Fallout continues from CMRR: Protesting and lobbying helped turn the tide in Washington

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By John Severance

Depending on how one looks at it, the activists can take credit and/or the blame for the decision that will defer construction of the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement.

On Monday, the President’s FY 13 budget zeroed out funding for the project.

Throughout the process critics showed up in force at the various public comment meetings throughout the state.

With the exception of the Los Alamos meeting, at least 40 to 50 people spoke out against the project.

And a lot of those same people headed to Washington to lobby Congress.

Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group has been to Washington three times and also New York once this year.

In addition, he and his group filed two lawsuits against the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“It is a critical moment in nuclear history,” Mello said.  “Not to put too fine a point on the matter, the experience and perspectives we bring are unique and not otherwise available in Washington.  It is important for us to bring those perspectives to our colleagues in government, the contracting community, and the arms control community at this pivotal time.”

Last week in Washington, Mello met with a number of people on Capitol Hill.

“I am hearing, up close and personal, a lot of heavy complaining about CMRR-NF’s deferral, from nuclear ideologues in Congress and elsewhere,” he said in an email.

“Some of these parties are making noise not so much to reinstate CMRR-NF, which they must know is very close to an impossible quest, but to renegotiate political deals for nuclear weapons, contracts, and partisan political advantage.”

There were other prominent groups that voiced their opposition to the CMRR-NF.

Joni Arends from Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety gave credit to Registered Geologist Bob Gilkeson for his work in pointing out the seismic issues in and around the proposed project.

Gilkeson wrote 83 pages of seismic comments for the draft and final Nuclear Facility environmental impact statements. His research revealed that the NEPA documents ignored the studies by LANL scientists over the years 1985 to 2004 that identified a very large concealed active fault below Technical Area 55 very close to and possibly below the proposed Nuclear Facility and a second very large concealed active fault at a location about a third of a mile to the east.  

According to Arends, Gilkeson also found that the active buried faults were capable of synchronous earthquakes with much greater destructive power than a single earthquake. Even so, the ground motions that DOE used for the proposed design were at the levels experienced at Fukushima, Japan, last March and not those from synchronous earthquakes with a destructive power 75 percent greater than Fukushima.

Arends said, “We are truly blessed and grateful for the work Robert H. Gilkeson has done in connection with the seismic hazard at LANL.”

It has been a long road for the activists. In 2004, Nuclear Watch New Mexico asked Senator Bingaman for a plutonium pit lifetime study.

Beginning in 2006, CCNS and Nuclear Watch began asking the congressional staff for a study of the capacity that exists at LANL for plutonium pit work because we understood that the capacity existed even without the proposed Nuclear Facility.

In 2010 the Los Alamos Study Group filed a NEPA suit against the Department of Energy (DOE) for not providing the required alternatives in the environmental impact statement.   

In 2009, Gilkeson began researching the seismic hazard at LANL.  In April 2009, Gilkeson made a presentation about the seismic hazard at to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in Washington. 

That presentation began an on-going discussion with the Board.