When OREPA and Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a lawsuit in July 2017 challenging the government’s environmental analysis of the UPF bomb plant, the government official response was dismissive. Over and over again, they brushed off our complaints with legal language that declared our arguments had no merit.
It turns out, though, that those words were not their final words. Or even the semi-final words. Even as it argued to the court that its previous environmental studies were adequate, the government secretly was preparing a second Supplement Analysis—a study of the previous document to determine whether it needs to be supplemented with additional information—a tacit admission that its previous analysis had gaping holes.
On May 19, the NNSA released the Supplement Analysis and, in a virtually unprecedented move, opened a 30-day public comment period, to end on June 20. Supplement Analyses never have a public comment period—they are internal documents that are prepared and released as final documents.
Not surprisingly, this SA scanned the earlier documentation, noted some minor deficiencies, and offered language designed to assure the court that they had taken a look at all the issues. In the end they determined no further environmental analysis is necessary.
They still don’t get it.
We are not persuaded. The analysis in the SA is weak and in many cases superficial. The most serious question—What are the environmental risks that come with the decision to press two out-of-compliance buildings into service for another 20-30 years?—is left unanswered.
In fact, NNSA says it doesn’t have the information needed to actually answer that question: instead, it will assemble a team of experts to evaluate the buildings, create some new computer models, and prepare a new analysis. No timeline for completing this evaluation is given.
Even as it admits that it is not using the most current earthquake hazard data and has not updated its construction standards, the government offers this assurance: “NNSA believes that it can continue to operate the enduring facilities in a safe manner for the foreseeable future.”
That’s it. The safety of workers and the public, the structural integrity of the aging facilities, comes down to an article of faith. Trust us, says the agency responsible for the half billion dollar space/fit fiasco. Trust us, says the agency that created its current UPF plan over three years of total secrecy, determinedly locking the public out of the process at every step. Trust us, says the agency that continues to insist it will bring its project in on time and on schedule, but refuses to show the budget or schedule to the public.
The work NNSA admits it has not yet done—figuring out the soundness of the old buildings it intends to use for 20-30 more years—is exactly the work that needs to be in the new Environmental Impact Statement we are asking for. In the meantime, workers are poised to begin construction of the UPF bomb plant according to a design that depends on certain operations being located in the out-of-compliance buildings 9215 and 9204-2E.
It is not clear whether or not construction on the UPF bomb plant itself has actually begun. In March, NNSA announced it had completed its baseline cost and schedule and had received Critical Decision-2/3 approval—Performance Baseline and Site Construction—for the project, authorizing the beginning of construction.
We know that significant “site preparation” work has been going on for some time—this is work that would look to you like construction, but in the arcane world of NNSA technicalities, it is not categorized as construction.
The April 2 weekly report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board indicates the Critical Decision approvals are conditioned on the contractor attaining an Earned Value Management System certification by June 2018 and completing all corrective actions identified in a final External Independent Review of the UPF plan.
In the Supplement Analysis, NNSA says work on one nuclear building has begun and is expected to begin in late May on the main UPF building.
The only thing we know for sure is that the money is flowing. Congress approved $663 million in this current year’s budget and the Senate has approved $700 million for next year.
Maybe if we all say it…
The new SA is open for public comment. Maybe if we all say it, directly, clearly and on the record, they will get it.
You do not have to be an expert to comment on the SA; it is important that we demonstrate to NNSA that people are paying attention and holding them accountable. This is something they are not used to.
Submitting comments is also a way to support the legal challenge. We will be able to tell the court that many people object to the piecemeal, half-hearted papering over of legitimate environmental, safety and health concerns.
You will find talking points in the box at right… Look them over, choose one or two, and write your message. It does not have to be long or fancy. Direct and from the heart are great. You are also not limited to the talking points here.
Your comments to the NNSA on the 2018 Supplement Analysis for the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Y-12 National Security Complex (DOE/EIS-0387-SA-02) must be submitted by June 20, 2018. Comments sent after that date may be considered by NNSA, but it isn’t required to consider them.
Here’s where to send your comments (choose one method):
Jack Zanger, Attn:
Y-12 SWEIS SA
P O Box 30030
Amarillo, TX 79120
You can also fax your comments to Mr. Zanger at 806 573 7108, or send them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Always reference Y-12 SWEIS SA.
If you want to read or download the SA, you can find it here: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2018/05/f51/EIS-0387-SA02-2018.pdf.