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  • Suit Targets Plutonium Lab
    the 2003 Environmental Impact Statement obsolete and inadequate National Nuclear Security Administration officials declined comment on the suit but issued a statement saying there is currently a review under way to determine if a new Environmental Impact Statement will be required Greg Mello the study group s director called the current review being conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration too little too late The time for an internal analysis of whether to do a new environmental impact statement passed a couple of years ago Mello said in an interview Monday In the past similar lawsuits have delayed nuclear projects including a major nuclear weapons X ray machine built at Los Alamos in the mid 1990s The new plutonium laboratory would replace the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building where Los Alamos workers have studied samples of dangerously radioactive plutonium and other materials since it opened in 1952 Independent federal safety auditors have concluded that the old building is a danger to workers and the public but more than two decades of effort to upgrade or replace it have so far failed because of shifting government priorities The project s latest incarnation the subject of Mello s suit dates to 1999 when federal officials abandoned plans to upgrade the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building and began considering construction of a replacement In 2003 the federal government published a lengthy environmental impact statement on the project Such studies are required by the National Environmental Policy Act a 1969 law that requires federal agencies to formally review alternatives to their proposed projects along with the environmental impacts of the proposed action and its alternatives including the option of doing nothing Based on that study the National Nuclear Security Administration approved proceeding with the project in 2004 estimating its cost at 600 million

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/articles/ABQJrnl17Aug2010.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Group files suit to halt LANL nuke facility
    endorsed by the Obama administration and key members of Congress The CMRR also was recommended under the Nuclear Posture Review the nation s central statement of its nuclear weapon policy NNSA spokeswoman Jennifer Wagner said in a response that the agency does not comment on pending legislation but that it has undertaken a supplemental analysis to determine if the EIS should be amended or a new one should be prepared Among the questions left unanswered by the NNSA is what effect the legal uncertainty might have in current operations and schedules The embattled CMRR facility began as a modern replacement for the lab s antiquated Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility but the building began to take on new dimensions over time At one point during the Bush administration a Modern Pit Facility was proposed for Los Alamos where plutonium handling in the nuclear weapons complex would be consolidated and where new plutonium triggers known as pits would be manufactured for modernizing the nuclear weapons stockpile Many features of the new facility including its enlarged capability for plutonium processing can be traced back to the Modern Pit Facility including the decision to locate it next to the Plutonium Facility where an advanced security perimeter is already in place and where a modest program of pit production has begun The lab maintains that pit processing would continue to take place in the Plutonium Facility although the two buildings would be linked by tunnel Under the Nuclear Policy Review 50 80 pits per year could be made at Los Alamos but another concern for the study group is that the evolving design plans have embraced a hotel concept which would enable plans to change to encompass unknown future capabilities In a nutshell NNSA changed the project to which it had committed without telling

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/articles/SFNM_16Aug2010.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Plutonium building at Los Alamos needs environmental study
    the Chemical and Metallurgy Replacement Nuclear Facility without a new environmental impact statement The Study Group said CMRR s Nuclear Facility is meant only to increase the production capacity for the cores of nuclear weapons known as pits But it says NNSA has no pit production mission Los Alamos lab officials have said the facility would replace a 58 year old lab where scientists analyze samples of plutonium and other radioactive materials and would be needed for other science even if Los Alamos didn t do pit production Jennifer Wagner an NNSA spokeswoman said the agency doesn t comment on pending litigation She said NNSA is preparing a supplement analysis for the nuclear facility a process that determines whether an existing environmental impact statement should be supplemented a new environmental impact statement should be prepared or no new documents are required NNSA did an environmental statement in November 2003 for an earlier version of the project but the Study Group contends the facility has substantially changed since then and would have greater environmental impact The lawsuit said a sitewide environmental impact statement that NNSA published in April 2008 did not describe or analyze the facility now proposed The underground behemoth NNSA now proposes to build bears little resemblance to the light above ground structure proposed in 2003 Any supplemental analysis of the existing plan falls far short of what the law requires Study Group director Greg Mello said The lawsuit also said the design was changed without notice or opportunity for public comment Mello said there s a lot of political and bureaucratic momentum behind the project but we think the government needs a kind of timeout to reconsider this project in a more calm and objective way The project consists of two buildings A radiological laboratory and office building

