LANL Underestimated Seismic Threatand
Students Hold Hunger Strike to Protest UC Management of Nuclear Weapons Labs

LANL Underestimated Seismic Threat

Seismic risk at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has been underestimated by roughly 50%, the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board announced recently. An updated LANL Probabilistic Seismic Hazards Analysis is due out later this month and will give more detail on the current risk. The LANL facility was constructed on several major fault lines.

In order to keep running, LANL plans to submit a site-wide justification for continued operations, while a prioritized facility-specific analyses is prepared. This facility-specific analysis will identify vulnerabilities and be used to justify continuing operations, as needed. The impacts that the new seismic analysis will have on existing operations and facilities at LANL has yet to be determined. In addition, the Department of Energy (DOE) is currently in the process of determining future operations at LANL.

The Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for expanding operations at LANL was released in draft form last summer, without including the new analysis of seismic risk. Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) and New Mexico Senator Bingaman raised concerns about the use of 1997 seismic analysis. In response, DOE informed Senator Bingaman that "a careful review will be conducted to assure that all impacts discussed in the final SWEIS are consistent with [the seismic study]." Community groups believe the careful review will dramatically change the analysis in the draft SWEIS and must be made open to public comment.

Joni Arends, of CCNS said, "Given the magnitude of a 50 percent increase in the potential force of an earthquake, a thorough review is needed before the final LANL SWEIS is released. The public must be involved in order to ensure that DOE’s careful review is done well. CCNS recommends that DOE withdraw the draft SWEIS, rewrite it with the new seismic analysis and release it again for public comment."

Read the Defense Nuclear Facilities Board weekly review which discusses the Seismic Concerns. LANL Underestimated Seismic Threat

On Thursday hunger strikers and other protesters disrupted the University of California (UC) governing Board of Regents meeting to protest UC's role in overseeing Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories. They demand that the university cut ties with nuclear weapons programs. Police forced them out of the room as regents retreated. Over 30 UC students and former students began a hunger strike on May 9 in protest. Many students ended their hunger strike at the regents meeting, as planned. However, a few will continue until the regents make good on their promise to meet with the students. Locally, Marcus Page, with Pax Christi New Mexico, joined the hunger strike in solidarity, delivering a letter to LANL management on Thursday.

Jedidjah de Vries, a former UC student and outreach director for Tri-Valley Cares, a community group in Livermore, said the protest was "an outpouring of frustration [over] the moral quandary [UC officials] put themselves in running the [nuclear] labs."

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