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Taos and Santa Fe need cleanup of Los Alamos, not nuclear weapons

missile-moneya comprehensive cleanup of Area G, the Lab’s biggest
radioactive dump, could create hundreds of high paying jobs while
permanently protecting the environment. The cities and counties of
Taos and Santa Fe should be pushing the New Mexico Environment
Department (NMED) to require comprehensive cleanup, and they should
insist on that now

Taos should back LANL cleanup, not nuclear weapons
http://www.taosnews.com/opinion/article_f8ef67d6-60d5-11e2-abf3-001a4bcf887a.html
17 Jan 13,
Just under two-thirds of Los Alamos Lab’s annual $2.3 billion budget
is for core nuclear weapons programs, and all remaining LANL programs
support them through excessive overhead and internal lab taxes.
Nevertheless, the city and county of Taos have joined a “Regional
Coalition of LANL Communities” funded by the Department of Energy and
the Los Alamos County government (which is enriched by gross receipts
taxes on Lab operations).

The original purpose of the Regional Coalition was to have local
governments lobby Congress in support of the Lab’s cleanup budget, but
this has already been compromised into supporting LANL’s budget in
general.

The city and county of Taos should be clear and insistent
that it is cleanup they support, and not nuclear weapons programs!
Asking local governments to support any portion of the Lab’s budget in
effect asks them what they can do for LANL. The question should be
reversed: what can LANL do for northern New Mexico? Can there be a
starker example of the privileged 1 percent and the remaining 99
percent than Los Alamos County and the rest of the state?
Here you have the second richest county in the U.S. in per capita
income, with the most millionaire households per capita, while New
Mexico has the highest rate of poverty (22 percent of all citizens).
Here you have a county that is more than 80 percent non-Hispanic
Caucasian, in the only state where so-called minority populations are
the majority.
Here you have a state in which the nuclear weapons labs constantly
tout their economic importance, but what good have they really done
for the average New Mexican? How does that jibe with the fact that New
Mexico has slipped from being 37th in per capita income in 1959 to
bumping along the bottom in 2012, along with so many other
socioeconomic indicators?
Politicians must be realistic about LANL’s future. Nuclear weapons
programs will shrink over time (as they should), and major
alternatives will pretty much be ruled out by the Lab’s astronomically
high overhead rate of 50 percent.

LANL is simply incapable of competition, and therefore will not
attract major investments in, for example, renewable energy
technologies. Further, the Lab is no longer protected by the seniority
of Sens. Domenici and Bingaman, and there are 98 other senators out
there with long budget knives.
If local governments and the New Mexican congressional delegation
really want job creation they should push hard for comprehensive
cleanup. But be warned that this is exactly where the regional
coalition could stand in the way. In a fact sheet about itself it
declares upfront investments in regional, governmental partnerships
yield significant returns for the taxpayer. At Rocky Flats, for
instance, DOE provided the local government organization approximately
$300,000/year for seven years. In return, DOE was able to proactively
resolve complex technical and policy issues…. resolving those issues
with local elected officials was part of the reason Rocky Flats closed
years early, saving the taxpayer billions of dollars.
This smacks of payoffs to local governments to buy their assent for
cleanup on the cheap. So-called cleanup at Rocky Flats (from which Los
Alamos has inherited the plutonium pit production mission) was such
that heavily contaminated soils were only lightly treated below 3
feet, and not at all below 6 feet. This may sound okay, but some of
the most dangerous and polluted plutonium facilities in the U.S. were
collapsed into their own basements and buried left untreated. To top
it off, knowing that Rocky Flat’s “cleanup” could meet never meet
residential standards, the U.S. government turned it into a wildlife
refuge with the stroke of a pen.
If local governments here really want job creation they should insist
on comprehensive cleanup at LANL. The estimated $6 billion for the now
postponed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project for
expanded plutonium pit production at LANL was NOT going to produce a
single new permanent job (instead it would have merely relocated
existing jobs).
In contrast, comprehensive cleanup of Area G, the Lab’s biggest
radioactive dump, could create hundreds of high paying jobs while
permanently protecting the environment. The cities and counties of
Taos and Santa Fe should be pushing the New Mexico Environment
Department (NMED) to require comprehensive cleanup, and they should
insist on that now. A NMED decision to approve the Lab’s proposal to
“cap and cover” and leave some 6 million cubic feet of radioactive and
hazardous wastes buried forever above the Río Grande is expected soon.

January 18, 2013 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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