Reading Room

Thursday, December 08, 2005  
No EIS for Biolab in Livermore

By: Editorial Board
Published In: The Independent, Vol XLII, No. 49

The Department of Energy has just announced that it will be preparing a full environmental impact statement for an already constructed advanced bioresearch facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). There will not be a similar study of a biolab at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Loulena Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs Staff Attorney, observed, "We're happy that the Department of Energy has decided to thoroughly study the risks and impacts from the Los Alamos biolabs. However, we're appauled and mystified as to why the Department of Energy would choose to only conduct a faulty, low-level environmental review for Livermore's prefabricated biolab. Many health, safety and security concerns were not addressed in the Livermore biolab's environmental assessment."

The Los Alamos biolab is designated as a Biosafety Level-3 facility meant to handle and process pathogens such as anthrax, plague and Q fever, just short of the highest "4" level reserved for diseases like Ebola.

In 2002 DOE completed a lesser environmental assessment that led to a "Finding of No Significant Impact," giving a green light to operations at the LANL's biolab without rigorous scrutiny of environmental impacts. Shortly thereafter, DOE also completed a low-level environmental assessment for a BSL-3 facility at the Lawrence Livemrore National Laboratory in California.

Because of the link between the two proposed facilities, two allied citizens groups, Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and Liverore-based Tri-Valley CAREs, filed a suit in the federal 9th circuit in August 2003. In January 2004, DOE withdrew its approval for the LANL biolab, and through its announcement of intent to prepare an EIS, adopted the position of Nuclear Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs.

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