Three dozen protesters gathered Wednesday around the St. Francis of Assisi statue outside City Hall to punctuate their message that a nuclear agency does not belong in a peace-loving city.

The protesters were responding to news that the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory, is behind one of seven proposals to develop the city’s 64-acre midtown campus on St. Michael’s Drive.

The demonstrators brandished signs to express their opposition, which included: “No war work in Santa Fe,” “City of faith or city of nuclear weapons?” and “LANL is not an education institution.”

A nine-member city committee is vetting the seven prospective master developers and hopes to select one by April.

The protesters said it doesn’t matter that the agency has no plans to produce nuclear components at the campus site. They don’t want the agency to have any presence in the city, even if it’s a training center or offices for lab personnel.

“If you’re against the nuclear mission, you’re against the training of the workforce and administrative support,” said Jim Eagle, a retired Navy officer who served on nuclear submarines.

The nonprofit Los Alamos Study Group, an anti-nuclear watchdog, organized the protest.

The lab wants a satellite campus to accommodate the additional staff and support operations needed to make 30 plutonium “pits” — the triggers for nuclear warheads — by 2026, said Greg Mello, the group’s executive director.

Producing pits will require hiring and training as many as 1,500 personnel and doing major upgrades to the aging plutonium facility, he added.

“That’s what’s driving this is pit production,” Mello said. “The reason LANL is interested in this project is they are outgrowing Los Alamos.”

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A National Nuclear Security spokesman in Washington, D.C., said that, out of respect for the review process, the agency wouldn’t comment.

Mayor Alan Webber said the guidelines the committee is using ultimately will decide who gets picked as master developer. He couldn’t say whether an activist group’s opposition to a candidate would wield any influence.

“My comment to the group was to trust the process,” Webber said.

The group also is concerned that even if the lab isn’t chosen as master developer, it still could become a tenant at the site, said Lydia Clark, the group’s outreach director.

Mello fired up the protesters by suggesting they should explore how they can make Santa Fe a nuclear-free zone.

It’s unclear, however, whether such a zone would bar the agency from manufacturing and transporting nuclear components within city limits or forbid it from operating at all within Santa Fe.

Mello argued that education and technical training at a lab campus likely would be geared toward preparing students to work at the lab. Several protesters agreed.

“I’m tired of seeing our young people being harvested by nuclear colonialism,” said Beata Tsosie-Pena, environmental justice program coordinator for Tewa Women United, a nonprofit Native advocacy group.

Expanding the lab to Santa Fe could be a slippery slope, even if it’s innocuous at first, said a protester named Susan, who asked that her last name not be published.

“They get their foot in the door, and then it expands and expands and expands,” she said. “I just feel we have to rein in some of this stuff. Let it stay up in Los Alamos.”

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(17) comments

Erich Kuerschner

In regards to educating people about LANL, I couldn't agree more. First, it is a LABORATORY in name only. While 3% of the huge LANL budget is not trivial, and it does indeed make some useful and important discoveries, it **IS** primarily a nuclear weapons facility, as can be seen from LANL's own budget publications here:

Secondly, I would also hope for some economic education. It is NEITHER money nor jobs per se that contribute to economic well being, but rather how productively resources are being used. Most of LANL's budget contributes to the economy via the spending of the wages GIVEN to workers, as is acknowledged in the "impact marketing effort" commission by LANL and executed by UNM's BBER cited by Khal Spencer. While such welfare payments clearly improve the economic well being of the recipients, by definition they do so by decreasing the economic well being of the non-recipients. And in the case of tying these welfare payments to the right to pollute, the negative impacts of these transfer payments are compounded by diverting resources that could be put to productive use to "clean-up", ie restoring one to an economic position achieved prior to the transfer activity. [ see for more on this.

AS far as the impact "analysis", it is better described as a marketing/lobbbying effort. See eg

On more on how a good PR firm can distort perceptions, and allow for the enactment of inferior use of resources I can recommend Rob Johnson in this clip here:

Rob Johnson at Davos: The Global Economy, Inequality, and the Humanity Behind Economics [ @2:44 here: ]


PAYOLA. You get paid to do marketing rather than analysis.

THE CORRUPTION OF OMISSION. Powerful people can hurt you if you object to them, so you tend to stay quiet. The anthropologists will tell you that the way to study power in a society is to understand the contours of the silences. The silences reveal what is not said, and that is the clue to where power is.

