DOE Plans to Reduce Potential Catastrophic Risk at LANL Plutonium Facility and Upcoming Sunday, February 28 CMRR Peaceful Demonstration

February 12, 2010

In response to a recent seismic analysis that indicated a catastrophic increase in the potential dose to the public from a fire within the plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Energy Secretary Steven Chu accepted recommendations made by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (Be sure to open the enclosure at the bottom of page two of the letter.) The analysis determined that such a fire could result in an off-site release at least 100 times higher than allowed for by Department of Energy (DOE) safety controls. In a recent letter to the Board, Chu said that LANL was making changes and planning to reduce the risk involved in such an event.

Chu also said that work will be done to limit the types of materials found in the plutonium facility, such as cellulose, metals and plutonium used for making heat-source batteries for space missions. Some of the work has already been done, including removing nearly 11 tons of combustible material from primarily the first-floor laboratory rooms, the area for the predicated fire. These actions have reduced the risk to a level that is still seven times over DOE's safety guidelines.

Secretary Chu also stated that additional upgrades would be done in order to meet DOE policies for nuclear safety. The upgrade work would be "incentivized" through a performance-based award of about $1.3 million this year in the contract with the private Los Alamos National Security, a limited liability corporation. The work may involve installing an emergency shut down system for non-vital electrical loads within the facility; developing conceptual designs for the fire suppression system; the possible removal of 250 kilograms of plutonium; and storage of high activity heat-source plutonium in water baths. The total estimated cost may be more than $100 million and appears in the proposed budget released by the Obama administration on February 1.

The plutonium facility is located right next door to the proposed site for a Super Walmart-sized Nuclear Facility, which is part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project, or CMRR Project. If built, 125 plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons could be manufactured annually in the facility.

The Trinity Nuclear Abolitionists, based in Albuquerque, are hosting a non-violent demonstration of peace at LANL on Sunday, February 28th from noon to 1 pm. The prayer action for peace will be the cumulating event for many participants in the annual weekend faith-based retreat that occurs at different nuclear weapons sites across the Southwestern U.S.

Marcus Page, one of the organizers, said, "The entire world knows that LANL is an enormous threat to peace and the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility would be the biggest violator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." For more information, please call the Trinity Nuclear Abolitionists at (505) 242-0497 or visit

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