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Decisions Today To Build New Nuclear Bomb Plants

Energy Dept. Issues Decisions Today To Build New Nuclear Bomb Plants, Endanger Communities

Tri-Valley CAREs Charges Department is "Locking in" Provocative Nuclear Weapons Decisions in Waning Days of Bush Administration; Calls on Government to Downsize Weapons Complex, Prioritize Removal of Bomb-making Materials from Livermore Lab

LIVERMORE – In Federal Register notices published today, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) issued two legally-binding authorizations, called Records of Decision (RODs), to revitalize and rebuild the nuclear weapons complex, at Livermore Lab in California and other sites across the country.

The two RODs codify the DOE NNSA’s "preferred alternatives" laid out in the agency’s final Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, issued on October 24, 2008.

One ROD covers all of the agency’s "programmatic" decisions, defined as operations involving plutonium, uranium and assembly/disassembly of nuclear weapons. The other ROD covers 3 of 6 "project-specific" decisions, defined as tritium research and development (R&D), flight test operations, and major environmental test facilities to assess performance of nuclear weapons under varying conditions. The 3 "project-specific" decisions that await a ROD are high explosives R&D, hydrodynamic testing, and weapons support functions at the Sandia, Livermore site.

"What we are witnessing today is the DOE NNSA trying to lock in a provocative revitalization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex in the waning days of the Bush Administration," charged Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs and a close neighbor of Livermore Lab.

"The ROD issued for operations involving plutonium, uranium and weapons assembly/disassembly admits that DOE NNSA is not choosing the ‘environmentally preferable’ alternative," Kelley continued. "In plain English, the Bush Administration is putting our communities and environment at risk in order to implement its plans for new nuclear bomb plants and bomb making capabilities.

Kelley continued, "The Bush Administration’s ‘preferred alternative’ for Complex Transformation runs counter to our genuine security. Moreover, the Complex Transformation strategy is explicitly tied to the Bush Administration’s 2001 nuclear posture review, which has been declared dead on arrival in the Obama Administration. These important decisions involving billions of tax dollars and our Nation’s nuclear policy objectives should not be made a scant month before President-elect Barack Obama takes office and brings in his own team and governing philosophy."

Under the DOE NNSA’s two RODs issued today, all eight active locations in the current nuclear weapons complex stand to remain open for further weapons activities. "This is in marked contrast to the 1990s when the nuclear weapons complex moved from twelve active bomb-making sites down to eight," remarked Kelley. "My organization calls for Livermore Lab to be used for civilian science missions like global warming research and energy independence rather than further development of new and militarily modified nuclear weapons."

"A record number of people, more than 100,000 strong, rose in opposition to the plan during the formal public comment period. Today, we are seeing the DOE brush aside the expressed wisdom and wishes of the people, many of whom live downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons facilities in California and across the country," said Kelley.

"Complex Transformation will adversely affect communities around the Livermore Lab main site in Livermore and its Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy," noted Tri-Valley CAREs’ Staff Attorney, Robert Schwartz. "It will mean continuing pollution and potential new dangers."

Under today’s RODs, nuclear bomb making quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium will remain in a vulnerable state at Livermore Lab until 2012, risking catastrophic release in the event of a terrorist attack or major earthquake. The present administrative limit for plutonium storage at Livermore Lab’s "Superblock" is 3,080 pounds, enough for about 300 nuclear weapons. Similarly, Livermore Lab will continue two facilities that test nuclear bomb materials under differing environmental conditions until 2012. Livermore Lab will also carry out current and planned new activities with tritium, the radioactive hydrogen of the H-bomb, indefinitely according to the RODs.

"This plan puts the air, water, land and communities around Livermore Lab at risk," said Schwartz.

Nationally, the "programmatic" ROD issued today gives the go-ahead to construct a new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement – Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos Lab in NM, clearing the way for an increase in plutonium bomb core production there after 2009. The same ROD also "green lights" a massive, new Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 in TN.

"We vigorously object to these dangerous, unnecessary facilities across the country," commented Kelley. "At a time when the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is in danger of unraveling, it defies reason to boost U.S. nuclear weapons development and production. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is not an effective foreign policy."

Kelley continued, "Instead of building new and modified nuclear weapons, Tri-Valley CAREs supports a ‘Curatorship’ approach, which would maintain the safety and reliability of existing nuclear weapons until such time as they are dismantled pursuant to our obligations under the NPT. Unfortunately, the DOE NNSA summarily rejected that approach in today’s RODs, admitting that it did not (and would not) conduct a detailed analysis of the Curatorship alternative to its ‘preferred’ plans."

In sum, the Complex Transformation RODs issued today codify wrong policy, enabling new nuclear weapons programs that run counter to U.S. nonproliferation aims, wrong direction, building unneeded facilities, wrong priorities, costing $150 billion or more and failing to quickly secure the country’s most vulnerable nuclear materials, and wrong timing, putting the "cart" of new bomb-making capabilities before the "horse" of new policy and posture reviews -- and a new President.

Added Schwartz, "Tri-Valley CAREs will continue to oppose implementation of this fatally flawed and dangerous plan."

ENDS

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