Seismic Hazard for Proposed $6 Billion CMRR Nuclear Facility at LANL Underestimated and Misstated

July 1, 2011

The Las Conchas Wildfire we are experiencing today was predicted by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in 1999.** Similarly, in 2009 it was reported that LANL estimated a 1 in 50 chance of seismic collapse at the Old 1950s era Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) Building during a 10-year time frame which would result in the release of nuclear materials. But building the proposed $6 billion Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project (CMRR) Nuclear Facility would not change the level of risk for another 12 years, since the scheduled operation date is 2023. In the meantime, the old CMR and other unsafe facilities would continue to be used at LANL.

Intensive research by Robert H. Gilkeson, Registered Geologist, discovered that the draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility misrepresents the possible ground motions by a large amount, omits important seismic information about the potential of active faulting close to the proposed site, and makes assumptions because the necessary field investigations have not been done. As a result, Gilkeson stated that DOE must retract the draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed Nuclear Facility. The public comment period ended on June 28, 2011, but public comments are still being accepted by the Department of Energy (DOE) until the close of business on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. See below for information about where to submit your comments.

There are seven key parameters that must be investigated in order to characterize the seismic hazard. They are the fault locations; the fault geometry; the direction of the slip on the faults; the maximum magnitude of an earthquake; the rate at which earthquakes reoccur on the faults; kappa, which is a key parameter for ground motions at specific LANL sites; and the shear velocity of the reference rock, which is dacite. In order to obtain this information, field studies must be conducted.

LANL scientists recommended these studies in three key seismic reports written in 1995, 2007 and 2009. But the recommended studies were not done. As a result, assumed values for the seven key parameters were inserted into computer programs to estimate the seismic hazard for the design of the proposed Nuclear Facility. Moreover, Congress has appropriated and almost half a billion dollars has been spent on the design of the proposed Nuclear Facility without accurate knowledge of the seismic hazard.

Gilkeson said, "The draft supplemental environment impact statement must be retracted by the Department of Energy because it is incomplete, inadequate, underestimates and misrepresents the seismic hazard at the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility. DOE must perform the field studies that are identified as important by the LANL scientists in order to calculate the seismic hazard. No more taxpayer money should be spent on the design of the CMRR Nuclear Facility until there is accurate knowledge of the seismic hazard."

** Table "Summary of Radiological Risks from Earthquake-Initiated and Wildfire Accident Scenarios at LANL No Action Alternative," Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, p. 5-87, DOE/EIS-0238, January 1999.


To keep informed about all these matters, please visit the websites of the:

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability


Cultural Energy

Los Alamos Study Group

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Think Outside the Bomb and

Union of Concerned Scientists

*** Questions or Comments concerning the draft CMRR-Nuclear Facility Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) may be submitted to:

Mr. John Tegtmeier, CMRR-NF
SEIS Document Manager
NNSA Los Alamos Site Office
3747 West Jemez Road
TA-3 Building 1410
Los Alamos, New Mexico, 87544

or by facsimile (505) 667 5948

or by e-mail at:,,,,,,

Electronic comments have been bouncing. If your comments bounce, please email your comments to and NNSA LASO Deputy Manager Roger Snyder at and the other DOE officials and congressional staffers listed above. Over two weeks ago, DOE/NNSA/LANL was notified about the bouncing comments, but the IT staff have been unable to remedy the situation.

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