March 4, 2002

For Further Information Contact:

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
Joni Arends (505) 986-1973

Nuclear Watch of New Mexico
Colin King (505) 989-7342

Peace Action New Mexico
Peggy Prince (505) 989-4812

An Independent Citizen
Cathie Sullivan (505) 982-7144

Today's announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of a Finding of No Significant Impact on a proposal to construct and operate a Biological Safety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) disregards public concern about the facility. Furthermore, NNSA's decision was made despite requests from members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation to conduct more extensive environmental studies on the proposed facility. Both Senator Jeff Bingaman and Representative Tom Udall have requested that NNSA prepare a full Environmental Impacts Statement for the proposed facility. The proposed BSL-3 facility at LANL would be the first of its kind to operate at a Department of Energy laboratory. This proposed facility would be a part of a nation-wide program operated by the NNSA in at least 9 national laboratories called the Chemical and Biological National Security Program (CBNP). The CBNP, which has been in existence since 1997, has been plagued by safety and security problems and has never undergone a program-wide environmental review. This review is required by federal law and must be conducted before construction of the BSL-3 laboratory at LANL begins.

"This decision once again demonstrates how little regard NNSA has for public oversight," said Colin King, Research Director for Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. "The NNSA has failed to demonstrate that the BSL-3 laboratory will be safely operated; it has failed to address issues of security against terrorism, worker and public safety, and methods for training local emergency response personnel who would be forced to respond should there be an accident at the facility," King said.

"Considering the amount of public opposition to this proposed BSL-3 facility," said Peggy Prince, Director of Peace Action New Mexico, "we feel that the decision of no significant impact is precipitous, hasty, and unwise. We will continue to work for a full environmental impact statement on this facility and support a program-wide study for all proposed BSL facilities in the nuclear weapons complex."

Cathie Sullivan, an independent citizen studying the proposed BSL-3 facility said "we continue to be concerned that the proposed BSL-3 facility at LANL could lead to work on biological weapons in the future. It is true that we do not face that problem yet and if the new labs are not built, we never will. But if government policy on bioweapons changes, as many suspect it will, wouldn't a nuclear weapons lab already doing secret, classified work on nuclear weapons be a likely location for bioweapons work as well?"

"Over 50 percent of LANL employees work within 2 blocks of the proposed facility, which is in violation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations. Many these employees live in outlying areas, thereby increasing the potential for taking these bioagents home," said Joni Arends, Waste Programs Director for Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.