Tuning up for transformation hearings

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By Roger Snodgrass

SANTA FE – Competing views on the future of Los Alamos National Laboratory are vying for public attention this week.Over the weekend, community leaders from surrounding communities joined a coalition of activist organizations to prepare for a series of public hearings sponsored by the Department of Energy next week.On Wednesday and Friday, the lab’s weapons program directorate will sponsor tours for community leaders of facilities that figure in the transformational plans for the nuclear weapons complex.Santa Fe Mayor David Coss led the speakers at a press conference Saturday morning at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.“Nuclear weapons production does not help us in creating the future that we want,” he said, calling instead for the “incredible people and incredible talent” of Los Alamos to help free the world of nuclear weapons and help solve the energy crisis.Coss acknowledged that the Santa Fe governing body had been criticized for passing a resolution on Feb. 13, objecting to plans to expand production of plutonium triggers, known as “pits,” but he said the unanimous approval of the measure was consistent with the community’s peaceful and environmental values.On the same agenda, he said, the council had approved funds to support the farmers market and a youth program for restoring the Santa Fe River.“We would never support a program to encourage people to go into pit production,” he said.Coss was joined in the press conference by Picuris Pueblo Gov. Craig Quanchello; Santa Fe City Councilor Matthew Ortiz, who sponsored the city’s resolution; Barbara Dua, representing the New Mexico Conference of Churches; Allen Sanchez on behalf of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Matthew Ellis of Española, who read a prepared statement by Española Mayor Joseph Maestas that he said represented only his own personal views.Maestas’ statement noted that the people of Española were dismayed to find their city was not included in the list of sites for the formal DOE hearings, but that the department had responded to their request and scheduled an additional event to be held there March 27.The statement said there were aspects of the transformation that were agreeable, including the intention of reducing the footprint of the weapons complex and consolidating the storage of nuclear materials, but Maestas said the policy paradigm underlying the transformation plans current nuclear weapons policies was “obsolete,” and called for a complete reassessment of the economic and environmental impact of nuclear weapons production and their effect on American foreign relations.At the same time, Maestas was wary of threatening the laboratory budget.“I fully support a mission change for LANL,” his statement said.  “However, such a mission change must be funded and planned properly without job losses.”Civic, educational and business leaders have been invited for  a half-day visit Wednesday to the laboratory, beginning with a discussion with Glenn L. Mara, principal associate director for the weapons program at the National Science Security Building. The group will visit the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility (CMR) and the CMRR, its replacement, now under construction, as well as the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility and the site for the lab’s new Roadrunner supercomputer in the Nicholas C. Metropolis Center.Maestas and Coss are among area political leaders who have been invited to attend Friday’s tour of the laboratory facilities, which will also include state representatives and others.The press conference in Santa Fe was followed by several hours of panels, presentations and workshops. With an eye to the DOE hearing in New Mexico next week, subject experts discussed a variety of environmental and security issues with several dozen participants. Topics included environmental justice concerns for Native Americans, air and water health and other implications of the DOE transformation for LANL, Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Kirkland Air Force Base.The hearings will take public comment on a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, related to a proposed 10-year plan to reconfigure the nuclear weapons complex. Northern region DOE hearings schedule


• 6-10 p.m. March 12 – Los Alamos Hilltop House, 400 Trinity Drive at Central Ave.

•  11 a.m.-3 p.m.  March 13, Los Alamos Hilltop House, 400 Trinity Drive


• 6-10 p.m. March 13,  Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road


• 6-10 p.m. March 27, San Gabriel Mision y Convento, Plaza de Española, One Calle de las Españolas