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Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)

Community Group Hails Decision To Remove Deadly Plutonium From Livermore Lab In Heavily Populated Bay Area; Outlines Key Unresolved Issues

for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley, executive director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, staff attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148

LIVERMORE, CA -- In a House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing yesterday, Thomas D'Agostino, the new Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs within the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration said the federal agency will remove all nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by the end of 2014. These materials are referred to as Category 1 and Category 2 Special Nuclear Material.

The DOE decision supports the conclusion of Tri-Valley CAREs that the plutonium and highly enriched uranium stockpiles at Livermore Lab are unsafe and vulnerable to catastrophic release in the event of a major earthquake or terrorist attack. The Livermore-based group has long advocated halting all operations with special nuclear materials at the Livermore Lab, a crowded 1.3 square-mile nuclear weapons site located in an urban setting and less than 200 feet from an active earthquake fault zone.

Ramping down plutonium operations at Livermore Lab was a focus of the team of twelve Tri-Valley CAREs members that conducted nearly 100 meetings with DOE officials, members of Congress and other decision-makers during a trip to Washington DC last week.

"We applaud the decision to remove plutonium from Livermore Lab even as we realize the devil will be in the details," noted Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director who lives down the street from Livermore Lab.

"Tri-Valley CAREs will actively monitor the implementation of yesterday's decision," Kelley continued. "We will press for both a more speedy removal plan and for appropriate packaging to safeguard workers and communities from the handling and transportation hazards posed by these deadly materials."

Moreover, Tri-Valley CARES remains adamantly opposed to the DOE plan to "transform" the nuclear weapons complex by designing and building new nuclear weapons through the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, as outlined in DOE's Fiscal Year 2007 budget request currently before Congress.

"Plutonium and highly enriched uranium should be removed from Livermore Lab as a security measure," said Kelley. "We reject the notion that DOE ought to build a huge, new plutonium mega-plex at another location in order to redesign and rebuild every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead program is a recipe for nuclear proliferation, not safety," Kelley concluded.

"We want to ensure that removal of plutonium from Livermore Lab will not be used as an excuse to expand plutonium activities at Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico and other sites within the nuclear weapons complex," said Tri-Valley CAREs Outreach Director Tara Dorabji. "In Washington DC last week we called on Congress to stop plutonium work at Livermore Lab while reining in DOE's proposed plutonium pit work at the Los Alamos Lab."

Dorabji continued, "As long as plutonium experiments continue unabated throughout the nuclear weapons complex, we as a country will never be able to address the waste issue. Consolidation of nuclear material is a plausible solution only if the further design and development of nuclear weapons ceases at all sites."

"It should not be forgotten that this is the very same DOE National Nuclear Security Administration that made the decision to double the storage limit for plutonium at Livermore Lab on November 29, 2005," remarked Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney Loulena Miles. "That decision needs to be reversed so that the government won't have a stated policy to remove plutonium while it is shipping in additional material, putting workers and the local community at needless risk."

The DOE decision to remove plutonium from Livermore calls into question the future for Livermore Lab's new "gatling guns" as well. Tri-Valley CAREs and other community members have objected to the February 2006 decision to equip Livermore Lab with multiple high-tech military weapons, each of which can simultaneously fire 7.62mm bullets from six barrels at up to 4,000 rounds per minute for a range of about one mile. The DOE National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton Brooks told reporters on February 3rd that these weapons would enhance Livermore Lab's ability to guard its large cache of radioactive plutonium.

Now that DOE has decided to remove the plutonium and highly enriched uranium, Tri-Valley CAREs requests that the government revisit its decision to place these guns on specially outfitted trucks and at fixed locations around Livermore Lab. The kill-zone includes large residential neighborhoods, City parks, little league fields, and an elementary school.

Further, Tri-Valley CAREs recommends that DOE undertake a process that will incorporate input from local communities at all potential storage sites in determining the safest and most logical path forward.

The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Testimony is online at