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  • Greenwire: Nuclear Policy: Foes in NM plutonium lab await judge's decision, May 3, 2011
    legal process by moving forward with the project which could cost more than 4 billion the Los Alamos Study Group said More importantly the facility a lab that will store handle and process several tons of plutonium would sit atop poorly consolidated volcanic ash that could exacerbate any seismic activity in a major earthquake said Greg Mello the group s executive director The layer of volcanic ash begins at a depth of 75 feet below the building according to the lawsuit Even if it weren t for our lawsuit they have some serious problems Mello said This is not a very practical project and as we told the courtroom the environmental impacts that we re talking about are also first and foremost impacts on national security programs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory In the late 1990s NNSA determined that upgrades to the existing nuclear facility would be time consuming and just marginally effective and that a long term solution was needed to ensure the agency could continue performing activities to test nuclear materials The lab was built in the early 1950s to conduct chemical and metallurgical research to support the maintenance of nuclear weapons nonproliferation dismantlement and counterterrorism programs In 2003 NNSA issued an initial environmental impact statement EIS for constructing the replacement nuclear facility to create a more structurally sound space for conducting experiments But in 2007 the government published an updated probabilistic seismic hazard assessment that according to Los Alamos Study Group s lawsuit increased significantly seismic risk at the nuclear facility finding that earthquakes up of a magnitude of 7 3 are believed possible NNSA changed the building s design to incorporate the new seismic information which increased the footprint of the project and facilitated the need for a new supplemental EIS because the project had

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/articles/Greenwire_3May2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Fate of LANL building rests in judge's hands, SFNM, May 2, 2011
    National Nuclear Security Administration argued the NEPA process under way is an extension of several previous environmental studies that led to a formal record of decision in 2004 to build the nuclear facility That 2004 record of decision is still in effect Smith said The statute of limitations has been exhausted and cannot be challenged He argued that as design work on the building progressed new information came up that needed to be incorporated in the plans for the building Sharp upward projections in the construction cost estimates a result of protecting the building against the possibility of a 7 3 magnitude earthquake were followed by the plaintiffs notice of the pending legal complaint Shortly after that NNSA decided to pursue a new draft supplement under the NEPA process saying it had been in the works before the notice The supplement was released last week and is scheduled for a public comment period working toward a new record of decision Under a legal principle known as the ripeness doctrine Smith said the challenge is premature until a public process results in a new formal decision Judge Judith C Herrera asked How does that process square with what the plaintiff says that the supplemental analysis is basically a sham process and that the options on the table are pre ordained and aimed at a particular result They have constantly changed the design Smith said noting the project has incorporated a number of recommendations from the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board which had a congressional mandate to certify the safety of the seismic issues in construction They re not locked into any alternative Smith said It s the opposite of a sham Smith said his clients the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration have committed to a final design

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/SFNM_2May2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • NNSA defends decision to stay course on CMRR-NF
    that its environmental analysis of the project is inadequate The Los Alamos Study Group a New Mexico based activist group sued last summer arguing that vast changes in the project rendered a 2003 analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act inadequate Attorney Tom Hnasko representing the Study Group argued in the April 27 hearing for a preliminary injunction that would halt work on CMRR NF including ongoing design activities and security upgrades related to the facility Hnasko compared the NNSA NEPA compliance with a federal agency that performs an environmental impact statement to build a small regional water retention structure and then decides to use it to authorize building the Hoover Dam You cannot commit to a project while the NEPA analysis is incomplete Hnasko told the court Record of Decision to Precede Construction In response NNSA counsel Andrew Smith argued that the case did not even belong before the court because a new SEIS is in preparation and construction will not commence until that review process is completed and a new Record of Decision is issued on the project Princeton arms control scholar Frank von Hippel testifying on behalf of the Study Group argued that the need for CMRR NF has become less urgent in the years since the project was launched citing a report by the JASON Defense Advisory Group a panel of independent government experts that plutonium pits in U S nuclear weapons could last 100 years of more The court discussion was continued to May 2 when federal officials will be given a chance to offer their rebuttal to the Study Group s case SEIS Details The SEIS considered and discarded a number of alternatives to continuing with CMRR NF A no action alternative which would have continued with the original early 2000s design Such an

