Reading Room

for more information:
Bob Schaeffer, ANA, (239) 395-6773
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148

for immediate release Thursday, January 15, 2004

National Alliance For Nuclear Accountability, Community Groups Applaud U.S. EPA And California Regulators' Tough Criticism Of Energy Dept. "Risk-Based End States Vision" For Limiting Superfund Cleanup At Lawrence Livermore Lab

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California regulators, the City of Livermore and community residents have joined a growing chorus of criticism of the Risk-Based End States (RBES) process being pursued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to weaken cleanup plans at nuclear weapons sites across the country.

In a strong letter to DOE concerning the RBES "vision" for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Region IX of the U.S. EPA emphasized its criticisms, including:

  • "DOE's Vision proposes a groundwater cleanup alternative which has been previously rejected by DOE, EPA, and the State regulatory agencies."

  • "DOE's Vision sacrifices Long-Term Effectiveness and may pose a long-term liability for NNSA," the National Nuclear Security Agency, which operates the Livermore Lab under DOE.

  • "Perception of DOE's commitment to cleanup may be adversely affected."

  • "EPA, in consultation with the affected community groups and State agencies, finds DOE's Vision to fall short of the statute and promulgated regulations. . ."

The California Regional Water Quality Control Board also weighed in with a strong letter noting, "The DOE's definition of risk is short-sighted and short-term," claiming that the RBES plan would overthrow a legally binding agreement "mandating cleanup of contaminated water both on-site and off site."

The City of Livermore wrote that the RBES plan could result in "a groundwater table of inferior and unacceptable quality."

Tri-Valley CAREs, which represents nearly 4,000 area families, pointed out that RBES "will change the very nature of the cleanup strategy, including cleanup levels, the point of compliance and the continued search for new and more effective cleanup technology." The comment letter goes on to detail laws, regulations and agreements that RBES would abrogate.

Said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs who lives near Livermore Lab and on top of one of its contaminated groundwater plumes, "DOE is proposing to walk away from legally-binding obligations and let deadly poisons migrate willy nilly through the groundwater at Livermore and other nuclear weapons facilities; over my dead body!"

ANA previously released a letter from the Ohio office of the EPA regarding DOE's proposals for the Fernald plant which concluded that EPA "is not supportive of any of the proposed items on the master list" and "recommends no further pursuit of the actions proposed in the RBES document." As DOE pursues RBES, additional community groups, cities and state and federal agencies are going on the record to oppose it.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson recently labeled "extortion" a DOE attempt to withhold funds from the Los Alamos Lab unless the state agreed to weakened cleanup requirements.

The RBES process is the latest phase of DOE's "Accelerated Cleanup" program which ANA members have criticized for diverting energy from necessary environmental work and "leaving more radioactive and toxic wastes behind."

ANA is a national network representing the concerns of groups from communities downstream and downwind of U.S. nuclear weapons sites. Tri-Valley CAREs has been an ANA member organization since 1989.