2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: 29 Aug 2002 14:43:51 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] BSL-3: The Anthrax is Coming (Livermore Lab)
BSL-3: The Anthrax is Coming

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Livermore Lab is planning to build and operate a new facility to experiment
with bio-warfare agents such as live anthrax, botulism and bubonic plague.

The new facility is called a BSL-3 (short for Biosafety Level 3). It will
consist of 3 laboratories and cover 1,500 square feet. One of the labs will
be used to conduct experiments with aerosolized, or airborne, agents.

The Dept. of Energy (DOE) has released a draft Environmental Assessment
(EA) for the planned BSL-3 facility at Livermore. The comment period ends
Sept. 7, 2002. Tri-Valley CAREs will have "talking points" and sign-on
letters available at its office on Thursday, Sept. 5. We will also have a
computer set up then for folks to send comments to DOE via email.

The draft EA says the BSL-3 facility will use "...exotic agents which may
cause serious or potentially lethal or debilitating effects on humans,
plants and animal hosts." In other words, a plethora of deadly bio-agents
and toxins.

One concern is that Livermore Lab has amassed a terrible, 50-year-long
history of leaks, spills, accidents and releases into the environment with
its radioactive materials. Our community now has elevated levels of
plutonium in city parks and tritium (radioactive hydrogen) in our grapes
and other agricultural products. Who is to say we won't have to contend
with live anthrax spores and rare disease agents in the future?

Further, locating a BSL-3 facility to work on bio-weapon agents inside a
classified weapons laboratory raises serious questions. DOE and Lab
spokespersons insist that the research to be conducted at Livermore is
"defensive" research aimed at detecting bio-agents.

However, Livermore Lab's central mission for the past half-century has been
the development of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. How will the Lab
convince the world that its new work with bio-agents is strictly defensive?
DOE and Lab statements, and the draft EA, ignore this important question.
Yet, avoiding it will not make it go away.

It's a fine line that separates "defensive" (e.g., detection methods for
bio-weapon agents) from "offensive" research (weaponization of the agent).
Even the carefully worded definition of the proposed BSL-3 work contained
in the draft EA suggests the Lab may skirt that line.

The EA states that the DOE national security mission will require the
Livermore BSL-3 facility to, among other things: "... produce small amounts
of biological material (enzymes, DNA, ribonucleic acid [RNA], etc.) using
infectious agents  and genetically modified agents..."

The draft EA leaves it open for Livermore to import an indefinite number of
bio-toxins and bio-agents once the facility is built, including any and all
BSL-3 level bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses and prions. This is a long
list, and the EA puts it inside a 45-page appendix.

The only limits offered in the EA are on quantities of individual
bio-agents (no more than a liter of any one cultured microorganism at a
time), and on the overall inventory (less than 10 liters of cultured
microorganisms at any one time). This is due to the fact that any amount
over 10 liters gets defined as a production and not a research facility.

The draft EA discloses that some of the research with bio-agents will make
them airborne. In particular, it describes what it calls "challenges" of
small animals -- up to 100 at a time. The EA describes a "tissue digestor"
and some of the other equipment to be used in animal experiments. (Upon
reading this, one of our members wondered aloud how this is different than
the purported Iraqi experiment on the dog, and whether CNN will run tape of
Livermore's BSL-3.)

There are a number of BSL-3 facilities, run by the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC) and others, around the country. But, rather than send a
Livermore researcher and/or the bio-detector to a CDC lab for testing
(where there is at least a track record and an agency with a civilian
mission), DOE and Livermore want to bring all the bio-agents here.

This suggests that, over its 30-year life time, the BSL-3  at Livermore Lab
may be used for more than its announced program of developing

To send comments for the draft EA, send by Sept. 7, 2002 to: Mr Richard
Mortensen, Document Manager, LLNL BSL-3 EA, Lawrence Livemore National
Laboratory, P.O. Box 808, Livermore, CA 94551. Or, email to:

To send comments stating that the BSL-3 facility and all of its risks must
be included in the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement now being
prepared on Livermore Lab operations, mail a letter before Sept. 16, 2002
to: Mr. Thomas Grim, Document Manager, LLNL SWEIS, U.S. DOE, 1301 Clay St.,
700N, Oakland, CA 94612-5208. Or, email to: tom.grim@oak.doe.gov.

Marylia Kelley
Executive Director,
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA 94551
Phone: 1-925-443-7148
Fax: 1-925-443-0177
Web site: http://www.trivalleycares.org is our new web site address. Please
visit us there.

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