DOE Plans Next Generation of Nuclear Weapons
The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced their plans for the next generation of nuclear weapons in a program called Complex 2030. They are proposing to consolidate and renovate nuclear weapons facilities located around the country. The plans will lessen the number of nukes currently on hand, however, it will give the U.S. the power to build new nuclear weapons at an astonishing rate.
Four DOE sites within New Mexico will be significantly impacted by the plans. New Mexico is home to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Sandia National Laboratories, White Sands Missile Range and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the only repository for nuclear bomb waste in the country. This proposal is different from the recent Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for LANL, which only focused on the next five years at LANL.
Nuclear weapons production has already greatly effected New Mexico's environment. For example, there is overwhelming evidence of LANL contamination in our water. LANL's own documents state that in the early years of operations, raw untreated radioactive waste was dumped into canyons that flow to the Rio Grande. Radioactive waste continues to be dumped into unlined pits, shafts and trenches on-site. Elevated levels of contaminants, such as toxic hexavalent chromium, PCBs and perchlorate, have been discovered in the regional aquifer below the site.
In addition to harmful environmental practices, there are many security concerns at LANL. LANL has been investigated by the FBI four times in the past decade. Recently over 200 classified documents were found at the home of a former subcontractor during a drug bust. Previously, in the summer of 2003, operations at LANL were halted because inventory showed that two computer disks were missing.
LANL has also been found to be mismanaging the special nuclear materials in their possession. There is a discrepancy of about 300 kilograms of plutonium between two accounting systems. This is enough plutonium to make about 60 nuclear bombs.
Activists state that these harmful environmental practices and serious security concerns exist across the nation and are standard at DOE weapons sites.
DOE is beginning to prepare a document which will analyze the environmental, socioeconomic and health impacts of their proposal. They claim this document "will analyze the environmental impacts from the continued transformation of the United States' nuclear weapons complex by implementing [their] vision of the complex as it would exist in 2030, as well as alternatives." DOE is required by law to seek out public input as to the scope of this analysis. They will be holding public meetings across the country.
Kalliroi Matsakis, of CCNS, said "It is essential that we voice our concerns about nuclear weapons production, in terms of how it will effect our environment, our communities and the international climate so that these will be included in the analysis. And perhaps most importantly, it is our opportunity tell DOE what our vision is for the year 2030."
The New Mexico meetings will take place in early December. In Socorro on the 4th, in Albuquerque on the 5th, in Los Alamos on the 6th in the morning and in Santa Fe, on the 6th in the evening. Comments may also be submitted in writing.