Over 300 Peace Activists March to LANL Headquarters

DOE's Plans for Nuke Waste is Deficient states a Recent Government Sponsored Report.

*On the 55th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, over 300 peace activists from around the nation gathered for the second largest protest at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) since the atom bomb was created. The protestors chanted, "Shut it down!" as they marched from Ashley Pond to the labs administrative building.

Director and actor Wes Studi, a star of "Geronimo" and "Last of the Mohicans" was one of the first activists to cross the line and be taken into custody. Studi said that nuclear weapons serve "no good at all. How does one live with oneself after having caused such a horrific devastation of innocent lives and the environment?" Over 60 peace activists were taken into custody by heavily armed security guards as the activists crossed the line. Other activists shouted to the lab employees who lined up to watch the protesters, to abandon weapons research and production in favor of cleaning up the contamination LANL already has created. The activists called for the employees to instead work on peaceful pursuits.

This has been a very difficult and embarrassing year for LANL with the recent Cerro Grande Fire ravishing over a third of the labs 43 square miles in May, the erosion from the rains most likely carrying some of the contaminants as a result of 57 years of indiscriminant dumping from weapons production, into the Rio Grande, and of course the security scandals.

Protestors shouted reminders about the fire at lab employees saying it was a warning and they should shut the lab down and stop creating new nuclear weapons such as the planned new generation of earth-penetrating nuclear weapons.

Andrew Lichterman, program director for the Western States Legal Foundation said, "If you give billions of dollars to nuclear-weapons laboratories for decades, they are going to design new weapons, that's where arms races get started."

*The U.S. governments plans to rely on a so-called long-term stewardship to oversee its highly contaminated nuclear weapons sites is being challenged by a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The report sites a lack of specific details by the Department of Energy's (DOE) stewardship plans, lack of assured adequate funding, and no convincing evidence that institutional controls -- such as surveillance of radioactive and other hazardous wastes left at sites, security fences, and deeds restricting land use -- will prove reliable for the future. Thomas Leschine, associate professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and chair of the committee that wrote the report said, "Many weaknesses in institutional controls and other stewardship activities arise from institutional fallabilities. Understanding this and developing a highly reliable organizational model that anticipates failure while taking advantage of new opportunities for further remediation and isolation of contaminants remains a significant challenge for DOE."

About 150 sites around the country, in Puerto Rico, and territorial islands in the Pacific are contaminated as a result of nuclear weapons production. DOE admits that at least 109 of the contaminated sites including Los Alamos National Laboratory, will never be clean enough for unrestricted use.

The findings of the committee state that DOE should begin immediately planning for a broader framework that equally balances contaminant reduction, physical isolation of waste, and safeguarding activities such as surveillance of waste migration, changes in the landscape, and human activity around an array of contaminated sites. Since hazardous contaminants in the environment are unpredictable, and physical barriers will most probably break down at some point, the committee urged DOE to develop its so-called stewardship plans with the assumption that contaminant isolation eventually will fail. The committee has called for a precautionary approach to be taken in which contaminant reduction is emphasized to address risks to human health and the environment.

The committee further recommends that ongoing surveillance and environmental monitoring need to go beyond the boundaries of a site and that DOE should admit gaps in its technical capabilities and organizational deficiencies when explaining long-term institutional management plans to the public. And finally the report, which was sponsored by the DOE, calls for the scientific basis of decisions to be made clear, and that the public be actively involved in the development of stewardship plans.


Back to News Index