In the face of a threatened lawsuit from environmentalists, the Department of Energy has backed down from its plan to spend $75 million this year as the first step in building a plutonium refinery at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. The decision, which was made shortly before a House Armed Services subcommittee voted to strip the funds from the department’s 1990 budget request, also affects the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which is designing the device. The cut eliminates all construction funds for the laser project, known as the Special Isotope Separator, but leaves ‘$40 million for the design of support equipment and facilities. The move forces Livermore to prepare an environmental impact statement on the potential hazards of the separator before testing it and transferring the technology to Idaho. Livermore officials argued that a statement had already been prepared for the lab as a whole, including the SIS. The study...

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