Dear Mr. Rose,
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) submits the following comments under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regarding the Draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Stockpile Stewardship and Management for a Modern Pit Facility (draft SPEIS) dated May 2003 by the National Nuclear Security Administration and Department of Energy (NNSA/DOE).
1. CCNS has found the 60-day comment period for the extensive draft SPEIS to be insufficient to adequately comment on the draft SPEIS. Despite numerous requests for an extension of the comment period of 30 to 60 days from around the country, NNSA/DOE have denied such a reasonable request from communities that will potentially be impacted by the proposed MPF. For example, communities, organizations and state agencies from around the state of New Mexico have requested and been denied an extension of time despite the fact that three of NNSA/DOE's options, including the No Action Alternative, would directly affect the state of New Mexico.
2. Upon careful review of the distribution list found in the draft SPEIS, CCNS has found that the draft SPEIS was not distributed to the Pueblos surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), including the Pueblos of Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Cochiti, Pojoaque, and Taos. 10-1. Please see enclosed articles.
The draft SPEIS was also not distributed to representatives of the University of California, LANL's managing contractor, although it was distributed to the managers of each of the four
other sites under consideration, as well as the University of Texas. CCNS believes it is imperative that the Pueblos and organizations have the opportunity to comment on the draft SPEIS, and requests that NNSA/DOE provide these groups with the draft SPEIS and extend the public comment period in order to facilitate thorough comment by both groups.
3. During the public meeting in Pojoaque on July 1, 2003, CCNS raised the issue of the limited amount of time for public comment, not only for individuals, but for the total number of people who desired to speak. Throughout the 15 years that CCNS has been testifying at NNSA/DOE public meetings and hearings, citizens and organizations interested in providing public comment could schedule a time to speak by utilizing a 1-800 telephone line. In addition, citizens were afforded five minutes to speak; organizations were given 10 minutes. On July 1, CCNS asked whether a new policy had been formulated by NNSA/DOE regarding public participation and whether that policy had been distributed for public comment. CCNS requests that the final SPEIS include the new policy, if there is one. If not, CCNS requests that NNSA/DOE explain the reasoning behind limiting public input at the MPF public meetings.
4. The draft SPEIS does not indicate a preferred site for the MPF and the final opportunity for public comment will end with this comment period. A site-specific draft SPEIS is necessary in order to adequately gauge specific environmental, health and transportation impacts that a MPF will present. CCNS recommends that NNSA/DOE produce a supplemental PEIS specifying a preferred site alternative and analyses of environmental impacts associated with that site. Furthermore, NNSA/DOE should host public meetings and hearings in the region in which the preferred site is located in order to receive public input.
5. The draft SPEIS does not account for costs of operation or eventual decontaminating and decommissioning of a MPF. The final SPEIS must provide in detail the projected cost of the 50-year lifespan of the facility. Considering that many of the proposed sites will require as many as 1,200 new workers, as well as their families, the final SPEIS should also analyze additional infrastructure costs to the surrounding communities.
6. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is a classified document, the drafting of which afforded no opportunity for public comment despite the major changes to national weapons policy that it proposes. The draft SPEIS says "the [Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)] confirms that a MPF production facility will be required for large-scale replacement of existing plutonium components and any production of new designs." 2-7. As it serves as the primary justification for the MPF, the NPR, or a summary thereof, should be presented to the public, subjected to a series of public meetings, and available for public comment under NEPA.
7. The draft SPEIS explicitly states that the MPF is required by the aforementioned classified analysis, which states that a long-term production facility with the "flexibility to produce pits of a new design in a timely manner" is required. 2-1. Recent examples of such new designs include the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or ³bunker buster,² and low-yield nuclear weapons, or "mini-nukes." These new designs have already raised significant international concern. For example, the British American Security Information Council recently reported that, "the development of low-yield nuclear weapons would appear to Chinese analysts and policymakers as further proof of U.S. hostility." They further reported that Chinese reaction to such weapons "may have a serious impact on stability in South Asia as India and Pakistan seek to maintain the regional military balance."1
Furthermore, the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was originally intended to facilitate "the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of their existing stockpiles, and the elimination of national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery pursuant to a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and efficient international control...." Considering that India and Pakistan face an already tense nuclear standoff, America's heightening that tension by even proposing the MPF would be a direct violation of the NPT.
