Funding for LANL Weapons Cut in House, Mission Diversification Proposed
Recent security breaches have led the US House of Representatives to cut funding for nuclear weapons work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) by $300 million for fiscal year 08. New Mexico Representative Tom Udall, a democrat whose district includes Los Alamos County, attempted to restore $192 million to LANL, but was soundly defeated by a vote of 121 to 312.
After the vote, Udall held a tele-town hall meeting and stated that he voted to fund nuclear weapons programs in order to maintain jobs, but that LANL must take steps to transition to a diversified mission. A poll taken during the meeting indicated 84% of those participating supported diversification, the majority of which were LANL workers and their families.
Local community groups believe that the nuclear weapons budget should be cut and request that congress reassign the funding to clean up and non-proliferation activities. Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, Amigos Bravos, the Loretto Community, Peace Action New Mexico and Tewa Women United have issued a statement outlining concrete steps that could be taken to change the LANL mission.
This new mission "would transfer funding and expertise away from nuclear and non-nuclear weapons design, development and production, and into clean up, non-proliferation, emergency management and preparedness and basic sciences." Click here to read the full statement.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently in the process of proposing expanded nuclear weapons missions at LANL. They plan to release a final Environmental Impact Statement for future operations in August. This report will be used to decide what activities DOE will assign to LANL in the future.
Far from diversifying the mission, in the report DOE proposes to quadruple plutonium pit production. A plutonium pit is the core of a nuclear weapon. They did not include an analysis of the impacts of diversifying LANL's mission, which means that DOE will not consider it as an option. CCNS has requested that the report be revised or supplemented to include analysis of diversification.
The New Mexico Environment Department has also requested that a supplement of the Environmental Impact Statement be issued because it does not include significant new environmental information. Specifically, the analysis fails to address the full strength of an earthquake, which new data has increased 50%; nor does it address two recent reports which have shown increased impact from LANL operations on regional water. One new report shows increased transport of plutonium and other radionuclides through storm water runoff to the Rio Grande. The other report confirms that there are significant issues with the groundwater monitoring program such that LANL cannot know the levels of contaminants in the regional aquifer.
In a letter to DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman, NMED Secretary Ron Curry said, "This information is critically important to potential future and current users of Rio Grande water including the City of Santa Fe's drinking water system and deserves to be included in the [Environmental Impact Statement]."