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"Forget the Rest" blog

Quickie update, for immediate release January 26, 2011

Town of Taos requests new environmental impact study (EIS)for proposed new plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)

Litigation requesting a halt to investments in, and a study of alternatives to, the proposed facility concludes the initial briefing and evidence process

Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to struggle to keep evidence and arguments from reaching the presiding judge

Magistrate judge calls for dismissal but provides no applicable precedent; would damage National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) overall ; calls for "comity" between branches of government

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 or 505-577-8563 cell; for legal matters Thomas M. Hnasko, Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin, L.L.P, 505-982-4554; Lindsay Lovejoy, Law Offices of Lindsay Lovejoy, 505-983-1800

Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM -- Yesterday the Town of Taos unanimously passed a resolution requesting a new, additional EIS for a proposed $4 to $6 billion plutonium facility at LANL called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), which is attached Resolution 11-03).  (We do not have the signed version yet but believe this text is accurate).  This resolution joins others from the City of Santa Fe, the County of Santa Fe, the Penasco Area Communities, and the tribe of Jemez(Walatowa).

The Pajarito Group of the Sierra Club, which claims about 2% of all Los Alamos County residents as members, has requested a halt to investment (pdf) in the project as well, pending a new EIS.  Jody Benson (pdf) of the Los Alamos County School Board has also filed an affidavit expressing her deep concerns about this project.  Los Alamos County expects to make -- and bank -- huge sums in gross receipts taxes from this project.

Former Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) Vice President Bob Puerifoy has filed an affidavit (pdf) pointing out that there is no need for the pit manufacturing that is the primary purpose for this facility, as has Frank von Hippel (pdf), veteran of the Clinton White House and decades of nuclear national security studies.  Puerifoy supervised the design, at SNL, of most of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  We have described a number of reasonable alternatives to the facility (see "New Realities call for New Thinking" (pdf) and Mello Affidavit #3, pdf, pp. 34-38).  We have not been able to find a single study or document by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) or its contractors regarding any alternatives to this facility whatsoever, belying the objectivity of any so called "Supplemental EIS" (SEIS) process.  The present SEIS process cannot be objective or meet NEPA requirements (Mello Affidavit #3, pdf, pp. 42-47).

We are aware of that some of the most senior LANL scientists, including a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Physical Society, believe the CMRR project, if completed, would usher in deleterious institutional changes to LANL, further damaging the quality of science conducted there.  I can't promise they would speak to reporters, but they might.

The project, once named by the conservative news organization NewsMax as the nation's #1 boondoggle (original NewsMax link has expired), has suffered a dramatic (45-fold) decline in useful laboratory and storage areas per estimated dollar spent (See Mello Affidavit #3, pdf, pp. 38-42).  In constant dollars, the cost of space in CMRR-NF will be vastly more than what such space cost during the Cold War (Mello Affidavit #3, pdf, p. 41).

The CMRR-NF, and another equally huge facility proposed for the Y-12 site in Tennessee, are the flagship projects in a massive reinvestment in nuclear weapons being orchestrated by the Obama Administration.  Not just new factories, but new warheads, missiles, bombers, submarines are all promised or under development, with a staggering aggregate pricetag.  It is virtually certain that many of today's plans will never be completed.  We argue that the CMRR-NF is already a fiasco, and the process of recruiting affiants for this lawsuit has convinced us that many in the industry privately agree.

The initial briefings in our litigation regarding CMRR-NF are nearly concluded.  We expect to file a short brief today or tomorrow regarding page limits in our Reply brief supporting our Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

Aside from the main arguments, issues and developments of particular interest are:

  • The recommendation for dismissal from Magistrate Judge Alan Torgerson (pdf) and our Objections (pdf) to it.  Judge Torgerson is not the (constitutionally-authorized) Article III judge in this case.  Because we objected to his recommendations, the Honorable Judith Herrera must now review the issue of "prudential mootness," a legal doctrine which we believe has never been used before to dismiss a NEPA case except once when a project was 98+% completed, as if Judge Torgerson had not made any recommendation (i.e. de novo).

  • The general struggle faced by citizen groups such as ours to place evidence and precedent before the Court.  This is a $4 to $6 billion facility that has been many years in development.  We are currently struggling to submit an extra dozen pages of brief, necessary because defendants brought up so many new issues which we believe to irrelevant or erroneous.  Students of democracy may marvel at the multi-faceted difficulties of opening, and accurately informing, any viable legal forum examining the legality of the process of constructing a huge, and hugely destructive, federal nuclear project.  Equal access to justice is a democratic ideal that can be very difficult to realize.  Without the faithful support of hundreds of people, and the poorly-compensated efforts of our legal team, there would be no access to justice at all.

  • The question of government candor (pdf), given NNSA's statements claiming not to have decided to proceed with this project while at the same time trumpeting their "unequivocal commitment" to build it at any price.

The potential sweep of the "prudential mootness" argument is breathtaking and threatens not just this case but NEPA overall (pdf, p. 2).  Judge Torgerson also argues the Court should give deference to NNSA's views for the sake of "comity" between branches of government.

These conclude today's updates.


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