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"Forget the Rest" blog
Press conference today, 1:00 pm, at the Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor, & Martin law firm,
218 Montezuma Avenue, Santa Fe

For immediate release July 1, 2010

Letter requesting compliance, and threatening litigation if necessary, will be made available at the press conference.  Write us later this afternoon if you want it; we should be able to send it out by 3:30 pm.

Citizens call on nuclear agency to abide by environmental laws, analyze impacts of proposed warhead factory and alternatives

: Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group, 505-265-1200 or 505-577-8563 cell
Thomas Hnasko, Esq., Hinkle law firm, 505-982-4554
Dr. Darwin BondGraham, Los Alamos Study Group, 505-265-1200

Santa Fe -- A New Mexico citizen's organization has written a letter calling on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to follow the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before proceeding further with a proposed $3.4 billion factory annex  for plutonium warhead cores ("pits") at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

The proposed facility, to be built mostly underground over the next decade or longer, is awkwardly named the "Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility" (CMRR-NF).  Further information about the CMRR-NF is available at

This proposed facility is the largest nuclear infrastructure project in President Obama's proposed nuclear weapons spending "surge" and if built would be by far the largest public infrastructure project in the history of New Mexico except for the interstate highway system.

The estimated cost of the proposed building has risen by a factor of ten over the last eight years while the useful space to be provided in the building has dwindled.  It's expected completion has been delayed 11 years so far.  According to LANL spokespersons no confident cost, schedule, or design for the building is expected prior to 2014, although construction is expected to begin in just 9 months.  To build CMRR-NF, automobile access to approximately one-third of LANL by scientists and other staff is expected to be shut down for approximately two years as project construction peaks.  Many technical areas (TAs) will be affected directly by construction, and many more indirectly by lack of access, displaced workers, and other impacts.  Tens of thousands of heavy trucks will need to traverse local highways bringing gravel, cement, and other materials to the proposed 125 foot deep pit where the building will be built.  Bypass roads are being studied.   Several ancillary structures are required. 

The group warns it will file suit in federal district court later this month to compel NEPA compliance if NNSA does not agree to abide by the law and take what the courts have called "a hard look" at the project, which has never happened.

The evolving project's expected environmental impacts have grown dramatically in the past year.  The group's letter states:
Even without adducing further evidence these huge cost increases strongly suggest there are reasonable alternatives to the project as currently proposed.  The range of alternatives analyzed in the CMRR EIS was very narrow, in part because the nuclear laboratory component of the project was expected to be relatively inexpensive and soon available.  Neither has turned out to be true.  The CMRR EIS [environmental impact statement] was based on a matrix of assumptions now known to be false. 
Most of this cost increase has occurred in the last three years – much of it in just the last year, betokening a recent rapid expansion in project scale and impacts. 
This dramatic cost increase has been accompanied by a huge increase in resource requirements. In key cases more than ten times as many resources are now required as were originally estimated, as shown in Table 1 (pdf 1.9MB). 
The group alleges that today’s proposed CMRR-NF, which is on a larger scale entirely than the alternatives NNSA analyzed seven years ago, has never been the subject of any NEPA analysis, and that there has never been any notice or comment process involving the public, agencies, or tribes concerning a) the nature of actual project being designed today, b) its alternatives, or c) the likely impacts of the new project and its alternatives.  

The Study Group's letter points out that no administrative or congressional commitment to initiate final design or to build CMRR-NF has been made.  So if the needed NEPA and other analyses were begun promptly, NNSA could achieve compliance without any, or without any significant, project delay.  The Senate Armed Services Committee has requested a review of CMRR-NF project alternatives and has questioned the propriety of initiating final design and construction without an estimated total cost, project schedule, or completed preliminary design.

In addition to preparing its legal case, the Study Group will be working with other parties in New Mexico and with members of Congress and the Executive branch to advance what it believes to be a necessary legal and political discussion.

"To top it off, this facility," explains Study Group Director Mello, "will create only a tiny fraction of the rewarding jobs and careers that would be created if the same amount of funds were used to leverage private or state and local investments in renewable energy production, or used to improve energy efficiency and security in homes and businesses across the state.  Many of the specialized workers will need to come from out of state, and will be temporary. 

"If New Mexico is to avoid further economic decline it is necessary to break out of the lazy thinking that automatically associates the DOE nuclear labs with positive economic outcomes, whether regionally or nationally.  There is just no data supporting the idea that spending money at the labs helps New Mexico.  Especially if the result is giant underground plutonium bunker, lab, and processing facility.  That's of negative utility to society -- and even to NNSA and LANL.  We can't afford such folly."

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