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The laboratorys complex transformation

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By Ralph Damiani

You can have questions if you want about what Los Alamos National Laboratory should or should not be doing workwise, but they do deserve credit this past couple of weeks in inviting the community to take a look at its newest, and biggest, project.We have argued for some time that the lab has a story to tell – and in many ways it is a good story. And they should be trying harder to tell it.Lately, it seems that they are trying.At the quarterly community leaders breakfast last week in Pojoaque, a detailed program by the NNSA and lab officials outlined the work being done, and to be done, on the new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility (CMR). There was also a discussion of a continued role for the lab in weapons work.Now, like it or not, a good portion of what the lab does is weapons work. From design to terrorist intervention, it is engaged in the world of nuclear energy. It was pointed out that this has many, non-weapon off-shoots that must be appreciated in the lab’s overall mission.Last week the lab allowed a reporter with the Monitor to tour the CMRR facility and get a briefing. This week, it held two tours for community leaders from the region. I was on one of those tours.The lab told about how important to our national security their work in the nuclear field is – something we should all recognize. And it also related how the offshoots of this work – from computers to medicine – benefit everyone.Information is good. And so is healthy debate.Of course there are those who will criticize the lab regardless of what it does. And to a degree, that is OK.There are serious issues about whether or not it is best for Los Alamos to be a manufacturing facility and the views of all sides should be heard.While the lab says manufacturing is not a priority, it is a capability. Still, is it needed is a subject for real debate.Last weekend, several activist organizations opposed to work at the lab met to get ready for the public hearings to be sponsored by the Department of Energy this week.In Los Alamos those meetings will be from 6-10 p.m. on Wednesday and from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, both at the Hilltop House.Debate is good and the public has a right to be informed on issues of importance that affect them.It seems that there will be a national consolidation and Los Alamos is at the top of that list.If that is good or bad remains to be seen.It seems that for all of Rep. Tom Udall’s talk of an expanded mission for the lab, getting it into more research and development work, you first need to have a foundation. And it seems that that foundation is the nuclear work done here.The lab has many great assets that must be used and expanded. And Congress should send some funding for this along. And it seems clear that all the work done in the nuclear field branches off in many, very positive directions.And even this work itself it seems is critical to our national security.We hope the community comes out for these hearings and lets the DOE know what they think – good, bad and ugly.All input on these critical items is important.A discussion – especially in light of last year’s budget disaster – of a broader, deeper range of the work the lab does is good.And many of the concerns of the anti-lab factions are issues that warrant answers, like water and air quality and the general environment; as well as jobs and economic security.All are things that must be discussed.The future of LANL is of importance to all those living and working in northern New Mexico.We are for our national security and understand the need for nuclear weapons work and all its related branches. And if it has to be done, it should be done in the best facilities by the best people.And that would be here at LANL.But we hope that our mission grows and that this is only a part of what this wonderful national treasure does.