July 17, 2011
#121: Study Group to host discussion Tuesday evening, July 19th, in Los Alamos
regarding proposed plutonium facility
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Dear friends and colleagues --
Group to host discussion Tuesday evening in Los Alamos regarding
proposed plutonium facility
We would like to invite you to
a public discussion Tuesday evening regarding the "ins and outs"
of the proposed giant plutonium facility at Los Alamos National
Laboratory (LANL). We will meet in the main room at Fuller
Lodge in Los Alamos, at 2132 Central Avenue, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
I and other members of the Los Alamos Study Group will answer
questions about the proposed huge new plutonium facility -- the
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility
(CMRR-NF) -- at LANL.
Our panel of speakers will
- Willem Malten;
- Me, Greg Mello; and
- Gilbert Sanchez
There may be one or two others as well
(depending on the timeliness of an airplane flight, in one case).
We hope you will come, with your questions and your
own perspectives. Your questions will help shape the public
As readers of these bulletins understand,
this is a $6 billion project (more or less) at the present time.
(It might be less if the National Nuclear Security Administration
[NNSA] attempts to trim the scope of the project, or more if costs
continue to increase or if one includes supporting construction in
the total). As such it is about six times the financial scale
of the original Manhattan Project investment in New Mexico, and about
equal to what LANL has said is the capital value of the entire
laboratory. This estimated cost is about ten times the cost of
any other government infrastructure project in the history of New
Mexico, except the Interstate Highways.
people in government who believe the ultimate capital cost of this
project, should it continue, would be closer to $8 to 10 billion when
all is said and done. I am beginning to believe such large
numbers are possible, for reasons I will explain.
has declined to make an official appearance. Their excuse is
that we are suing them. Of course that could be our excuse not to participate as well, but we want to be accountable to
the public -- especially to the community of Los Alamos, from which
we aim to help take billions of dollars in local spending.
(The project, if fully pursued, will generate more than $400
million in gross receipts taxes and will create many
upper-middle-class incomes and not a few millionaires, I am sure.
About 420 construction workers also would be employed, on average.
No long-term new LANL employment is expected. )
In fact, NNSA
and LANS have an uninterrupted 10+ year record of unwillingness to
discuss any issue in any forum we have proposed -- in any forum they
do not control. Sad but true.
We are not interested in
any kind of shallow "point-scoring" discussion, or in any
kind of public posturing. We work closely with (and that means
against, sometimes) all three branches of the federal government.
We are looking for the truth of the matter, nothing more -- and
nothing less. We want to get at some of the deeper issues
regarding CMRR-NF. Which issues discussed will
depend in part on the audience -- which we hope will include some of
For my part, in addition to answering questions I
will present on: a) why it would be better not to build CMRR-NF; b)
why it ought not to be built now; and c) on some of the "macro"
changes affecting the feasibility of this project -- why it may never
be completed even if the Obama White House and other policymakers
retain their attachment to it.
2. We will post
filings in our Appeal
to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals as they are filed, here.
3. Last Friday the Republican-led House cut
$1.1 billion (B) from Obama's proposed NNSA budget for FY2012,
including a $498 million cut from Obama's proposed nuclear "Weapons
Activities" budget line.
Most of the details
we provided in Bulletin
#118 (House Appropriations Committee slashes $100 million from
huge proposed plutonium facility at Los Alamos, June 15, 2011) are
still more or less the same. It is significant that the Energy
and Water Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Freylinghuysen (R-NJ)
specifically mentioned the savings available from capital projects
"that are not ready to move forward." He was
referring specifically to CMRR-NF, since 90% of the cuts the
Subcommittee proposed in that category were cuts to CMRR-NF.
The bill now goes to the Senate, which will not take up
spending bills until the budget impasse is resolved, and after the
August recess. The Senate is unlikely to be functional enough
to pass appropriations bills in the remaining month of the fiscal
year, meaning that the fate of these cuts will be resolved in a
continuing resolution or in omnibus legislation, either of which
would be conditioned by the new fiscal conservatism (if that's what
you call it), the precise nature of which is now under heated
4. The Army Corps of Engineers, working
with two consulting firms, has warned NNSA of some of the dangers of
proceeding with CMRR-NF and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in
We will talk about
this some on Tuesday evening. The pricetag for UPF, according
to the Corps, may now reach as high as $7.5 B, and "[s]ignificant
cost growth of either project [UPF and CMRR-NF] may result in a
situation where constructing both projects with currently anticipated
scopes is not feasible due to NNSA funding constraints."
As we have discussed
in detail, UPF is a much higher priority project to NNSA. Or at
least it ought to be. (NNSA has a habit of prioritizing
projects backwards in order to force Congress to fund all its
proposals rather than just the better-justified ones. This is
currently occurring at the Savannah River Site with respect to two
large projects there, which are being built in reverse order, for
precisely that reason, as some in government have explained to me.)
5. Now is the time to speak to your friends about
helping the Study Group financially.
and it's important. So many people ask, "What can I do?"
Most of us have few resources, but all of us have friends who do.
Trips to Washington, DC cost money (not that much, but some);
litigation costs money (sometimes a surprisingly lot of money).
Our voice is unique in this fray; it is uniquely experienced, and it
has been uniquely effective. Our litigation halted CMRR-NF
construction contracting (LANS took the pending bid announcement down
just before the bidding process was to begin) and required the
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) as fig-leaf
compliance. By the time the SEIS is completed a year will have
passed, a very important year. As I will explain on Tuesday,
the tide has begun to shift further in our favor. We need your
help to bring this project to an end.
funders are afraid to touch this project, as it is a favorite of
Barack Obama's. We really need you -- and your friends.
Right now I am not going to tell you all the ways you can waste your
time and money in "feel-good" pseudo-politics. They
Greg Mello and Trish