Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
Petition to Prevent the Transport of Plutonium Bomb Cores Back and Forth Between Los Alamos, New Mexico and Livermore, California
Tri-Valley CAREs launched a new campaign against a dangerous and potentially unlawful government proposal to transport plutonium bomb cores from the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico to the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California.
Plutonium bomb cores, often called pits, are Category I/II special nuclear material, requiring the highest level of security. However, the security designation at Livermore Lab was formally downgraded from Category I/II to the lesser Category III on September 30, 2012, meaning the facility is not authorized to handle the pits that could begin arriving as early as "within the next year or so" according to government sources we interviewed.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration is currently planning to truck these plutonium bomb cores across three states to Livermore Lab in order to utilize a relatively small set of diagnostics located in Building 334. The three pieces of diagnostic equipment are a "shaker pit," "thermal chamber," and "drop test." They simulate the conditions a pit may encounter in a "storage, transportation or use environment."
Following the diagnostic tests in Livermore, we are told that the plutonium bomb cores will be put back in trucks and taken on the road again to Los Alamos. One government official told us that the plutonium bomb cores could crisscross back and forth through New Mexico, Arizona and California "around six times per year."
This plan raises a host of questions, including whether the diagnostic tests are necessary. According to the DOE Inspector General, this set of diagnostics sat dormant at Livermore Lab from 2005 to 2011. During that period, Los Alamos produced plutonium pits for the arsenal without it. Hence, our valid inquiry into whether it is really needed. The DOE has not yet publically answered that key threshold question.
Next comes the question of whether the diagnostic suite could be moved to the pits rather than repeatedly putting the plutonium bomb cores on the road to the diagnostic. We know that DOE considered permanently relocating these diagnostics in 2008 and concluded it would take four trucks to do so.
The facts lead us to ask, also, whether the Livermore Lab weapons designers may be clutching these diagnostics as their last chance to retain a "full-service" bomb design mission following the permanent removal of Category I/II quantities of special nuclear material in September 2012. If true, it would mean that the weapons designers are putting millions of people at risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident, theft or release to serve their personal "plutonium envy."
Hauling plutonium bomb cores around and operating this diagnostic at a site that lacks the absolutely essential Category I/II security infrastructure, puts the public in the gravest possible danger.
Further, this DOE plan has never undergone any analysis pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), our nation's basic environmental law. Like all federal agencies, the DOE is required to integrate NEPA into its activities at the earliest possible time. Due to the steps already taken with this novel and dangerous proposal to bring plutonium pits to Livermore Lab after completing security reductions there, we believe that the agency is out of compliance with the law. The DOE must either change its plan, or, at a minimum, undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement before proceeding.
WHEREAS, these nuclear bomb cores will be transported back and forth on trucks through three states - New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
WHEREAS, the government lowered the security at Livermore Lab on September 30, 2012 so that the facility has no authorization to handle, test or store nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium, including these bomb cores.
WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration has proposed trucking plutonium bomb cores from its Los Alamos Lab in NM to Livermore Lab in the Bay Area, despite its lack of security.
WHEREAS, the bomb cores would undergo diagnostic tests at Livermore Lab that involve a “shaker pit,” “thermal chamber,” and “drop test” that simulate conditions during the bombs’ “storage, transportation or use environment.”
WHEREAS, after completing these diagnostic tests in Livermore, the plutonium bomb cores would be loaded back on trucks and sent on the road again to Los Alamos.
WHEREAS, publically available DOE documents state that it would take only 4 trucks to move the diagnostics from Livermore Lab to a more secure location at or near the bomb cores, thus reducing or eliminating their transport.
WHEREAS, these diagnostic tests were not performed on any of the nation’s plutonium bomb cores for a period of about six years, from 2005 to 2011, and the DOE has not publically justified a “need” to resume them now.
WHEREAS, the proposal to bring plutonium bomb cores to Livermore Lab, with its reduced security status, has never been analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act, our nation’s most basic environmental protection law.
WHEREAS, this proposal may, therefore, be illegal as well as dangerous.
THEREFORE, WE CALL ON THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY TO CANCEL ITS PLAN TO TRANSPORT PLUTONIUM BOMB CORES TO LIVERMORE LAB. WE FURTHER CALL ON THE AGENCY TO PRIORITIZE ALTERNATIVES THAT WOULD REDUCE OR ELIMINATE TRANSPORTATION RISKS.