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Public invited to comment on LANL impact statement

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday released its draft Supplement Analysis to the 2008 Site-wide Environmental Impact Statement for Los Alamos National Laboratory, concluding that it doesn’t have to complete an environmental impact statement.

The study examines whether environmental analysis for expanded plutonium pit production at LANL should be required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Based on analysis in this SA, NNSA preliminarily concludes that no further National Environmental Policy Act documentation for LANL at a site-specific level is required,” the document says. “However, NNSA will consider comments on this draft SA prior to publishing a final SA.”

Release of the document triggers a 45-day public comment period. But some groups have already chimed in.

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, pointed out that NNSA plans to go ahead with the environmental impact study at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which also produces plutonium pits, the radioactive core of a nuclear warhead.

Coghlan said in a news release Tuesday that NNSA was “shutting the public out, while steamrolling exorbitantly expensive expanded pit production.”

“There is a clear need for a nationwide programmatic environmental impact statement to justify or not expanded plutonium pit production, followed by a new site-wide environmental impact statement for Los Alamos,” he said.

President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 calls for $9.5 billion to be put toward efforts to “sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile.” Of that, $4.3 billion is earmarked for stockpile management and $2.5 billion is for production modernization to support production capabilities for nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Trump’s proposal cuts spending on cleanup from $220 million to $120 million.

Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, also questioned whether NNSA was sincere about collecting public input.

“NNSA will consider the comments it receives to refine its SA (basically an open ‘memo-to-file’) to prevent (as best it can) any successful legal challenge,” he wrote on Monday in anticipation of the release of the draft analysis. “That is the federal bureaucratic purpose of the SA. The public comment NNSA offers is completely meaningless.”

According to an NNSA news release, LANL has been directed to produce 30 pits a year by 2026, while the Savannah River Site is tasked with producing 50 pits per year by 2030.

At LANL, expansion of pit production requires infrastructure construction, workforce expansion, waste management operations and transportation, it says.

Comments will be accepted through April 24. They can be mailed to: NNSA Los Alamos Field Office, Comments, LANL SWEIS SA, 3747 West Jemez Road, Los Alamos, NM, 87544. Comments may also be emailed to: lanlsweissa@nnsa.doe.gov.


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