Lots of Money for LANL Pit Production in 2021 Budget

EDITOR’S NOTE: An article below lays out the huge 2021 budget requests for the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration and plutonium pit development at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site. In a February 27 press release, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) announced they have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “examine if nuclear modernization activities undertaken by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are sustainable and affordable investments in our national security.” President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget for NNSA’s weapons activities calls for a 25 percent increase over last year’s funding level and well-above the level NNSA projected one year earlier. Additionally, the Pentagon projects spending $167 billion over the next five years on its side of the nuclear weapons enterprise.

They also ask for analysis of potential ballooned spending “should the president allow the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START [between the U.S. and Russia]) to expire next February [2021].”

Here is the petition to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Congressman Lujan asking them to demand DOE/NNSA to prepare two environmental impact statements before any expansion of plutonium pit operations at LANL. First, a nationwide, or “programmatic” EIS for work at LANL and the Savannah River Site, followed by a site-wide EIS for LANL.

Make copies of the petition, gather signatures, and join activists for Peaceful and Sustainable Futures in downtown Santa Fe on Tuesday, March 10th to present the signatures to the congressional offices. La Jicarita will provide information on the time and place as soon as it’s available.

Preliminary 2021 Federal Budget Includes Major Expansion of LANL Weapons-Related Production

By BASIA MILLER and JONI ARENDS of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS)

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is set to receive a 32.5% increase in funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) in the proposed fiscal year 2021 federal budget.  Nearly half of the new $1.5 billion would be spent on “plutonium modernization” so that LANL could manufacture up to 30 plutonium pits, or triggers for nuclear weapons, per year. An additional $618.5 million is slated for LANL’s contribution to plutonium modernization at the Savannah River Site.  DOE wants to “repurpose” the failed MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility into the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility for the production of 50 pits per year.

DOE is asking for $19.8 billion for modernization, a number that some officials are calling “the right number.”

At the same time, the fiscal year 2021 budget proposal cuts funding for environmental cleanup at LANL from $220 million to $120 million. LANL’s legacy waste, from before 1999, dates back to the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

Few details are available about how the two labs might gear up for plutonium pit production. However, the increasing funds for pit production and the reduction of funds for cleanup points dramatically towards a significant shift of focus for the national labs. The emphasis on building plutonium pits for nuclear weapons and providing an infrastructure to support them diminishes the funds available for protecting drinking water supplies, restoring the Pajarito Plateau to the place it was before LANL began in 1943 – where people lived and built community.

For more information, visit Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Los Alamos Study Group.

All of the proposed plans require National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, public processes.  The current administration is working to destroy the law that went into effect on January 1, 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day 50 years ago.  NEPA requires analysis of the environmental impacts before any major federal action begins, with full public review and comment.

Because two national laboratories are involved in the proposed plans, NEPA requires a nationwide, or programmatic, environmental impact statement process before any major federal action begins, followed by a new site-wide environmental impact statement for LANL.

DOE decided that no analysis is necessary for LANL.  Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich as well as Congressman Ben Ray Lujan concurred.  See, Sunday, February 16, 2020, Albuquerque Journal North Editorial Board, “Delegation should support strong review of pit production.”

By contrast, at the Savannah River Site, DOE determined that they would follow NEPA.

It is important to make our voices heard.  We are locals and are the stewards of our environment.  We must let our Senators and Congressman know our opinions about the proposed increase in weapons-related funding as well as about the reduction in funds for environmental cleanup.  CCNS has prepared a petition requesting them to demand that the required environmental impact statements be prepared before any major federal action, including commitment of funding, takes place.

To get involved, please download the petition, gather signatures, and join us on Tuesday, March 10th in downtown Santa Fe to deliver the petition signatures to the offices of the Senators and Congressman.  Next week, we’ll have more details about time and place.  Together we are making a difference!



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