Open Letter To Senators Udall And Heinrich

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Dear Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich,

Taos Town Councilmember and RCLC Board Vice Chair, Darien Fernandez, invited me to submit a letter to you for your meeting with Regional Coalition CLC Board Members. I am writing on behalf of many of your Taoseno constituents who have concerns about certain activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

We appreciate the opportunity to communicate with you in a way that will hopefully generate a more specific response than usual.

We greatly appreciate your advocacy on behalf of your constituents in regard to issues of concern at Los Alamos National Laboratoy, WIPP, and for your taking a stance in opposition to the incredibly dangerous and expensive HOLTEC/NRC proposition to ship, by rail and permanently store, all of the nations spent nuclear fuel rods above ground in Southern New Mexico at taxpayer expense. And we want to thank you.

We have three other topics of constituent interest we would like you to consider.

Plutonium Sustainment: In the interest of peaceful and sustainable futures for Taos, we are gathering many petition signatures and business and non-profit endorsements for an updated non-binding resolution that we are bringing before our Town and County governments.

The resolution requests that our governments strengthen and enforce the revised 2016 DOE-NMED Consent Order governing cleanup at LANL and expresses its opposition to continuing nuclear weapons activities and instead, diversify its missions by redirecting nuclear weapons funding to expand non-proliferation activities, cleanup, and peaceful and sustainable research and technologies, including climate science.

Funding for nuclear weapons activities dwarfs all other activities at LANL. Seventy percent of of the DOE’s massive $2.69 billion FY 2019 Congressional Budget Request for LANL is designated for nuclear weapons activities, leaving the remaining thirty per cent to be divided among all other activities combined, including non-proliferation, cleanup and all other sciences.  When your Taosneno constituents learn about and understand what plutonium pits are, how many we already have in storage with reliable lifetimes of 100 years or more, how many nuclear warheads the US and Russia still possess, that the Trump Administration’s DOE along with our Senators want to manufacture up to 80 more new “pits” per year; for new smallish “safer to use” nuclear weapons; Senators Heinrich and Udall want all 80 to be manufactured at LANL, and that the Lab still has many serious unresolved nuclear criticality safety issues, using enormous amounts of their tax dollars, they almost universally say, “NO.”

Cleanup:  While the Trump Administration is working to undermine ongoing cleanup efforts at LANL, the NMED /DOE Consent Order was drastically curtailed in 2016, before Trump took office. The revised Order allows the Lab to delay cleanup at the 63 acre Area G legacy waste dump, claiming that other Areas have a more urgent need for cleanup. Further, the Order recommends an engineered cover or “cap and cover” remedy, similar to what was done at the devastatingly contaminated Rocky Flats pit factory after it was permanently shut down for committing environmental crimes following a raid by the FBI. While “cap and cover” could be somewhat cheaper than other proven and viable methods which would actually contain the radioactive and toxic waste, it could also permanently threaten the environment, including the subterranean water source.    

For the sake of future generations, we urge you to use your powerful positions in the Senate, to do whatever is necessary to obtain sufficient funding from the DOE  to begin cleanup at the Area G legacy dump site immediately, concurrently with other cleanup projects, in spite of the weak and unenforceable Consent Order. Real comprehensive cleanup at Area G would create many jobs for poverty stricken New Mexico and more importantly serve the well-being of future generations.

Economy:  The last subject we would like you to address on behalf of Taosenos is the idea of LANL’s economic impact on New Mexico and Northern New Mexico in particular. Recently, LANL released a widely published statement, claiming that LANL has a $3.1 billion impact on the State of New Mexico. The Study was commissioned and funded by LANL to estimate its economic impacts on the State of New Mexico.

The study is flawed however, as it is not a cost-benefit analysis. It provides information about money going into LANL, or cost, but fails to demonstrate specifically how the people in the state benefit from all of that taxpayer money. In real terms, New Mexico’s economy continues to decline or at best, flatline while hitting a new low in child poverty. Los Alamos County, on the other hand, has gotten richer, and remains one of the wealthiest and healthiest counties in the US.  So, one question is, how can we account for this disparity?

In the interest of a peaceful and sustainable futures for all we look forward to your responses.

Thank you so much!

On behalf of many of your Taoseno constituents,

(Since this letter was submitted by RCLC Board Vice Chair Darien Fernandez to Senator Udall and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s Staff members, Senator Udall has announced he will not seek re-election in 2020. Congressman Lujan almost immediately announced that he will run for the Senator Udall’s seat.)

Senator Udall said in his public statement,
“I intend to find new ways to serve New Mexico and our country after I finish this term. Without the distraction of another campaign, I can get so much more done to help reverse the damage done to our planet, end the scourge of war, and to stop this president’s assault on our democracy and our communities.”

“The atomic weapons race and the secrecy surrounding it crushed American democracy. It induced us to conduct government according to lies. It distorted justice. It undermined American morality.”    Stewart Udall (in a 1993 interview with the New York Times)

Suzie Schwartz
Taos County