Bombing New Mexico: The Impacts of the MPF on waste generation at LANL


Don't Let New Mexico Go to the Pits!!!

No New Bomb Factory, No Where, No Way

The Bush administration plans to develop the capacity for building new "usable" nuclear weapons. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have proposed a new nuclear bomb factory, called the "Modern Pit Facility." The new factory replaces the Rocky Flats Plant, which was shut down in 1989 because of major health and environmental problems caused by the manufacturing of plutonium "pits," the core of nuclear weapons. The MPF is scheduled to operate from 2018 until 2070 and is designed to produce around 500 pits or more per year, comparable to Cold War rates.

Where will the MPF be located?
The DOE and NNSA have proposed five sites: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), Nevada Test Site, Pantex Plant in Texas and Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. Final selection is scheduled for early 2004.

Why is the MPF being proposed?
The U.S. presently has over 10,000 nuclear weapons as well as an additional 12,000 plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Plant in Texas. The NNSA claims that due to potential aging effects, the U.S. could lose half of its nuclear weapons stockpile overnight. However, in 1996 the DOE formally stated that aging effects had never been observed in pits up to 30 years old. Plutonium-239, the primary isotope used in plutonium pits, has a half life of 24,000 years and thus 50 years is a minute portion of the plutonium-239 lifespan.

What about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
Article VI of the NPT requires the U.S. and more than 180 other nations "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." The Moscow Treaty signed by Presidents Bush and Putin in May 2003 requires the U.S. and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2013. Nonetheless, Bush administration policy is to keep a substantial nuclear arsenal and to build new nuclear weapons. In fact, present U.S. spending on nuclear weapons exceeds Cold War budgets. Current plans are that the MPF would begin operating in 2018 and be capable of producing 125 to 500 pits each year until 2070.

Additional MPF facts:

  • Construction alone of the MPF is expected to cost up to $4.4 billion, excluding eventual decontamination, decommissioning and cleanup.

  • Plutonium pit production is inherently dangerous. When inhaled, dust specks of plutonium cause lung cancer. The Rocky Flats Plant was shut down because of major health and environmental problems.

  • The MPF will likely be used to produce new types of nuclear weapons. The Pentagon may not be willing to deploy them without testing, thus potentially prompting the U.S. to stop observing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and resume full scale testing.

  • If the MPF is not properly managed, the air, water and soil can be contaminated with radioactive and hazardous particles. These particles may travel for many miles, contaminating the biosphere which sustains crops, animals and humans.

  • The DOE has a poor cleanup record, leaving dangerous amounts of radioactive and hazardous materials in the soil and groundwater. In addition, DOE does not account for the fact that new waste plants, other than WIPP, will be needed to accommodate waste generated by the MPF.

  • Although the MPF will create new jobs, it will be at the expense of potential contamination of important resources, while setting a dangerous precedent by encouraging another nuclear arms race. Instead, funding could be spent on health care, education and creating jobs in other areas, such as safe and renewable energy.

  • If the MPF is constructed at LANL and runs at full operation (500 pits per year), DOE will need to purchase additional water rights.

  • WIPP, a radioactive waste disposal site, is currently barred from military activity. Congress would have to repeal or amend the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act.

What you can do:

Call your Senators and ask them to cut the funding for the MPF in the Senate Energy and Water bill, which ios expected to be considered soon!

Accomplishments so far:

  • Produced 1,000 signs and 7,500 informational brochures about the MPF and distributed to businesses and individuals throughout Northern New Mexico and the U.S.
  • Participated in national MPF organizing through conference calls and by providing artwork opposing the MPF to groups in Nevada, South Carolina, and Georgia. We gave presentations and workshops in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Carlsbad, and Amarillo, Texas.
  • Performed outreach to youth through Youth Works, a Santa Fe-based program that activates at-risk youth.
  • Provided Pueblo representatives with information and materials for distribution.
  • Informed New Mexico Environment Department about DOE1s failure to provide copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to local Pueblos in a timely manner. The DOE thus granted an extension of the comment period on the DEIS for tribal sovereign nations until August 25.
  • Had in-depth discussion with representatives of Senator Jeff Bingaman regarding our concerns about the MPF, Bingaman's position on the issue, and DOE's oversight of the Pueblos.
  • Appeared on talk shows, including local radio shows on KSFR, KUNM and KBAC and nationally on WBAI, New York. We also were quoted in the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • Encouraged citizens to participate in the public meeting in Pojoaque. Over 200 members of our extended community attended. Over 70 speakers unanimously opposed the MPF.
  • At the Pojoaque meeting, we presented 122 signed comment letters to Jay Rose, NNSA Document Manager, opposing the MPF. We collected these letters while tabling at the Marketplace and at local events, such as the Human Rights Alliance Pride Day, Taos Solar Music Festival, Peace Day, Pax Christi's Disarm Los Alamos National Laboratory event, Hands Around Livermore at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, national meeting of the Loretto Community, Tewa Women United's Gathering for Mother Earth, and presentations by Maude Barlow (author of Blue Gold), Cornel West, Amy Goodman, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and Kathy Kelly.
  • An additional 211 signed comment letters were sent by CCNS to Jay Rose with copies to New Mexico's congressional representatives.
  • While tabling at events, we encouraged tourists from states including California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Massachusetts, Missouri South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin to call their elected congressional members and ask them to cut the funding for the MPF. This resulted in the House of Representatives cutting the MPF budget in half.
  • Worked with the Santa Fe City Council to pass the first resolution in the nation opposing the construction and operation of the MPF in Northern New Mexico or anywhere.
  • Working with the County of Santa Fe to adopt a resolution similar to that of the City of Santa Fe.
  • Have initiated a national campaign encouraging cities nationwide to adopt similar resolutions. We have contacted representatives in 76 city councils and provided them with letters of introduction, MPF brochures, the City of Santa Fe's resolution, and talking points by Nuclear Watch of New Mexico.
  • Are working with groups nationwide to put public pressure on their city councils to pass similar resolutions. These groups include Peace Action, the Loretto Community, Nuclear Information and Research Service, and many nuclear activist groups.