Dear Santa Fe: Lest we forget, there is a hazardous waste dump called Area G
just a few miles from the Plaza.
This marks the second week of wrangling among activists, Los Alamos National Lab (which owns the waste pit) and the New Mexico Environment Department on LANL's proposal to close Area G; what happens to the radioactive material there will depend not only on the determination of activists like Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (above, right) but also on LANL's own future—which in turn depends on a slew of high-level nuke policy talks. After the jump, a round-up of recent nuclear developments and their implications for New Mexico.
Nuclear Posture Review
On April 6, President Obama released his Nuclear Posture Review
, a 70-plus explanation of this administration's nuclear policy. SFR reported
that the NPR, as it's called, advocated both disarmament and maintaining existing nuclear weapons stockpiles—a somewhat dichotomous goal, but a step in the right direction.
Among the NPR's conclusions was the following "key investment...required to sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal":
Funding the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory to replace the existing 50-year old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility in 2021.
LANL's costly proposed expansion of the CMRR has raised protests
from activists who see expansion as unnecessary for the simple maintenance of the US nuclear weapons stockpile. But with the NPR's backing, it looks like revamping the CMRR has a green light.
New Start Treaty
On April 8, Obama and Russian Federation President Dmitri Medvedev signed the second version of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (pdf
), a bilateral agreement to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles by 30 percent. The New York Times called
the treaty "welcome" but "modest"; the Heritage Foundation deems it
"doomed to fail."
While perhaps modest, New Start is one of the first concrete steps in the Obama administration's stated commitment to disarmament. But the CMRR remains funded, and as SFR reported
in February, the lab itself got a 21 percent funding spike in Obama's 2011 budget—a good chunk of which was slated for "weapons activities."
Nuclear Security Summit
April 13 marked the final day of Obama's 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit. The summit's final communiqué
calls for—surprise, surprise!—better nuclear security and international cooperation. Obama called it
"bold," Time.com chose
"modest and uncontroversial," and Mother Jones deemed
the whole summit a bit backwards: "Nuclear security is not the path to nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament is the path to nuclear security."
As the AP's "Spin Meter" notes
, the US—and particularly New Mexico—has had its own security problems:
Sandia Lab has had issues securing or removing enriched uranium, per a January DOE report
, and an October 2009 GAO report
found "a number of security lapses" at LANL. (Not to mention this spy guy
.) Maybe we should fix those first...
Los Alamos Hazardous Waste Proposed Permit & Hearing
As SFR reports today, public hearings
continue on whether LANL should be allowed to burn hazardous waste in the open air and on proposed closure procedures for certain waste pits. According to Dave McCoy, the director of anti-nuke activist group Citizen Action New Mexico
, NMED documents he requested years ago (but just accessed in January) reveal crucial information.
"There's questions as to whether [LANL has] adequately analyzed the human and ecological risk; one document said the entire [groundwater] monitoring network should be redesigned," McCoy says.
Much of McCoy's concern has to do with Area G, the nuclear waste dump closest to Santa Fe.
"If we would have known about these [documents], we would be in a lot different position right now with respect to operations and cleanup of Area G," Arends notes, explaining that the group could have made more informed public comments in earlier hearings about groundwater monitoring and contamination.
"Especially when the city of Santa Fe, the county of Santa Fe and Las Campanas are investing $212 million into the Buckman Direct Diversion, directly across from Area G,
" Arends adds, shaking her head. "We would've been in a whole different situation."
Hearings will be held today and tomorrow (Thursday, April 15) at Santa Fe Community College in the Jemez Rooms, 9 am - 6 pm. For more information, click here