Opinion: Open letter to Senators Udall and Heinrich regarding LANL

By Suzie Schwartz, Taos County
Posted 5/2/19

Dear Senators,I am writing on behalf of many of your Taoseño constituents who have concerns about certain activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory.We greatly appreciate your advocacy on …

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Opinion: Open letter to Senators Udall and Heinrich regarding LANL


Dear Senators,

I am writing on behalf of many of your Taoseño constituents who have concerns about certain activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

We greatly appreciate your advocacy on behalf of your constituents in regard to issues of concern at LANL, WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) and and Holtec International. And we want to thank you.

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

1. Plutonium sustainment: In the interest of peaceful and sustainable futures for Taos, we are gathering many petition signatures and business and nonprofit endorsements for an updated nonbinding 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 nonproliferation activities, cleanup and peaceful and sustainable research and technologies, including climate science.

Funding for nuclear weapons activities dwarfs all other activities at LANL. When your Taoseño 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 United States and Russia still possess; that the Trump Administration's Department of Energy along with our senators want to manufacture up to 80 more new "pits" per year, for new smallish "safer to use" nuclear weapons; that 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."

2. 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.

3. Economy: The last subject we would like you to address on behalf of Taoseños 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 United States. So, one question is, how can we account for this disparity?

In the interest of a peaceful and sustainable future for all, we thank you and look forward to your responses.

"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).

If you would like to read and consider endorsing the resolution or sign the petition, contact Suzie Schwartz at eototos@gmail.com


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