Lawsuit Filed Regarding Risk of Earthquake-Induced Radioactive Contamination at Nuclear Weapons Facility in Tennessee

On behalf of several organizations and concerned citizens, we filed suit yesterday in federal district court to challenge the government’s failure to consider significant risks associated with the continued reliance on aging, deteriorating buildings for the production of nuclear weapons at the Y-12 Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Many of the buildings in this Complex, where the government processes highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weaponry, were built during the Manhattan Project or the Cold War and do not meet modern building codes. As a result, these aging, increasingly decrepit buildings face a significant risk of collapsing, catching fire, and releasing hazardous nuclear contamination in the event of an earthquake—a risk that the United States Geological Survey recently stated is greater than it had previously expected.  The government had decided in 2011 to replace these aging, dangerous buildings with a modern facility, but when costs climbed, the government in 2016 decided to save money by continuing to rely on buildings with known structural deficiencies. Nevertheless, when the government opted to continue using these dilapidated buildings, it failed to examine the risk to the environment and to the public associated with the increased risk of earthquakes and the continued use of buildings that will likely collapse in the event that such an earthquake strikes.  On behalf of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, and several individuals who live near the Complex and would be harmed in the event that an earthquake causes radioactive contamination, our lawsuit seeks to compel the government to take a hard look at this important issue.  A copy of the complaint is here and a copy of a press release regarding the case is here.

Photo Credit: Brian Stansberry