Letter to the LASG Friends
on activities regarding the
CMRR (Chemistry and Metallurgy Research
Study Group donors and friends –
wanted to write for some time, and there’s a great deal to say.
This note will be simple, however, so as not to distract from its
basic messages. Which, in brief, are:
grateful for your support and for the opportunity to work with you,
should you choose to do so;
your active solidarity in our work – financial and otherwise;
suggest some specific powerful, transformative things you can do;
- We continue
to offer pragmatic, and not merely symbolic, opportunities to
catalyze real reform in U.S. nuclear weapons policy – and now,
due to the enormous scale of the new nuclear weapons commitments
being pursued by the federal government in New Mexico, the course of
social, economic, and political development in our state; and
Without more deeply-committed citizens, working full-time or nearly
full-time, acting radically and rooted conservatively, the fairly
near future will be far bleaker – unimaginably bleaker –
than it needs to be.
the way, letters like this one to our donors and friends, unlike the
more general Bulletins (e.g. #97,
pdf), don’t go to our broad email list. We don’t post
them on our web site. We would prefer that you don’t forward
them lightly. They’re for you! Knowledge and commitment are
mutually interrelated, and best when in balance; true knowledge (as
opposed to information) is simply inaccessible outside human and
moral commitment. Seemingly-easy electronic communications like this
one can undercut more vital, face-to-face relationships, separating
more than uniting; that’s a big risk for all of us. Without
personal commitment and experience, knowledge becomes mere
information, or perhaps just entertainment. That’s not very
satisfying, or helpful. More information or entertainment is not
what we need.
I last wrote to you on July 5th, we had just sent a letter (pdf) to the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear
Security Administration (NNSA), expressing our intent to sue these
agencies over the lack of an applicable environmental impact
statement (EIS) for their proposed $4
billion plutonium warhead core (“pit”) factory at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). If DOE and NNSA made a
commitment to write an EIS, and halted investments in the project in
the meantime, litigation over the proposed Nuclear Facility could be
wrote back on July 30th, acknowledging that there had been
“changes” in the project and saying NNSA was now
conducting an internal study as to whether a new EIS might be
the time for effectively-secret internal review passed some time ago,
when the magnitude of the design changes that would be needed to try to make the facility safe and secure became clear. Those design
changes have dramatically increased expected costs and environmental
impacts and made other alternatives very reasonable. Meanwhile the
main mission of the building – making large-scale pit
production at LANL possible – has evaporated for the time
we filed a complaint (pdf) in the Federal District Court of New Mexico on August 16th.
Judge Bruce Black will hear the case unless he is challenged by
coverage (linked on the main
CMRR page by date) has been quite accurate and good.
The trade press articles, widely read and seriously considered on
Capitol Hill, have been especially detailed and are very useful to
citizens and local government – see the articles in Energy
Daily (pdf) and in Nuclear
Weapons and Materials Monitor (pdf), both
reproduced by permission. There have been good regional op-eds as
well (accessed from the same main
CMRR page). More are on the way. What about
one from you, printed in a newspaper near you, read on your local
radio station, or added to a blog?
the legal front, we are preparing further submittals, while awaiting
NNSA’s answer to our complaint, due 30 days after receiving our
complaint. Politically, we have been very active in both Washington
and New Mexico. New doors are opening and our existing contacts
remain very strong.
there is a lot of political force behind the Nuclear Facility. Obama
and Biden have both lobbied Congress personally for their proposed
nuclear weapons funding increase, most of which is directed at new
infrastructure, centrally including the proposed Nuclear Facility.
That increase looks virtually certain to pass Congress for the coming
fiscal year, although a Continuing Resolution will likely come first,
extending the current fiscal year’s funding into the next. It
may come with conditions, however.
has told the Senate that the proposed new LANL Nuclear Facility is
its highest infrastructure priority. This is because NNSA needs the
facility to produce “replacement,” i.e. new, warheads in
2022, the target start-up date for full-scale production. Obama said
his administration would not produce such warheads, but he will be
long gone by the time production is slated to begin. What’s
important to NNSA is to build the factory now.
the same time there are quite a few influential and knowledgeable
people inside and outside government who believe this project is
either in trouble, or unnecessary, or too big, or some combination of
these. The project may have political momentum, but it’s
dogged by serious technical, managerial, and fiscal problems –
pesky facts – that are not going away any time soon.
these fact-based problems in mind, I would like to emphasize that
this lawsuit, and all the rest of our activities, are not meant as
some sort of symbolic protest. We aim to win and we have a good
chance of doing so.
