Judge throws out case over Los Alamos nuclear plan

-A A +A

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit that sought to halt development of a $5.8 billion plutonium laboratory at Los Alamos National Laboratory, saying a new environmental analysis and planned hearings should be adequate to address new concerns about earthquake dangers.

Plaintiffs, however, said they would boycott the public hearings, claiming construction of the lab is already a done deal.

"The public record is replete with Administration statements saying it is not going to reconsider its commitment to this project," Greg Mello of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group in an email about why the group wouldn't attend public hearings.

Mello and other critics of the lab sued to halt development of the nuclear facility last year, alleging the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration violated federal law by failing to do a new environmental impact statement after changing the design for project to address seismic and other safety concerns

The National Nuclear Security Administration released the new environmental analysis last month, but critics alleged it was done in response to its lawsuit and to back up a decision that was already made. Even before the ruling, they had called for a boycott of the four public hearings being held on the matter around the state this week.

"We have called for citizens to use real democratic means to reform the NNSA in regard to this giant project, and not indulge themselves yet again in a manipulated politics of spectacle," Mello said.

U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera ruled against the lab's critics, saying NNSA should not be required to "start over from scratch when they encounter new information that results in design challenges."

Mello said he was disappointed by the ruling but that it was too soon to know if the groups would take further action.

Less than 50 people were at the first public hearing Monday night in Albuquerque. Others were scheduled later this week in Santa Fe, Espanola and Los Alamos.

At issue is the nuclear facility portion of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project, known as CMRR, which would replace a 60-year-old building that has been declared seismically unsafe. The proposal has been lingering for years, and the NNSA now wants to change the building's design to address new earthquake dangers and make other improvements, although no final design has been selected.