DOE Must Withdraw the Unsupported Surplus Plutonium Draft EIS
A review of the Department of Energy (DOE) National Environmental Policy Act website shows that it is behind schedule in providing the public with up-to-date site-wide environmental impact statements, or SWEISs, for the four main sites involved in DOE’s proposed surplus plutonium plans. Generally, a SWEIS is done every ten years. But that is not the case for the sites where DOE plans to process and dispose of more than 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium. As a result, the public has not been afforded a timely opportunity to weigh in on the latest environmental changes at the sites. It is premature for DOE to ask for public comments on its surplus plutonium plans based on obsolete NEPA documentation – some decades out-of-date. Comments are currently due on Thursday, March 16th, 2023 to SPDP-EIS@NNSA.DOE.gov.
The four main sites are the Pantex Plant located in the Texas panhandle, the Savannah River Site located in South Carolina, and two sites in New Mexico: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
DOE’s plan is to ship plutonium “pits,” or the triggers, for nuclear weapons from Pantex to LANL to be pulverized. From LANL, the powdered plutonium would be shipped to the Savannah River Site for more processing for disposal at WIPP. https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doeeis-0549-surplus-plutonium-disposition-program
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies, such as DOE, to assess the environmental effects of proposed major federal actions prior to decision-making. In the case of the four sites, DOE has not analyzed the environmental effects in a timely manner. The draft EIS for the surplus plutonium disposition project plans are unsupported with up-to-date information, data and analysis as required by NEPA.
The burden falls on the public to oppose DOE’s plans.
For example, the Pantex EIS was completed in 1996 – 27 years ago. No WIPP EIS has been done since 1990 – 33 years ago. It is unclear whether a Savannah River Site SWEIS has ever been done. At LANL, a new SWEIS process should have been completed in 2018. To view the NEPA history for these sites, go to: https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doe-environmental-impact-statements and enter the site’s name in the Search box.
NEPA also prohibits the “irreversible and irretrievable” commitment of resources that would be involved in a proposed action before the environmental review process is complete. In the last three fiscal years, the total LANL budget increased from roughly $3.9 billion to $4.9 billion – a one billion dollar increase – all without the proper NEPA analysis of the impacts and effects of “investing” those funds at LANL. https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/LANL-FY23-Lab-Table-Chart-scaled.jpg
CCNS urges you to include a statement in your comments that DOE must withdraw the draft Surplus Plutonium Environmental Impact Statement for public comment until it brings its SWEIS analyses current for the four main sites. Comments are currently due on Thursday, March 16th, 2023 to SPDP-EIS@NNSA.DOE.gov.
For more information about DOE’s proposed plans, check out Tom Clements’ January 23, 2023 analysis in Plutonium Pondering: How much SRS plutonium has gone to WIPP? How much plutonium does DOE plan to ship to WIPP? 66 Metric Tons?! https://srswatch.org/plutonium-pondering-how-much-srs-plutonium-has-gone-to-wipp-how-much-plutonium-does-doe-plan-to-ship-to-wipp-66-metric-tons/
In my opinion, of the entire processing, transportation and disposal cycle, the greatest risks to workers and the public occur during plutonium processing related to plutonium oxide preparation [at LANL] and the mixing and packaging of the downblended material into the disposal containers [at SRS].
- Friday, March 10th from noon to 1 pm – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Loretto Community, Pax Christi and others.
- If you missed the Sunday, March 5th Unite! March in Love for Life! for Nuclear Disarmament, organized by the Donald & Sally-Alice Thompson Chapter and Joan Duffy Chapter of the Veterans for Peace. KKOB-TV Channel 4 covered the March. https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/albuquerque-activists-gather-to-protest-nuclear-weapons/
- Thursday, March 16th – Comments due to DOE/NNSA about the draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. For more information, please visit http://nuclearactive.org/
- Saturday March 18th at 2 pm at San Mateo & Gibson outside Kirtland Air Force Base – Peace in Ukraine – On the 20th Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Say No to Endless U.S. Wars. Organized by ANSWER ALBUQUERQUE. For more information, https://www.answercoalition.org/albuquerque or call 505 392-8460.
- Thursday, March 23rd at 5:30 pm – WIPP Community Forum & Open House at the Hobbs Country Club, 5001 W. Carlsbad Hwy. The Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and the new contractor at WIPP, the Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO), are hosting an in person and virtual meeting to provide a short update with an extended Q&A period. For more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-366-9477.
- April 1st to 7th – Join the Sacred Peace Walk, an interfaith journey of approximately 60 miles from Las Vegas to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) (formerly the Nevada Test Site), through the Great Basin Desert in Nevada, on the beautiful traditional lands of the Indigenous Western Shoshone and Paiute Peoples, bringing the message of non-violence to the test site and Creech AFB (the center of drone warfare and assassination for the US military and the CIA). For more information, contact the Nevada Desert Experience at email@example.com and http://nevadadesertexperience.org/
- April 15th to 22nd – Shut Down Drone Warfare – Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico – “From Tax Day to Earth Day, Rise Up!” Co-sponsored by CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace and Ban Killer Drones. Join for a week of peaceful resistance against drone warfare and out-of-control U.S. empire. Why Holloman? It is the largest-drone training base in the U.S. – training 600 or more drone pilots and operators annually. For more information: http://www.shutdowndronewarfare.org/
Tags: $1 billion increase in LANL budget over three years, Department of Energy, DOE, downblended plutonium, EIS, environmental impact statement, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, obsolete NEPA documentation, Pantex Plant, Plutonium Facility, plutonium pits, Plutonium Pondering: How much SRS plutonium has gone to WIPP? How much plutonium does DOE plan to ship to WIPP? 66 Metric Tons?!, plutonium triggers, powdered plutonium, Savannah River Site, Savannah River Watch, site-wide environmental impact statement, surplus plutonium, SWEIS, Tom Clements, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP