LANL Plans Expansion of Nuclear Work: What If?

Greg Mello’s guest post describes LANL’s frightening nuclear expansion plans. I ask: What if LANL focused its resources on addressing the climate crisis instead of endangering the entire local environment to build nuclear bombs? What if?

Thank You! Remote Streaming Coming Soon

I woke up this morning prepared to thank you for contributing almost half of the funds we need to purchase equipment for enabling us to stream our meetings and other panels and presentations statewide. Then I checked my email to find that one donor had just contributed the full amount. So, we don’t need more donations, the MEVO will be purchased today. Now all we need to do by Sept. 3 is to learn how to use it. THANK YOU!

Events & Actions

Most importantly, EarthCare and Youth United in Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) are meeting on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 12:30-2:30 at 1420 Cerrillos in Santa Fe. Join YUCCA to advance planning for the Sept. 20 General Strike. If you were moved by the post yesterday, then please plan on participating in the General Strike on Sept. 20 and if you want to help organize that strike here in Santa Fe, please come to this meeting. Other events and actions are described on our Actions & Events page. Click here. If you missed yesterday’s post and want to read: The Only Way to Prevent Extinction Begins Today, In NM click here.

Retake Our Democracy on KSFR 101.1 FM, Saturday, 8:30 AM with Eric Griego, Executive Director of NM Working Families Party. We discuss the political composition of the NM State Senate, how it has historically blocked good legislation, its role in single-handedly killing abortion decriminalization, community solar, public banking, early childhood education funding, funding to plan a just transition and every single effort to regulate, tax or limit the extraction industry. Great show.

Brave Space on KTRC 1260 AM and 103.7 FM, Saturday morning 9am-10am, Roxanne Barber will be interviewed by host Cecile Lipworth in a one hour live show. So tune in to Retake at 8:30 and switch over to KTRC to listen to Brave Space. But don’t tell my pals at KSFR that I told you to do this. 😉

What If?

In his guest post below, Greg Mello, from the Los Alamos Study Group, does a tremendous job outlining the frightening plans to significantly expand LANL’s development of nuclear weaponry, its plans to vastly expand its plutonium pit development, and how Democratic Party leadership is leading the way in seeking approval. He also outlines plans for resistence and offers you opportunities to become engaged.

Retake will support Greg’s group as they work to oppose the plan for LANL nuclear expansion, but as you read Greg’s excellent summary, ask yourself what if all of these resources and scientific smarts were devoted to addressing climate change and world hunger instead of creating more capacity to destroy the world. What if? And what if we didn’t have to devote time and energy to opposing this horrible misuse of scarce resources and scarce time?

LANL Plans Vast Expansion, A Guest Post from Greg Mello

Reaction to LANL Nuclear Expansion Plans

The Albuquerque Journal covered last week’s subcontractor forum in a terrific August 9 article (“LANL officials detail potential building boom“), based on recordings and photos we provided as well as an interview with LANL Director Thom Mason.

For those who are very interested, we can now share with you the slides presented there, and some excerpts from current LANL site plan (LASG snapshots of an unexpectedly animated presentation during lunch). More was said orally by the speakers than appears on the slides. The lunch presentation by Mr. Beierschmitt especially will give some idea of the massive scale of thinking involved.

As LANL Chief Operating Officer Beierschmitt emphasized, LANL planning is no longer confined to within the LANL fence line. That’s what’s new — the financial and territorial scale of ambition involved.

The terrific Robin Collier of KCEI Cultural Energy in Taos had a program about this last night [now a week ago] (“Plans for massive contruction & huge new roads at LANL as part of plutonium pit production,” interview with Greg Mello,8/14/19).

LANL senior management says — and for the time being they are correct — that LANL has bipartisan support in Congress (and of course in New Mexico) for building 30 plutonium warhead cores (“pits”) per year (PPY) at LANL. (Actually it’s not “30” PPY, it’s “at least 30,” which equates to about 41 PPY, single-shift, with more capacity theoretically available from multiple shifts; see note 1 in Bulletin 262.)

So everything LANL proposes is couched as necessary for the “30 PPY” mission. That’s how it’s being sold.

But as we have been predicting for some time, that “30” is not a stable number. It’s just the beginning. A mere 30 PPY isn’t enough to support a new warhead, and — as is proposed by New Mexico Democrats and certain “antinuclear” NGOs — if LANL is the only pit production site, it will need to be much bigger than a mere 30 PPY.

