Thankfully NM has the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), who never sleeps and lets nothing slip by. What could have appeared to be a genuine effort to secure input before launching on a vast expansion of plutonium development at Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) was exposed for being what it is: a faux study to validate an expansion that has already been determined as needed and safe. In its Aug. 18 press release, LASG exposed what lies behind and beyond the proposed Environmental Impact Study. Today, we examine this latest LANL expansion plan. Plus, we introduce Augie Montoya!
Meet Augustine Montoya: Refreshing, Youthful, Progressive Dem Candidate Running for House Dist. 22 Against Stefani Lord
We met Augie at the Rural Caucus & Veterans Caucus BBQ in Edgewood a few weeks ago. We were very impressed. Then I interviewed him (below) for a KSFR radio show to air this Saturday, but you get a preview today. He blew me away. He is running in a very conservative but winnable district and he is not bashful about his support for the Green Amendment or his opposition to private prisons. This weekend I attended an Augie meet & greet and heard still more from him, including his plan to use his campaign to organize advocacy teams throughout the district. We also met his most remarkable family. We are all in for Augie.
Roxanne and I, with our friends Mariel Nanasi, Jeff Haas, will host a meet & greet with Augie in Santa Fe on Sept. 8 at 6pm. Please put this in your calendar and ask a couple of pals to join you. To whet your appetite, check out the radio interview below.
The Feds Are Coming with Bucketloads of Bucks: All We Must Do Is Roll Over and Allow NM to be the Nuke Center of the USA!
When the Feds come knocking with billions of dollars to spend in most any state, and certainly in NM, leadership whether in the U.S. Senate, the House, or on the 4th floor in the Roundhouse, find tortured and twisted rhetoric to justify embracing the plan, whether this plan is to build private prisons, construct a nuclear waste dump, or build nuclear weapons, it is still all good — jobs and revenues take priority over morals, principles, in some cases ethics, and in most cases honesty.
Wouldn’t you just once like to see someone like Sen. Lujan or Sen/Heinrich stand up and say: “No f—-ing way are you expanding LANL or WIPP in NM.” But that won’t happen as long as new jobs and increased revenues are part of the equation.
Today’s post uses an e-blast from the LANL Study Group (LSG) to present what appears to be a done deal. Their point of departure was an announcement from the National Nuclear Security Administration:
Tomorrow’s [actually Saturday, Aug. 20] publication of the Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register will begin a 45-day scoping comment period. NNSA will accept comments from all interested agencies (federal, state, and local), public interest groups, federally-recognized Tribes, businesses, and members of the public on the LANL Site-Wide Environmental Impact Study(SWEIS). Following completion of the SWEIS, NNSA will decide which reasonable alternatives to implement [spoiler alert: decisions have ben made] and will announce its decisions through a Record of Decision (ROD). Absent any new decisions associated with this SWEIS process, NNSA would continue to implement decisions announced in previous RODs. The comment period ends 45 days after the posting in the Federal Register .
Pretty standard language until you learn more about what will be omitted from any and all consideration. From LASG:
Following its usual practice, NNSA will consider all “currently assigned missions” to be part of the “no-action alternative,” i.e. as having no additional environmental impacts or requiring any agency decision. This would include construction of “minor replacement facilities,” “upgrades to existing facilities and infrastructure,” and “decontamination, decommissioning, and demolition projects.”
“Minor,” in current NNSA parlance, means new construction up to $50 million in cost.
This “no action” includes at least $19.4 billion in new construction and operational costs for LANL’s new plutonium warhead core (“pit”) production mission through fiscal year (FY) 2033, of which $5.2 billion has already been spent. (See “Warhead plutonium modernization spending, actual & proposed by site,” May 6, 2022″ and “NNSA budget request for Los Alamos warhead ‘pit’ project adds five proposed plutonium buildings, fresh rad waste cost overruns, adding $329 million to LANL pit costs,” May 9, 2022).
The words “pit” and “plutonium” are nowhere mentioned in NNSA’s announcement.
On August 11, 2022, LASG received a so-called “Campus Master Plan” describing some of the conclusions of the planning process that, as the agency says, are driving NNSA to create a new SWEIS. From LASG:
There is absolutely no indication that NNSA will pause any preparations for pit production at LANL, or pause anything else, for the sake of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. NEPA requires analysis before, not after, decisions to proceed with major federal projects. In this case NEPA is being used in bad faith by DOE and NNSA to obscure rather than to provide transparency, and as a tool to provide legal coverage for current and future expansions and environmental impacts.Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group director, Aug.19, press release
Let’s stop for a moment, catch our breath, and sum up what we’ve learned so far. The NNSA has announced a public input process for a sweeping expansion of LANL operations, but has circumscribed comment to not include anything that might cause pause, anything that is normally part of any Environmental Impact Studies, like what could the environmental impact be of a proposed pipeline, drilling, or other propose action. But here, they’ve already decided what they plan to do, but want the EIS to justify that expansion and protect the DOE from legal action by demonstrating their due diligence. Given the scope of what is proposed, it unconscionable that this charade could even be proposed. Let’s pass the ball back to Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group director, who seldom minces words:
“NNSA’s announcement of a new SWEIS, which explicitly aims at sweeping $20 billion in new plutonium activities under the rug over the ’15 year’ analysis period, is yet another high-handed pronouncement from our would-be nuclear masters. By calling this unprecedented expansion “no action,” and a priori eliminating any alternative to it, NNSA limits public discussion to what it has already illegally decided to do, and the proposed further expansions it will gradually reveal over time.
