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Suit Challenges New U.S. Plans for Nuclear Facilities

May 02, 1997| From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Energy Department has formulated plans illegally for building dozens of nuclear weapons research facilities across the nation, violating a 1989 agreement and federal laws, a coalition of 39 environmental groups charged in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The coalition, the largest ever to challenge the Energy Department's management of nuclear weapons, is seeking a preliminary injunction that would block the agency's $40-billion program to modernize nuclear weapons facilities and maintain the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile over the next decade.

The group, which includes Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, said that the Energy Department's plan to spend $4 billion annually for maintaining nuclear weapons is wasteful and will compound the already serious nuclear waste problem facing the nation.

An Energy Department spokesman said that the agency does not plan to comment on the litigation.

Among the suit's targets is the National Ignition Facility, a $2-billion research laser at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco that is to be used to study fusion reactions that occur in nuclear weapons.

The suit seeks an injunction to block the construction of the laser, scheduled to begin this month. The suit also seeks injunctions against other research projects that it claims were not adequately reviewed for environmental consequences under the 1989 legal agreement or under the National Environmental Protection Act.

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