The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has decided not to order a branch of the Department of Energy (DOE) to undergo additional environmental review prior to building a new nuclear facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In August 2010 a plaintiff called the Los Alamos Study Group filed a complaint under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Policy Act (APA) against the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is part of DOE.
The complaint alleged that the design proposed for construction of a “chemistry and metallurgy research” replacement nuclear facility at Los Alamos “had changed so much since the original environmental analysis in 2003 that a new analysis was required and all work on the facility should be halted until the conclusion of such analysis.”
A federal district court judge in New Mexico discussed the claims on two grounds. First, the district court said the claims were effectively moot because the defendant agencies began an environmental analysis after the complaint was filed and agreed not to do construction work until after the analysis was complete. Second, the district judge said the case was not yet ripe because there had been no final agency action.
“We agree with the district court on the ripeness issue,” a three-judge panel for the 10th Circuit said in an Aug. 27 decision. The appeals court said because the case is not yet ripe it need not address the mootness issue.
NNSA is DOE agency that is in charge of managing and securing U.S. nuclear weapons. NNSA administers the laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. The case is No. 11-2141 Los Alamos Study Group versus DOE.