fair.png
Friday July 30th, 2021 6:33PM

Groups ask Biden administration to reconsider nuke decision

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Watchdog groups want the Biden administration to reconsider a decision by a U.S. agency not to conduct a more extensive environmental review related to production of the plutonium cores used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The renewed request comes as federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina face a deadline of making 80 cores per year by 2030, with the first 30 due in five years.

With jobs and billions of dollars in spending at stake, the effort to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress over the years, especially among New Mexico Democrats whose districts stand to benefit from the economic windfall. The Biden administration has taken swift action to reverse some policies by the Trump administration but has yet to say whether it plans to push ahead with making more plutonium cores. It does say that work is being reviewed.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, South Carolina-based SRS Watch and California-based Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment sent a letter to the U.S. Energy Department last week, asking that a rigorous environmental review be done before production is ramped up at Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.

The groups have cited provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, saying plutonium core production would significantly increase the amount of radioactive and toxic wastes generated at the two locations and that the collective environmental effects need to be considered.

“We are hopeful that a review of programs with significant environmental impacts under NEPA will return to normalcy with the new presidential administration,” said Leslie Lenhardt, an attorney with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, which is representing the groups.

She said the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration have a new opportunity to revisit their Trump-era refusal for a more thorough environmental review.

The nuclear security agency said in an email to The Associated Press that the issues raised by the groups were considered during previous public participation opportunities.

The agency opted last fall to prepare a supplemental analysis of an environmental review done for Los Alamos more than a decade ago despite criticism that ramping up production at the lab goes beyond those initial plans and should be reexamined. A separate review was done for Savannah River.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokeswoman Ana Gamonal de Navarro said the decisions were consistent with the agency's legal obligations and there has been no guidance to revisit the decisions amid the presidential transition.

But she also noted that it's common for programs and activities to be reviewed under new leadership.

“NNSA’s approach to plutonium pit production will be included in this review process,” she said. “Until such a review is completed, NNSA will continue its current overall pit production timeline and strategy.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan and U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, both New Mexico Democrats, did not respond to questions about whether they would support a more extensive environmental review for the work planned at Los Alamos.

The city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County in January passed resolutions seeking further study.

Watchdog groups have raised concerns about contamination if new plutonium warhead factories are established in New Mexico and South Carolina that resemble the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado, which had a long history of leaks, fires and environmental violations and needed a $7 billion cleanup that took years to finish.

The mission of producing the plutonium cores began at Rocky Flats in the 1950s and was eventually moved to Los Alamos in the late 1990s. Dogged by safety problems and concerns about a lack of accountability, production at Los Alamos has happened in fits and starts over the years. It's been shut down at times, and only a handful of prototypes were made in fiscal year 2019.

