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US N-weapons production

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 7, 1990) The scheduled resumption of nuclear weapons operations at the Rocky Flats Plant in Golden, Colorado (US), has been delayed from December 1990 until next spring, according to information gathered at a meeting of the Department of Energy's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety and released by Greenpeace.

(343.3426) WISE Amsterdam - Due to the halt in production of plutonium bomb cores at Rocky Flats, the US military is unable to deploy any new nuclear weapons.

The revised information is contained in a new Greenpeace analysis, "Status of US Nuclear Weapons Production", released 6 November 1990. According to the analysis, the delay will have the most immediate impact on the Navy's Trident II ballistic missile program. The analysis also discusses US Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to relocate some critical Rocky Flats functions to other DOE facilities in order to prevent an even longer halt in nuclear weapons production.

"With the bomb production lines at Rocky Flats stopped for nearly a year, it's time for Congress and the military to totally reassess continued nuclear weapons production," said Stephen Schwartz, author of the analysis. "The shutdown of DOE's weapons complex over the last two and a half years proves that national security doesn't depend on building nuclear bombs."

Greenpeace, along with many US environmental groups are criticizing DOE plans to quietly transfer some bomb production activities currently handled at Rocky Flats to the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina. Groups are concerned that the New Special Recovery Facility (NSRF) at Savannah River -- the first new plutonium facility under construction in decades -- will allow the DOE to continue bomb production in spite of widespread safety problems that have brought Rocky Flats to a virtual standstill.

Construction of NSRF was finished in 1989, but DOE is currently modifying the plant to allow not only reprocessing of plutonium oxide for bombs but recycling of plutonium-contaminated scrap and retired warheads. Most of this latter work is done only at Rocky Flats. Initial startup of the NSRF is projected for June 1991. NSRF has had no type of environmental impact document has been prepared for public release and comment. This lack of documentation may constitute a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires government agencies to prepare an environmental assessment of any project having a significant impact on the environment.

"Without any public discussion, without an analysis of the environmental impact, DOE is taking the first step toward moving Rocky Flats to Savannah River," said Schwartz. "This totally undermines the openness with which Secretary Watkins pledged to run DOE. We demand an immediate explanation from DOE regarding its present and future plans for this new plutonium facility."

Furthermore, Dan Reicher, an attorney for National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a Washington DC-based watchdog group, says his group is prepared to sue DOE one more time.


  • Nuclear Monitor (incorp. Radwaste Rpt.) (US), 19 Nov. 1990, p.5
  • Greennet (via Greenpeace,, topic 133, 6 Nov. 1990).

Contact: Stephen Schwartz, Greenpeace, 1436 U St. NW, Washington DC 20009, US, tel: (202) 319-2507
Jason Salzman, Greenpeace (Boulder, Colorado), tel: (303) 786-8805
Tom Clements, Greenpeace (Atlanta, Georgia), tel: (404) 876-8256.