WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and 38 other environmental and activist groups today announced plans to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court here tomorrow to halt the Department of Energy's (DOE's) $40 billion stockpile-stewardship program and its 10-year nuclear plan to clean up its weapons complex. The groups argue that DOE's environmental reviews of plans to modernize the weapons complex were flawed or were never done and that it failed to consider alternatives to stockpile stewardship, a set of costly experiments meant to substitute for nuclear testing.
For example, says NRDC's Tom Cochran, the government hasn't adequately accounted for the possibility of major fires at facilities where plutonium weapons components are periodically remanufactured. In addition, he says, DOE failed to consider consolidating its weapons labs "to reduce the size and environmental impact."
The groups also are requesting a preliminary injunction to delay construction of several stockpile-stewardship projects, including the National Ignition Facility. This $1.2 billion project to use lasers to create fusion reactions is set to break ground at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California later this month. Spokespersons for DOE and Livermore declined to comment on the potential suit.
The plaintiffs' chances are unclear. However, some of the same groups challenged the environmental impact of DOE's nuclear-weapons programs several years ago in the same court. In a settlement of that case, the department agreed in 1990 to conduct the reviews now being questioned.