“NNSA need not reveal its plans in this SWEIS, if past practice is any guide. That usually happens down the road a few years. NNSA will not be more candid now than it has been in the past.
“NNSA has announced that there will be no environmental comparison between ‘LANL with its new plutonium production missions’ — ‘Rocky Flats South’ or ‘MegaLANL’ and the LANL that has existed up to now, a research and development site. LANL has other expanding plutonium missions as well, in surplus plutonium processing and heat source manufacturing.
“A lot of people in New Mexico think of LANL in static terms. The LANL they know is gone. The new LANL is a key nuclear weapons production site, responsible for the dirtiest job in the nuclear warhead complex. Politically, it’s taking over Santa Fe. ‘Plutopia’ here we come. St. Francis, move over — Bombs R Us. Oppie is the new patron saint. [I detect sarcasm.]
“Until 2018, NNSA said LANL was not the best place for the new pit manufacturing mission. Then in 2019, congressionally-mandated independent reviewers told NNSA it could be disastrous (“very high risk”) to operate LANL’s old, cramped facilities on a 24/7 basis. Yet that is precisely what NNSA chose to do — and now NNSA says that any alternative is “unreasonable.” NNSA is saying that the professional advice of the highly-regarded Institute for Defense Analyses is unreasonable. If NNSA won’t listen to IDA, they won’t listen to you.
“This is a completely bogus process, in which NNSA seeks to create a veneer of legitimacy and public acceptance for its reckless plans. It’s pure manipulation and spectacle.Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group director, Aug.19, press release
Summarizing from LASG, the NOI document indicates, among other things, that to continue LANL’s existing assigned missions, more than 4 million square feet of new construction is needed for the main LANL technical area (TA-03) and the western end of Pajarito Canyon, where LANL’s plutonium operations are located. “Several thousand” additional new staff members will be needed in Pajarito Canyon. LANL’s main plutonium facility (“PF-4”) will need to be replaced or augmented with one or more additional plutonium facilities, and two other large high-hazard nuclear facilities will also need to be replaced. The cost of a new plutonium facility alone would lie in the $10 billion range, if it is feasible. The previous effort failed. (That and previous failures were described as “Sisyphean” by the Congressional Research Service; see also Bulletin 281: LANL pit production: fifth failure in progress, Jul 16, 2021).
Despite years of planning, LANL’s secret master plan indicates LANL still has no firm idea of how all these workers will all be able to get to work from faraway residences or travel from site to site within the Laboratory.
Until September 2020, when NNSA announced its decision to drastically expand LANL to take over the mission of the former Rocky Flats Plant (here and here), LASG, supported in this matter by hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations and businesses, assiduously sought a new SWEIS for LANL, as detailed in LASG’s January 7, 2022 press release.
Let’s Sum Up
Resumption of pit production, the mission of the former Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, is by far the largest warhead-related program in the United States. The bulk of these funds are being spent at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where there is a crash program to convert and augment various existing older facilities into a factory complex, supposedly “needed” to produce a new warhead for ground-based missiles in sufficient quantity to be able to load three warheads on each missile as a “bargaining chip” or, in a crisis, as a “signal of resolve.”
This new mission for LANL requires thousands of additional workers, 24/7 operations, and many new facilities and other infrastructure expansions. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) own engineers opposed using LANL’s existing facilities for a pit production complex. The work at LANL is already falling behind and is beset with challengings.
It is particularly important to stop pit production and a new arms race right now, in this crucial decade.
LASG is making a special push this week to recruit more allies prior to a press conference with allied groups in a few days, the exact date and time TBD depending on various schedules. This press conference will be in Santa Fe.
We would love to call every potential allied group individually but we are already stretched very thin. So we are counting on you to help with “grasstops” outreach.
Despite the hard work of some, there is actually very little organized nuclear disarmament activity or peace organizing going on in the U.S. Most people are struggling to make ends meet, fulfill their professional responsilities, raise children, care for sick relatives and friends, or manage their own illnesses. The once-large middle class has been replaced by a growing “precariat.” Many of our own friends, family, and Study Group supporters are struggling.
In such a situation, your small efforts can make a great difference. Many people have asked, “What can I do?”
So far there are 75 organizations and businesses and 287 individuals signed on. We hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend. Speakers will be announced later. We’ll send out further arrangements early in the week.
Billboard contracts and mailings are expensive; so is litigation (cut-rate, but not free!). Educating government officials, journalists, and interns takes time and costs money as well. And LASG is the most vigilant, reliable advocate we have on this crucial issue, so what is one to do?
- Make a contribution to LASG, they are doing most of the heavy lifting and are identifying what needs to be lifted. Click here to donate today.
- Reach out to any organization of which you are a part and ask them to participate in the press conference later this week and plan to attend yourself. As a date is announced, we will update you. If you are part of an organization that would want to be part of the Press Conference, write to Greg Mello at: email@example.com. Don’t expect an instant response, as LASG is running on fumes.
And don’t forget about Augie. Mark Sept 8, 6pm in your calendar for a powerful meet & greet in Santa Fe. We will post an RSVP page early this week.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne
P.S. I am part way through 3 important posts, one on the new state budget surplus and what the state should and shouldn’t due with that surplus; one an update on our work on Hydrogen; and one on Guaranteed Basic Income. BUT, and this is a big BUT, Roxanne has left for CA to visit our daughter for a week. Since my stroke, nothing goes out without her review and edits and she is going on vacation sans laptop, so no editing this week. So Retake may go quiet for a week or at most brief updates and action alerts. But once she is back on Tuesday Aug. 30, she will be back in the saddle and we will resume publishing 2-3 posts and 1-2 alerts every week.
Until then, ciao.