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Anti-nuke Plame still supports lab

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Science, jobs creation has convinced the national figure to support LANL’s work

By Jill McLaughlin

Former CIA operative and author Valerie Plame, who is a Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, is a front-runner in the crowded field to replace Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Plame, of Santa Fe, is the only national figure in the crowded field of Democratic candidates running for the open position. 

She has so far taken in the highest contributions in the race, out raising First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna.

Plame has made a name for herself nationally as an author, media commentator and public speaker on nuclear and cybersecurity issues. 

Her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush’s administration in an effort to discredit her then-husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, a critic of the war in Iraq. Since then, she has moved to Santa Fe and recently entered politics as a candidate.

Her stance against nuclear weapons and nuclear materials is well known through her public speaking and activism. 

In the past, she served as an executive board member of The Ploughshares Fund, beginning in 2015, an organization with a mission to reduce and eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and promotes a nuclear free world.  

She told the Los Alamos Monitor that Los Alamos National Laboratory was not engaged in building new nuclear weapons and pointed to a citation from the lab’s website.

“The science and economic development that goes on at the labs are vital to the economy of New Mexico and to national security. I will always support the funding of our National Labs. As per LANL’s mission statement the lab maintains the existing nuclear weapons, but are not engaged in building new ones,” Plame said.

“However, that is not the extent of their mission and impact. They are not only a key employer in the state but they also provide essential support to NM small businesses…,” she said. “For these reasons, I will always support funding to both Sandia National Lab and Los Alamos National Lab. 

Los Alamos National Laboratory is in the process of ramping up production of its plutonium pit manufacturing process to be able to meet a new demand for up to 30 pits per year to meet recapitalization and modernization requirements of the Department of Defense’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The pits are trigger components for nuclear weapons.

The federal government selected Los Alamos and a site in South Carolina to share the pit production responsibility for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsonal.

National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty spoke Tuesday at a business expo in New Mexico described the United States’ nuclear program as the “ultimate insurance policy.” 

Gordon-Hagerty said the country is facing the most complex and demanding global security environment since the Cold War. 

She said that Russia and China are investing significant resources to upgrade and expand their capabilities, Iran has increased its nuclear stockpile beyond limits set by a 2015 accord and North Korea’s intentions remain unclear, according to the Associated Press.

Plame said she supports nuclear non-proliferation.

“These two stances are not contradictory. Our government, itself, has followed an agenda of nuclear non-proliferation reducing our stockpile of weapons to approx (sic) 5,600 from a high of approx 45,000. My views on this are a matter of public record and they will not change if I am fortunate enough to be elected to Congress,” Plame said. 

Plame has promoted the idea of a nuclear-free world for years. On April 1, 2016, she spoke at a Global Zero protest in Washington, D.C., at the start of a Nuclear Security Summit in McPherson Square.

“As with the most powerful social movements in history, young people are turning out around the world to fight this fight. And they’re backed by a powerful group of political leaders and security experts who understand that the only way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to eliminate all nuclear weapons,” Plame said at the protest to media covering the event.

Newsweek published an article Plame wrote, called, “The Power of Zero,” in which she discussed a film based on a nuclear-free world. 

In the article, she wrote: “Our only hope of survival is to drain the swamp as soon as we possibly can. The alternative is for nuclear weapons to spread around the world and, sooner or later, for terrorists to incinerate the heart of a major city.

“Getting to global zero will be arduous, but it can be done. Many who supported nuclear weapons as a deterrent during the Cold War now recognize that the threat today is not nuclear war with Russia or China, but proliferation and the risk of nuclear terrorism. Eliminating these present-day threats outweighs any benefits we might gain from retaining our nuclear arsenal.”

Plame said, however, she understands the importance of the national labs and the science that occurs at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The science that occurs at our national labs is far-reaching and invaluable to our existing state economy, as well as essential in expanding and creating new businesses,” she told the Los Alamos Monitor in a statement. “As an example I offer Descartes Labs and that it further enhances both our state and our nation’s economy. My time with the CIA gave me an intimate knowledge of the importance of our National Labs to our nation’s and world’s security and stability.”

Serna, also in the running for the seat, said he strongly supports the work of LANL.

“I strongly support the work of Los Alamos National Labs, including their work on nuclear programs to keep Americans safe from terrorism and threats from rogue nations like North Korea,” Serna said.