“winning” I don’t mean just winning this lawsuit,
but also winning in the sense of catalyzing major changes in nuclear
weapons policy. We have nowhere near the political power to force such changes, but we might help catalyze them. Cooperating
causes are required – such as federal fiscal problems (present,
and growing) and competing federal budget priorities (present, but so
far inadequately voiced). There are serious national security crises
developing from novel directions, e.g. extreme weather, economic
decline and associated declining influence, financial instability,
and diminishing oil supplies. The future won’t be pretty,
either for the nuclear weapons complex or for us. Some of the bad
news has a thick silver lining, if we can bear it. (That’s a
subject for another note.)
question is not whether the U.S. will abandon its nuclear-armed
empire. That will end, and the Nuclear Facility, if ever built, will
be closed or abandoned. The key questions are rather when this will
happen and how – whether by active, conscious choice, or by
default or collapse – and what our own roles will be in this
and the other aspects of the great crisis of humanity and the
biosphere that is now upon us.
CMRR Nuclear Facility is very important all by itself, but for us in
New Mexico as well as for all those concerned with nuclear and
security policy, it is a real symbol for larger processes and larger
realities. It’s about whether we wake up to our
life-threatening predicament and take bold and effective action, or
it’s a clear pivot – no CMRR Nuclear Facility, no all-new
warheads. Its enormous cost and scale make it much more than that,
however. For New Mexicans, it would be the biggest public project
not just underway, but conceivable, in the state for the next
decade or more. This is the decade of decision, when we have to
decide whether we want to survive or not.
enough, our most effective opposition – those working against
us – in the matter of the CMRR Nuclear Facility is coming from
liberal foundations, arms controllers, and Democratic Party
leadership. Quietly, without telling you, all the prominent
organizations in the arms control field support construction of the
CMRR-NF. There is essentially no opposition in liberal DC circles –
none I know of – to any item on Obama’s aggressive
nuclear weapons agenda.
the influence of these groups is limited and does not alter the basic
facts of the situation.
you can help stop the proposed Nuclear Facility
#97 (pdf) we emphasized one simple thing you could do to
help this month: make a donation to the Study Group, and write
on the check (or, designate in the
on-line donation field) “to help stop
construction and operation of the CMRR Nuclear Facility” or
words to that effect. Everyone getting this letter should have
received that Bulletin.
those of you who have responded already, and to those of you are
already regular donors, thank you. We have been deeply
moved and encouraged by your contributions, including your recent
ones. You are making our work possible, and giving it wings.
would be very helpful to receive responses from more of you at this
time. Many of you receiving this note are working
people or retirees on fixed, modest incomes who, like us, are more or
less badly squeezed by our economic decline. Others of you are
more financially secure, whatever that means these days. I am
writing to you, especially.
relatively wealthy people are poorer, or feel poorer,
than in the recent past for a variety of sound reasons. Regardless
of our bank balance, it’s an accurate assessment of our common
situation. We are all poorer and we are all very much
less secure. The beauty of the world, and the consciousness in it,
are very much threatened. The decline and fall is beginning to bite. That’s not a reason to pull back. It’s a reason
to step forward. It’s why we would very much like to
work with you.
us a hearing. Invite us over. Vet our knowledge and program with
your friends. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
financial appeal of Bulletin #97 was designed not just to raise money
(very important to our success!) but also to reinforce the
legally-cognizable links between you and us as regards this facility.
While we don’t think NNSA would want to embarrass itself by
challenging the notion that we represent our members and supporters
(of whom thousands have formally expressed themselves regarding pit
production and the CMRR), stranger things have happened.
of you who are regular donors have dropped us a note saying words to
the effect of ”Yes, please consider my donation applicable to
helping stop the CMRR Nuclear Facility.” This works too. And
we like to hear from you, period.
mailing a check or contributing on-line there are many
other ways to contribute financially. Please contact
Trish by email, or phone
505-265-1200 if you are interested in any of the following:
a sustaining donor – contribute a designated amount every
Establishing a challenge grant or matching fund;
Contributing shares of stock; or
Remembering the Los Alamos Study Group in your will or estate plans.
continue to suggest that folks who want to help begin by reading the legal
complaint (pdf) and learning about the proposed
CMRR-NF from our web page. You might make a list of your questions.