8. The draft SPEIS says that the MPF is necessary because the safety and reliability of the plutonium pits already in the stockpile may be compromised by age. However, in a draft LANL report found in Appendix G of the draft SPEIS entitled "Plutonium Aging: Implications for Pit Lifetimes," is included an analysis of plutonium aging experiments by LANL that says, "To date, only minor age induced changes have been observed and there is no direct evidence that these affect pit performance, reliability and safety." G-58. Furthermore, scientist Richard Garwin reports that experience with pits in the current weapons stockpile indicates, "Pits are not expected to deteriorate for 60 to 90 years or more."2
One of the greatest concerns about pit aging is the accumulation of helium gas within the pit. However, the draft SPEIS states that "helium-induced changes are very small, and if they continue to increase at the predicted rate, will not affect weapon performance for pits in excess of 60 years." G-61. Therefore, the decision to construct and operate an MPF is not necessary for at least another seven to 37 years, which is the amount of time required, based on current estimates, for the existing stockpile to begin to deteriorate.
Furthermore, the draft SPEIS admits that the plutonium-239 that comprises the pit is aging very slowly. However, it cites current experiments in which 7.5 percent of the plutonium-239 is substituted with plutonium-238 in order to accelerate the aging process. NNSA/DOE has ample time to await the results of the accelerated aging experiments, which may be complete as early as 2006. However, NNSA/DOE should include in the final SPEIS the estimated time of completion for these experiments. If the experiments are complete by the time the final SPEIS is issued, results from those experiments should be included in the final SPEIS.
9. NNSA/DOE claims that the United States has been without the ability to produce stockpile certified plutonium pits since 1989. 2-1. This statement is false considering that there has been pit production capability at LANL for 60 years. In fact, LANL qualified all 42 processes required to produce a stockpile certified pit in December 2002 and produced one such pit in April 2003, one month prior to the release of the draft SPEIS.
10. Presidents Bush and Putin recently signed the Moscow Treaty, which requires both countries to reduce their number of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,700 to 2,200 each by 2012. Each of the MPF alternatives considered would produce pits far in excess of that number. For example, the 150 pits per year (ppy) alternative would produce 7,500 pits in the estimated 50-year lifespan of the MPF. The 250 ppy alternative would produce 12,500. The most extreme 450 ppy alternative would produce 22,500, which exceeds even the number of non-deployed weapons currently in the U.S. stockpile. Even the Technical Area-55 upgrade alternative at LANL, at the 80 ppy production rate, would produce more pits than are necessary to maintain the U.S. stockpile. The final SPEIS must explain why such a large number of pits will be necessary.
11. The draft SPEIS states that a new beryllium production facility will be required to support the MPF. 3-17. The environmental analysis provided in the draft SPEIS is insufficient for such a facility. A thorough NEPA process, with preparation of a draft SPEIS should be produced for the beryllium facility that is specific to the preferred site for the MPF and an adequate public meeting and hearing process and public comment period should be held under NEPA.
12. According to the draft SPEIS, one of the criteria that a site must meet in order to be considered for the MPF is that the site must not potentially be contaminated by previous DOE activities. 3-19. However, recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their contractors, ENSR International and Shonka Research Associates indicate that plutonium concentrations in soil in and around LANL are 100 times higher than those previously estimated by LANL.3 CCNS requests that the ENSR and Shonka sampling results be incorporated and analyzed in the final SPEIS.
13. The draft SPEIS states, "NNSA notes that additional legislation may be required to proceed with the construction and operation of the MPF at the Carlsbad Site either on land at the [Waste Isolation Pilot Plant] WIPP site or in the vicinity of the WIPP site." 3-22. NNSA/DOE assured New Mexico that the WIPP facility would be used only as a disposal facility. Therefore, the WIPP site should not be considered as a location for the MPF whether or not the required legislation is completed.
In addition, WIPP tied for last in the site-scoping criteria as potential location for the MPF under the categories of "NNSA Site" and "Infrastructure." G-12. Particularly considering that the infrastructure of the WIPP site is incapable of handling MPF operations, WIPP should not be considered as a candidate for the MPF.
14. As regards the plutonium recycling facility currently proposed for Savannah River Site, the draft SPEIS states, "Using one facility to simultaneously dispose of nuclear weapons and produce nuclear weapons components would likely raise significant concerns from Russia and the international community." 3-26. NNSA/DOE must account for what those concerns may be, and how that problem is resolved by locating the MPF at a separate facility. NNSA/DOE also must account for how it intends to respond to these international concerns as they emerge.
15. The draft SPEIS points out that WIPP and the Pantex Site currently have no on-site storage or disposal areas for low-level radioactive waste (LLW) and that those sites would ship their LLW to Nevada Test Site (NTS). 3-35. The draft SPEIS should account for the affects of construction and operation of the infrastructure that would be necessary to store and prepare LLW for transportation to and disposal at NTS.
