The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently announced it will release, for public comment, a draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The SWEIS is necessary for continued operation of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore Lab) Main Site and the Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy.
The announcement follows a lengthy delay by the agency in addressing multiple environmental issues that will form the basis for the SWEIS; a review document will analyze existing and newly proposed programs at Livermore Lab using radioactive materials.
Ongoing issues include EPA Superfund cleanup work for toxic and radioactive materials that will take generations to complete (estimates range from 40 to 60 years) … longer if new accidents and spills add to the pollution from past activities.
We also know that thousands of LLNL employees have one or more of the 22 cancers that qualify for Energy Employees Occupational Illness and Compensation Program benefits. These cancers are associated with exposures to radioactive and toxic materials that have been part of their jobs.
New issues include Livermore Lab’s role in NNSA plans for expanded plutonium bomb core production. Other NNSA documents show that Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico plans to ship plutonium to Livermore for materials testing as part of its bomb core manufacturing program. The SWEIS should offer full disclosure regarding the extent of Livermore’s involvement.
Also new is a plan to increase the radioactive materials used in the National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab. According to NNSA, there will be additional airborne emissions of radioactive tritium coming from the mega-laser. The SWEIS will disclose whether, and by how much, the “allowable limits” will rise for tritium, plutonium and other radioactive materials used in Livermore Lab experiments.
Tri-Valley CAREs (Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), a non-profit organization, has served to watchdog Livermore Lab since 1983, frequently speaking out on Lab safety issues. In 2020, Tri-Valley CAREs led the way in helping the public participate in the “scoping process” for the SWEIS. After postponements, a draft SWEIS release date has been announced for October 2022.
In preparation for the release and to share updated information with our community, Tri-Valley CAREs has scheduled a Virtual Town Hall Meeting for September 29 at 7:30 p.m. Visit the TVC website, (http://www.trivalleycares.org) for updates and Zoom access information.