Opinion: Demand transparency, accountability from LANL

By Suzanne Schwartz, El Prado
Posted 9/19/19

As you know, many Taoseños from around the county are pleased that the town adopted Resolution 19-22 last May. Many more will sign on in support as they learn …

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Opinion: Demand transparency, accountability from LANL

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Dear Council Members and Mayor Barrone,

As you know, many Taoseños from around the county are pleased that the town adopted Resolution 19-22 last May. Many more will sign on in support as they learn about this powerful resolution which calls for comprehensive cleanup of radioactive and hazardous wastes; improved nuclear criticality safety practices; and redirecting nuclear weapons funding to expand nonproliferation, peaceful and sustainable research programs and climate science.

Thank you again for demonstrating leadership to help other local governments find the courage to adopt this or similar resolutions, including the sweeping 2018 Mayors for Peace Resolution.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist (below) reinforces the resolution. Although it doesn't specifically mention Los Alamos National Laboratory, it speaks directly to the massive $13 billion infrastructure expansion that is being planned to support production of 30 plutonium pits per year at LANL.

Some details of the plans were revealed at the Aug. 8 Inaugural Triad Subcontractor Forum attended by 700 representatives of 400 companies from 30 states. LANL tries hard to avoid the words, "plutonium pit production" or "nuclear weapons." Lab spokespersons refer to expanded nuclear weapons production as "our national security mission," "national security challenges," "mission diversification" or simply "missions."

However, Los Alamos County has clearly stated its wholehearted support for pit production. Its Community Commitment Plan states, "To support LANL, Los Alamos County adopted the following strategic goals as part of its "Overall Economic Vitality Strategic Plan," which includes this the goal: "Fully fund National Security and Science at LANL including plutonium pit mission."

Triad National Security LLC recently held an education-based forum sponsored by LANL, at which $800,000 was awarded to the LANL Foundation and the Regional Development Corporation to be spread among Río Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos counties. While of course greatly appreciated and desperately needed by impoverished Northern New Mexico, $800,000 for all of Northern New Mexico is a tiny fraction compared to LANL's gigantic fiscal year 2019 budget of $2.69 billion of taxpayer money, nearly $2 billion of which is allocated for nuclear weapons activities alone.

At the event, LANL director and president of Triad, Thom Mason, was quoted by the Los Alamos Reporter saying, "This is the highest rate of hiring for at least 30 years, probably more. That's a combination of some of the growth in our missions (which unfortunately is a reflection that the world is sort of a scary place) so there is robust bipartisan support for our national security missions" - meaning the Obama and Trump administrations' mandate to rebuild the entire United States nuclear weapons arsenal. This is the antithesis of what is stated in the sweeping 2018 Mayors for Peace Resolution and the town's statement in Resolution 19-22.

None of the plans are available to the public. No environmental impact statements or public hearings are planned.

Repeated requests to various agencies by the Los Alamos Study Group have been ignored.

Meanwhile, LANL appears to be moving ahead with money it already has. This is a clear case of putting the cart before the horse and does not demonstrate good faith or transparency.

We feel that, as the town is a member of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, it is crucial for the board to take a position on the issue of expanded pit production which will obviously increase the radioactive waste stream with which the RCLC is supposed to be concerned but on which the board has not clearly established its position.

Also of concern to the RCLC should be the possible effects on traffic on roads throughout the region, water, wildlife, residences, public health, local government services, greenhouse gas emissions and Bandelier National Monument, all of which directly affect Northern New Mexico's economy.

The RCLC should use its voice to demand accountability and transparency at the state and federal levels in the form of detailed plans, a Sitewide Environmental Impact Study and public forums for all of the regional communities, including the pueblos. In addition, it is time for RCLC board members, its executive director and local government officials to report back with specific details on what they discuss with the Congressional delegation, Congressional delegation staff, Department of Energy officials and others.

(Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: "Over the next decade, the United States will spend nearly $100,000 per minute on its nuclear forces -- that's a tremendous amount of money that could otherwise be spent on priorities like infrastructure, health care, education and fighting climate change." thebulletin.org/2019/09/we-need-a-green-new-deal-for-nuclear-weapons

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