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Why the March 22 hearing on LANL safety is critically important; March 16 LASG meeting; Bechtel etc. want to hire 1,150 more warhead production workers

March 14, 2016

This letter is being sent to local members. Tell us if you want off this exclusive list.

Dear friends --

1. The great importance of the March 22 public hearing on LANL safety

As mentioned in our March 11 letter, senior Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear officials are coming to Santa Fe on Tuesday, March 22 in the context of a public hearing organized by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB). The hearing will be held from 5:00 - 6:30 pm (Session 1) and from 6:45 - 9:00 pm (Session 2) at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 201 West Marcy Street (map). As mentioned previously, there will be a public comment period from 8:00 - 8:45 pm. If you want to speak we highly recommend arriving at 4:30 pm to sign in to do so. The agenda provides detail.

The Honorable Madelyn Creedon, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Principal Deputy Administrator, will be there among others. As noted previously, Ms. Creedon plays a role in most major decisions about the nuclear warhead complex -- such as, whether or not Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will expand its pit production facilities.

Later this year, Ms. Creedon either will, or won't, sign off on building underground plutonium processing "modules" at LANL, the biggest step in expanding LANL's plutonium processing and manufacturing role. NNSA calls it "PMA," the "Plutonium Modular Approach." It is a multibillion-dollar underground expansion of LANL's Technical Area (TA)-55, on top of billions already programmed for repair, upgrading, and equipment installation in existing TA-55 buildings.

Our allies in government stopped NNSA from including PMA in its fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request. That battle will continue during Obama's final year. We need a big push to get this project canceled or at least delayed into a new presidential administration and a new LANL contract.

We need Ms. Creedon and her associates, not to mention the DNFSB, to understand as clearly as possible that Santa Fe and New Mexico do not want this kind of expansion, and we will make it very difficult!

The New Mexico delegation is all in favor of the PMA.

There will be no other opportunity to express your views in person directly to DOE on the topic of turning LANL into a plutonium manufacturing center -- "Rocky Flats II" -- and using the additional factory space to produce new kinds of nuclear warheads on a crash basis as soon as the buildings are done -- which is precisely what is being planned. That's what "safety" is ultimately all about. That's the mission that makes and manages the bulk of the transuranic (TRU) waste at LANL.

There may or may not be future "scoping" meetings for environmental analysis of PMA under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If there are, they would be in 2017 or later, i.e. after NNSA has fully committed to PMA and asked Congress for its initial funding.

We succeeded in killing the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF). We thereby slowed the acquisition of higher pit production capacity by 5-10 years. PMA aims to be smaller, cheaper (but still up to $3 billion), with modular production labs entirely underground, all of which will make it harder to kill than CMRR-NF. It would be much better and easier to defeat or delay the project this year. For that we need visible public support as well as expert analysis.

Please ask your friends to come to this hearing.

We very seldom ask you to attend any government public meeting because most of them are not worth your time. We have not asked you to come to any government meeting since November 2011, almost five years ago, which was also a DNFSB meeting and quite a substantive one that received a significant amount of national attention, at the time and afterwards. For example:

What we could not tell anyone then was that the Administration, including senior military figures, had already decided to "delay" CMRR-NF, for the same reasons we argued. Even NNSA was not "in the loop" at that point, not yet. The adverse national publicity from the Santa Fe hearing was very helpful then -- do you see how this works? Now look at the present situation. 

There is no limit to the creativity you and your friends can employ.

People always ask, "What can I do?" Well, please pack the Santa Fe Convention Center with all your friends and relations. Bring whatever banners you want to make (without sticks). Guidelines.

2. Reminder: Study Group meeting coming next week!

We'll be meeting this Wednesday, March 16, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 107 W Barcelona Rd (map), from 6 to 8 pm. We'll meet in the library.  We will provide talking points for March 22, plus a short update on the administration's nuclear weapons and plutonium disposal plans, especially as they relate to the New Mexico labs and New Mexico. We also want to briefly describe the progress made in Geneva so far this year on a nuclear weapons ban.

What we are doing is like pecking from inside the egg; our international colleagues are pecking from outside. 

Hardly a day passes without some senior administration or military figure giving a speech about the importance of investing heavily in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Back in January, retired STRATCOM Commander General Kevin Chilton was at Pantex rallying production workers, whose morale has been seriously flagging.

[Chilton] noted that more work will be coming to Pantex and Y-12 as nuclear weapons work ramps up in the coming decades.

“The cycle is picking up right now, and it’s picking up fast. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done, and there are those who doubt we can do it,” Chilton said. “And then there are those like me who are counting on folks like you to make it happen because we have to make it happen. It’s just so important to our country.”

Last week, Bechtel-led Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) announced that Pantex and Y-12 are hiring 1,150 more warhead production workers. Pantex hopes to hire 300 people in just 90 days, an emergency pace. Come on the 16th and we will explain why.

See you soon,


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