That is, if NNSA wants a new warhead (and it does), NNSA must have a bigger pit factory, whether at LANL or at the Savannah River Site (SRS), where a large plutonium facility sits so far unused in the middle of a heavy industrial site of some 310 square miles.

If LANL is the only pit production site, no matter at what supposed scale, planning will need to begin soon if not immediately for a bigger, newer, factory, given the age and manifest problems of the current main plutonium facility (Building PF-4).

In for a dime, in for a dollar.

For arms control and disarmament advocates the only decent and logical policy solution to this conundrum is to block the proposed new warhead which requires the new pits, as we have often said. It is “perhaps the most useless and poorly justified warhead ever,” as one Trump official put it to us. Halting that warhead (the W87-1) is a work in progress, about which we will provide an update this coming fall.

Meanwhile thanks to all the members of the 2018 New Mexico congressional delegation (sarcasm), LANL has a legal mandate to “implement surge efforts to exceed 30 pits per year to meet Nuclear Posture Review and national policy” and to have “a detailed plan for designing and carrying out production of plutonium pits 31–80…” and “an assessment of the strategy considered for manufacturing up to 80 pits per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory through the use of multiple labor shifts and additional equipment at PF–4 [LANL’s 41-year-old main plutonium facility] until modular facilities are completed to provide a long-term, single-labor shift capacity” (emphasis added).

Slide 37 tells of “145” new “gloveboxes/enclosures” and “170” new gloveboxes to be installed in existing facilities for the new pit mission. By way of comparison, NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Analysis of Alternatives says (e-page 27) that the “at least 30” PPY mission requires only 90 pieces of equipment and the “at least 80” PPY mission requires only 133.

So no matter how you slice it, LANL wants an awful lot of new gloveboxes for a “30 PPY” mission, especially given that LANL already has all the gloveboxes installed to produce pits at a basic level of about 10 PPY.

Recall that LANL has a legal obligation to plan for an 80 PPY mission.

The proposed 6-story parking garage at TA-55, LANL’s plutonium area, should also give one pause. It is one of three new proposed parking facilities serving that same location, as the slides show.

Why so much parking? Presenters told us on August 8 that an additional 1,500 people would be needed at TA-55. That’s about twice the number LANL said would be necessary to implement the 80 PPY mission.

Finally, think a minute about the new roads proposed (first slide here).

These are the internal linkages in what Mr. Beierschmitt described as a new high-tech “triangle” embracing Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. The road was described as essential to employee retention. It might be.

The new road would leave I-25 at approximately the Waldo exit, which is about 45 miles from the center of Rio Rancho. It would cut the distance from Rio Rancho to the LANL plutonium facility from the current 93 miles to about 76 miles. Importantly for some, travel to the Sunport would be much easier.

Travel time for LANL workers from Santa Fe would be decreased a great deal by one or more of the connector roads shown.

Much more is involved with this proposed road network than merely saving time. LANL simply does not believe the northern New Mexico labor force will be adequate in quantity and quality for its plans. These roads are symbolic of LANL’s desperate attempts to overcome some basic geographic problems.

The new road would go through a de facto wild area, nearly all owned by the Forest Service. There was and may still be a herd of wild horses there. Soon there would be pressure for more residential possibilities on the east side of the Rio Grande, wherever water could be brought. 

LANL told us they had already been meeting with the Governor and her cabinet about these plans.

Also last week NNSA Administrator spent two days in the state. Part of that time was in a big meeting with business leaders. That’s a lot of time for her to spend here.

Are you getting the picture?

Meanwhile, there is no plan to produce an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for LANL’s $13 billion renovation and pit factory plan. (This does not include operating costs.) There is no plan for an EIS for NNSA’s $30 billion national pit plan, which is riven with internal contradictions.

Will you help us open up public debate about this?

Here are some recent resources specifically concerning these EISs:

We want you to bird-dog our senators, congresspersons, and Governor. We want you to write letters to editors. We want you to buttonhole your city councilors and county commissioners and get them engaged. The people who have more than enough power to open up these plans to public scrutiny are the Governor and our two senators. It is they who must feel pressure. What pressure can you put on the Democratic Party in New Mexico, friends? Because it is the most senior Democratic Party politicians in New Mexico who are promoting and enabling this travesty.

