Taos Citizens Chime In On LANL Plutonium Mission


In early August, a group of Taos County citizens, having received no response to their individual letters, and phone calls to their state and federal representatives, asked Taos County, and the Town of Taos to urge our state and federal representatives Senators Heinrich and Udall, Representative Lujan, and Governor Lujan-Grisham request the Department of Energy (DOE)  National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to conduct a new Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for the proposed multi-billion-dollar industrial-scale plutonium pit manufacturing facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL.)

Unfortunately, since DOE/NNSA recently issued two Amended Records of Decision (ARODs) for the 2008 SWEIS for continued operations of LANL plutonium operations, a new SWEIS is no longer an option. The ARODs state that there are no significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns, and that no further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation was required, thereby eliminating all opportunities for public input under NEPA.

However, while the Sept. 2, 2020 AROD states that The United States has emphasized the need to eventually produce 80 pits per year, it goes on to state that there have been specific changes in federal law and national policy since 2014.  At that time,  pit production was increased with deadlines mandating the nuclear security enterprise to produce not less than 30 war reserve plutonium pits during 2026 and not less than 80 war reserve plutonium pits during 2030. We believe this is a significant change in circumstances since the 2008 SWEIS.

The protections a new SWEIS would have provided Northern New Mexico are no longer possible, but it is still not too late! Key reasons for a new SWEIS are still relevant and can be addressed by other means. These considerations include:  Land resources; visual environment; geology and soils; water resources; air quality; noise; ecological resources; human health and worker health/safety; cultural resources; socioeconomics; infrastructure; waste management; traffic and transportation; environmental justice; environmental remediation; facility accidents; climate trends and greenhouse gases; forest health and wildland fire preparedness; and mitigations.  

Our public officials can still use their influence to protect the future of Northern New Mexico by:

  • Asking for transparency from DOE/NNSA and LANL by providing information on proposed pit production to the regional governments.
  • Requesting Senator Udall to to cut funding for pit production and new nuclear weapons in the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee of which he is a powerful member.
  • Considering the true costs of nuclear weapons and pit production and conducting a cost-benefit analysis for LANL pit production.
  • Hosting public hearings with opportunities to question LANL representatives.
  • Creatively collaborating with all local and regional stakeholders including informed constituents, to examine alternatives to nuclear weapons related work and form strategies that will bring us into a new era of resilience and true sustainability.

This week marked a historic milestone.  The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reached the 50 ratifications needed to enter into force.  The treaty will take effect on Jan 22, 2021 and will cement a categorical ban on nuclear weapons. Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not banned under international law. Now, nuclear weapons will finally join chemical and biological weapons for what they are, prohibited weapons of mass destruction.  Clearly none of the nuclear armed states will sign on or cooperate,  especially the United States. But these nations will nevertheless feel the treaty’s power. Companies can be expected to stop producing nuclear weapons and institutions will stop investing in those companies. This historic moment shows there is a global momentum to abolish nuclear weapons and Taos County and Northern New Mexico can and should be a part of that momentum.

We, as informed and concerned citizens, are willing to participate with our elected officials in supporting this crucial step toward a sane and sustainable future.

Together we can make a difference.    

Please contact our County Commissioners and Town Council and ask them to act to protect Northern New Mexico!

Taos Town Council: (575) 751-2002
Councilor Darien Fernandez dfernandez@taosgov.com (575) 779-6792
Councilor Nathaniel Evans nevans@taosgov.com (575) 779-2104
Councilor Fritz Hahn fhahn@taosgov.com (575) 613-3987
Councilor Pasqualito Maestas pmaestas@taosgov.com (575) 779-3357  

Taos County Commission:
Commissioner Mark Gallegos mark.gallegos@taoscounty.org (575) 737-6303
Commissioner Tom Blankenhorn tomblankenhorn@hotmail.com (575) 770-9410
Commissioner Jim Fambro   jim.fambro@taoscounty.org (575) 779-2445
Commissioner Candyce O’Donnell candyce.odonnell@taoscounty.org (575) 779-0319
Commissioner Gabriel Romero gabriel.romero@taoscounty.org (575) 741-1634


Suzie Schwartz and Jean Nichols
On behalf of Taosenos for Peaceful and Sustainable Futures