Jan. 18, 2007 – A coalition opposed to nuclear weapons is fighting the federal government over rejection of its bid to turn a national laboratory that engages in nuclear-arms research into an environmental science center.
The US Department of Energy is considering bids to manage and operate the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California. This is the first time the federal government has initiated a competitive bid to run the $1.6 billion dollar "national interest" research facility since its creation in 1952. The current contract with the University of California, which has run the lab since its inception, expires in September 2007.
But groups opposed to nuclear weapons have a different vision for the Livermore Lab, which focuses largely on war-related research, and they have banded together to turn it into a "world class center for civilian science" within five years.
The coalition, Livermore Lab Green Renewable Energy and Environmental Nexus (GREEN), is made up of two nuclear-watchdog groups â€“ Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico â€“ as well as the New College of California, and the renewable-energy firm WindMiller Energy.
In its proposal submitted last October, GREEN said its plan discouraged nuclear proliferation, provided energy independence through sustainable sources, and addressed national-security goals.
The group says the Department of Energy has unfairly eliminated it from the competition because NNSA officials objected to its non-nuclear agenda for the facility.
"We propose to phase out the Labâ€™s nuclear weapons programs over time, and to subordinate them under a new Associate Directorship of Nuclear Nonproliferation in the interim," wrote GREEN in its proposal. "We will direct science toward resolution of long-term national-security needs such as energy independence, conservation, environmental remediation and related technologies, and understanding and addressing global climate change."
But the Department of Energyâ€™s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) rejected the bid in December, stating it found GREENâ€™s proposal "grossly and obviously deficient." The NNSA said GREEN did not "demonstrate an understanding of the requirements of the solicitation."
In the NNSAâ€™s request for proposals, it stated the chosen contractor would need to take measures that "result in improvements in performance of the Nuclear Weapons Complex" and "strengthen the Laboratoryâ€™s role as an important element in the nuclear weapons complex supply-chain."
But GREEN argues its proposal would support US obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NNSA itself began reducing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from Livermore last month, stating it would remove nearly all of it by 2014.
The group says the Department of Energy has unfairly eliminated it from the competition because NNSA officials objected to its non-nuclear agenda for the facility. In a letter of protest sent to NNSA Tuesday, GREEN charges the agency with using deficient grounds in rejecting the bid, and acting "in a biased and prejudicial manner â€¦ by treating the Livermore Lab GREEN and its proposal differently than it treated competitors."
GREEN called for an immediate reinstatement of its bid to manage the lab.
The University of California, which manages two other US nuclear-research labs in addition to Lawrence Livermore, partnered with the firm Bechtel to submit its proposal. Weapons giant Northrop Grumman is also vying for management of the facility.