LASG brings CMRR argument to town

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By Arin McKenna

The Los Alamos Study Group (LASG) regularly holds meetings in Santa Fe.

On Tuesday night at Fuller Lodge, the group came to Los Alamos to present its case against the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility.

Greg Mello, secretary and executive director of LASG, presented various arguments against building the proposed plutonium facility, which included the cost of the project, possible conflicts between construction of CMRR with several other Los Alamos National Laboratory projects and an assertion that the facility is not necessary.

Because of pending litigation, no one from the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration or LANL attended the forum.

Back in May, Judge Judith Herrera dismissed a lawsuit that the Los Alamos Study Group brought upon the Department of Energy and the NNSA to block the final design and construction of the project.

But earlier this month, the group filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Mello first talked about the cost of the project, saying the $6 billion project could run as high as $9 billion.

“As such it is about six times the financial scale of the original Manhattan Project investment in New Mexico and about equal to what LANL has said is the capital value of the entire laboratory,” Mello said. “This estimated cost is about 10 times the cost of any other government infrastructure project in the history of New Mexico, except the Interstate Highways.

“This project breathes the air of the past. It is a technical mega-project involving giga-bucks. It is very complex, it is very unique. It started in 1999 and it will not be done until 2023. That’s a long time, and a long time exposes it to a lot of history,” Mello summarized. “Those of us who have discussed these things over the last few years believe that our society is beginning a very significant and dramatic transformation...we don’t see our society as having a robust ability to reproduce these very large projects for very many more years.”

Study Group member Willem Malten insisted the community of Los Alamos would see little benefit from the project. “If you look at it, it’s like one job for maybe $2 million or maybe $4 million in investment. That is really awful at a time when people live from paycheck to paycheck, have no resources whatsoever,” Malten said. “To have a project happening here at $6 billion that maybe has temporary jobs for 800 people from elsewhere and 300 people from here. It’s really kind of shameful.

Carol Miller was one of the speakers. Miller has worked in public health and as both a federal employee and contractor in rural health and rural community economic development.

“I started researching what the country spends its money on when I was lobbying for rural healthcare for New Mexico, and people in other states’ congressional offices would tell me that New Mexico gets so much money per capita we shouldn’t get any more money,” Miller said.

Miller’s research has revealed that the majority of the money coming into New Mexico for projects like this is going to out-of-state contractors. “We’re fourth in the country for having the highest procurement contracting out; after Alaska, Virginia and Maryland. And it’s all for increased militarism, giving that money to contractors,” Miller said.

Gilbert Sanchez began by making it clear he was expressing his own views and in no way representing the Pueblo San Ildefonso. Sanchez was governor of the pueblo from 1985–1986.

“This building as proposed infringes on my people and my pueblo, as it limits by law our right to practice our spirituality and protection of our sacred sites,” Sanchez said. “This project will negatively impact my people in more ways than have currently been truly addressed. The impact on migration of wildlife, the arts, the plants we use as food and medicines, the limitations established for our winter heating supplies for fuel woods gathered – all of this will be impacted from day one until the completion of this project and beyond. The impact will be felt for generations.”

Sanchez is also concerned about the fact that the entire LANL site sits over fault lines associated with the dormant Jemez volcano. “This is the most unstable terrain. I do know that one day this place is going to shake again, and that dormant volcano that sits just to the west of here is going to go up,” Sanchez said.

“The impact it’s going to have on the Southwestern United States and Northern New Mexico is going to be catastrophic. The water’s going to be contaminated; this land is going to be useless for tens of thousands of years into the future. There will be tremendous instantaneous loss of human lives.”

Jody Benson made a request during public comment. “I tried to get people to come to this meeting because I think it’s so important that people in Los Alamos know about it. They will not come because the Los Alamos Study Group is against everything that Los Alamos does. My request is to put this information out again and to change the language somewhat. The language in this is very negative and emotional. Remove things like “proposed plutonium pit palace” and put it out again.

Mello’s response was, “We try to be as factual as we can but we are certainly emotional beings also.”  

Mello continued, “We can’t do everything. This community needs to discover its courage. There are plenty of resources here; there are very few resources at the Los Alamos Study Group. Realistically, we can’t do what you ask. We can’t craft a fact sheet specifically for the Los Alamos community. That is beyond our means. We have to craft things for congress, for lots of people. You could translate, pick what’s good, and rewrite it.”

Miller supported the idea of community members rewriting, mistakenly restating the issue Benson raised and saying the problem is that the information LASG puts out is very “information rich.”

Benson reminded the speakers of her original point, saying, “You just have to delete a few words, Mello responded with “You don’t get it.” The meeting ended shortly after that exchange.

Go to www.lasg.org for further information on LASG’s position.