Radiation Leak Linked to Los Alamos; Do We Really Want Biological Agents There? via Indian Country

The cause of the radiation leak at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is still unresolved, but we know that it started with Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) and ended at the WIPP, shutting that facility down for a few more years and costing millions of dollars.

Yet even as LANL comes under criticism for its current issues, some government agencies are pushing to increase its production; another plan, coming from LANL itself, would involve the facility diversifying into handling hazardous biological agents. This isn’t sitting well with a lof of the New Mexicans who are following the radiation-leak saga.
NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn said on Sept 6, “The problem is that Department of Energy headquarters back in Washington, D.C., is looking at this situation through a political or (public relations) lens, so they’ve put a noose around the scientific personnel who can answer our questions and move this process along.” Flynn also said the DOE has thwarted attempts by the state NMED to gather information for its investigation. Flynn lauded LANL scientists who were in communication with him about possible causes, but DOE will not release documentation supporting the scientists. Flynn is questioning the whole “re-labelling” done by LANL and DOE, and says treating waste without a permit and labeling waste as less volatile than it actually is are violations.
[…]A series of media reports also puts LANL in a bad light, as they seem to support the idea that LANL will do as it pleases if left unaccountable. LANL fired James E. Doyle, a critic who openly supported President Obama’s non-proliferation agenda, and the Council of Concerned Scientists (founded by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer) immediately asked for his re-instatement. Doyle believes he was fired as part of a Washington campaign of retribution for his refusal to support the lab’s central mission, which is the continued development and production of nuclear arms, at a cost of almost $2 billion per year at Los Alamos. With declining military budgets and interest in things nuclear, LANL wants the funding to continue and quash dissent inside the Lab. Doyle said he was told his article, “Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?“, contained classified information by someone from the House Armed Services Committee even though the article had been approved.

“Classification has been used against me for the purposes of censorship of the article and retaliation against me for writing the article,” said Doyle, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Supporters say these won’t be for “new” weapons but to replace aging pits in the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Critics say LANL is now too small for the project and sits on a seismic fault. The current plutonium pits have a lifespan of 100 years, and have already been in use for around 50 years. Reporting to lawmakers in August, the Congressional Research Office described a national defense agenda to produce 30 war reserve plutonium pits per year by 2026 and up to 80 pits per year by 2030. Los Alamos started producing new plutonium pits in 2007, and has made only 30 since then. Before that the Rocky Flats, Colorado facility was closed down by the Feds in 1989 for “environmental crimes”, where they produced up to 2000 pits per year. At this point, Los Alamos is the only facility that can fulfill the project operationally, with major renovations and new funding of course.

An August 11 report says LANL is considering asking for funding to research biohazard agents.[…]
The report asked the National Nuclear Safety Administration to reconsider asking for the funding of the proposed lab extension at LANL for biohazard research. LANL is considering a $9.5 million expansion to open a “biosafety” lab that would study high risk agents “that cause serious and potentially lethal infections”. A building was erected for the project in 2003 but now has to be retrofitted to withstand high level seismic activity at a cost of about a half million dollars. The NNSA plan asks for another $8 million to build an additional lab to study “medium risk biological agents”. Critics counter that there are already other facilities set-up to deal with biological agents equally secure and less expensive.
LANL critic Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said “LANL should not try to do everything but should rather try to focus on doing a few things well…accepting that its nuclear weapons mission is going to be shrinking…” Local New Mexicans agree with Mello and LASG to encourage LANL to continue work on alternative energy, long life storage batteries and AIDS research.

Alex Jacobs
September 24, 2014

Read more.

Gov’t audit raps Los Alamos over lax handling of radioactive waste

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