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/NWMM_29Apr2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • NNSA issues impact statement in advance of court challenge
    statement The DOE contends that 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 argues that the building s design was changed without notice and that the nuclear facility now bears little resemblance to the initial proposal The purpose of the EIS is to provide some semblance of the National Environmental Policy Act process to the court said Greg Mello who heads the study group It doesn t really do that It freely admits that the decision to build a nuclear facility is not being revisited So what s the point The heart of any EIS is the analysis of alternatives but if there aren t any then there is no real EIS The CMRR would replace the 60 year old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building used for analytical chemistry and materials characterization critical to NNSA national security missions requiring nuclear materials handling processing and fabrication including stockpile management nonproliferation and counterterrorism DOE spokeswoman Toni Chiri was asked Saturday about the timing of the release of the SEIS in regard to the upcoming hearing on Wednesday The notice of availability will be published next Friday but we wanted to make this available a week ahead of time she said We had to get all the documents on the website and the letters in the mail It is a five day week and there is only so much you can do in a day The CMRR project was the subject of a 2003 Final Environmental Impact Statement The Record of Decision to construct the two building replacement facility came in 2004 The Draft SEIS analyzes three alternatives No Action Alternative Construct and operate a new CMRR NF

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/LAMonitor_23Apr2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • The New Mexican, Apr 22, 2011
    no action scenario But the new supplemental environmental impact statement acknowledges that the facility as it was previously envisioned could not meet current safety standards Two other options examined the less favored possibility of not building the nuclear facility but keeping the existing infrastructure or upgrading it to last another 30 years The preferred option under the new plan backs the project as it is being designed by LANL with the blessing of Congress and the Obama administration But it also includes additional measures considered necessary for safety A new seismic study completed in 2007 contributed to the decision to rework the design The new facility carries a provisional price tag estimated in the 3 7 billion to 5 8 billion range The estimated cost at the lower end represents a tenfold increase over the original estimate The new building in either of the new configurations at 344 000 square feet of floor space will be larger than the last version In one dimension 42 feet of extra space is prescribed for additional safety systems and equipment including more fire suppression equipment and the electrical units needed to keep it running under extreme conditions Some of the increase in space can be attributed to thicker walls and other features called into play by current concerns related to earthquakes and other safety issues Not everyone is likely to be convinced by the new construction options Earlier this month the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board wrote a letter to NNSA raising questions about adequacy of a computer program SASSI System for the Analysis of Soil Structure Interaction which is commonly used by DOE planners for seismic analysis in high hazard nuclear facilities like what is proposed at LANL The board s stated concern was that these issues could lead to erroneous conclusions