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/articles/SFExaminer_17Aug2010.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LASG files suit against DOE/NNSA Aug 16, 2010
    and many parties including NNSA and congressional committees are starting to worry that the project has gotten too big too expensive and too risky The underground behemoth NNSA now proposes to build bears little resemblance to the light above ground structure proposed in 2003 Any supplemental analysis of the existing plan falls far short of what the law requires and what all parties especially NNSA badly need In a nutshell NNSA changed the project to which it had committed without telling anyone and without environmental analysis of alternatives either to the project to its design or to its construction methods This is illegal so NNSA has to stop We believe NNSA will see the value of reassessing this project through a new NEPA analysis continued Mello NEPA s procedural requirements exist to help federal decisionmakers If NNSA had followed the law the agency would not be squandering so much money on this facility now NNSA should halt further investment in the project and conduct a new NEPA analysis beginning with an objective open review of better alternatives Initial plans for what has mushroomed into today s huge Nuclear Facility were first announced by Senator Bingaman in 1999 For several years House appropriators tried to kill or pause the project which they felt was premature at best but it was funded by Congress each year over their objections largely through the strenuous efforts of Senator Domenici Many of the project s difficulties can be traced to just a few major causes Changes in DOE s Design Basis Threat helped drive the proposed facility underground into a thick stratum of loose volcanic ash which cannot support it The magnitude and frequency of earthquakes expected at the site has increased dramatically requiring much heavier construction Congress acting through the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board asked NNSA to include industry standard safety features which NNSA had not originally intended to include Meanwhile NNSA has struggled to maintain what it calls a hotel concept for the big facility so its programs and missions can be changed at any time which has proven challenging from the design perspective under these seismic conditions Usable floor space has shrunk to half what was originally foreseen while gross building area has increased by 44 Now only 14 of the proposed building would be usable for NNSA programs NNSA proposes to begin construction years before completing preliminary design in violation of its own management orders and despite numerous critiques of the agency s poor project management by government auditors Meanwhile the basic rationale for the building never at all sound in the Study Group s view has deteriorated The U S has approximately 24 000 pits including at least 100 redundancy in tested stockpiled pits for each delivery system In infrastructure planning terms these pits last essentially forever NNSA has no pit production mission now and need never have one unless the nuclear arsenal is changed for reasons other than maintaining current levels of reliability safety and security Especially

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2010/press_release_CMRR_litigation_16Aug2010.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Los Alamos Study Group
    expected cost of this facility has increased by a factor of approximately 10 since it was first proposed Construction is expected to begin next year two or more years prior to the production of a defensible cost estimate and completion of preliminary design in violation of standing Department of Energy DOE project management orders To get around these orders the project is being segmented into sequential pieces NNSA has been on the project management Watch List of the Government Accountability Office GAO for the past 19 years On July 6th the Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro wrote Deputy DOE Secretary Dan Poneman saying among other things that NNSA lacks the management information necessary to make cost benefit decisions on infrastructure investment DOE s lack of strong policy and guidance on independent cost estimating has resulted in DOE effectively ceding a significant portion of the cost estimating process to its contractors Without credible cost estimates DOE does not have a sound basis for making decisions on how to most effectively manage its portfolio of projects We agree It is long past time for NNSA to re examine CMRR NF mission requirements and compare more frugal less environmentally impactful and smarter alternatives which could be implemented more quickly and surely with less management risk than the present design Now is the time to do that before construction begins CMRR NF completion has already been delayed by 11 years Overall NNSA is beginning several multi billion programs and capital projects more or less contemporaneously There is in our view little likelihood that all these big projects can be completed on time and on budget In our view most of these projects contain elements of grandiosity and many of them are not necessary in their present excessive form to maintain a

