Seven Non-Governmental Organizations Demand Resumption Of Los Alamos Pit Production Public Information Meetings



Taxpayer funding is escalating to support expanded manufacture of plutonium triggers, or pits, for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos facilities. At the same time, a New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) draft air emissions permit is being prepared for public review and comment for releases from the Lab and from these manufacturing facilities.

In 2005, seven NGOs objected to the issuance of an air emissions permit for the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project, which resulted in a Settlement Agreement.  The NGOs are now asking for the reinstatement of the public participation provisions in the Settlement Agreement.  These include public meetings covering construction at the weapons component production facilities and a dedicated website.  The NGOs are working to ensure those provisions are included in the air permit.

The seven NGOs have sent a letter to the NMED and the Department Of Energy (DOE) requesting the resumption of semi-annual presentations covering the production of plutonium pits. The historic 2005 agreement resulted in NMED issuing an air permit for only part of a proposed project to expand nuclear weapons production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  At the time, DOE had plans to build a Radiologic Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB) and a Super Walmart-sized Nuclear Facility within the proposed CMRR Project. Specific language was included in the Settlement Agreement that LANL would have to apply for a permit revision prior to initiating construction for the proposed Nuclear Facility.  The Nuclear Facility eventually was deferred, then canceled during the Obama Administration, and in 2012, LANL stopped the public meetings.

But the NGOs argue that the underlying purpose of the CMRR Project has always been, and continues to be, a replacement for the old 1960-era Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) Building and therefore the public participation requirements must resume.  They cite Congressional budget documents.  For instance, DOE has requested $169 million for fiscal year 2021 to continue work on facilities that will replace the CMR.  This would be a $983,000 increase over the enacted fiscal year 2020 budget.  DOE plans an additional half billion dollars ($500,000,000) through 2025 for the project, which includes construction work at the RLUOB and at LANL’s existing plutonium pit production facility, PF-4. The CMR Building has outstanding safety and dangerous seismic issues.

The NGOs request that the semi-annual public meetings resume by early fall 2020, and the CMRR Project website be updated and maintained until the RLUOB reconfiguration and PF-4 upgrades are completed. All documents and presentations from the previous 13 public meetings must be reposted.

The NGOs are also asking that the unilateral decision by the DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to increase the amount of plutonium equivalent allowed in the RLUOB from 8.4 grams to 400 grams be reviewed by NMED.

The NGOs include Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tewa Women United, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Peace Action, the Loretto Community, and the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group.