Questions are far more important, and far more alive and fertile,
than answers. In any case, knowledge about the issue is the
foundation for all effective work on it.
we suggest that folks – here we mostly mean folks in the Rio
Grande region – write or call if you want to get more involved.
If you organize a small group of your friends, or get us on the
agenda of an existing organization, we will meet with you and others.
Together, we can answer some questions and pose others. For the
truly “live” questions, the ones that matter most, we
ourselves – you, me, and our friends – are going to be
the answers. Not somebody else.
d. If you live near Los Alamos, work with local governments to
request an EIS and study of alternatives
direct effects of construction and operation of the proposed CMRR
Nuclear Facility would extend to several New Mexico counties,
including Los Alamos, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Bernalillo, and
Taos. It is safe to say that essentially none of the people in the
governments of those counties, and the local jurisdictions within
them, know much if anything about the project. They may have
questions. The existence of an active NEPA lawsuit gives potential
legal (evidentiary) weight, to their questions. And of course they
have political influence.
all know some of these elected officials. We want you to talk to
them about the proposed Nuclear Facility. This will require homework
on your part (see “learn” above)!
are many possible positive outcomes from such conversations, not
limited to issues surrounding CMRR-NF. An elected or managerial
official could put their questions about the impacts of this facility
in a letter to the NNSA. They might request an EIS, which would be
for an environmental analysis is not the same as opposing the
project. It is a very reasonable and modest request. It does
not imply any views whatsoever regarding nuclear weapons, or about
environmental protection vs. jobs, or about any other political
matter. It does not imply any opinion for or against the project.
It is just a request for basic information and analysis that should
have been provided as a matter of law to these officials to help them form views about the project, and better serve their
constituents. What has happened is that DOE and NNSA have approached
NEPA “compliance” in such a way as to cover up the
nature and impacts of the project, not reveal them.
a local jurisdiction as a governing body – a city, or
unincorporated town or village – were to request an EIS for the
nuclear facility, so much the better.
would also be helpful if elected representatives asked for a current
business study of alternatives to the proposed Nuclear Facility.
There isn’t one.
the end of this message you will find a letter we are sending to at
least some local governments, along with a sample letter of the sort
local government officials might send to the NNSA requesting an EIS.
Please feel free to adapt these as required.
e. If you do not live near Los Alamos, ask your congressperson and
senators to request an EIS and study of alternatives
you do not live near Los Alamos, please ask your congressperson and
your senators to request an applicable EIS for the proposed CMRR
Nuclear Facility, along with a study of alternatives and a cessation
of further investments in the facility until these studies are
mentioned before, writing and speaking about this project in guest
editorials, blogs, and radio programs would be very helpful.
get started, visit our website and check out the special section
devoted to the CMRR issue. Educate yourself and write factual
articles and letters based on that information. Make certain you
have your facts straight. You have our permission to use what
information you find there, but please give the Study Group credit in
your article or letter. You can let everyone know that the Study
Group is fighting this monstrosity and ask them to join us. Your
individual voice can have a major impact and reach a wide range of
people: state legislators, city and county councilors,
business and community leaders – and, directly or indirectly,
those who make decisions about this project.
to successfully complete a project of this magnitude and complexity
requires the willing and skilled participation of hundreds of people.
business and organizational support
are many businesses and organizations in New Mexico that share your
dissatisfaction as to the decisions being made concerning our state
and its future – whether the federal money coming into the
state is spent on nuclear weapons and the military industrial complex
or invested in a more sustainable future. If the political will is
there, they are fungible. Try approaching your friends and contacts in business and
other organizations and ask them to join you in writing a letter in
support of our work to stop the CMRR Nuclear Facility. And if they
also donate toward this effort, that would be even better.
academic credits as an intern – or just be one
activism, defense policy, human security, and nuclear disarmament?
