Friday, July 6, 2007

Plutonium Pit Party Points a Path to the Past

On Monday, July 2, Senator Pete Domenici, Representative Heather Wilson and others gathered at Los Alamos National Laboratories to “celebrate” the production of the first plutonium “pit” certified for use in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile since the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado in 1989. Noticeably absent were 1) a clear vision for the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, 2) a sustainable vision for the future of the national laboratories, and 3) the application of the best science and technical expertise to the real problems urgently facing the United States.

At the event, Senator Domenici reportedly said:
“The only thing that would keep [Los Alamos] from being the permanent pit manufacturing center would be if we don't get the physical facilities.”
But bricks and mortar are not the only consideration in scoping the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, as Sam Nunn and other national leaders have argued, an informed and careful national consideration of the future of U.S. nuclear weapon is urgently needed.

But in a nearby event sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility/New Mexico, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the New Mexico Conference of Churches, concerned citizens questioned whether the celebration might be miscast:

Dr. Mike McCally of Physicians for Social Responsibility said:

“Nuclear weapons development is just not needed... DOE laboratories and Los Alamos in particular are not focused on the urgent needs of the 21st century. Laboratory programs focused on energy, environment, nuclear proliferation, global warming, would be a cause for celebration.”
Former Vice President of Sandia National Laboratories, Robert Peurifoy, who joined by telephone said:
“They don't need to be replaced at this time because they are not broken…I'm not in favor of jumping in and replacing something just to have work.”
Why is Los Alamos building new pits when we have no urgent need for replacements and lots of crucial scientific and technical work urgently needed to support the national interest in areas like port security, nonproliferation verification, energy efficiency, terrorism prevention, and environmental remediation?

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