Monday, November 1, 2010

CMRR-Nuclear Facility Update

 Update Mon. Nov.1st, 2010:
In the few short months since this blog entry:"New START", the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility and the LASG lawsuit against the DOE and NNSA, also appeared in the local newspapers and some national blogs -- lots has happened. 

First of all, the lawsuit is in full swing now, and the Los Alamos Study Group under leadership of Greg Mello has already forced the Lab to admit that the 2003 EIS is not adequate and the Laboratories have called for a new SEIS (Supplemental Environment Impact Statement). 
A public meeting in Los Alamos
at Hilltop Hotel Los Alamos early Halloween...
and a couple of scoping meetings have  been underway. Fairly poorly attended by the larger public but richly staffed with lab and covert security personnel, these meetings were mainly kind of a propaganda attempt. One has to realize that contrary to a real EIS, a SEIS (Supplemental EIS), is kind of a swiftly made up thing, that doesn't look at real alternatives to the CMRR- Nuclear Facility, nor stops any design or even physical construction from progressing.

John Tegtmeier, NEPA
I attended both scoping meetings and because the one in White Rock was so poorly attended I got a chance to speak at length with John Tegtmeier who is charged to see the NEPA SEIS investigation through. I felt an urgent need to find out about timeline of the SEIS process. In the sincerity with which he spoke I could see that he wanted to understand the SEIS as kind of a mini EIS where all significant work stopped until later next summer, when the NNSA boss-man D'Augostino can make a decision about the building of the new CMRR-Nuclear Facility ('cause ultimately it is up to him). But when I pressed Mr. Tegtmeier and asked him if any contracts or work were underway as we spoke, he said couldn't tell and instead referred me to Steve Fong, NNSA CMRR-NF project manager.  

Steve Fong, NNSA CMRR Project Manager
My lucky day..... Mr. Fong also was available and so I engaged him on the project and I specifically wanted to know the contracts that are being worked on, and when the new contracts will be signed. When he refused to give me a straight answer I couldn't help but in so many ways ask him again....and again: "Are there any contracts being signed now ?". It clearly bothered him and he accused me of "badgering". I am sorry that Mr. Fong felt like that and I apologize if I was too heavy handed -- really, all I  wanted to have is a conversation together with him and a straight answer to a simple question. 

But I feel worse about what his refusal to answer reveals: I am afraid that this incident points out that the SEIS is not done in good faith. It is a transparent attempt to confuse the public (" is being SEIS....") and thus quash the lawsuit that LASG has filed against NNSA DOE and the Labs. The Los Alamos Study Group is calling for a full Environmental Impact Statement. Not some "make do SEIS".

Not surprisingly the NNSA has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In LASG's response to this motion Thomas Hnasko’s (LASG chief lawyer) brief pointedly mentions “283 employees or contractors ... now at work on the project,” and argues that design work and site preparations now underway are being done without legally required NEPA coverage

By the way: those contractors and the work that is already underway is precisely what Steve Fong didn't  want to talk to me about. Speaking privately, officials close to the project have begun building the case that any court action to halt work pending NEPA review would mean all those people would end up unemployed.

 Willem Malten speaking out at SEIS Scoping meeting
in Pojoaque calling it "a fraud"
...what a way to spend a b-day...
This concern of unemployment betrays again the hollowness of the national US investments that are being made. If the CMRR is some kind of employment program, and indeed makes part of Obama’s misguided stimulus moneys for “Complex Revitalization”, then all the more reasons this CMRR bunker needs to be questioned -- also in the light of civil alternatives, that could in that case include investments into alternative energy production (to name just one possible priority of our time) and create employment that way.

The Los Alamos Study Group is not going to drop its lawsuit. It is aiming to win this lawsuit. And I am happy to mention that communities all over New Mexico, Pueblos, and towns along the 'Rio Grande Corridor' are stirring and are proposing resolutions in support of a full EIS.

All this noise has apparently also woken up Dr. Chu in his lair, and he and his staff announced that they are going to do their own study on the CMRR over a 6 weeks period. We think that the time Dr. Chu has set for himself is too short, to come to a final conclusion about the desirability of the CMRR, for the issues involved are complex and manifold, but I do want to say that the effort Dr Chu is making, while belated, is correct. At times I have been critical of Dr. Chu, but if this attempt to crock the CMRR is for real, I will withdraw all my snideness and give Dr. Chu the benefit of the doubt. I wish him insight and wisdom--the odds he is facing to come up with a balanced position are certainly enormous. 
Dr. Chu ...balanced position...
Meanwhile the projected costs are spiraling up. Earlier this year I had stated that the costs were around 4 billion but I was corrected by Mello: costs were 'only' at 3.4 billion at that time. However now, only a few months later, the latest we hear of, is the figure of 6 billion dollars to construct the CMRR-NF. This would represent a inflation rate of about 15 % per month (Of course.... this does not reflect the drop in value of the dollar itself in any way shape or it makes you wonder...).

Last word: About START. 
Instead of making START a treaty, let's downgrade it to an "International Agreement" between the USA and Russia. Unlike a "Treaty", this would only require a simple majority in congress. The fact that the president of the USA, Obama and the president of Russia, Medvedev, have signed this treaty, already means a commitment to live up to it. Compare it to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): even though the CTBT  signed by Clinton, never made its way through Congress, nevertheless there has not been any new nuclear bomb testing in the USA. It is binding

The people of the USA and in particular the people of New Mexico,  shouldn't be held hostage to building the CMRR-Nuclear Facility and all that it stands for, in order to sign START. In its final analysis, the START Treaty would be so much more significant if we don't built these monuments of doom at the same time. is the original article:
"New START", the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility and the LASG lawsuit against the DOE and NNSA

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