US officials: No new environmental study for nuclear lab

September 2, 2020 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The National Nuclear Security Administration says it doesn’t need to do an additional environmental review for Los Alamos National Laboratory before it begins producing key components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal because it has enough information.

Watchdog groups are concerned about Tuesday’s announcement, saying the plutonium pit production work will amount to a vast expansion of the lab’s nuclear mission and that more analysis should be done.

Los Alamos is preparing to resume and ramp up production of the plutonium cores used to trigger nuclear weapons. It’s facing a 2026 deadline to begin producing at least 30 cores a year — a mission that has support from the most senior Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation. The work is expected to bring jobs and billions of federal dollars to update buildings or construct new factories.


The work will be shared by the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which has been tasked with producing at least 50 plutonium cores a year.

The National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday released its final supplemental analysis of a site-wide environmental impact statement done for the lab more than a decade ago. The agency concluded that no further analysis is required.

Critics have pushed for a new environmental impact statement, saying the previous 2008 analysis didn’t consider a number of effects related to increased production, such as the pressure it puts on infrastructure, roads and the housing market.

“The notion that comprehensive environmental analysis is not needed for this gigantic program is a staggering insult to New Mexicans and an affront to any notion of environmental law and science,” Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said in a statement.

Lab officials last year detailed plans for $13 billion worth of construction projects over the next decade at the northern New Mexico complex as it prepares for plutonium pit production. About $3 billion of that would be spent on improvements to existing plutonium facilities for the pit work, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The lab also has said that it plans to add an additional 1,200 jobs to its workforce by 2026.