NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION RELEASES RECORD OF DECISION: WE WILL BUILD THE $7.5 BILLION URANIUM PROCESSING FACILITY [NUCLEAR BOMB PLANT] IN OAK RIDGE, TN
It’s a YES on the new bomb plant for Oak Ridge. Last Wednesday, the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration published its Record of Decision in the Federal Register. And the decision was no surprise: they selected the alternative they previously identified as their “preferred alternative;” a Uranium Processing Facility with the capacity to produce 80 nuclear secondaries per year.
The Record of Decision came on the heels of an audit performed by the Army Corps of Engineers that projected the cost of construction will soar to $7.5 billion. Of course, no one imagines costs will be constrained to that total over the next twelve years of construction. With half a billion dollars already spent on designing the facility and designers saying they are only 50% complete, it is clear that neither common sense nor fiscal responsibility will stand in the way of the bomb plant.
Only we can do that.
The Record of Decision purported to address the concerns OREPA raised in it comments on the Final Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Y12, but it offered no substantive response to OREPA’s concerns, dismissing them with internal references to the Y12 Final SWEIS. You can read the Federal Register Notice here: Y12 SWEIS ROD.
In an unusual note, the NNSA stated that even as it chooses the Capability-Sized UPF (Alternative 4), it recognizes the No Net Production/Capability-Sized UPF (Alternative 5) is the “Environmentally Preferable Alternative.” Nevertheless, it chose the higher-capacity option. The only conceivable reason for a UPF (and a matching plutonium pit fabrication facility at Los Alamos) with an 80-warhead/year production capacity is full-scale production of new warheads, whether “new” design or “modification” of existing warheads.
If you do the math, you’ll see an 80-warhead/year production capacity, along with a 1550 warhead limit under the current START Treaty, means the US will have the capacity to reconstitute its entire nuclear stockpile every 20 years. Why do we need this capacity when, according to the DOE, warheads have a 45 year design life—and according to the independent JASON report, it’s more like 85 years?
Of course, the immediate question is “What can we do?” Here are three possible paths forward. They are not mutually exclusive.
1. Continue to build public opposition that can be turned into political power.
You may know a lot about the UPF because you’ve been getting information from OREPA and others. But most people have no idea the government is building new bomb plants in New Mexico, Kansas City and Oak Ridge. So we have to let more people know—you can share this email widely, point people to OREPA’s web site, ask for a speaker to come to your town, write letters to the editor, host a house party for OREPA (not as hard as you think!).
The point is there are things you can do, and encourage others to do, and they are not terribly difficult. But doing them takes time, focus, energy. Not enough of us are doing them.
As we bring more people into the light, we mobilize more strength for the political struggle that can undo the UPF.
2. Turn up the heat in the budget process.
They can’t build the bomb plant without money, and the money comes from Congress, who gets it from us. While some people do tax resistance to deny the government the wherewithal to fight wars and build bomb plants, that is not the only thing you can do.
Congress is very fiscally conscious right now, so your Senators and Representative need to hear from you about the wasteful $7.5 billion bomb plant in Oak Ridge. If they hear from enough of us, they might be compelled to listen.
You can send letters and emails directly to your Congresspeople; you can phone them. You can develop petitions (a good way to educate others as well as communicate the power of numbers to Congress)—we’ll help. You can write a letter to the editor and mention your elected officials—their staff will clip the letter and they will see it. You can go to a town meeting and ask why this huge bomb plant is being built, why its price just keeps skyrocketing, why we are investing in more nuclear weapons infrastructure while we are telling the rest of the world “No.” You can ask what sense that makes. And when you get an insufficient answer, you can urge them to start paying attention to this critical issue.
With the publication of the Record of Decision, the time is ripe to challenge the SWEIS in court. While a lot of us find it enervating to growl, “Sue the bastards!” it’s not quite that clear cut.
First, we have to have a decent case. We think we have set ourselves up for a successful lawsuit with our careful participation in this SWEIS process from beginning to end, and now we are asking some experienced lawyers to consult with us.
Second, we have to have money. We have said this before but, not terribly surprising in this climate, we were not buried in checks—we received a few hundred dollars; it will take considerably more to retain counsel for a credible legal challenge.
Third, we have to have experienced legal assistance. We have had conversations with a couple of national organizations that have a history of successfully challenging government agencies on environmental issues, and we are optimistic that we can form a powerful partnership if we can hold up our end.
Helping OREPA Push On
OREPA’s Board of Directors and our membership are committed to doing everything we can to stop the UPF. Our coordinator has worked without salary to keep the momentum going; our volunteers take on additional work without complaint to get newsletters and reflection booklets and funding appeals out. But it would all be easier if our financial pressures were relieved a bit.
We regularly send out appeal letters—and most of you get them, we know. But if you aren’t currently a donor, or if you haven’t given in a while, OREPA could use your help. You can donate on line with a credit card (it’s a secure transaction) by clicking the Donate Now button at the top of the page. Or send a check to OREPA, P O Box 5743, Oak Ridge, TN 37831. Contributions are tax deductible.
Your contribution will enable us to educate more people, to mount a stronger media campaign, to increase pressure on decision-makers in DC, and to create a roadblock through litigation.
Please ask yourself today how important it is that we stop this new bomb plant, and then make an investment in OREPA’s work.
There are things we can do NOW to stop the new bomb plant that we will not be able to do in one year or two. But we need the resources to do them.