Public Hearings for Proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility Begin May 24

May 6, 2011

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), electronically released a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Nuclear Facility, a part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project, on Friday April 22, at a time when families and friends were participating in Holy Week events. Although the comment period did not officially begin until Friday, April 29, some people in Northern New Mexico found such action as an affront. DOE has offered a 45-day comment period on the proposal and public hearings scheduled for Tuesday, May 24 in Los Alamos; Wednesday, May 25 in Espa–ola; and Thursday, May 26 in Santa Fe.,

Thirty non-governmental organizations and four individuals signed a letter to DOE asking for a 75-day extension of the public comment period and additional hearings in Taos, Albuquerque, and Washington, DC. They cited the growth in the project size, construction options and complexity as some of the reasons why additional time is needed to provide informed comments. Further, additional time is needed because the recent Greater-than-Class C draft environmental impact statement is also out for comment. That document proposes to bring 160 million curies of "hot" low-level waste from commercial nuclear power plants to three potential sites in New Mexico: one at LANL and two at or near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The proposed Nuclear Facility at LANL would include a 22,500 square foot area for working with special nuclear materials, including plutonium, an area that would be encompassed within a larger 400,000 gross square foot facility. The proposed facility would also store six metric tons, or about 13,200 pounds, of plutonium. Analysis by the Los Alamos Study Group finds that the proposed Nuclear Facility would have more concrete than in Elephant Butte Dam and more steel than the Eiffel Tower.

There are ongoing concerns about whether the draft environmental impact statement provides a "hard look" at all of the possible alternatives to the Nuclear Facility as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. In a recent federal court hearing in the case of the Los Alamos Study Group versus DOE, Andrew Smith of the U.S. Department of Justice, who is representing DOE, said, "It is an evolving process." Tom Hnasko, one of the Study Group's lawyers, responded by saying DOE had only provided "variations on [a single] design" of the Nuclear Facility and that a pause is needed in order to "take a hard look at the alternatives." Judge Judith C. Herrera has taken the matter under advisement.

To keep informed about all these matters, please visit the websites of CCNS, Los Alamos Study Group, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Union of Concerned Scientists

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