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Tuesday, June 06, 2006  
Judge to hear concerns over proposal for bioware lab

By: Knight Ridder
Published In: San Jose Mercury News


Judge to hear concerns over proposal for biowarfare lab

A federal judge will consider Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's plans to build a new ``hotlab'' to study anthrax, plague and other deadly pathogens.

The hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, is the latest development in a battle over the ``Biosafety Level 3'' facility.

Livermore-based Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment and other watchdog groups claim the Department of Energy didn't do an adequate assessment of the potential environmental effects of locating such a facility in Livermore.

``It is outrageous'' that the Energy Department ``granted itself the go-ahead to operate this facility without conducting thorough analyses of the risks to workers and neighbors,'' said Marylia Kelley, executive director of the Tri-Valley group.

The group's main concerns are potential for damage to the lab by terrorist attacks and earthquakes. They argue that combining nuclear materials and biowarfare agents would make the lab an even more attractive target for terrorists, and two active earthquake faults lie within two miles of the proposed facility.

Tri-Valley CAREs originally sued the Energy Department over proposed hotlabs at Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories in August 2003. The following December, a federal judge barred shipments of biological agents including botulism, anthrax, plague, valley fever and Q fever until a final decision on the lawsuit was made. In September 2004, the judge gave Livermore's biosafety lab the go-ahead.

The Livermore facility is expected to be ready to open in two months pending safety and readiness reviews.

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