Election Section

Commentary: Preserving the Bevatron Makes Environmental And Historic Sense By Mark McDonald

Tuesday October 18, 2005

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to discuss the potential benefits to several communities of not demolishing the Bevatron, a retired nuclear accelerator, and recommend instead that it be preserved as a historical landmark and education facility. As the council has no actual authority in this matter, this would be a recommendation only and most likely would be ignored by the Department of Energy, which runs Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL).  

The City of Berkeley has always had the courage to speak truth to power, especially at times like this, when the interests of the Berkeley community coincide with other communities against the Lab’s plans. 

Those communities that would benefit from preserving the Bevatron would be:  

1) Berkeley citizens, who would not have to endure the seven-year demolition process involving radioactive and hazardous substances hauled on thousands of truck trips and a dusty toxic mess in densely populated neighborhoods across Berkeley, 

2) Students of science and history who could enjoy this unique circular building where four Nobel prizes were achieved and observe directly the machinery that provided our knowledge of new elements and nuclear processes,  

3) The communities who have the waste dumps slated to receive the Bevatron’s toxic and radioactive debris which otherwise could remain harmlessly sealed within the walls and structure of the facility,  

4) The taxpayers who could save the $84 million budgeted for the unnecessary demolition. LBNL admits they have no plans for the site. The savings could instead be used for cleaning up toxic areas at LBNL still waiting for funding.  

Unfortunately, Councilmembers Wozniak, Moore and Maio have placed an item on the agenda for tonight (Tuesday) wholeheartedly endorsing the destruction of the Bevatron and referring the following week’s agenda item to the city manager, political language for dumping it.  

This is a disappointing attempt to fast-track the development whims of the university-LBNL complex.  

One has to wonder why such action is necessary to head off a discussion that at best or worst could only end in a non-binding recommendation.  


Mark McDonald is a Berkeley resident.