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/CMRR/LASGltr_Senators_30July2010.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • It's the Pits, Los Alamos wants to spend billions for new nuke triggers
    production because that information is classified This story was pieced together through interviews with anti nuclear activists and a review of documents from the NNSA the Defense Department and Congress Now about those whys 1 Why so few headlines LANL works hard to manage public perceptions The basic strategy is revealed in an undated PowerPoint presentation on techniques for the effective spokesperson by LANL spokesman Kevin Roark Among Roark s listed goals Maintaining control over story content So far the lab s public relations tactics have worked The language around the new project is at its worst an impenetrable acronym soup At best the language is euphemistic officials take pains to avoid the words plutonium pits warheads and weapons Instead they talk about construction jobs and attracting the newest and brightest minds as LANL Deputy Director Ike Richardson was quoted as saying in the Journal Santa Fe last month The euphemisms extend to the name of the project itself the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project In repeated public appearances NNSA and LANL officials downplay CMRR s weapons role noting that it will not be a pit manufacturing facility Strictly speaking that s true the pits will be manufactured in another building nearby But it s also misleading because without CMRR there would be no new pits A November 2007 report by the non profit Institute for Defense Analyses commissioned by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates explains the connection between CMRR and the future nuclear arsenal Applied chemical and metallurgical research capabilities are crucial to pit manufacturing the report says The CMRR NF nuclear facility is central to the discussion of pit production capabilities at TA 55 or Los Alamos Technical Area 55 where pits are now manufactured 2 Why build on a fault line To save money As its name suggests CMRR will replace the lab s existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility at the same location which dates from the 1950s This year for safety reasons the old CMR will lose its authorization to operate LANL is the most cost effective site for future pit production in the nation s nuclear complex according to the IDA report Other alternatives for pit production including sites in Georgia Nevada or Texas would ve cost up to 21 billion the IDA report says Be that as it may NNSA has been unable to provide solid figures to Congress regarding how much CMRR will cost Citing LANL personnel the IDA report says an investment of about 500 million would be needed to maintain a reliable pit production capability at the current level CMRR promises even greater pit production for a cost that has ballooned to 4 billion according to Obama administration estimates The nonprofit Los Alamos Study Group which is preparing a lawsuit to stop CMRR believes the project will cost even more and divert funds from more worthy endeavors This 4 billion is coming out of renewable energy projects in the state LASG Operations Director Trish Williams Mello tells SFR Instead

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/articles/SFReporter_21Jul2010.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Activist Group Calls for "Hard Look" at CMRR-NF
    impact of the facility on the environment and consider new alternatives before moving forward with what it contends is a vastly different project from when the agency last performed an EIS in 2003 NNSA has to take a hard look at what has become a completely different and much bigger project than it ever thought of in 2003 Los Alamos Study Group Director Greg Mello said What we need now is a more conscious process that can take the agency and Congress off autopilot Clearly in the last year the project has exploded in costs and ancillary impacts So the range of alternatives that ought to be on the table is now rather large The CMRR NF is planned to replace Los Alamos 1950s era Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility relocating and consolidating analytical chemistry material characterization and actinide research and development work at the lab in support of the agency s plutonium research and pit surveillance activities As part of the Obama Administration s plans to modernize the nation s weapons complex the project received a vote of confidence this year as the Administration requested 225 million for the project in Fiscal Year 2011 more than double the 97 million it plans to spend in FY2010 but the facility isn t expected to be operational until 2022 and a firm estimate for the project won t be ready until 2014 Construction is slated to start next year but a lawsuit would delay those plans Current estimates indicate the facility could cost as much as 4 billion up significantly from estimates seven years ago and the Los Alamos Study Group which opposes the facility altogether has suggested there are alternatives that should be studied If the NNSA doesn t agree to perform an EIS Mello said the study group will

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2010/CMRR_NWMM_5Jul2010.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Lab Watchdog Threatening Suit
    analysis was done in 2003 however and in the minds of members in the Los Alamos Study Group there is no question There must be another environmental impact study commissioned because the project is more than 50 times larger than was envisioned in 2003 The CMRR is intended to replace the lab s present CMR building a plutonium lab that dates back to the 1950s Lab officials have said the work there is vital to national security Laboratory Deputy Director Ike Richardson said last month We re in desperate need of an upgrade to that facility The new building would house 22 500 square feet of lab space much of it for analyzing plutonium and other radioactive materials It would take over a decade to build and specs call for 122 000 cubic yards of structural concrete The price tag could be as much as 4 billion LASG s Greg Mello said at a news conference Thursday he doesn t believe the project is necessary but if the lab is going to build it new report is needed that better considers the building s size which has increased dramatically over the previous seven years and especially since last year It s only recently become apparent how big this is Mello said Mello and other members of LASG expressed concern that any new study might simply be a formality for NNSA We want an EIS environmental impact study starting at the beginning looking at the scope of the project and at alternatives Mello said We don t want a post hoc analysis that ratifies decisions already made Construction could be a ways off Lab representatives unveiled their plans for the building last month along with other nearby construction projects along Pajarito Road between Los Alamos and White Rock They stressed repeatedly

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2010/CMRR_ABQJRNL_2Jul2010.html (2016-02-16)
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