16. The draft SPEIS describes results of DOE sampling of snowmelt. The draft SPEIS
A sample collected on March 28, 2001 contained 139 [picoCuries per liter (pCi/L)] of dissolved gross beta, which is greater than the [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA primary drinking water standard of 50 pCi/L. The same sample also contained 76.6 pCi/L of dissolved strontium-90, which is greater than EPA primary drinking water standard of 8 pCi/L. A different sample collected from another location on April 11, 2001 contained 14.9 pCi/L of dissolved strontium-90. Two unfiltered snowmelt samples collected on March 15 contained up to 26.8 pCi/L of gross alpha, 1.5 to 1.8 times the NM livestock watering standard. 4-18.
In the final SPEIS, NNSA/DOE should explain where these samples were collected and how it is that the results of these samples do not disqualify LANL as a potential MPF site under the criteria that a site should not already be potentially contaminated by DOE activities.
17. The draft SPEIS assumes an average radiation dose to all workers amounting to, "290 millrem per year (mrem)/yr for the 125 ppy facility, 390 mrem/yr for the 250 ppy facility, and 510 mrem/yr for the 450 ppy facility." 3-33. However, the draft SPEIS does not account for uneven distribution of dose amongst workers. Those who work directly with plutonium may receive a far greater dose than those who do not. The final SPEIS must include a more detailed and thorough account of impacts to workers, particularly dose distribution amongst the entire workforce.
However, the average doses provided in the draft SPEIS indicate that exposures at the MPF will exceed the internal DOE standard for exposure to workers, which limits individual worker doses to 0.25 mrem per hour, or 500 mrem annually.4 DOE would then be exceeding its own established standard meant to protect the health and safety of its workforce.
Furthermore, the draft SPEIS lists cancer fatality risk over the MPF's 50-year operating period as 3.2 cancer fatalities for a 125 ppy facility, 6 cancer fatalities for a 250 ppy facility and 11 cancer fatalities for a 450 ppy facility. 3-39. The draft SPEIS also states, "adverse health affects to MPF workers would approximately double in the event of double-shift operation." 5-49. Those cancer fatalities would then double to 6.4, 12, and 22 respectively. These projected deaths directly violate the requirements for employers to provide a safe workplace under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). This law states "it is the duty of each employer to provide a workplace that is free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." 6-12.
18. The draft SPEIS states that there is currently no mixed LLW or mixed transuranic (TRU) waste disposal facility at LANL or WIPP, but that the mixed LLW and mixed TRU will be sent to an appropriate commercial or DOE facility. 4-44. In the final SPEIS, NNSA/DOE must specify the preferred location for the facility so that transportation routes and possible impacts may be adequately analyzed.
19. The draft SPEIS states that the TRU waste generated by the MPF will adequately be disposed of at WIPP. However, WIPP will be closed by 2035 and recent estimates indicate that it will have reached capacity in the same year that the MPF is expected to begin operation. A recent report by the DOE's Office of the Inspector General found that if waste disposition at WIPP continues at its current rate, then by 2020, the repository would be unable to accommodate nearly 1,000 shipments of waste already scheduled for disposition at WIPP. 5 The draft SPEIS mentions that this discrepancy will be accounted for by a "new TRU waste repository similar to WIPP." 5-277. Plans for this supposed new repository must be made before the decision to proceed with the MPF is made. A full EIS, including public hearing and adequate comment period, must be held under NEPA.
20. LANL reported to the EPA that its radionuclide National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for 2002 was 1.69 mrem/year. The draft SPEIS states that, when combined with MPF-related airborne radionuclide emissions, "total radionuclide emissions at LANL would increase by a factor of 10." 5-17. Such emissions would exceed NESHAP standards of 10 mrem/yr by 6.9 mrem/yr. 40 CFR 61, Subpart H. The final SPEIS must address this proposed violation of radionuclide NESHAPS at LANL.
21. The draft SPEIS states that 250 and 450 ppy operations of the MPF at LANL would exceed LANL's maximum water allotment from Los Alamos County. 5-28. Furthermore, the MPF, in conjunction with the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement Project at LANL, will require 142% more water than is available toLANL. 5-275. The analysis of this shortfall is inadequate. The draft SPEIS says that Los Alamos County is currently pursuing water from the San Juan-Chama Transmountain Diversion project. The final SPEIS must address this potential diversion, including the amount of water expected to be allotted to LANL activities, specifically those related to operation of the MPF. Furthermore, diversion of the San Juan-Chama may affect the flow of the Rio Grande, which would therefore threaten the habitat of the endangered silvery minnow. The minnow must be included in the final SPEIS if the DOE/NNSA intends to use water from the San Juan-Chama Transmountain Diversion Project.