Greg wants you to write him and tell him what you are doing and what results you are getting.

Do you think it is possible to address climate change while also engaging in a new arms race? While maintaining a global empire, sanctioning and starving countries left and right? Do you think New Mexico can become resilient with respect to the crises ahead, or build jobs and communities that give hope and direction to our young people, while building a new Plutonium Highway to make it easier for LANL managers to live somewhere besides boring Los Alamos, aka “Stepford-on-the-Hill”? Do you think that growing LANL will produce more equality and justice in New Mexico, or anywhere? No, no, no, no, no, and no.

We are not just talking about pollution any more. We did that in the 1990s. Now we are talking about survival.

Beyond this, can we entice you into becoming a Los Alamos Study Group volunteer? We need you.

We hope to see more of you soon. Let us know of your progress, please. 

Best wishes,


Greg Mello
Los Alamos Study Group
2901 Summit Place NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
505-265-1200 office
505-577-8563 cell

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4 replies

  1. Hi Paul. This is how we avoid extinction, today. We learn to stop worrying, and love the bomb. In the late 50s and early 60s I read a lot of science fantasy by Andre Norton. Her stuff was all post-apocalypse discovery, reckoning and recovery. Those were the good old days. Hence, my myopic fascination with optimism.

    This evening I made the acquaintance of a magnificent creature, a jet black tarantula with a beige back on its upper thorax. It was larger than my open hand. I walked alongside it for quite a distance as it ambled through rock and sand and grassy stretches of prairie. With each step of its delicately graceful limbs, it knew exactly what to do and how to do it. It was aware of me, stopping several times to observe and sense my state of being, but it never became alarmed or defensive. It shared its path with me, without complaint.

    So let’s not make this final stand about ourselves. Let us do it to honor the beingness of all those amazing creatures who came before us, live with us now, and have set the stage for our final lesson, the one about humility and compassion. After awhile, survival becomes just a state of mind.

    Mick Nickel

  2. Science Fiction portrayed a future, where science led to flying cars, no disease and colonies on Titan. A few apocalyptic writers portrayed a bleak future after the collapse. I remember seeing 2001, and how our future would be so clean, and calm. Star Trek, took us to other civilizations after a nuclear war on earth, they did not factor in total climate collapse, where civilization won’t be possible, due to erratic weather, and inhospitable conditions.

    Lately some Sci Fi had predicted the corporate takeover of space. In Alien the greedy defense industry will go to any lengths to bring back an alien, even if it kills multiple employees, and requires a human host. From what were are seeing, capitalism is not going to make it to space or anywhere else. Space requires science, and the support of millions, like our Moon Program. Millions of Americans funded the science it took to get there.

    Unfortunately the corporations came up with a counter narrative about using free government funded research and monetizing it. Now we people in New Mexico are paying for a Space Port, where maybe some billionaires might get to ride in space. The billionaire that talked our politicians into this, had enough money to go and do a rock concert, to support a US funded takeover of Venezuela.

    In the meantime the Amazon is burning, along with Siberia and Greenland, places that never burned before. At least we got rain here in Northern New Mexico, it might be the last for a while. After all of these years of drought the vegetation is flourishing and green. Farmers have no idea if we will get an early frost, extreme weather event, or no rain next year. We are lucky this year, we are not smelling smoke and planning an escape, like years past.

    People are still working and shopping as the world burns, no time for introspection, to even think about how we got here. We used to believe we lived in a democracy, but no more. We had warnings over the years, but they were drowned out by corporate media propaganda.

  3. There is so much scientific expertise up there at LANL going to waste. I mean, why not have LANL offer soil and water testing services for local communities? They could do it without breaking a sweat. And how about using their science know-how to find multiple uses for the exotic invasive Siberian elms? (There are in fact uses for it; some development is needed – that’s all.) They could test commercially-available compost for contaminants, thus helping local farmers.
    LANL could contribute to better life in northern New Mexico!

  4. There’s not enough water to bring in hundreds of new people to work at LANL, so I guess we’ll see great acceleration of gentrification in northern New Mexico – pushing out the less-affluent long-term inhabitants so that the new LANL workers will have places to live and water to use.

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