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"Forget the Rest" blog

Santa Fe New Mexican

CMRR would be starting point of new arms race

By WILLEM MALTEN

8/27/2011

If it ever gets built, the proposed CMRR-Nuclear Facility in Los Alamos would consume $6 billion or more of increasingly scarce tax money. Construction would clog the roads with trucks hauling 400,000 tons [up to 545,000 cu. yds] of volcanic ash to be stored somewhere. Three newly constructed concrete batch plants along Pajarito Road would produce some 350,000 tons [up to 400,000 cu. yds.] of concrete to fill a 125-foot deep fresh hole in the earth. The CMRR-Nuclear Facility would essentially be a 406,000-square-foot bunker, mainly hidden under the ground for fear of incoming enemy rockets.

Despite the enormous size of the building, the utilized space would be less than 10 percent: the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project would be hosting a 22,500-square-foot, most secretive laboratory — the "Evil Grail" of nuclear weapons work. It will be built on what is known to be a 7 magnitude earthquake fault line, and it is slated to vault 6 metric tons of plutonium, as much as is needed to replace the nation's entire nuclear weapons stockpile, an accident a la Fukushima waiting to happen right here.

I believe this is a terrible waste of public resources, especially at a time when many people are scraping by from meager paycheck to meager paycheck. Contrary to what our U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman have been implying, the construction phase of this project is not even an employment stimulus to speak off. With all that money, an average of only 400 construction jobs would be created over the construction period, of which a minority would come from New Mexico. Including planning and engineering, this project would create only one temporary job for every $10 million of investment.

Once the facility is done, in 2023 or so, even these few jobs would come to an end, and this behemoth would be populated by Los Alamos technicians and scientists now working in other facilities. Despite continued tiresome and misleading denials from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the CMRR-Nuclear Facility is the centerpiece of a nuclear "pit" factory meant to replace the Rocky Flats Plant.

With CMRR-NF, there would be less science, and more bombs, in LANL's work. It's not for the bombs we have; not one U.S. warhead requires CMRR-NF, now, or ever. By the time CMRR-NF is finished, the whole stockpile would already have been upgraded by other means. This facility is for building new warheads in quantity, not maintaining old ones. In many ways the CMRR-NF is the "START" of the new arms race we don't want to have.

The Los Alamos Study Group (LASG.org) is working to halt this tragic and misguided waste in the courts and in Washington, where we have conducted hundreds of briefings over the past few years. This summer, the House of Representatives proposed to slash $100 million from next year's funding for the project, and has urged the Senate to join its call to postpone construction pending further analysis of the whole project, from mission and utility to the specific design chosen.

Especially now that the financial realities of the U.S. are becoming clear to the general public and Congress alike, there is a growing groundswell of resistance against this superfluous project. Local communities, including Santa Fe, have formally adopted resolutions calling for re-examination of this project. CMRR-NF is becoming a "joke" on the streets —- a bad joke being perpetrated on New Mexicans.

Willem Malten is a longtime Santa Fe resident, owner of the Cloud Cliff bakery, and a director of the Los Alamos Study Group.

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