Group seeks halt to bioweapons research at Lawrence Livermore Lab

A Lawrence Livermore Laboratory watchdog group recently asked a federal court to order a halt to biological weapons research until its danger to nearby residents is further analyzed.

The national laboratory houses a high-security facility where scientists routinely work with anthrax, plague, Q fever and other extremely dangerous pathogens. The researchers seek to better understand how the agents infect people and to develop technologies capable of detecting them, according to

"And this will all be done a half a mile away from densely populated areas in Livermore," Scott Yundt, a lawyer with the watchdog group Tri-Valley CAREs, said, reports.

Yundt argued in front of a three-judge panel in a San Francisco federal court that the environment and human health risks posed by the laboratory were not adequately studied when the facility opened in 2008.

Tri-Valley CARE is appealing a September 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Oakland that said the U.S. Department of Energy, which runs the lab, took adequate care when it analyzed the risks.

"The government has done a whole lot of analysis. At what point is it enough?" Judge Milan Smith said, reports.

A lawyer representing the DOE told the panel that the assessment, which looked predominantly at the risk of an accidental release, was also capable of assessing the risks from a deliberate release. Any microbes that escaped through a breach in the facility, according to the attorney, would be killed by heat, fire or other exposure.

Yundt argued that it was dangerous to assume such a risk and wants a mock terrorist attack conducted as part of a comprehensive environmental assessment.