SANTA FE – While consideration of proposals to develop the city-owned Midtown Campus continues in private at City Hall, one group that has presented ideas for the property is already drawing public opposition.
About 50 people gathered in front of City Hall on Wednesday to say that the city needs to keep the National Nuclear Security Administration and its local operation — Los Alamos National Laboratory — out of Santa Fe.
The NNSA’s Los Alamos Field Office has expressed interest in the campus mainly for office space or for engineering, light manufacturing and research, but nothing involving radioactive materials. City leaders are expected to name finalists for the role of “master developer” of the mostly-vacant campus this month.
At Wednesday’s rally, Greg Mello of the Albuquerque-based Los Alamos Study Group, noted that the Santa Fe City Council over the years has passed several resolutions skeptical of lab operations. In 2018, the council OK’d a resolution citing safety lapses at LANL and calling for “suspension of any planned expanded plutonium pit production at LANL until all nuclear criticality issues are resolved.”
Mello said Santa Fe has spoken out against LANL’s nuclear weapons mission and that inviting NNSA into town would be contrary to Santa Fe’s “culture of piece” and hurt its reputation.
A spokesman for the NNSA said Wednesday that in keeping with the confidential process the city is using to assess proposals for the campus, the agency would have no comment.
People at the City Hall rally had signs saying “No LANL in Santa Fe,” “LANL: Toxic Science” and “Mayor Webber, listen to the people.”
Lydia Clark, the Study Group’s outreach director, said LANL’s “presence in the Mid-Town project will continue to support only a very small group of people, not the community as a whole, and will create even more instability and inequality.”
Mello said LANL’s mission “is not economic development or technology transfer. It’s mission is making nuclear bombs.” He said that while city leaders may see LANL as a source for job training and STEM education, “We can’t fix our schools by transferring them to the military.”
Mello said NNSA or LANL couldn’t do research or other work at the 84-acre campus site without significant security, contrary to the city’s goal of creating an open “town center.”