Scientist quits Lawrence Livermore Lab and Condemns Nuclear Weapons

More Plutonium Slated for Idaho incinerator than Acknowledged in State Permits

*With an open letter to appeal to "every secretary, technician, custodian, scientist, engineer, and any other person whose participation supports the world war machine to withhold their skills from weapons work and from activities that support or enable weapons work", a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory chemist resigned from his classified position in the lab's nuclear weapons program last week.

Dr. Andreas Toupadakis, who had previously worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico where he witnessed several instances of dangerous plutonium mishandling, took a job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in August 1998 to do environmental work, but was assigned to the nuclear weapons program. Most recently, he worked in Lawrence Livermore's Stockpile Stewardship program on nuclear weapons maintenance and refurbishment.

"When I was hired by Livermore Lab, I was not adequately informed about the specifics of my job responsibilities. I came to do environmental work, believing that weapons were being dismantled and help was needed to bury their deadly byproducts. Instead, I found myself being expected to work on the maintenance of nuclear weapons. I believe that I am not alone having this experience. When I refused to work on weapons, I found myself looking for a job on environmental or nonproliferation projects, but soon realized that such a thing is an illusion. I came to realize that I was fooling myself, that all work at Livermore Lab is directly or indirectly related to weapons. My conscience simply does not allow me to work for the development or maintenance of nuclear weapons. That is why I have resigned from my position as a scientist in the nuclear weapons program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory."

Dr. Toupadakis also expressed deep concerns about the hiring of college and high school students at nuclear labs, and the Department of Energy's efforts to lure civilian establishments such as the nation's universities to participate in the development of the nuclear arsenal and train a new generation of weapons designers.

According to anti-nuclear activists, Dr. Toupadakis' resignation is a rare and perhaps unprecedented case in which a scientist left the weapons program in mid-career to embrace the peace movement.

*According to anti-nuclear activists from the Idaho-based Environmental Defense Institute, State of Idaho permits and the Department of Energy's Environmental Impact Statement for the plutonium incinerator at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) only acknowledge a fraction of the plutonium that is candidate waste to be processed at the so-called Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant.

Although DOE is not publicly acknowledging the fact, its internal reports show that the buried waste slated for the facility contains 11 million curies of radioactivity including 1,455 kilograms of plutonium from Rocky Flats. The total buried plutonium contains more than 700,000 curies of radioactivity. These buried wastes alone represent potentially 17 times more radioactivity to be processed than is acknowledged in the Plutonium Incinerator Environmental Impact Statement or the applications for state and federal permits. Moreover, calculations indicate that the above figures for the radioactivity of the buried waste are still significantly understated because they rely on original shipping records that are now known to be inaccurate.

Anti-nuclear activists are concerned that other contaminates and candidate waste locations are equally improperly characterized by the Department of Energy.

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