Greg Mello and Trish Williams-Mello have made standing up to the nuclear industry a way of life.
Greg co-founded the Los Alamos Study Group in 1989. Based in Albuquerque, it tackles nuclear disarmament and related issues with a concentration on Los Alamos National Laboratory. He worked for the state Environment Department as a hydrologist before becoming a consultant. Greg led the first government effort to promote compliance with environmental law at LANL.
Trish has also been a nuclear activist since 1989. Before moving to New Mexico, she raised her family on a farm in Amarillo, Texas, right across the street from the Pantex nuclear weapons facility. She joined Serious Texans Against Nuclear Dumping and worked with the group for a decade. In 2000 she moved farther west, where she met Greg after becoming active in the local disarmament movement. They were married in 2002.
The Study Group filed two lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act seeking alternatives to a planned $4 billion to $6 billion plutonium warhead plant at LANL. In February, the National Nuclear Security Administration said construction of the facility had been deferred for a minimum of five years.
“Once we know what's going on, saving lives and species with all the effectiveness we can muster is our duty."
One of the points raised by the Study Group is that since 1944, the lab has discarded more than 17 million cubic feet of radioactive waste. One such dumping ground is called Area G and is less than 20 miles from the center of Santa Fe. It’s 63 acres, and LANL is looking to double it, area-wise.
In New Mexico, we’ve got almost all of the steps needed to create nuclear energy: an enrichment facility in Eunice, WIPP in Carlsbad, uranium ore in the state’s veins. There are no reactors yet, but that’s a gap enterprising business folk are trying to fill [ “Power Play,” April 28-May 4, 2011]. The proposition is dangerous for the state, expensive and the wrong solution to the country’s energy crisis, says the Study Group.
The Mellos emphasize the interconnectedness of humans to their environment. “What is good for the environment will be, first and foremost, what is good for the poor and the vulnerable, and for vulnerable species,” Greg Mello says in an email interview.
There is weighty responsibility, as well as great satisfaction, in working toward a healthier world. "Fulfillment can be found in all the environmental roles—warrior, steward, builder. Once we know what's going on, saving lives and species with all the effectiveness we can muster is our duty."
The Mellos say the biggest threat to New Mexico is global warming. But Greg Mello adds that the real problems are ignorance, complacency "and the expectation of a consumer lifestyle."
The average person can do nothing to hold polluting governments and corporations accountable, say the Mellos. However, “Every single person can protect the environment from these entities, but we have to become non-average persons first," Greg Mello adds. "We have to care more than the average person."
They credit their team at the Study Group for the work done on energy and climate policy, as well as nuclear weapons policy. “Lots of doors are now open to us in Washington,” Greg Mello says. They would also like to train more UNM students as interns.
It’s time for us to change the way we think about energy, he says. “We have entered the twilight of the nuclear gods. Gradual disarmament is now inevitable, but our mutual survival depends on quickly accepting and dealing with energy and environmental reality and leaving behind Cold War thinking."