Modern pit facility hearing draws protest

Factory will build more cores for new class of nuclear weapons

provided by Physicians for Social Responsibility

hysicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) this month joined 130 local and national groups to protest Energy Department plans for a Modern Pit Facility, which would produce cores for new nuclear weapons.

    A rally held outside the Energy Department headquarters coincided with a public hearing on a plan to locate the Facility to replace the production site at Rocky Flats, CO, which was closed for environmental and safety violations in 1989. Plutonium pits form the explosive core of nearly all modern nuclear weapons. While the Administration's projected stockpile in the Nuclear Posture Review ranges to 2,200 nuclear warheads, the Modern Pit Facility could produce 6,500 to 35,000 new warheads – the kinds of numbers not seen since the Arms Race.

    “The draft plan does not evaluate the cleanup operation of the Modern Pit Facility at any potential site. And it does not offer methods and procedures for avoiding the environmental accidents and releases that led to the closure of the Rocky Flats plant,” said PSR Board Member Mike McCally, M.D., a former Air Force officer who testified during the public hearing. “The Modern Pit Facility will make new pits – the ignition – for new nuclear weapons. The new weapon most sought by the Administration is the bunker-busting Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. Ground-burst and earth-penetrating nuclear weapons produce clouds of debris coated with long-lived, potent radioisotopes and plumes of particulate fallout emitting deadly radioactivity over wide areas. Militarily, medically and morally these are unusable weapons.”

    The American nuclear stockpile has steadily declined since the end of the Cold War. The closure of Rocky Flats slowed construction of new nuclear weapons, and as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the United States has committed itself to complete nuclear weapons disarmament. But construction of a new pit facility would go back on that promise.

    “Building a new bomb factory is not an isolated initiative,” said Robert K. Musil, PhD, MPH. “A new factory means new bombs, like mini-nukes and bunker busters. Combined with a new policy of counter-proliferation seen in Iraq, plans for new testing, and ballistic missile defense, they return us to the nuclear war-fighting doctrines of the Cold War. They make nuclear war more likely, especially since they provoke regimes like North Korea.”

    PSR has 26,000 members that include physicians, medical professionals, and concerned citizens. In 1985, it shared the Nobel Peace Prize for its work towards nuclear disarmament.