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Thursday, March 08, 2007  
San Joaquin air officials rescind permit for testing nukes

By: AP
Published In: San Jose Mercury news

TRACY, Calif.- San Joaquin Valley air officials rescinded their decision to allow the federal government to test its nuclear weapons arsenal in the Altamont Hills after they learned the bombs would have radioactive material.

The San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District initially granted a permit to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory to test the 350-pound bombs on Site 300, a 7,000-acre open field owned by the lab off Interstate 580 near Tracy. But air officials changed course when they learned the tests would involve depleted uranium.

"They did not tell us they had radioactive emissions (in the explosives)," agency executive director Seyed Sadredin told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm not saying they tried to hide it. They did not think it (the radioactivity) was significant."

Sadredin said the agency found out about the radioactivity after local residents brought it to his attention.

Lawrence Livermore lab spokesman David Schwoegler defended lab officials' decision not to mention the use of depleted uranium in the original permit application.

"Generally, depleted uranium is not considered radioactive because its radioactivity level is so low as to be equal to or below background level," he said. "It is in the ballast of every sailboat and jetliner in commercial use."

Schwoegler said lab officials have not decided how to respond to the agency's decision, which was made public Wednesday.

The planned tests, which were to be conducted over the next 18 months, would have simulated full-scale nuclear weapons blasts. Because the U.S. halted testing of real nuclear bombs in 1992, officials have used depleted uranium to determine how well the nuclear weapons are holding up with age.

"If these huge explosions had been allowed to go forward, the hills, nearby waterways, the workers and the surrounding community would have all been put at risk," Loulena Miles, staff attorney for Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, said in a statement praising the agency's decision.

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