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/NewMexican_Snodgrass_22Apr2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LASG NEPA lawsuit press release
    Roswell Santa Fe and Midland and Lindsay Lovejoy of Santa Fe Diane Albert Esq of Albuquerque has also been of assistance Defendants have said they plan to post today what they are calling a Draft Supplemental EIS Draft SEIS Plaintiffs have questioned the objectivity of writing such a document while at the same time promising full commitment to a single project alternative and argue that such an approach cannot meet NEPA legal requirements for a variety of reasons summarized in their briefs and in Section E of this affidavit pdf What is needed to fix the situation can be found sketched at Section F there The present lawsuit is a continuation of a long process of external review and engagement with federal officials that now takes Study Group members to Washington DC for meetings with decisionmakers on Capitol Hill in the Executive Branch and elsewhere for a month or more every year A similar project proposed by DOE in 1988 was eventually canceled in 1990 after Senator Bingaman requested a study to check if it might be redundant The Study Group s approximately 2 000 members are not alone in this fight In addition to its technical and legal work the Study Group has at times engaged in broad political campaigns involving hundreds of organizations and thousands of people all seeking an end to plutonium pit production a halt to nuclear weapons innovation and realization of long standing disarmament obligations Here are some of the New Mexico organizations 118 the New Mexico businesses 326 the Religious organizations and coalitions 57 and the National International organizations 102 who were willing to join a 2007 campaign to achieve these ends which find partial expression in the present lawsuit The Study Group and this lawsuit are supported by hundreds of smaller and medium sized donors in New Mexico and elsewhere Recently Everet Beckner NNSA s Assistant Administrator for Defense Programs during the George W Bush Administration who is now on the board of Pro2Serve a prominent nuclear consulting firm said that not pausing CMRR NF to consider the implications of the Japanese nuclear crisis would be a mistake He has particularly pointed out the dangers of a fire in the proposed 6 metric ton plutonium storage facility a possibility which LANS the Bechtel led corporation that manages Los Alamos has said it hopes to make impossible and therefore need not be analyzed LANS is currently proposing omitting fire protection and confined ventilation system for the vault among ten or more other major safety short cuts now under secret review A plume from a big fire at this facility would contaminate a large swath of northern New Mexico depending on the wind and other factors The shocking rise in estimated costs of the facility is best documented in Section D of this affidavit pdf some realistic alternatives are suggested at C and here pdf LANS has very recently admitted that the safety of the existing plutonium facility much larger in terms of usable space

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/press_release_22Apr2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Mello comment, The Manhattan Project
    kowtow to them as he did in a recent exclusive interview on KOAT In reality Los Alamos in particular is managerially incompetent the very embodiment of self serving corporate greed as anyone who spends much time there can see for himself or herself Most of the older LANL scientists I know understand well how far the quality of work has fallen as budgets have risen As one member of the National Academy of Sciences put it to me Los Alamos has a hard time attracting the C students from mediocre schools For a young scientist it can be a good place to network from but it can be hard to get out if one stays for more than a year or two In fact modernity fell off the rails at Los Alamos Trinity and Hiroshima and has never recovered A senior NNSA official of long experience remarked to me that nothing good will ever come out of that town And I think that s right until there is quite a deep change on several levels a wrenching change for many I am sure but one that brighter eyes there already see as necessary The kids know What LANS which runs LANL and NNSA have in mind however is change in the precisely opposite direction They seek to build a 4 6 billion plutonium storage and processing facility the keystone of a plutonium manufacturing complex costing even more than that These proposed expenses dwarf even the Manhattan Project in New Mexico by about a factor of 6 They are approximately equal to the entire cost of building and running Los Alamos from its inception in 1943 through the invention and deployment of the H bomb in the mid to late 1950s It is like a second Manhattan Project in scale and long term commitment The safety of this enterprise is hardly assured According to LANL itself these operations are not safe today and have been so since they began The CDC in the same study that is the basis of this article found elevated levels of plutonium in the bones of people living in the Valley east of Los Alamos people who never worked at LANL LANL s plutonium facilities were never built to nuclear industry safety standards and even today LANS is seeking to weaken safety standards at their proposed plutonium complex for example omitting any fire sprinklers or a confined ventilation system in their giant proposed plutonium vault to save money The very sprinklers which are a standard feature of commercial building codes all over the world would not be required at LANL s plutonium facility under this plan Not only would this project be a kind of plutonium maquiladora but it is apparently aiming for safety standards more closely associated with the third world than the first LANL is crossed by several active faults which have generated three powerful shallow earthquakes in the past 11 000 years as detailed investigations have shown But earthquakes are just the beginning

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/Mello_comment_NewMexican_17Apr2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Hearing set to challenge LANL CMRR-NF
    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

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/Hearing_LANL_CMRR-NF_15Apr2011.html (2016-02-16)
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