Feds close door on new environmental study for Los Alamos National Lab


The U.S. Department of Energy won’t conduct a new sitewide environmental review of Los Alamos National Laboratory as it gears up to produce 30 nuclear warhead triggers by 2026, a decision that has irked critics who say the agency is pushing through plans without assessing possible problems at the site.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a branch of the agency, issued a final supplement this week to a 2008 environmental analysis of LANL, which includes its ability to make the plutonium pits that detonate warheads reported the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Officials said there was no need for a new sitewide study because little has changed overall in the past 12 years — a position they’ve firmly held since proposing the supplement in December.

“NNSA is committed to meeting its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as it revitalizes the nation’s plutonium pit production capability to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” the agency said in a statement.

Watchdog groups, which have pressed for a full sitewide analysis, accused the agency of cutting corners for political reasons.

“With this decision, NNSA is slamming the door shut on public accountability while it rams through expanded plutonium pit bomb core production at the lab,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

The nuclear agency is requiring a sitewide review of the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which is slated to produce 50 pits by 2030, because the facility has never made the plutonium cores.

In its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration said it wants the two sites to make at least 80 pits a year to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal and defend against countries such as Russia, China and North Korea, which have improved their first-strike capabilities.

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican