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"Forget the Rest" blog

For immediate release 10/1/10

NNSA promises "supplemental" environmental analysis for massive Los Alamos plutonium facility

Agency attempting to continue project without applicable analysis

Agency tacitly admits illegality,  green group notes

Contact:   Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group, 505-265-1200
                    Thomas Hnasko, Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor, and Martin, LLP, 505-982-4454

See also:

Press release of 9/23/10:
In response to lawsuit, nuke agency admits huge plutonium bomb facility needs additional environmental analysis
Department of Justice (DOJ) letter to Hnasko (pdf)
Hnasko letter to DOJ in response (pdf)
Previous press articles, which were accurate, for background:
NNSA plans new CMRR environmental analysis, but group won't drop suit, (pdf 179KB) Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, Sep 27, 2010
New Study of LANL Project Planned in Light of Lawsuit, Albuquerque Journal North, article, Sep 23, 2010
Lab, watchdog group spar over nuclear facility, Feds urge dismissal of environment suit,
Santa Fe New Mexican, article, Sep 22, 2010
Extensive background information is available at this web site

Albuquerque and Santa Fe -- Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published a Notice of Intent (NOI) (pdf) to produce a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for a proposed massive (and extremely costly) plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

This facility, the primary purpose of which is to facilitate large-scale production of additional plutonium warhead cores ("pits") for new kinds of nuclear warheads, is called the "Nuclear Facility," which is short for "Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (or, sometimes, CMRR-NF). 

Cost estimates for this facility have been rising for many years and according to reliable sources currently exceed $5.5 billion (B).  If so, the cost inflation since February alone has averaged some 14% per month. 

As noted in a Complaint (pdf) filed in federal district court by the Los Alamos Study Group, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) bars agencies from proceeding with major federal projects in the absence of an applicable environmental impact statement (EIS).   These and other issues were raised again in a letter (pdf) to NNSA attorneys at DOJ by Thomas Hnasko on September 22. 

Study Group Director Greg Mello:

While we are pleased that NNSA now admits the environmental analysis underpinning its choice to construct the Nuclear Facility is inadequate, today's announcement goes nowhere near far enough. 

First, attempting to continue the project without adequate analysis of alternatives under NEPA simply ignores the law. 

Second, the alternatives proposed for analysis are for the most part "straw men" -- very lightly sketched alternatives which are impractical or unrealistic on their face and thus easily dismissed.   It is a typical ploy used by NNSA to avoid bona fide, objective analysis.  The so-called "no action" alternative would build a version of the facility that NNSA itself has rejected as impractical.  The second alternative would confine (undescribed) missions in an old building without upgrading it to modern standards, which would never be practical.  The third alternative to this giant project would fix up this older building.  It is described with a single sentence, omitting the integrated roles of two other buildings, failing to note that NNSA may keep part of the old building, and omitting much else besides.   There are just these three alternatives. 
Given these perfunctory alternatives and especially given the shocking denial of NEPA's stop-work requirement, we must conclude this is not a good faith effort.  It is just another chapter in the abuse of discretion that has gotten NNSA into this mess. 

The environmental consequences of this project are enormous.  NNSA has simply kept them secret, along with the fact that several reasonable alternatives exist which could accomplish the same national security objectives more cheaply, quicker, with less risk, and with far less environmental impact.  The project alternative chosen is the one that maximizes contractor profit at the expense of everything -- and everyone -- else.


Greg Mello * Los Alamos Study Group
2901 Summit Place NE * Albuquerque, NM 87106
phone 505-265-1200 * cell 505-577-8563 * fax 505-265-1207
To subscribe to the Study Group's main listserve, send a blank email to

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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200

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