Sep 22, 2007
September 22, 2007
Supporters of Los Alamos National Laboratory encounter criticism at Capitol rally
Supporters of Los Alamos National Laboratory took an unusual step Friday and held a public rally at the Capitol, arguing that a well-funded lab is good for national security and science missions.
Some lab critics showed up, too, to say that a well-paid Los Alamos will support the manufacturing of plutonium pits, which are the triggers for nuclear warheads.
``We believe science is something worth fighting for,'' said Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, a materials scientist at the lab.
He said of the critics from the Los Alamos Study Group at the rally: ``We have been demonized. We are dedicated scientists working to protect this country.''
At issue is the federal budget for fiscal 2008. The version passed by the House of Representatives would reduce nuclear weapons programs nationwide by $396 million, with most of the cuts at LANL and Sandia National Laboratories. One worst case scenario at Los Alamos would result in 2,500 layoffs. The Senate has not passed a budget.
However, New Mexico's senators are pushing to fund the lab at last year's levels in a continuing resolution that's likely to be passed by Congress before the new federal budget year begins Oct. 1. The continuing resolution would let the government operate at basic levels while Congress hammers out a final spending bill.
Staffers from Los Alamos first predicted that the levees would break in New Orleans, provided explosives detectors to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and worked on models that track potential pandemic flu, said Ron Dolin, an engineer who worked on those projects.
Dolin and Srivilliputhur were joined by about 14 other scientists who held signs with slogans like ``LANL Stops Terror'' and ``Save Our Science.''
``We cannot afford to disarm ourselves unilaterally,'' Srivilliputhur said.
Representatives of the study group held a banner that read ``Stop the New Bomb Factory.''
The Senate version of the budget spends $251 million more on pit production than the House version, said Greg Mello of the group.
``Most of the jobs in question are plutonium warhead (pit) production-related jobs,'' Mello wrote in a flier. ``In practical terms, today's rally to `save LANL jobs' is mostly a rally to save plutonium pit production-related jobs.''
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico also said the idea that science would be saved by maintaining the current budget is disingenuous because the proposed cuts are in the weapons program.
Santa Fe County Commission Chairman Harry Montoya spoke in support of the lab, as did State Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 986-3073 or email@example.com.