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"Forget the Rest" blog

Bulletin #99: The illegitimate scoping hearings for the big new nuke weapons plant are upon us, tomorrow and Wednesday.  Please go, or comment, or both – but the real action is elsewhere.

October 18, 2010

In this Bulletin:

1. The expected illegitimate Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) process has begun for the CMRR-NF at LANL – comment if you wish but by all means do not stop with that. 

2. If you live in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Taos, or Sandoval counties, please write or call your city council members and county commissioners, asking them to write Secretary Chu or sponsor a resolution calling for a pause to this project so a new EIS can be written.  This means you!

3. Our lawsuit is proceeding swimmingly.  ‘Nuff said.

4. Thank you all for your support.  We are looking for some larger donors.  It is often hard to realize that we are the people we have been waiting for.

Dear friends and colleagues –

1. The expected illegitimate Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) process has begun for the CMRR-NF at LANL – comment if you wish but by all means do not stop there.

Primarily if not entirely in response to our litigation, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published a Notice of Intent (NOI, pdf) on October 1, 2010 to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF). 

The CMRR-NF is a proposed $5-6 billion mostly-underground facility for storing, processing, and handling the additional several tons of plutonium needed for greatly-expanded warhead core (“pit”) production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

This development was expected and our initial comments came the same day: “NNSA promises "supplemental" EIS for massive Los Alamos facility; would bull forward on project regardless.”

Scoping meetings will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, October 19, at the White Rock Town Hall, 139 Longview Drive in White Rock and Wednesday, October 20, at the Cities of Gold Casino Hotel in Pojoaque.  Both meetings will begin at 4 p.m. and end at 7 p.m., they say. 

Comments on the scope of the proposed SEIS will be accepted until November 1, 2010 – when if past practice is any indication they will be largely if not totally ignored.  To comment write Mr. John Tegtmeier, CMRR–NF SEIS Document Manager, U.S. Department of Energy, Los Alamos Site Office, 3747 West Jemez Road, Los Alamos, New Mexico, 87544 or e-mail nepalaso@doeal.gov.

This is not a legitimate effort in either the narrow or the broad senses.  NNSA has nowhere offered to halt its increasing investment in the project, in contravention of NEPA and its implementing regulations, thus displaying its contempt for law, logic, and you.  If you think this project can be stopped with an opinion or analysis offered nicely in a NEPA scoping hearing, I have got an umbrella for you.  NNSA acts as if it believes compliance is created with bulldozers. 

For “supplemental,” read “half-assed.”  NNSA’s problem, which will become our problem if we accept it, is that none of the alternatives of the 2003 environmental impact statement for the CMRR are viable today.  NNSA itself, history, science, and engineering have abandoned them as impractical and unsafe.  Alternatives are the “heart” of the NEPA process (40 CFR 1502.14).  When all the old alternatives are dead the old EIS is dead too. 

You should know that in addition to the normal problems of challenging an inadequate EIS, the SEIS scoping process is voluntary, not required by law.  Is NNSA required to even read your comment, once embarking on the process?  Required by whom?  Skepticism is warranted. 

But creativity is what’s needed.  You have it.  Use it.  Nuclear weapons are a dying business.  So put some life into your action.  Think about it please, with your heart as well as your mind, with your friends as well as with us if you wish.  You are powerful.  They are not.  The issues we care about aren’t separate – climate, a giant nuclear weapons factory in our back yards, our neighbor's health and our own, whether we and our kids have a future.   

Speaking of scoping hearings, some of us will remember the story of the woman who was helping an attorney of ours in Virginia keep house while she was representing us in a NEPA challenge.  The EIS we were challenging, in all its 10-pound glory, was being used as a door stop in our lawyer’s home office.    “Hey, I remember that one,” the housekeeper said.  “I prepared the Comment Response document when I was a temp for a DOE contractor.”

Moral: NNSA decisionmakers are highly unlikely to ever see your comment, much less care about it – especially when the highest officials in the land have solemnly promised Republican senators that this project will be completed, no matter what the cost. You will have to be a little more creative than that to be heard. 

Is all lost, then?  No!  It never is! 

Friends, this is a big project.  Expected Nuclear Facility costs ($5 to 6 billion) now exceed the whole cost of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico – about $899 million in inflation-corrected 2010 dollars – by approximately a factor of six. This one building is now expected to cost what it cost taxpayers to build and operate Los Alamos lab from 1943 to 1955, at least, maybe later.  It’s a huge project and it’s a huge mistake for everybody involved – even NNSA, poor fellows. 

Do you think this project will be completed?  I think there are many ways it can be stopped, and few ways it can be finished. 

2. If you live in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Taos, or Sandoval counties, please write or call your city council members and county commissioners, asking them to write Secretary Chu or sponsor a resolution calling for a pause to this project so a new EIS can be written. 

It is not necessary that they oppose this project, just that they request a new EIS.  You can help them understand why they should do that.  Please do that.  Here are some sample letters:

Sample letter to local government officials to request a new EIS for the CMRR Nuclear Facility, (doc), Sep 27, 2010

Sample letter from local government officials to request a new EIS for the CMRR Nuclear Facility, (doc) Sep 27, 2010

Write Trish for sample municipal or county resolutions.  If you get active, thoughtfully and patiently, new doors may open for you that you didn’t expect.  It nearly always happens that way. 

3. Our lawsuit is proceeding swimmingly.

And that’s all I want to say about right now.  Watch this space.  We are working around the clock.  Ask us later! 

4. Thank you all for your support.  We are looking for some larger donors.  It is often hard to realize that we are the people we have been waiting for.

We are mostly supported by carpenters and teachers, middle-class professionals and smaller foundation grants.  It is you – and you know who you are – who allow us the privilege of representing you, your families and friends, and many others, in the halls of power.  I am not writing to you here, except to say thank you.  The solidarity we’ve shared has made our lives and work rich.  I often wish it was easier to see many of you. 

And we have done a pretty good job, everything considered.  For example this plutonium factory fiasco, first proposed in 1987 or so by LANL, is not built.  There is no new Rocky Flats.  So there can be no big new production run of nuclear weapons.  Not yet, and maybe not ever, inshallah.  A lot of people on Capitol Hill and in the Administration listen to our advice, and sometimes they take it.  Their budgets are sky-high, but their inflation rate is higher than ours.  Much higher. 

They are a few of you who could, all by yourself, give wings to our work.  There are some of you who could convene a small group who could do more even than that.  We can’t convene that group, because we have no time and perhaps because we don’t know how.  Some of you do know how.  That skill is very far from trivial, and it is vital to the survival of our world.  Please think about it, not just in regards to the Los Alamos Study Group.   

Much – practically everything – depends on whether we can realize how much of the future depends on our own actions.  Not somebody else’s.  One of the characteristics of our time is that the new nobility – that’s us, or many of us – does not recognize itself as such, or realize that accepting our responsibilities for others is where our highest freedom lies at this historical crisis.  We have been taught otherwise.  Oh, the Ford Foundation will take care of it.  George Soros will take care of it.  Sure.  Well, they might, if you do it first, and then pick up the phone and ask them.  Or they might not, ever.  It may be just us chickens.  And that may be just enough.  

Greg M


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