The National Nuclear Security Agency just released its Record of Decision on the planned new plutonium processing facility to be located at Los Alamos National Lab.
The new ROD was necessary because a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was performed after new information about the seismic hazards of the site came to light. The new ROD for the facility, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility, can be viewed here.
The big question was whether the ROD would specify one of the two designs described in the environmental impact statement, known as the shallow and the deep model. Each model is a different strategy for making the site safe given the seismic hazards in the area. As Joni Arends with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and Scott Kovak of Nukewatch New Mexico predicted, the ROD doesn't specify one design:
"NNSA will select the appropriate Excavation Option for implementing the construction of this building after initiating final design activities, when additional geotechnical and structural design calculations and more detailed engineering analysis will be performed to support completing the facility design," the ROD states.
Joni Arends with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety tells SFR that neither design is safe for the site, which geologist Robert Gilkeson has said could experience a 8.0-magnitude earthquake. The CMRR is planned to built to withstand up to 7.27-magnitude, which is one-twentieth as strong as an 8.0.
NNSA spokeswoman Toni Chiri told SFR about a half-hour before the announcement that the ROD was signed off on last night, but was held up because public information products had to be completed. Perhaps the NNSA's haste to post the ROD is part of the reason it contains the word "seisruic" instead of "seismic" and refers questions to NNSA National Environmental Policy Act Assistant Manager "Mr. George J. Rae!"
Kovak tells SFR that the delayed decision on which design to pick is part of one of the big issues with the CMRR - there's currently no final cost estimate for the facility, which is estimated to have at least a $6 billion price tag. As SFR previously reported, in a report accompanying its budget bill covering the Department of Energy, the House Committee on Appropriations this summer noted that it would fund the CMRR at $100 million less than it requested because LANL "must first resolve major seismic issues with its design."
"This fight isn't over, because they don't have the basic information to even determine whether they have a deep or shallow option," Arends says.