.News Update 7/4/08

New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops Historic Comments to DOE about Proposed Complex Transformation

July 4, 2008

On April 9, 2008, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe and Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, took a historic step by responding to the call for public comments about the Department of Energy (DOE) proposal for Complex Transformation at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). CCNS quotes the letter in its entirety.

"We, the Bishops of New Mexico, would like to respond to the U.S. Department of Energy's call for public comment on the Environmental Impact Statement.

"On January 1, 2008, 'World Day of Peace,' Pope Benedict XVI challenged world governments to work earnestly to decrease the number of nuclear warheads and redirect resources to aid the poor. Throughout his reign, Pope John Paul II also stressed the critical message of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The news regarding the transformation and expanding of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, specifically [LANL], role raises numerous questions. Our concerns and questions are as follows:

"1. Will the transformation and expanded role of the [LANL] into a weapons manufacturing facility be a violation of our current treaties with other nations?

"2. Will the LANL transformation to create 80 new warheads per year, as referred to in the 'Albuquerque Journal,' hasten an international arms race? (Is there a target number to be completed in the next five, ten years or is this an open-ended commitment?)

"3. Current U.S. policy says the Life Extension Program guarantees the functionality of current arsenal. It is not clear that the transformation of LANL will result in a more responsive infrastructure to better support the Life Extension Program, research and development, and other non-weapons program work. Essential non-weapons work such as the handling and disposal of high level radio active material could be lost or assigned a low priority. The Environmental Impact Statement does not speak to the planning for non-weapons work. How will the DOE assure that essential non-weapons needs are addressed?

"4. Can the United States concurrently adhere to the 'Life Extension Program' timeline while complex transformation occurs?

"5. Since 9-11, our world has changed tremendously. Is the complex transformation based on a nuclear posture review conducted before 9-11 or after?

"6. Congressional support is essential to the success of a radical mission shift of a defense program. What type of congressional support has been received?

"7. Decommissioning and decontamination funds will be enormous. The costs are not fully described in the Environmental Impact Statement. What is the funding source?

"We wait with hope that the questions brought forward will be answered. It is the intention of the Bishops to raise the level of moral and ethical consciousness to the issue of the transformation of LANL. We ask that you carefully discern the decisions you are about to make and their potential implications. Much of the technology transfer that resulted due to the ending of the Cold War has created innumerable benefits for the greater good of humankind.

"We remain in prayer for your work, our Country and our future." The letter was signed by the Most Reverend Michael J. Sheehan and Reverend Ricardo Ramirez.

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