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Bulletin #103a (renamed #104): Reminder! Important! Santa Fe County takes up question of environmental impact analysis for plutonium complex TOMORROW (11/30), 11 am

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November 29, 2010

If you live in Santa Fe County, please write the Santa Fe County Commission right now!  Ask them to vote yes on requiring an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the huge proposed plutonium building at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

If you live in or near Santa Fe County, please come to the County Commission meeting tomorrow at 11 am! 

This is a big opportunity!  Go to the County building at the corner of Grant Ave. and Palace Ave (i.e. 102 Grant Ave.) in Santa Fe and go up the stairs.  Try to arrive a little early, and remember parking can be tough.  

It is very important to be there in person!  This is far more important than any Department of Energy meeting we can recall.

Ask the County Commissioners to support the Joint City/County Resolution requesting a full environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Los Alamos plutonium complex.  It’s on the Commission agenda for tomorrow, November 30.  Please write:

Commissioner Mike Anaya
Commissioner Kathy Holian
Commissioner Harry Montoya
Commissioner Liz Stefanics
Commissioner Virginia Vigil

You can brief yourself using these new “Frequently Asked Questions” (pdf), which is up-to-date.  This is the single best resource we have for most citizens right now.

Remember, this resolution only requests a full, proper EIS and does not express opposition to the project.  It only asks NNSA to follow the law. 

Our lawsuit gives citizens a big megaphone on this issue.  Please use it!  This is not “business as usual!”  This single building would use more than twice the steel used in the Eiffel Tower.  It will cost almost as much as the total assessed value of all real estate in Santa Fe County in 2008 ($6.4 billion) (pdf).  It will require something like 1/10 of the concrete used in Hoover Dam.  It is by far the largest government project in the history of New Mexico, except the interstate highways. 

More talking points:

  • An EIS would help answer questions about this facility, including questions about its long-term economic impact.  What would be the cost to tourism, and to property values, of building and operating this facility, with the nuclear waste disposal and nuclear transportation that would go with it?  What would be the cost to the identity and attractiveness of Santa Fe County?  How well would the area's status as a major tourist destination hold up?  Tourism is certainly far more important than LANL in the region's economy, and far more important than the construction jobs temporarily associated with this building.   These are not trivial questions, potentially requiring considerable research.  NNSA, not the County, should pay for that research, and it should be done before CMRR-NF is a "done deal."  NNSA may be afraid of the answers, but we need to know.  NNSA is required to produce a mitigation plan for negative impacts, but if these impacts aren't known there will be no plan.

  • NNSA has said that after construction there will be no new jobs as a result of this building.   So would the region be better off with a plutonium processing center, or not?  We don't even know how many construction workers are expected to come from out of state.  We know that many construction workers will need special nuclear certifications and must be recruited from afar; what we don't know is how many of these "guest workers" will be coming, where they will live, where their children will go to school, or how these and other impacts will be paid for.  An EIS would be the foundation for any such discussion.

  • The health consequences of a major accident could be very serious.  The economic consequences could also be very serious, and at lower contamination levels.  At Rocky Flats, a health advisory had to be, and may still be, attached to deeds of downwind properties.

  • The incorporation of safety features into CMRR-NF design has only occurred because of independent oversight and years of political intervention, including by this organization.  A new EIS would greatly help with the process of internalizing responsibility.  No plutonium facility has ever operated without serious environmental problems.  To minimize these, or to avoid them, an EIS is needed.

  • Since the 2003 CMRR EIS it has doubled in gross area, increased its concrete requirements by a factor of more than 100, and introduced the so-called "hotel" design concept which makes future missions uncertain.  Even those planning its construction do not know all the missions proposed for this building, because they have no "need to know."  Its environmental, traffic, social, and economic impacts are even more mysterious, because they have never been studied in more than a cursory fashion.  Reasonable alternatives are not being analyzed.

  • The proposed County resolution is not a referendum on the pros or cons of this facility.  It would merely ask for an EIS.

  • If CMRR-NF is a basically good, solid idea, examination of alternatives and impacts via an EIS process can only improve it.  If it is a bad idea, NNSA, Congress, and the County need to know that sooner, rather than later.

  • The last big plutonium facility built by the Department of Energy (DOE) was only operated for one month (at Rocky Flats) before design deficiencies crippled the building.  DOE called it a "fiasco."

  • At present, NNSA is conducting a "supplemental" EIS (SEIS) process for this facility.  This process is meant to be a "quick-and-dirty" way to provide better NEPA "coverage" for the project, which continues.  The SEIS process has a number of defects.  The SEIS examines just two alternatives to building the proposed complex, one of which NNSA has already abandoned.  NEPA requires examination of all reasonable alternatives, not just one or two "straw men."  Perhaps the greatest problem with the existing process is that the Administration, in its negotiations with the Senate, has already promised to build the facility.  The "alternatives" mentioned, supposedly the "heart" of the EIS process, are not being seriously considered. 

If you do not live in Santa Fe County but do live in Taos, Rio Arriba, or Sandoval counties, please call your county commissioners and ask them to sponsor a resolution asking for an EIS, preferably with a pause to investment in the project in the meantime.  If you live in an incorporated town, talk to your town councilors to the same end.  The City of Santa Fe has already acted. 

If you do not live in these environmentally affected areas, call your congressperson and senator and ask them to halt funding for this outrageous project. 

Talk to your friendsSpread the word!  Encourage your friends to join with us by sending a blank email to

Thank you,

Greg, Trish, Darwin, and gang

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