17 New Mexico NGOs ask Congressional Delegation for a Capacity Study of Plutonium Pit Production Operations at LANL

May 7, 2010

Seventeen New Mexico non-government organizations, representing diverse communities from Albuquerque to Taos, recently wrote to Senator Bingaman, Senator Udall, and Representative Lujan requesting a study of the plutonium pit operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), with a focus on the capacity of the existing facilities. LANL is the only Department of Energy (DOE) facility currently manufacturing the core of nuclear weapons, the plutonium pit. Over the last decade, DOE has proposed to expand plutonium pits operations at LANL. The latest proposal is the construction of a nuclear facility, which would be double the size of a Super Wal-Mart.

The non-governmental organizations wrote, "With the recent signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the upcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference, the United States is at a historic crossroads with our nuclear policy. In order to provide international leadership, we believe that the role of plutonium pit manufacturing at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) must be evaluated. Therefore we ask that you request a capacity study for plutonium pit production operations at LANL."

The non-governmental organizations include: the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Citizen Action New Mexico, Code Pink Taos, Community Service Organization del Norte, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, Honor Our Pueblo Existence, Loretto Community, New Mexico Conference of Churches, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Pax Christi New Mexico, Peace Action New Mexico, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Southwest Research and Information Center, and Tewa Women United.

The organizations continued: "We are concerned about continuing investment in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project - Nuclear Facility - when we know it is not needed. Since 1999, LANL has had the capacity to produce up to 20 plutonium pits per year []. The 2003 draft CMRR Environmental Impact Statement did not provide an upper production limit, but stated [the CMRR] would be needed for more than the interim capacity of 20 [pits per year]. Nevertheless, the Record of Decision for the Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement called for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility to support a potential annual production of 20 to 80 [pits per year].

"The CMRR-Nuclear Facility is currently scheduled to be operational in 2022 at the earliest. Clearly, manufacturing operations would continue at existing LANL facilities for the next 12 years without the Nuclear Facility.

"Given the nation's movement toward a nuclear weapons-free world, we believe that a CMRR-Nuclear Facility is not necessary. We ask that you work with Congress to ensure that the JASONs or the Government Accountability Office conduct an independent capacity study of the plutonium pit production operations at LANL to determine whether such a facility is required.

"Before investing over $4 billion into a new Super Wal-Mart-sized nuclear facility in a seismic zone, it is essential to examine if the existing LANL facilities will meet the needs as this country moves towards a nuclear weapons free world. In addition, the Nuclear Facility would further entrench nuclear weapons programs at LANL rather than to diversify its missions."

The groups asked for the leadership of Senators Bingaman and Udall and Representative Lujan in order "to ensure that the capacity study is done."

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