California activists assail Bombplex plan

LIVERMORE, Calif. — Peace and community activists lined up at the microphone Dec. 12 to charge that the Department of Energy’s new plans for the U.S. nuclear arsenal would boost nuclear weaponry to a level not seen since the Cold War. They called on Washington to live up to its legal obligations and lead the process of total nuclear disarmament.

The occasion was an environmental impact hearing on the Department of Energy’s proposal for the so-called Complex 2030. The DOE says Complex 2030 would let it modernize and consolidate nuclear weapons programs and make them more efficient. The plan would affect weapons facilities nationwide, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, on the edge of the San Francisco Bay Area.

DOE representative Ted Wyka coolly presented three alternatives: the proposed new program, continuing present programs or reducing them. Many speakers at a press conference and at the hearing demanded a fourth alternative: abolishing nuclear weapons.

Calling the Complex 2030 proposal “the latest, the most sweeping and potentially most harmful,” Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (Tri-Valley CAREs), said the $150 billion program would “revitalize the full U.S. nuclear bomb complex.”

Kelley and others called the plan “Bombplex,” since a new nuclear weapon would be designed every five years, while hundreds of new plutonium bomb cores and 125 new nuclear weapons would be built each year. They emphasized that the proposal stems from the Bush administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, under which the administration has sought to develop earth-penetrating nukes as well as smaller, “more usable” weapons.

“What is the plan for getting these radioactive materials that can last for hundreds of thousands of years out of the environment?” asked Tri-Valley CAREs Outreach Director Tara Dorabji.

Noting that a recent scientific report says existing nuclear warheads could last up to 100 years, Jacqueline Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation executive director, called maintaining the arsenal in any form for a century “unreasonable, unacceptable and unlawful.” Cabasso emphasized that treaties signed by the U.S., including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls for total nuclear disarmament, are the law of the land. She introduced an “unofficial ballot” for a national referendum on whether the U.S. should “commit to the global elimination of nuclear weapons no later than 2030.”

Many young activists spoke — among them Rebecca Griffin of Peace Action West, who called the complex “a $150 billion program to solve a problem we don’t have, and to make the problems we already have many times worse.”

Chelsea Collonge of the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California said that if UC, which has managed Livermore and its sister lab at Los Alamos “since the dawn of the nuclear age,” cannot exercise “responsible management” by working to convert the lab to civilian functions, “then the UC regents need to sever ties with the laboratories.”

“Complex 2030 is not going to help anyone, especially people like me who want to live a healthy life,” said 11-year-old Oscar Reyes.

“I want to say to the people at DOE, this is a chance to change your lives,” said Father Louis Vitale, a Catholic priest. “I also want to say to the activists, we have to keep working because it’s the activism, starting from Oscar’s age, that’s really going to change things. We are making some progress, and we can win.”

Consortium bids to make Livermore ‘green’

Last fall, Tri-Valley CAREs, New College of California, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and WindMiller Energy formed the Livermore Lab Green Renewable Energy and Environmental Nexus, or “Livermore Lab GREEN, LLC,” and filed a bid for Livermore Lab’s management contract.

The lab has been managed under a no-bid contract since 1952. But after repeated security and fiscal management scandals, the DOE decided in 2003 to open bids for the contract. A decision is to be made this winter.

Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, said the new consortium wants to make the lab a center of research on global warming, renewable energy and environmental cleanup.