Motivated individuals who are either college seniors or graduate
students are encouraged to apply to participate in an engaging
hands-on learning experience. Arrange academic credit through your
educational institution, learn, and gain real-world experience you
can get very few other places. Please call for more information!
Enthusiasm can partially substitute for skills.
actions you can take
This short list does
not come close to exhausting the ways you can help halt new warhead
production and help turn around U.S. nuclear weapons policy. It
doesn’t include most of what we ourselves are actually doing,
There are many
useful “freelance” things to do but I encourage you to
think about them seriously and avoid aiming for the merely symbolic.
In a time when there is widespread
cooptation of nuclear issues, “actions”
which are merely symbolic aren’t really symbolic of much
anymore. Such actions seldom if ever build into anything grounded or
useful, and they don’t prefigure a better world because, being
merely symbolic, they cut the link between cause (the action) and
effect (change in policy). Merely symbolic actions usually damage
our collective ability to discern what is real from what is not.
If you want to work
with us in some way not listed here, or just happen to be in the
neighborhood, call or write and let’s see if we can arrange a
cup of tea here at the “World Headquarters.”
Best wishes to all,
Greg, Trish, and the
this letter to make it your own and tailor it for the persons you are
addressing. Right now it’s a letter from the Study Group to
local government officials.
needed, and as you wish, please.
official or government leader],
the Los Alamos Study Group, filed a complaint against the Department
of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA), an agency within DOE, on August 16, 2010 in federal District
Court in Albuquerque to halt further investment in a $4 billion
underground plutonium facility proposed for Los Alamos National
Laboratory (LANL), pending completion of an applicable environmental
impact statement (EIS).
The Study Group is
being represented by Thomas Hnasko of the Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor and
Martin law firm.
If built, this
facility would be the most expensive government project ever built in
New Mexico by far, except for the interstate highways. Its primary
purpose is to increase production capacity for new plutonium warhead
the “Nuclear Facility" of the Chemistry and Metallurgy
Research Replacement (CMRR) project. It’s by far the biggest
part of that project, representing about 90% of expected costs. The
first CMRR lab, office, and utility building was recently completed.
In 2003 NNSA wrote
an EIS outlining plans for a much smaller and quite different
facility that would cost only one-tenth as much as today’s, use
one-fiftieth as much concrete, take one-fourth the time to build, and
be ready a decade sooner. This different project would have entailed
far fewer environmental impacts across the region.
Sometime in the past
seven years NNSA changed the project dramatically without telling
anyone, and without any analysis of alternatives to the new
aggrandized project, its design, or its proposed construction
The project now
A new planned
excavated depth of 125 feet and replacement of a 50 foot layer of
volcanic ash beneath the proposed building with 225,000 cubic yards
of concrete and/or grout, vs. an original depth of at most 50 feet;
quantities of structural steel (now more than 15,000 tons) and
concrete (now 347,000 cubic yards);
increased acreage to be affected, now involving many LANL technical
increased climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, including more
than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide from concrete production alone;
20,000 to 110,000 heavy truck trips on regional and lab roads just
for concrete ingredients and disposal;
project elements including a warehouse, electrical substation,
temporary worker housing, worksite shelter(s), traffic
modifications, road relocation or closure, truck inspection
facility, temporary facilities for displaced workers; and possibly
“connected actions” – at least eight other major
nearby construction projects with cumulative impacts
A variety of
unknown road and traffic modifications and traffic impacts in
multiple counties, including closure of Pajarito Road within LANL
for two years; and
up to 400,000 cubic yards of excavation spoils, which are to be
dumped on existing nuclear waste sites (material disposal areas “C”
and “G”) in lieu of removing the shallow-buried waste.
The traffic from
heavy trucks and other deliveries may be of interest to public
officials in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Rio Arriba counties.
Bernalillo and Sandoval counties will also be affected. Primary
aggregate sources lie in Rio Arriba, including within the City of
Espanola, in Santa Fe, and in Sandoval counties. Traffic impacts are
very sensitive to design choices that affect the quantities of
We ourselves do not
value nuclear weapons and believe them to be a dangerous burden to
society. Yet speaking just technically and managerially, from two
decades of professional involvement, we do not believe this project
is helpful, let alone necessary, to maintain today’s nuclear
arsenal indefinitely to existing high standards of safety, security,
and reliability. The building’s primary purpose – to
expand manufacturing capacity for pits in new warheads – will
instead undermine technical confidence in the warheads, waste
resources, and introduce new risks and safety problems. Its huge
cost sets back various LANL safety improvements.
