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Court Forces Additional Environmental Review for New Bomb Plant at Y-12

Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Posted by Marylia Kelley

Environmental Review for New Bomb Plant

The U.S. is in the midst of a $2 Trillion program to create and build new nuclear weapons and the means to use them, as outlined in the Trump Administration Nuclear Posture Review. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) plan to build 80 or more uranium secondaries each year at the Y-12 Complex in TN is part of this overall nuclear “modernization” scheme. Secondaries are the latter stage of a nuclear explosion that makes the weapon a more powerful Hydrogen Bomb, or H-Bomb.

Litigation by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and others won a partial victory recently when the federal judge ordered NNSA to undertake additional environmental review, principally to include 2014 seismic data that the agency had ignored. The court order demonstrated NNSA was justifying its project in part by using outmoded data that understated the frequency and severity of seismic threats at Y-12.

The NNSA decided to undertake the court-mandated review in the form of a Supplement Analysis, which is a low-level, lesser review than an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act. Tri-Valley CAREs and groups across the country joined the plaintiff organizations in their call for the more comprehensive review.

At issue is the NNSA's decision to: (a) build a new Uranium Processing Facility to ramp up production of new secondaries for new weapons; and, also for new secondary production, (b) continue using two dangerous aging facilities that had been slated for closure years ago. At Y-12, as elsewhere, NNSA is prioritizing new weapons production over worker and public safety.

In the middle of a pandemic, NNSA released its draft SA for public comment in April 2020 with a scant 45-day public comment period. In doing so, the agency ignored calls from Tri-Valley CAREs and dozens of other organizations asking that the agency keep the comment period open until the national emergency was over.

The agency similarly ignored requests from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and other local folks to hold a public hearing in TN when safe. Indeed, no public hearing of any kind has been - or will be - held. This project is on the NNSA “fast track.”

Tri-Valley CAREs submitted comments on May 26, which was the NNSA deadline. We objected to the lack of a true public process as well as the many deficiencies in the draft SA itself.

Our succinct comment letter is below. We are also sharing the comments of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, seismic expert David Jackson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles, and attorneys Nick Lawton and Geoff Fettus. We are providing a link to the draft SA as well.

CLICK HERE for Tri-Valley CAREs’ comments

CLICK HERE for Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance’s comments

CLICK HERE for Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s comments

CLICK HERE for Professor David Jackson’s comments

CLICK HERE for the comments submitted by attorneys Lawton and Fettus

CLICK HERE for the NNSA’s Draft Supplement Analysis