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Reader View: Accelerated plutonium pit production wrong for New Mexico

Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2016 11:00 pm

By Monika Steinhoff

The article in The New Mexican (“LANL poised to ramp up nuke trigger production,” Jan. 16) at the beginning of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was both timely and ironic.

On the following Monday, the radio show Democracy Now aired a speech by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. King, in which he spoke with great moral intensity and indignation against U.S. “militarism,” exclaiming he would never be “adjusted” to its violent excesses.

King’s words are even more relevant today as we get ever deeper into the terrorism morass for which nukes will never be the solution. Were he alive today, he would surely be even more deeply troubled and angry by articles like the above that treat a massive uptake of weapons of mass destruction like a good business deal (referring to LANL, “where a lucrative management contract may soon be up for grabs.”)

It’s shocking that we are back to this destructive road and that the money has already been allocated. Usually states can’t resist accepting federal dollars, but we must resist this corporate “welfare.” Accelerated plutonium pit production is not good for New Mexico nor the direction to a more peaceful, prosperous world. Like our martyr for peace and justice, we should join Martin Luther King Jr. in being deliberately “maladjusted” to endless warfare, especially the unbelievable horrors of just one dropped nuclear bomb.

The article did not mention why the past pit production at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado was shut down. The public insisted on this shutdown because the radiation from manufacturing pits became so obvious and threatening to human health and the environment (rabbits were seen with massive genetic deformities, etc.). The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s temporary closure due to a radiation leak was mentioned but not its history.

We citizens were promised that the radiation garbage storage would be temporary and only for low-level radiation contamination. Neither promise has been honored. Quietly over the years, WIPP became permanent and the only repository in the U.S. for “high-level” contaminants. This ramped-up pit production would greatly increase the existing environmental hazard that threatens to further contaminate our groundwater. Politics, corruption and greed stand in the way of truth on the topics of nuclear weapons and pollution, just as in other areas of public domain.

Like former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., before him, Sen. Tom Udall, always defending bomb-making at LANL as good (even necessary) for the New Mexico economy, is quoted in a vague response in support of pit production as vital to “LANL’s national security mission.” It’s bad enough that the Republican majority in Congress does not hesitate to fund wildly expensive and dubious military weapons systems while bent on cutting every expenditure benefiting our children, the middle class, the poor, elderly or protection of the environment, to say nothing of global warming and the dangerous fault LANL sits upon.

It would be so nice if our Democratic senators would really face reality. We need courage and truth from our elected officials. In the face of unanimous scientific evidence of global warming, which puts in question all security concerns, making nuclear bombs on faults is a boondoggle of incomprehensible proportions.

Privatizing the production of nukes has not ensured efficiency nor ended corruption. Making nuclear weapons for profit is shameful enough. And a lack of funding does not excuse our universities for their role in producing weapons of mass destruction instead of focusing on being great centers of learning, as they once were.


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