22. The draft SPEIS does not analyze site-specific accident scenarios, but instead analyzes only the six most serious potential accident scenarios. NNSA/DOE must analyze for site-specific accidents as well as accidents that begin offsite but directly affect site operations. The only natural phenomena evaluated in the draft SPEIS is earthquake with induced fire. Such a phenomenon has only a small chance of occurring. C-9. However, due to its location in a major wildfire zone, estimates indicate that LANL will be threatened by wildfire once every 10 years.6 Thus the chance of major wildfire is much greater than that of earthquake with induced fire.
The draft SPEIS does not analyze potential affects of wildfire on the MPF at LANL despite the fact that LANL has faced the threat of wildfire multiple times during its history and certainly will again.
The draft SPEIS does not account for potential increased airborne releases of radiological materials associated with wildfire or the potential affects to radiological workers and non-radiological workers associated with fighting a wildfire at the MPF.
23. The final SPEIS must include a detailed map of transportation routes associated with transportation of hazardous and radioactive materials to and from the MPF so that detailed accident scenarios can be investigated. Furthermore, the final
SPEIS must include a section detailing emergency response procedures for transportation of materials to and from the MPF.
In New Mexico, only 25% of trained Emergency Medical Service personnel and firefighters feel that they have adequate equipment to respond to a hazardous or radiological materials incident response and only 28% of Emergency Medical Technicians and firefighters feel that they are adequately trained to handle a radioactively contaminated patient. 7 Therefore, NNSA/DOE must provide adequate funding for equipment and training proper to handle emergency response for transportation incidents related to the MPF. The adequacy of existing conditions and detailed plans for improvement, completed in consultation with the New Mexico Department of Health, WIPP Medical Preparedness Coordinator, Injury Prevention and Emergency Medical Services Bureau, must be included in the final SPEIS.
24. The draft SPEIS does not include analysis of the waste that will potentially be produced by the environmental restoration and decontaminating and decommissioning activities at the end of the MPF's operating period. Waste generation estimates must include waste generated by environmental restoration and decontaminating and decommissioning activities. Decontaminating and decommissioning weapons facilities can produce huge volumes of waste that merit proper storage and disposal analysis before the building is constructed.
For example, decontaminating and decommissioning the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building at LANL is expected to generate 67,004 square meters of hazardous and radioactively contaminated material, as well as nearly three miles of contaminated steel pipe.8 In its draft SPEIS for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement Project, NNSA/DOE does not account for the storage and disposal of these large amounts of waste, which is a huge oversight. The final SPEIS must account for the waste that would be generated by the MPF decontamination and decommissioning procedures.
25. The Pollution Prevention Act states "it [is declared] to be the national policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible."9 MPF operating capacities are expected to represent an increase of TRU waste generation at LANL of 620, 780 and 1,200 percent for 125 ppy, 250 ppy and 450 ppy production capacities respectively. The MPF will increase LLW waste generation at LANL by 400, 600 and 900 percent respectively. It would be a violation of the Pollution Prevention Act to allow such a large increase of possible sources of pollutants. Therefore, either a serious attempt by NNSA/DOE should be made to reduce the production of waste by the MPF, or the facility should not be constructed and operated.
After careful consideration of the MPF draft SPEIS, it is the recommendation of CCNS that NNSA/DOE not proceed with a decision to construct and operate the MPF. NNSA/DOE has yet to justify the need for the MPF. The MPF poses serious threats to global safety and security. The MPF would also violate international treaties, state and federal standards, and its construction and operation may result in serious environmental and human health consequences.
Thank you very much for your consideration of CCNS's comments.
Media Network Coordinator
1British American Security Information Council, Bunker Busters: Washingtonıs Drive for New Nuclear Weapons, July 2002.
2 R.L. Garwin, Maintaining Nuclear Weapons Safe and Reliable Under a CTBT, AAAS Annual Meeting, February 16, 2001.
3 ENSR International and Shonka Research Associates, Inc., A Summary of Historical Operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Associated Off-Site Releases of Radionuclides and Other Toxic Materials, Version 2G Draft Report, February 22, 2002.
4 DOE Standard, Radiological Control DOE-STD-1098-99, July 1999.
5 U.S. DOE Office of Inspector Generalıs Office of Audit Services, Disposal of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, DOE/IG-0613, July 2003.
6Fire Investigation Team, National Interagency Fire Center, Cerro Grande Fire Prescribed Fire Report, May 18, 2000.
7 Yackey, Timothy and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, EMS Medical Preparedness for WIPP Accidents Responder Survey Results, May 2001.
8 DOE/NNSA, Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, May 2003. Page 2-30.
9 Pollution Prevention Act, 42 U.S.C. 13101 and 13102, s/s et seq., 1990.