Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 9, 2006
"Moon Suits" & Mad Cow For Central Valley, Bay Area?
Livermore Lab "Site 300" on Dept. of Homeland Security List to be Announced Today: Community Group Opposes "Mixing Bugs and Bombs" at Nuclear Weapons Lab, Cites Health and Environmental Concerns
for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley, executive director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, staff attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
LIVERMORE -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is poised to announce later today that the joint University of Calif.-Livermore Lab bid to construct and operate a massive biodefense complex at the Livermore Lab's "Site 300" has been placed on the agency's "short list" of sites under consideration.
If Livermore Lab's Site 300 is chosen to house this new biodefense mega-plex, it will, by definition, include agriculture biocontainment labs for what are euphemistically called "high consequence" bio-agents - including foreign animal diseases and human pathogens requiring Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) and BSL-4 research space.
500,000 Square Feet of Lab Space: Moon Suits, Mad Cow and Ebola, too?
According to the DHS federal register notice, the mega-complex of biolabs (e.g., BSL-3s and BSL-4s) would encompass 500,000 square feet - and the biodefense research would also require a minimum of 30-acres in order to carry out biological experiments on livestock such as cattle, sheep and swine. The inclusion of livestock in the proposal makes it extremely likely that mad cow disease and avian flu will be in the mix of deadly agents to be handled, and perhaps genetically modified, at the site.
BSL-4 is the highest level of containment, where researchers wear "moon suits" for protection. The BSL-4 designation is reserved for sites that experiment with the deadliest agents, such as the Ebola virus, for which there is no known cure. BSL-3 is the designation that permits sites to experiment with and aerosolize (spray) potentially fatal pathogens, such as live anthrax, Q fever and plague. (Note: Tri-Valley CAREs' bio-warfare agent research lawsuit against the Dept. of Energy involves a planned BSL-3 at the Livermore Lab main site. That suit was filed in 2003, and a decision is expected soon from the court.)
Tri-Valley CAREs Cites Regional, International Risks
"Tri-Valley CAREs is concerned about the types of experiments that would be conducted in the Central Valley, which is our state's ranching and agricultural heartland," stated Loulena Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs' staff attorney. "A release could devastate the state's economy. Moreover, housing developments and the Tracy City limits are rapidly expanding out toward Site 300."
"We believe that advanced bio-warfare agent research should not be located at nuclear weapons facilities, whether at the Livermore Lab main site or Site 300, said Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director, Marylia Kelley. "Mixing 'bugs and bombs' sends the wrong message to the world. How would the U.S. dispel suspicion about the scope and intent of its bio-warfare agent research when the activities are carried out at a highly classified nuclear weapons site?"
Kelley continued: "This situation could result in a weakening of the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty intended to prevent the development and spread of bioweapons. In particular, it could stymie negotiations on verification and enforcement protocols for the treaty."
This past spring, Tri-Valley CAREs revealed that the Livermore Lab and UC had stealthily submitted an "expression of interest," to build a 30-acre bio mega-plex at Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy. The group challenged the Regents of the University to make public the details of the bid.
The University rejected Tri-Valley CAREs' public records act request. UC refused to release a single iota of information, not even the cover page, claiming the bid was exempt from public disclosure in its entirety.
"In essence, a classified nuclear weapons lab and the University that manages it have submitted a covert plan to what may be the government's most secretive agency to build what may be the site's most dangerous facility," Kelley charged.
Moreover, she noted, "Site 300 has already been heavily contaminated by nuclear weapons work. It is on the EPA's 'Superfund' list of most polluted locations in the country."
Tri-Valley CAREs is sponsoring a community workshop on September 12 at 7 PM, 501 W. Grantline Road, Tracy. We will have expert panelists on bio-safety and on U.S. biodefense policy. (Download the flyer for that event here.)
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Update -- IT'S OFFICIAL NOW --
Here is the link to Department of Homeland Security (click on Press) http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=5790
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