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November 8, 2006

Peace activists are calling it “Bombplex 2030.” The government’s roadmap for the nuclear weapons complex, including the future role of the Y-12 warhead plant in Oak Ridge, promises to be a hot topic in coming months with opportunities for public involvement.

The U.S. Department of Energy and its sub-unit, the National Nuclear Security Administration, will host “public scoping” meetings Nov. 13 in Oak Ridge to get early comments for the Complex 2030 initiative.

The government is preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement to address changing requirements in the weapons program. The stated goal is to evaluate research-and-production facilities, determine what’s needed to make the complex more responsive by the year 2030 and address the potential impacts.

Local meetings will be held 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. at the Oak Ridge Mall. Other meetings are being held at affected sites around the United States.

“NNSA officials will be available to informally discuss the Complex 2030 proposal during the first hour,” the Federal Register notice said. “Following this, NNSA intends to hold a plenary session at each scoping meeting in which officials will explain the Complex 2030 proposal .”

The proposal would continue current modernization plans, including efforts under way at Y-12, although the feds say the impact statement will “evaluate reasonable alternatives for future transformation of the nuclear weapons complex.”

The Federal Register notice is available for viewing at:

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance is urging its members to participate and voice disapproval of the Bush administration’s development of the Reliable Replacement Warhead and other aspects of the 2030 proposal.

“Your government is counting on you to not notice until it’s too late,” the group said in a recent newsletter.

“This plan is being rushed to a decision while Bush holds power. Bombplex 2030 is not based on military requirements or homeland security needs. The plan is rooted in a desire to keep billions of dollars flowing to contractors in districts that build bombs – in New Mexico, Tennessee, California, Missouri, Texas, and South Carolina.”

Meanwhile, Y-12 officials are preparing a site-wide environmental impact statement to support the construction of new Oak Ridge facilities – including a $500 million storage center for bomb-grade uranium and a proposed $1 billion uranium manufacturing facility.

Steven Wyatt, a federal spokesman at Y-12, said a draft report has been completed and is under review at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. As soon as that is completed, a copy will be available for comment, and a public meeting will be scheduled, he said.

“We’re hoping to get it done in December,” Wyatt said.

DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information has set up a featured archive of some of Alvin Weinberg’s papers.

You can find the electronic link at OSTI’s home page:

Weinberg, the longtime director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, died Oct. 18. He was 91. A memorial service is set for 4 p.m. Nov. 18 at Pollard Auditorium in Oak Ridge.

The super-secret Sapphire Project in 1994 is getting a new buzz amid reports that some workers might have been unwittingly exposed to beryllium while repackaging the highly enriched uranium and bringing it from Kazakhstan to Y-12.

Sapphire was the first big project in the post-Cold War era that rescued vulnerable stocks of missile material in the former Soviet Union. Oak Ridge workers were involved in the project every step of the way.

Y-12 spokesman Bill Wilburn acknowledged that the uranium was alloyed with beryllium but noted: “The Sapphire team knew this in advance, and all proper precautions were taken. The material was repackaged at the job site in a glove-box environment where workers were using all proper personal protective equipment and had undergone training as beryllium workers.”

He added: “When the material was brought to Y-12 (in November 1994), it was never removed from the packing and was safely and securely stored at Y-12 until it was transported to Lynchburg (Va.) for processing.”

All of the Sapphire materials were shipped out of Y-12 by October 1995, Wilburn said.