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Associated Press
Hearing set in challenge to Los Alamos building

By SUE MAJOR HOLMES , 04.15.11, 03:47 PM EDT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A watchdog group is going to court in its attempt to halt a multibillion-dollar plutonium building at Los Alamos National Laboratory until the government does an environmental study.

The Los Alamos Study Group wants a preliminary injunction to prohibit all further funding of the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.

U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera will hear arguments from the organization and the U.S. Department of Energy on April 27 in Albuquerque.

The group's lawsuit, filed last August, alleges the Energy Department and its National Nuclear Security Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by preparing to build the facility without a new environmental impact statement.

The project consists of two buildings. The first, a radiological laboratory and office building, is finished. Construction has not begun on the nuclear facility.

The DOE says the new building is necessary because the current 60-year-old structure is outmoded. Lawyers for the agencies have argued the lawsuit should be dismissed. That motion is pending.

The study group, however, contends the building's design was changed without notice, and that the nuclear facility now bears little resemblance to the initial proposal.

There's no exact cost figure for the nuclear facility, but a 2008 Senate report estimated it at $2.6 billion [$3.7 - 5.8 billion], more than five times the initial estimate. A final design is being worked out.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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