NNSA Proposes Limited Access to LANL Property

* The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently proposed limiting access to East and West Jemez Roads surrounding the western perimeter of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) due to potential undefined security threats. The proposal has raised concerns in the Los Alamos community that limiting access to the roads may affect commerce or property value in the area.

Public meetings were recently held in Los Alamos to discuss the proposal. Dennis Martinez, of NNSA, attempted to clarify some of the rumors surrounding the proposal. For example, residents were concerned that the proposal would restrict access to Jemez Road altogether. Martinez said, "We do not have any intent to close the road. We could close it today if we had that desire, but we're not."

The proposal comes as a result of the federal government's revised Design Basis Threat (DBT), which is a classified document outlining security threats that nuclear facilities may face and steps they must take to protect nuclear materials and information. Martinez said that public participation in NNSA's proposal has been complicated due its classified nature. He said, "It has been difficult to sit across the table with the public to discuss [formative] opinions on what will work because we can't be too specific about the exact nature of the threats we're seeking to address."

The DBT was originally drafted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 1984. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey proposed revising the DBT to address emerging security threats and integrate recommendations from the Department of Defense and Office of Homeland Security. Markey illustrated several security failures around the Department of Energy complex and criticized the NRC's creating its own security policies. Markey said, "Just as we can't rely on the airline industry to test itself to see whether its screeners are effective, we can't rely on the nuclear industry to write its own 'take home' test on nuclear security. The temptation to give oneself an 'A' is simply too great."

However, citizens are also concerned that there was no public participation when revising the DBT. In a petition filed last year, Mothers for Peace of San Luis Obispo and Public Citizen claimed that the NRC violated the Administrative Procedure Act by issuing the revisions with no public input. Lisa Gue, of Public Citizen, said, "There is a disturbing trend toward secrecy and the exclusion of the public from NRC decisionmaking. We recognize that the rulemaking process in this area has to be carried out with due regard to protecting [security] information, but that can't justify bypassing rulemaking procedures altogether."

The secrecy and lack of public involvement in the DBT may be the cause of confusion surrounding the NNSA's proposal at LANL, considering that residents are still unclear about what NNSA's proposal entails and how it will affect them. Kathleen Wiegner, of the Jemez Thunder newspaper, said, "This is causing a lot of people here to be really upset ... Everyone fears that we will be forced [to take a circuitous route to] Los Alamos."

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