Powering up LANL: The project needs explaining

Jan 1, 2022

Keeping Los Alamos National Laboratory supplied with adequate power to fuel its many operations — including increased production of plutonium pits that trigger nuclear weapons — is a matter of national security.

That doesn’t mean a proposal to build a high-voltage power line to ensure the power supply can go without scrutiny. A 12.5-mile transmission line, costing as much as $300 million, is being touted as necessary to augment the lab’s power supply. Two current power lines are thought to be reaching capacity, one this summer and the second by 2026.

Before a third line can be built, many concerns need to be addressed.

First, the environmental assessment will be conducted — it’s required by law for the Department of Energy to obtain the necessary permit to install the power line on public land. That study will gauge the effects of the line, including the impact of new transmission towers along its path. The line would stretch across White Rock Canyon, south through the Caja del Rio area and then east through the Santa Fe National Forest before arriving at a substation.

As the environmental assessment takes place, it became clear that environmental impact isn’t all those federal agencies must consider.

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