for a new Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Y-12 is a manufacturing plant that produces the thermonuclear cores (secondaries) for US nuclear warheads and bombs.
“The letter rejects the analysis prepared by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the subsequent Amended Record of Decision released in August 2016 in which the NNSA gave itself the green light to proceed with construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, a bomb plant originally intended to replace aging facilities.”

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented:

“The Uranium Processing Facility is the tip-of-the-spear for the trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces that will fleece the American taxpayer. It will enrich the usual fat cat defense contractors by keeping nuclear weapons forever while rebuilding them to give them new military capabilities. The public has the legal right to review planned changes to the deeply troubled Uranium Processing facility, which we seek to enforce.”

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See Also: Letter To Senator Moniz 

Watchdog Groups Praise NNSA Decision to Obey the Law, Prepare Supplement Analysis on Bomb Plant

“The National Nuclear Security Administration’s disclosure that the agency is “in the process” of preparing a Supplement Analysis for the much-changed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons production plant brought praise from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) and Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Just two days ago the two grassroots watchdog groups filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act request asking for the Supplement Analysis. At the same time, the two groups noted that NNSA could be legally vulnerable without one.”

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