Jul 3, 2007

Domenici: Building for nuke pits needed

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
July 2, 2007

As some celebrate latest trigger, others urge moving away from nuclear proliferation

LOS ALAMOS -- The only thing stopping Los Alamos National Laboratory from being the country's permanent center for production of nuclear warhead triggers is lack of a new building, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Monday at the lab.

Domenici was on hand to celebrate recent federal certification of the lab's latest trigger, which is called a pit. Los Alamos plans to make 10 pits this year, and eventually increase production to 30 to 50 per year.

Asked for his position on making Los Alamos the permanent pit production center, Domenici said, ``Well, I think we might be just ... playing with words. I think we are, with the delivery of this.''

Domenici noted the ongoing battle between the House and the Senate over paying for a $95.5 million nuclear chemistry building, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Facility, where pit work would occur.

``The only thing that would keep them from being the permanent pit manufacturing center would be if we don't get the physical facilities,'' Domenici said. ``We're building a building which the House has not funded, without which, I don't see how we can run this program.''

Domenici supports spending $256 million on pit manufacturing at Los Alamos in the 2008 fiscal year. He does not support funding the Consolidated Plutonium Center, which could move that work to another state.

Los Alamos is among five candidates for the plutonium center, but neither the House nor the Senate has agreed to pay for such a facility in the 2008 fiscal year.

The lab's first pit, certified this year in June, is already at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Pantex Plant in West Texas, the lab reports. There, according to the lab, it will be placed in a W88 nuclear warhead for the Navy. Monday's pit was the second to be certified, lab director Michael Anastasio said.

``It doesn't mean that we're engaged in an arms race like we had during the Cold War -- quite to the contrary,'' Domenici said. ``Today we signal that the United States wants to protect itself, its allies with a much smaller, more efficient and cost-effective stockpile.''

Opponents to the pit mission at Los Alamos held a separate news conference to urge new jobs for the lab, focused on nuclear nonproliferation, global warming and renewable-energy programs.

Bob Peurifoy, a retired vice president of Sandia National Laboratories, said the country's current stockpile is too large, and that the pits are working fine.

``They don't need to be replaced at this time because they are not broken,'' Peurifoy said by telephone. ``I'm not in favor of jumping in and replacing something just to have work.''

Monday's counter news conference featured Physicians for Social Responsibility, the New Mexico Conference of Churches, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Los Alamos Study Group, groups that oppose making new pits at Los Alamos.

``Nuclear weapons development is just not needed,'' Mike McCally of Physicians for Social Responsibility said. ``... DOE laboratories and Los Alamos in particular are not focused on the urgent needs of the 21st century. Laboratory programs focused on energy, environment, nuclear proliferation, global warming, would be a cause for celebration.''

The Rev. Barbara Dua of the New Mexico Conference of Churches said the lab should embrace a new global reality that nuclear weapons were never the right path for the country, and that the United States should take the moral lead to partner with other countries and work toward nuclear disarmament.

``All of us speaking today share a strong conviction that to celebrate the production of this plutonium pit is dangerously misguided,'' the Rev. Barbara Dua said.

Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group does not support the pit mission at Los Alamos, but he questions giving Los Alamos a new mission. ``You can't change the mission of the lab by wishing it so,'' he said. ``The lab has certain skills. It's a fantasy to think that there can be a big new green mission for Los Alamos.''

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or alenderman@sfnewmexican.com.


Anonymous said...

> Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group does not support the pit mission at Los Alamos...


You're kidding, right?

GussieFinkNottle said...

He's not the only one.


Anonymous said...

St. Pete made it clear with his comments what he envisions for LANL. We're going to become the new Pit Factory of the weapons complex. Congress will come around to this way of thinking in the next year or so.

Bechtel and BWXT are here for that very reason. Pits will become the main purpose for LANL's existence during the next decade. We'll downsize the science and upsize the production facilities. That's our future, whether we like it or not. Overall, LANL will be a smaller facility, with pit production at the core.

Anonymous said...

> Greg Mello: "You can't change the mission of the lab by wishing it so," he said. "The lab has certain skills. It's a fantasy to think that there can be a big new green mission for Los Alamos."

What utter nonsense. Clearly, Greg Mello does not want nucear activities at the lab, and he does not want non-nuclar activities either. Evidently, Mello's only ojbective is to sink the Lab.

First of all, Los Alamos people have had their share of designing reactors, fusion devices, accelerators, fuel cycles, heat pipes, satellites, etc., and puirsuing all manner of other non-nuclear science and engineering endeavors. If we could complete for those funds on an equal footing (a big if), we could easily continue pursuing them.

Second, the establishment of a pit manufacturing capability here does not preclude doing other things. Statements to that effect are ridiculous and prejudicial. Our senators and representatives have made it clear that diversity at the Lab would be a good thing. So why doesn't everyone with an interest in the Lab's success (that excludes Mr. Mello) step up to the plate and help to make it happen?

Maybe all you consiracy theorists can think of reasons why we should not diversify, but I personally would like to see a little more positive energy and a little less negativity.

Anonymous said...

From "Thoughts on the 4th of July" - If enough folks are tired of Eric's self serving commercialism here (and he is not a LANL employee), Pinky and the Brain will consider banning him. (Not censorship - just eliminating commercials!)

Anyone else interested in the improvement?

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Get rid of the commercials!

Anonymous said...

yup time to ban eric

Anonymous said...

To 7/3/07 8:46 PM, 7/4/07 6:06 AM and 10:03 AM ... you folks are pathetic. I am sure you think your views are so much better than Eric's.

Anonymous said...

10:17 What views? That he has the answers to all of our problems, but we have to contact him individually off blog to hear what they might be. That his personal blog has attracted so little attention even after hyping it on this blog? Of course, if Eric is posting anonymously to appear to have support, some of these supportive posts make a lot more sense.