The cost of the work also has spurred criticism. A 2019 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that expanded pit production plans could cost up to $9 billion over the next decade but that the estimate was very uncertain. The Government Accountability Office last year pointed to National Nuclear Security Administration and independent studies that have cast doubt on the agency's ability to prepare the two planned factories in time.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
South Carolina House passes bill restricting abortions
South Carolina House members have passed a bill banning almost all abortions in the state
2:24PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Biden's $15 wage proposal: Job killer or a boon for workers?
President Joe Biden’s effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could provide a welcome opportunity for someone like Cristian Cardona, a 21-year-old fast food worker
2:18PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Groups ask Biden administration to reconsider nuke decision
Watchdog groups want the Biden administration to reconsider a decision by a U.S. agency not to conduct a more extensive environmental review related to production of the plutonium cores used in the nation's nuclear arsenal
2:17PM ( 14 minutes ago )
U.S. News
From city halls, the plea for COVID-19 aid is bipartisan
Local government leaders are trying again to secure billions of dollars in federal aid as they cobble together city budgets amid the economic uncertainty of the pandemic
2:23PM ( 9 minutes ago )
New round of icy weather hits frigid Deep South
Parts of the frigid Deep South where wintry precipitation already has left thousands without power are getting still more snow and ice
2:20PM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: Timeline unclear for Texas power restoration
The power grid manager in Texas didn't have firm estimates Wednesday for when power would be restored for Texans, millions of whom have been without electricity in frigid temperatures since early Monday
2:11PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
UN chief urges global plan to reverse unfair vaccine access
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is sharply criticizing the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75 percent of vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible
1:37PM ( 54 minutes ago )
The Latest: Louisiana sees 3 deaths linked to winter weather
The Louisiana Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed three deaths related to winter weather this week
12:05PM ( 2 hours ago )
Ford to go all electric in Europe by 2030
Ford announced a major push into electric vehicles in Europe, vowing to convert its entire passenger car lineup on the continent to electrics by 2030
12:04PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Italy's Draghi urges unity, courage ahead of confidence vote
Italian Premier Mario Draghi has urged Italy’s polarized politicians to unite behind his new government to help the country confront the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought
10:14AM ( 4 hours ago )
News Corp latest to make deal with Google in Australia push
Australian Treasury Josh Frydenberg says Google is quickly negotiating generous deals with Australian media companies to pay for journalism as lawmakers consider forcing digital giants into such agreements
9:51AM ( 4 hours ago )
Italy's Draghi urges unity, sacrifice in fighting the virus
Italian Premier Mario Draghi has urged Italy’s polarized politicians to unite behind his new government to help the country confront the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought
8:44AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Australia news media 'large and small' discuss Google deals
Australian Treasury Josh Frydenberg says Google is quickly negotiating generous deals with Australian media companies to pay for journalism as the Parliament considers forcing digital giants into such agreements
12:53AM ( 13 hours ago )
Biden reframes goal on reopening of elementary schools
President Joe Biden is promising a majority of elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office
12:14AM ( 14 hours ago )
Murkowski says she can't fear fallout for impeachment vote
Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she knows her vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his recent Senate impeachment trial could have political consequences
11:09PM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
The Latest:
The White House says drugmaker Johnson & Johnson has just a “few million” doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in inventory ready to be distributed, should the Food and Drug Administration grant it emergency approval
12:28PM ( 2 hours ago )
Estonia report: Russia bets on COVID-19 weakening the West
Estonia’s foreign intelligence agency says Russia is counting on the COVID-19 pandemic to weaken unity in the West and help Moscow gain a more prominent role in international affairs
11:55AM ( 2 hours ago )
Former LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan hired as next CEO of USGA
Mike Whan is going from LPGA commissioner to the new CEO of the USGA
11:21AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Bosnian Serbs crossing border for vaccine
Dozens of Bosnian Serb medical workers have crossed into neighboring Serbia for vaccination as Belgrade seeks to show solidarity in the region after launching mass inoculation in the country
10:00AM ( 4 hours ago )
Wholesale prices surge 1.3% in January, led by energy spike
U.S. wholesale prices surged 1.3% in January, pushed higher by a big jump in energy costs
8:50AM ( 5 hours ago )
The Latest: Slovakia asks EU to send in medical workers
Slovakia is asking other European Union countries to deploy their medical personnel in the hard-hit country to help treat COVID-19 patients
7:07AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
South Carolina House passes bill restricting abortions
South Carolina House members have passed a bill banning almost all abortions in the state
2:24PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Rush Limbaugh, ‘voice of American conservatism,’ has died
Rush Limbaugh, the talk radio host who became the voice of American conservatism, has died
2:24PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Biden's $15 wage proposal: Job killer or a boon for workers?
President Joe Biden’s effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could provide a welcome opportunity for someone like Cristian Cardona, a 21-year-old fast food worker
2:18PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Crippling weather hampers vaccine deliveries, distribution
Just as vaccine efforts ramp up and gain speed, the icy blast across much of the United States injected more confusion and frustration into the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive on Wednesday
1:59PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Power outages linger for millions as another icy storm looms
Nearly 3.4 million utility customers around the U.S. are still without power in the aftermath of a winter storm
1:50PM ( 42 minutes ago )