Livermore Lab to Face Protest Amid Celebrations





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A local environmental watchdog group will protest Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during the lab's 50th anniversary celebration.

The week-long celebration will take place at the Livermore lab starting Monday and will feature speakers such as famed astronaut John Glenn as well as talks on the lab's history and national impact.

"This is a large milestone," said lab spokesperson Lynda Seaver. "(This marks) 50 years of contributing to our nation's security."

But Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore-based environmentalist group, said it plans to protest the event next Wednesday because of the lab's nuclear research and alleged environmental misconduct.

"We don't want there to be a second 50 years of the making of horrific nuclear weapons of mass destruction," said Inga Olson, an associate for the group's Nuclear Weapons and Waste Program. "The lab has incredible resources; (they should) focus those resources on our electricity problem or on global warming."

Olson said protesters plan to form a picket line outside the events, and they will also present the lab with a cake that will be "decorated with a peace message."

The organization has also put up a billboard, alongside a road that lab employees typically take to work, demanding an end to nuclear research at the lab.

"We expect about 24,000 people a day to see it (as they) drive by," Olson said. "We're hoping engineers and scientists who work will look at that and think about what they're doing and will renounce their work."

Members of the organization also accused lab officials of releasing harmful radioactive materials into Livermore, thereby increasing cancer risks among its residents.

Olson said there is a "plume" of tritium, uranium and other radioactive and "volatile compounds" extending a mile under the city.

"It's basically a toxic stew," she said.

But lab officials denied allegations that they are releasing harmful materials into the Livermore and Berkeley areas.

"There have been no releases that have exceeded any regulatory standard, nor has any regulatory agency or health agency found any impact (of lab research) on public health," said Bert Heffner, manager of environmental community relations at the lab.

Heffner added that the chance of lab radiation causing cancer among local residents is only one in one million.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a study in July confirming that the lab does not pose a health risk to local residents.

Seaver said lab security officials will allow the protest to take place, and added she does not expect that it will disrupt the celebration.

"They have every right to be out there and we're certainly familiar with them," she said.

Should the protesters block the entrance to the celebration, however, Seaver said they will be arrested by lab security officials and detained at a different facility. Protesters kept in custody are typically released within an hour, she added.

"We invite (protesters) to come and see the place for themselves," Seaver said. "It's an opportunity to open our doors to community leaders so they can see what work goes on here."

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