THE YEARNING FOR ORDER, which you might call the corruption of false precision. Demagogues tell you they have a clear crystal ball, or they have a model, or they're scientific. And a lot of it is fear, a lot of it is malarkey, a lot of it is what they call a confidence game, pretending that your tools and your methods make you more sound. It is the belied by experience. Most really good economists know that econometric models pretend that society is stationary'

P.S. I'm curious as to the whether the Mayor recalls the fine work done by the Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill Environmental Study Group on the "Mt. Hood Fwy} project in the early 70's. Seems to me some of the important lessons learned may have been forgotten?

P.P.S. I have not forgotten. ;-)

Lisa Burns

LANL has increased its discharge permit for toxic waste. So maybe people want to be in on off site location to get away for toxic nuclear waste.

Jes Jar123

For many, they think LANL only works on nuclear development... it’s a LABORATORY... it has scientists that also work on trying to find cures for cancer, scientists that most accurately predicted a flu outbreak and other medical breakthroughs, plus numerous scientific breakthroughs.. do people forget a scientist from LANL also helped discover a black hole... people should educate themselves about what LANL is about

Michael Grimler

You people who hate LANL and hate NM's petrochemical industry crack me up.

If it weren't for LANL being a major economic presence in northern New Mexico since the 1940's, it'd be just another dusty, two-hitching post speck in a desolate western US wasteland.

Barry Rabkin

I want to thank LANL for existing and for continuing to help the US create nuclear weapons. We need to have the US maintain - or build - the most lethal military in the world (and in space). I am more than happy to have a LANL presence in Santa Fe.

Khal Spencer

There are certainly issues that could be discussed in a forum more appropriate to deeper thinking that a text box (Greg?). For example, some who oppose weapons labs or the military industrial complex in general suggest that if we were not pumping advanced degrees and money into them, these resources would be available for something else and that is probably true and would benefit society. But maybe not" something else" in New Mexico. We still proudly have terrible educational outcomes, a serious drug problem, and a lack of infrastructure that is needed to invite high paying, high tech jobs and invite motivated young people to stay. So perhaps all that talent and money would still go elsewhere. Until we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps rather than beg at the state and federal troughs, (which is why some in our Congressional delegation were demanding that all US pits be built in Bombtown rather than here and at Savannah River) , we have not solved the underlying problems that make NM a backwater.

Chris Mechels

The good news for having LANL in Santa Fe; you can picket them without driving to Los Alamos...

Khal Spencer

ROTFL! Good one, Chris.

joe martinez

A new low for the wacko community that infests Santa Fe. They remind me of people that move next to the airport and then complain about the noise. LANL has provided jobs for literally thousands of native Northern New Mexicans since the 40s. Without those jobs they would have left the place of their roots and we'd be overwhelmed with the negatrons. Without LANL even now the choice for a long term job is to register Democrat and work for the state, city, county, schools, Jemez co-op etc. A member of the Citizens Advisory Board told a State Secy who claimed LANL had a legacy of pollution responded by saying the legacy was scientific achievement and jobs that didn't require you be a registered Democrat

David Cartwright

Funny, the first words that came to mind were that these people are a bunch of wack jobs, air-lifted into santa fe on the back of their trust funds. So, Mr Martinez, I couldn't agree with you more.

Craig O'Hare

No LANL in Santa Fe.

Khal Spencer

LANL has already infiltrated the City Different. I suppose all of us who pay property and sales taxes that support the City and County can move elsewhere and pay our taxes to a community that is not offended by our presence.

Craig O'Hare

As you are probably aware, this issue is not about LANL employees living in Santa Fe. It's opposition to LANL conducting any of its business in Santa Fe. If such opposition upsets you, indeed, feel free to move away. We'll find a way to replace your lost tax revenue!

Khal Spencer

The point you obviously missed is that the Santa Fe economy is already deeply dependent on LANL.

Paul Gibson

That does not mean that we need to deepen that dependence. That is like saying, "I've broken my left ankle, might as well break the right one."

Khal Spencer

LANL puts a lot of money into Santa Fe. Of a city budget of about 100 million, BBER estimates LANL pumps in between 12 and 13 million. So go ahead and ask Mayor Webber if he wants to cut the city budget by 12-13%.

I don't actually care one way or the other if LANL builds a satellite campus here. On the pro side, it would provide outreach education and services for a lab that is likely not going away, although we can argue about the need for nukes. On the con side, there would be all that commuting between sites 35 miles apart which means more cars on the road.

Let's see what the city does. My hunch, and hence my sarcasm in that original post, is that the city likes the money more than it likes its political purity. Besides, it was my artistic wife who wanted to move here from off the Hill.

Khal Spencer

The UNM-BBER reference.

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