In spite of its
enormous price tag, construction of the Nuclear Facility would create
only an average of 450 craft jobs over a 10-year period. The
building would be built to nuclear industry standards, which requires
special certifications for some crafts, so some workers would move
here temporarily to help build this facility, then leave.
At the end of this
facility's useful life it would be contaminated, and would very
likely be closed in place as a permanent hazard, being too large to
break up, transport, and dispose of elsewhere.
Over its life this
building is expected to generate millions of pounds of radioactive
and hazardous chemical wastes. Hopefully, there would be only minor
accidents. A major accident could be catastrophic to the region.
Our Complaint, a
good summary of the factual and legal issues, is available along with
a great deal of other information at http://www.lasg.org/CMRR/open_page.htm.
Press clippings can be found there as well. The Energy
Daily article (pdf) is perhaps the best single broad independent overview at this
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that local governments be
offered notice, review, and comment opportunities regarding this
facility. The facility described to county and city governments in
2003 is not the same facility as is being proposed today.
You probably have a
number of questions about this huge project and what it might mean
for your city or county, for good or ill. The purpose of the EIS we
don’t have is to answer those questions. We urge you to
write NNSA requesting an EIS, including a public process for
determining the scope of alternatives to be considered. We have
included a sample letter.
Some of you, after
careful consideration, may wish to consider becoming plaintiffs in
this lawsuit. We are open to discussing this possibility. We can
also try to answer your questions about how the proposed Nuclear
Facility project may affect your community, but we will not have all
the answers. A good EIS would have most of them.
authorize and fund construction of this project later this year or
Plaintiffs in this
lawsuit will not incur legal costs. The Hinkle law firm has agreed
to take this lawsuit on a pro bono basis with the chance of
recovering legal fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, should
we be successful. We ourselves are primarily supported by donations
from the interested public.
Please call us at
our Albuquerque office (505-265-1200) to discuss these matters in
more detail or to suggest a time to meet.
The following is a sample letter that local government officials might send to the NNSA requesting an EIS. They are welcome to change as
Honorable Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary
Independence Ave SW
Secretary Chu –
am writing to express my concern about possible environmental
impacts, and the lack of analysis and public discussion of impacts,
from the proposed “Nuclear Facility” at Los Alamos
National Laboratory (LANL). The Nuclear Facility is part of the
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project.
proposed semi-underground facility for storing, handling, and
processing plutonium would have a big impact on the region. It’s
one of the largest government projects ever built in New Mexico –
and it has no applicable Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
multi-billion dollar project appears to have quietly grown through
recent years to the point where local officials like me are almost
completely in the dark about it.
project has been delayed for some years already. I understand that
there isn’t even a preliminary design or projected cost at
present. It seems premature to proceed without these. So isn’t
this a good time to thoroughly and publicly check for better
alternatives which may have become available, during the long period
when the cost and impacts of this one have grown so much?
circumstances surrounding this project have changed since it was
proposed. It may not even be needed. It may not be worth the cost.
Quicker, safer, and cheaper alternatives may exist.
therefore respectfully request that the Department of Energy (DOE)
prepare a new EIS for the CMRR Nuclear Facility and its alternatives,
pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its
implementing regulations. It’s important to me that this EIS
is preceded by the required scoping process, so that my constituents
and I, and other governmental agencies, tribes, and independent
technical experts, can fully participate in the development and
discussion of project alternatives and scope of analysis.
is just as important to stop obligating funds while this analysis is
going on. If DOE doesn’t stop, what would be the point of
conducting an analysis?
you are aware, NEPA requires federal agencies to fully to provide
notice and comment opportunities to local governments regarding
proposed major federal actions, including allowing them help vet
alternatives, and including analysis of the direct, indirect, and
cumulative impacts upon the human environment. None of this has
want to help DOE reach a sound decision on the proposed Nuclear
Facility. A new EIS, with scoping, will facilitate public
participation and lead to a better decision.