Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory allowed to continue operations

A federal appeals court recently allowed a biological weapons research facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to continue operations, despite its opponents' claims that the government failed to fully consider the possibility of a terrorist attack on the center.

The center, which opened in February 2009, researches methods to detect biological agents, such as anthrax, plague, brucellosis and Q fever. The facility's development was blocked in 2006, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a U.S. Department of Energy environmental assessment failed to address the consequences of a possible terrorist attack, according to

A second analysis, accepted by the appeals court, determined that a deliberate assault on the facility would cause no more harm than an accidental release caused by a natural disaster or technical malfunction. An earlier study determined the lab had adequate safeguards against such potentialities.

Tri-Valley CAREs, the group that originally filed the suit against the facility in 2003, has asserted that a separate DOE assessment recognized crucial differences between the possible results of a terrorist attack and an accidental release. The court, in response, said it would not second-guess the DOE's evaluation of the research center.

"We must restrain from acting as a type of omnipotent scientist," Judge Milan Smith said, reports.

In the court's 3-0 ruling, the judges upheld the departments finding that the potential for a terrorist to steal and release lethal pathogens was too unlikely to be a significant danger.

Tri-Valley CAREs announced that it is troubled by the court's ruling.

"The big losers today are public health and public participation in government decision-making," the group's executive director, Marylia Kelley, said, reports.