Demolition Derby: Last week, Los Alamos National Laboratory got slapped with a $960,000 fine by the New Mexico Environment Department for failing to properly monitor radioactive pollutants in surface water and groundwater nearby.
This week, in a separate cleanup effort, the lab is using federal stimulus money to tear down buildings in Technical Area 21, a Cold War-era facility.
While it’s hard to argue with cleanup measures, new construction at LANL may be harder to swallow. According to a Nov. 19 report by JASON, the independent scientific panel that advises the US government, the “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades…”
JASON’s conclusion may call into question the need for any new facilities. “We’ve been told that both new-design nuclear weapons and new production facilities are needed, but today we learned different,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, says in a statement.
President Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review, the truest test of US nuclear policy, is due out in January. Until then, it’s safe to assume Los Alamos will continue to compose nukes, at the very least to keep from forgetting how.
Moneypenny: The Investments Oversight Committee of the New Mexico Legislature voted Nov. 30 to approve a bill that would add legislative appointees to the State Investment Council and remove some of the governor’s appointees. The bill’s success will require approval from the Legislature during this January’s 30-day session—and, of course, from the governor.
State Sen. Steven Neville, R-San Juan, whose bill to eliminate governor appointees to the SIC was pocket-vetoed in the 2009 regular session, plans to introduce a nearly identical bill come January. Neville’s proposal calls for adding legislative appointees versus gubernatorial ones, as well as three public members (“with experience,” he stipulates).
“It’s a much broader base, so it allows for a little more scrutiny of the activities of the investment council,” Neville says.
While former State Investment Officer Gary Bland’s resignation in October has somewhat faded from the headlines, every week seems to bring new financial inconsistencies to light—like the $1 billion in unaccounted-for state money unearthed by State Auditor Hector Balderas. Neville agrees the perceived urgency for reform is snowballing.
“[The governor is] probably going to be under more political pressure to do something about the SIC,” Neville says. “This might be the beginning of a compromise of some kind, but I haven’t seen what the governor would propose. Since it’s the same bill, I don’t know if he’s going to be excited about it this time around or not.”