Friday, May 20, 2011

Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement Project


While CMRR stands for Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement project, I think a more appropriate title would be the Costing Massive Resources and Redundancy project. The Department of Energy’s proposal to build a new large scale nuclear facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory is not only ten times costlier than originally announced, but it’s also planned to be constructed on the side of a dormant volcano. Now I’m no seismologist, but I am almost positive that a plutonium facility sitting on top of an earthquake-prone area is not a recipe for success.

According to the Department of Energy’s proposal, the CMRR project will be carried out in a three phase assignment which will ultimately replace the fifty-year old facility responsible for building plutonium pits. The plutonium pit refers to the core of an implosion weapon that is responsible for detonation when compressed by explosives. Because of the radiation emitted from these pits, over half of the former facility has been shut down due to severe contamination, yet another warning sign that makes one question the safety and practicality of the project.

Currently, construction costs for the CMRR project total around $5.86 billion and operations are expected to begin in Fiscal Year 2023. That being said, it is important to note that this same project has been in the works for over a decade. Scheduling delays have wasted valuable resources, time, and manpower on a project that continues to be vulnerable to natural disasters as years pass. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability finds that $3 billion have already been added to program costs since 2008 due to increasing concerns over seismic activity.

Another cause of concern for the Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement Project is the issue of nuclear waste. As it stands, the new site is planned to be 32,000 square feet larger than the current facility. Such a vast expansion is excessive and increases the risk for improper waste disposal and nuclear proliferation. Need a second opinion?

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, sums up the Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement Project quite nicely. He says, “We should be cleaning up, not building up new production plants that will produce yet more radioactive and toxic wastes. We should be following a conservative curatorship program that prudently maintains the stockpile, saves American taxpayers dollars, and demonstrates leadership toward the nuclear weapons-free world that global security truly needs.” Well put Jay, well put.

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