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"Forget the Rest" blog

For immediate release 10/9/08

Administration Signals Nuclear Weapons Complex Preferences

“Business Case,” Environmental Analyses Released

Plan Calls for Billions in Weapons Plant Construction

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 or 505-577-8563 (cell)

Albuquerque – Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-independent agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), released its “Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” (CTSPEIS).  This document is the penultimate conclusion of a two-year process of examining the environmental impacts of alternative futures for the nation’s nuclear weapons complex under the auspices of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

            It is a “supplemental” PEIS because its production was required as a result of a multi-party lawsuit organized by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Los Alamos Study Group, the Western States Legal Foundation, Tri-Valley CAREs, and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. 

            The CTSPEIS will be read by members of Congress, local officials, contractors, and citizens, many of whom can be expected to weigh in on the options it discusses.  Some time next month, NNSA is expected to begin issuing records of decision (RODs), which will guide executive branch decisions regarding nuclear weapons infrastructure investments, which will be further vetted by Congress. 

            Some of the most significant investments, such as the two buildings (one under construction) that comprise the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project at LANL, are the subject of prior NEPA processes and RODs.

            Though NEPA does not require it, NNSA has chosen to analyze the fiscal and management impacts of alternative futures in parallel to its environmental analyses in response to Office of Management and Budget (OMB), congressional, and its own internal requirements.  A suite of these analyses, together with a large body of references that comprise the CTSPEIS Administrative Record, may also be released today. 

            Study Group Director Greg Mello: “These ‘business case’ documents are closer to actual NNSA and congressional decision-making than is the CTSPEIS.  For this reason they are very important.  We look forward to discussing their contents with all interested parties.”

            “NNSA is to be congratulated on its CTSPEIS process, which is the very best we have ever seen from NNSA and its predecessor agency, DOE Defense Programs.  Specific content aside, NNSA has done an outstanding job on this process.”

            “Some may say that NNSA should make no decisions regarding the weapons complex until the next administration, given that U.S. nuclear posture and stockpile plans may change.  The fact is that any decisions made today can be changed later by either NNSA or Congress, and no doubt will be to a greater or lesser extent, provided they are adequately analyzed under NEPA.  Citizens should not look to NEPA for a democratic nuclear policy forum.  NEPA is an environmental law, one that governs the process, not the content, of government decisions. 

            “Whatever NNSA’s administrative choices may appear to be today, there is absolutely no reason why downsizing of the nuclear weapons complex cannot proceed within the framework established by this PEIS.” 

            This press release will not discuss the specifics of NNSA’s widely-anticipated investment preferences, not because we don’t have them as of this writing but because we believe the most important issues to the public are those which frame NNSA’s preferences.

            Mello: “NNSA’s planning effort comes at a time when more and more people are finally waking up to the fact that U.S. national security has many dimensions, including an economic one.  Most aspects of national security have been at best neglected (and more often damaged) by our infatuation with destructive technologies. 

            “The ‘American Century’ proclaimed by Henry Luce in 1941 has now definitively ended.  Both the neoconservative and neoliberal visions have been discredited by a convergence of catastrophic problems that have no solutions within their respective frames of reference.  It is the end of American empire and the end of the ‘American Way of Life.’ 

            “Behind today’s financial problems (and obscured by them in the popular press) lurk other and far more intractable problems, including peaking oil supplies, a climate we are in the act of changing to one that would destroy much (if not most) life on earth, and rapidly rising levels of privation and starvation worldwide, already affecting almost a billion people.

            “Nuclear weapons, long a moral blight on our society and an outsize cause of its political and cultural dysfunctions, appear increasingly ridiculous as guarantors of security.  Today’s PEIS is in fact largely driven by various forms of insecurity brought to us by nuclear weapons.  Increasingly, nuclear weapons are being exposed as helping guarantee, not security, but status and privilege for particular segments of society.  Increasingly the role of nuclear weapons in preventing the emergence of a pragmatic politics of compassion is becoming clear.  This is the politics that must be our guide in these darkening times. 

            “In the U.S. there can be no economy recovery without a massive program of reinvestment in sustainable energy infrastructure.  Our consumer society is itself now unsustainable – most visibly in terms of its environment impacts, its basis in debt, and its balance of payments.  As Nobel Prize winning economist Herman Daly recently wrote, economic growth is for us no longer economic.  The changes we need require a lot of money, which we can’t afford to waste on what are, in the case of nuclear weapons, essentially unreconstructed Cold War priorities. 

            “Today’s weapons complex plan includes the construction of large new production facilities at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge.  These projects would commit massive resources to largely obsolete, ineffective, “sacred-cow” missions.  U.S. nuclear weapons could be kept indefinitely, if that were a worthwhile goal, without the CMRR project – provided NNSA and its parent DOE vetted their plutonium programs, weeding out programs like Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) production that have no conceivable return on investment. 

            “The CMRR will cost at least three times what the Golden Gate Bridge cost in constant construction dollars.  It will cost several times as much as any other construction project in the history of New Mexico.  Its cost is escalating rapidly and it may never be finished.  Its multiple changing justifications are making clear that it has become in effect a giant wastebasket for failed and failing DOE plutonium programs that provide nothing to the American public.  Meanwhile the American people are crying out for relief from energy and financial problems that are swallowing their futures and their children’s futures.  What does DOE offer them?  A $3 billion plutonium palace, in addition to the one Los Alamos already has and a perfectly good one in Livermore?  What folly!  What an insult! 

            “Likewise NNSA proposes to build a new uranium processing facility in Tennessee also costing about $3 billion, even though its mission – producing new nuclear weapons secondaries (the “H” in “H-bomb”) – is unnecessary to retain nuclear weapons (if that’s what you want) for decades to come.  Congress must take the reins now -- for once -- and scale back these grandiose plans.   

            “We applaud NNSA for a fine effort in producing this environmental impact statement.  Now comes the hard part: a mutual awakening to the reality of America’s real security needs.  NNSA can pick much more conservative options for its infrastructure than the preferences it has signaled today.  NNSA is led by honorable men and women but they work in a bubble.  Though they do the best they can, they cannot make the right choices without outside assistance. 

            For all these reasons we turn to our fellow citizens, asking that all ordinary preoccupations be set aside so we can save what is best in our communities, our state, our country, and our planet.  All are in grave peril, not least by belief and investment in weapons of mass destruction as final guarantors of national security.  Privileging nuclear weapons as we are doing signals political and moral choices more likely to bring us national suicide than security."


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