Public Comments Needed about DOE’s Surplus Plutonium Plans
What would you do with more than 30 metric tons of “surplus” plutonium in the form of triggers for nuclear weapons? The Department of Energy (DOE) has been working to find a solution for at least 30 years. Over that time, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) were not included in the plans and were not analyzed in the environmental impact statements required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Now both DOE sites in New Mexico, LANL and WIPP, are analyzed in the recently released statement. https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doeeis-0549-surplus-plutonium-disposition-program
Please get involved! Public comments are now due to DOE by Thursday, March 16th to SPDP-EIS@NNSA.DOE.gov
In the latest draft environmental impact statement, DOE plans to ship the triggers from its Pantex Plant, north of Amarillo, to LANL in Northern New Mexico on I-40. At Clines Corners, the trucks would proceed north on U.S. 285 to I-40 to the 599 by-pass around Santa Fe and back onto 285 to LANL. At LANL, the triggers would be pulverized into powder at the over-subscribed Plutonium Facility. From LANL, the powdered plutonium would be shipped to South Carolina for processing at the DOE’s Savannah River Plant. The final leg of the 3,300-mile trip ends in southeast New Mexico at WIPP. Nevertheless, the draft statement does not provide an estimate of the number of years, nor the number of shipments that are planned.
Let’s remember that LANL is located in a recognized seismic zone, above the regional drinking water aquifer and the Rio Grande and in a wildfire zone. WIPP is located in the productive gas and oil region of the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico.
Since at least 1994, DOE has spent billions to prevent access to the surplus plutonium. One proven method is to immobilize the triggers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) describes immobilization as, “Immobilization encapsulates the plutonium in glass or ceramic materials prior to disposal.” GAO Report to the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate – Surplus Plutonium Disposition: NNSA’s Long-Term Plutonium Oxide Production Plans are Uncertain, GAO-20-166, October 2019. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-20-166.pdf
Immobilization would eliminate the need to pulverize the triggers into powdered plutonium, the most deadly form of plutonium. But in 2002, DOE canceled the immobilization program “due to budgetary constraints,” even though thousands of public comments supported immobilization.
Here are some suggested topics to cover in your comments:
The DOE’s plans would change the form of plutonium to powder. If inhaled, powdered plutonium causes cancer one hundred percent of the time.
As reported by Sandia National Laboratories, powdered plutonium, if released over land, is almost impossible to clean up. Transporting powdered plutonium risks ranch and farmlands, businesses, schools, homes and communities.
We do not consent to DOE’s irresponsible plans.
For more information, see previous CCNS News Updates: http://nuclearactive.org/news/081512.html (Aug. 15, 2012); http://nuclearactive.org/will-does-surplus-plutonium-end-up-in-new-mexico/ (Jan. 11, 2019); http://nuclearactive.org/doe-plans-to-move-tons-of-surplus-plutonium-to-wipp-and-lanl-postpones-tritium-venting/ (Dec. 17, 2020); http://nuclearactive.org/does-dramatic-plan-to-move-tons-of-surplus-plutonium-for-processing-at-lanl-and-disposal-at-wipp/ (Jan. 12, 2023); http://nuclearactive.org/its-time-to-speak-out-at-does-surplus-plutonium-hearings-in-carlsbad-and-los-alamos/ (Jan. 20, 2023); and http://nuclearactive.org/stop-surplus-plutonium-waste-from-coming-to-wipp/ (Jan. 29, 2021).
- Friday, March 3rd from noon to 1 pm – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Loretto Community, Pax Christi and others.
- Sunday, March 5th from 1 to 5 pm – Unite! March in Love for Life! for Nuclear Disarmament, organized by the Donald & Sally-Alice Thompson Chapter and Joan Duffy Chapter of the Veterans for Peace. March from Morningside Park to Sandia Weapons Lab/Kirtland AFB Gate. Walk or drive for 2.9 miles.
Meet at 1 pm on at the Morningside Park, at 219 Morningside Drive, SE, Albuquerque, NM. Here’s the schedule:
12:45 at Morningside Park the Raging Grannies start a sing-along
1:00 PM Start speakers interspersed with a sing-along or two for 45 minutes
– Elizabeth Smith opening remarks – 1 or 2 min
– Raging Grannies song
– Bill Tiwald 1 or 2 min -detailing activities/announcements
– Party for Socialism and Liberation 4-5 min-
– Sally-Alice Thompson – Announcement 2-4 min
– Paul Pino of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium 4-5 min plus a song by Paul
– Demand Nuclear Abolition – 4-5 min
– Affordable Student Housing UNM – Lizbeth Olivarez 4-5 min
– International Depleted Uranium Study Team – 4-5 min
– Green Party of Metropolitan Albuquerque – Em Ward 4-5 min
– Bill Tiwald – 2 min concerning our weapons/their weapons and what they will do to the earth & its inhabitants
– Raging Grannie song to start the march
Before 2 PM we proceed to march this route
⁃ Proceeding from the southeast corner of Morningside Park across Morningside Drive and Lead Avenue to the south side of Lead Avenue.
⁃ Proceed east on the south side of her Lead Avenue miles meeting Coal/Zuni .3 miles
⁃ Cross Coal/Zuni at Washington Street with a Circle K with a restroom available.
⁃ Proceed east on the south side of Zuni (wide bike lane) to the 7-Eleven (no restroom) 1.1 miles
⁃ Proceed on the south side of Zuni to Allsup’s restroom available 1.8 miles
⁃ Cross to the east side of Louisiana Blvd to 1.9 miles
⁃ Proceed on the east side of Louisiana past the NM Veterans Memorial at 2.8 miles.
– 4:30 to 5:00 PM finish the march at the Louisiana Gate of the Air Force Base/Sandia Weapons Lab.
– At the gate – closing by Charles Powell and a Raging Grannies song.
Shuttle with vehicles back to Morningside Park and go home.
- March 9 and 10, 2023 – ICAN and ICAN Norway are hosting the ICAN Act on It Forum in Oslo, Norway. You are invited to join campaigners, youth, politicians, academics and others interested in nuclear disarmament to amplify voices demanding the end of unlawful and inhumane nuclear weapons. March 2023 is the 10th anniversary of the first conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, hosted by Norway. https://www.icannorway.no/
- April 1st to 7th – Join the Sacred Peace Walk, an interfaith journey of approximately 60 miles from Las Vegas to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) (formerly the Nevada Test Site), through the Great Basin Desert in Nevada, on the beautiful traditional lands of the Indigenous Western Shoshone and Paiute Peoples, bringing the message of non-violence to the test site and Creech AFB (the center of drone warfare and assassination for the US military and the CIA). For more information, contact the Nevada Desert Experience at email@example.com and http://nevadadesertexperience.org/
- April 15th to 22nd – Shut Down Drone Warfare – Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico – “From Tax Day to Earth Day, Rise Up!” Co-sponsored by CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace and Ban Killer Drones. Join for a week of peaceful resistance against drone warfare and out-of-control U.S. empire. Why Holloman? It is the largest-drone training base in the U.S. – training 600 or more drone pilots and operators annually. For more information: http://www.shutdowndronewarfare.org/
Tags: Department of Energy, DOE, environmental impact statement, GAO, Government Accountability Office, immobilization, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, Pantex Plant, Permian Basin, Plutonium Facility, regional drinking water aquifer, Sandia National Laboratories, Savannah River Site, seismic zone, surplus plutonium, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, we do not consent, wildfire zone, WIPP