May 5, 2008
For the Albuquerque Journal
TAOS— Officials from both the town of Taos and Taos County have joined forces to oppose a plan to have nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory serve as a national center for plutonium manufacturing for the nation's nuclear arsenal.
A joint resolution opposing the plan was adopted unanimously Wednesday at a scheduled joint meeting of the Taos mayor and Town Council, and the Taos County Commission.
The resolution takes aim at proposals incorporated in the National Nuclear Security Administration's released draft on the "Complex Transformation Supplement Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement" which outlines plans to transform its nuclear weapons complex, including LANL.
The resolution contends that the proposal will designate LANL as "the nation's permanent production center for up to 80 plutonium pits per year, with related increases in hazardous and radioactive wastes."
Officials also objected to the fact that the Department of Energy had failed to hold hearings on the environmental impact statement regarding LANL in Taos, in spite of a formal request by the Taos County Commission for such a hearing that was made in early March.
Commission chairman Charlie Gonzales said Taos County, which is only 55 miles from LANL, has a right to be heard on any plan that would lead to the expansion of nuclear weapons materials manufacture so close to its residents because of potential health and environmental hazards.
"Many in Taos County have first-hand experience with environmental contamination from the devastating Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos in 2000," Gonzales said.
"One of our current commissioners, who owns a lumber and saw mill operation here, remembers lumber operators who were trying to clear out burned and downed timber from the fire area were warned off because of radioactive contamination," Gonzales said.
A letter send March 14 by Taos County Manager Julia Valerio to Theodore Wyka, an NNSA manager on the complex transformation project, asking for an information hearing on the proposal to be held in Taos received a negative replay on March 17.
Wyka responded that 20 public hearings had been held, including seven in New Mexico, and that the last hearing was set for March 27 in Española. Wyka said no additional hearings were planned.
His letter to Valerio stated in part: "Please be advised that all comments will be treated the same, whether they are provided in person or in writing. These comments will be considered both individually and collectively and the appropriate action will be taken, which may include supplementing the alternatives; improving, modifying, and supplementing the analyses; or making factual corrections."
The joint resolution opposing the LANL plan also maintains that plutonium pits have a reliable lifetime of a century or more, thus making production unnecessary to begin with, and adds that "the new Nuclear Posture Review by a new president could have impacts on the nuclear weapons complex and LANL significantly different from the old Review."
The expansion of nuclear weapons activities at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, including further increased plutonium pit production, is objectionable, the officials stated in the resolution.