Nuclear Watch Comments for DOE's Long-Term Management and Storage of Elemental Mercury Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) (View/download PDF)
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"If you really want a future world free of nuclear weapons,
you can hardly make a better investment than to give to Nuclear Watch New Mexico. They need and deserve your support so that they can carry on their groundbreaking work. I urge you to be generous with them!" - Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight
New CBO Report Dec 20, 2013: U.S. nuclear weapon plans to cost $355 billion over a decade Reuters: The Obama administration's plans for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including modernization of bombs, delivery systems and laboratories, will cost the country about $355 billion over the next decade, nearly $150 billion more than the administration's $208.5 billion estimate in a report to Congress last year; since the modernization effort is just beginning, costs are expected to greatly increase after 2023. (read more)(View/download CBO report-PDF)(analysis: Are New Nuclear Weapons Affordable?)
Nuclear Watch Press Release, Dec. 21, 2013: Nuclear Weapons "Modernization" Will Cost One Trillion Dollars Over Thirty Years; Locally, Los Alamos Lab Cleanup and Job Creation Are Imperiled (View/download NWNM Press Release PDF)
Nuclear Weapons Lobby Reportedly Spent $2.9 Million To Stave Off Military Cuts
"The nuclear weapons industry is erecting a missile shield of money to prevent federal government spending cuts worth billions of dollars. In the 2012 election cycle, nuclear weapons lobbies have given a total of $2.9 million to key members of Congress and deployed no fewer than 137 revolving-door lobbyists to Capitol Hill, according to a new report that details the lengths to which arms makers will go to protect their turf."
(story) "Bombs Versus Budgets: Inside the Nuclear Weapons Lobby", prepared by the Center for International Policy. (download PDF)
Hunting Radioactive Tumbleweeds at Hanford
Tumbleweeds Spread Hanford Contamination
Hanford, the most contaminated nuclear site in the U.S., has a "Biological Control" program to deal with 'biological vectors' in the spread of radioactive contamination. These have included rabbits, fruit flies, even a badger; but the most visible is the tumbleweed.
The principal tumbleweed species is Kali tragus, or Russian thistle, an invasive species which came to the western US in the 1870's. Tumbleweed taproots can creep 20 feet down, bringing up radioactive waste from underground burial sites. Each winter, the deep taproot on the plant decays, and the spiny brown skeleton aboveground breaks off and rolls away in the wind, spreading whatever contamination it picked up.
Nuclear weapons business "very much ongoing"
funding now 50% above Cold War average
"What the public doesn't really understand is that the nuclear weapons business is very much ongoing, that funding for nuclear weapons programs within the Department of Energy is nearly 50 percent above the historic average of the Cold War. . . Despite the rhetoric that this country and others are working towards a future world free of nuclear weapons, on the ground what is happening is that the U.S. is rebuilding the production side of its nuclear weapons complex."
- Jay Coghlan on Democracy Now 10/11/12
Feb 24, 2014: The Myth of American Nuclear Obsolescence
"The United States is, in fact, engaged in the world's largest and most expensive nuclear weapons modernization program... Every aspect of the US nuclear deterrent is being modernized and updated... America is on pace to match the size of the Reagan nuclear build up during the 1980s, despite the very changed security and economic realities facing our nation..."
A report from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, by Jon Wolfsthal, Feb 24, 2014.
LANL's Future: More Plutonium or More Cleanup?
Jay Coghlan speaking in Santa Fe, Oct.21, 2012
NukeWatch Press Release March 4, 2014:
Nuclear Weapons Budget Increased; Nonproliferation and Cleanup Budgets Cut; Good News: Wasteful Plutonium Program Shuttered
"The Obama Administration has released top-line numbers for its FY 2015 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which owns the nation's nuclear weapons complex of design laboratories and production plants. The NNSA's budget category 'Total Weapons Activities' is slated to be increased to $8.3 billion, $534 million above FY 2014 (+ 6.9%)...
"In stark contrast, key nonproliferation programs designed to halt the spread of nuclear weapons have been slashed by $300 million (-21%), even though nuclear weapons are recognized as the greatest existential threat to the United States. 'Defense Environmental Cleanup', the nation-wide program to clean up the Cold War legacy of radioactive and toxic contamination, is being reduced from $5 billion to $4.87 billion, despite the fact that estimated costs keep climbing..."
View/download the full NWNM Press Release here
Excerpts from an important piece by Hans Kristensen of the FAS: General Confirms Enhanced Targeting Capabilities of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb
"The former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, confirmed last week that the B61-12 nuclear bomb planned by the Obama administration will have improved military capabilities to attack targets with greater accuracy and less radioactive fallout. The confirmation is important because the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) pledged that nuclear warhead 'Life Extension Programs' will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities. In addition to violating the NPR pledge, enhancing the nuclear capability contradicts U.S. and NATO goals of reducing the role of nuclear weapons and could undermine efforts to persuade Russia to reduce its non-strategic nuclear weapons posture.
"Increasing the accuracy broadens the type of targets that the B61 can be used to attack. The effect is most profound against underground targets that require ground burst and cratering to be damaged by the shock wave.
"General Schwartz's confirmation came during a conference organized by the Stimson Center in response to a question from Steven Young whether the relatively low yield and increased accuracy of the B61-12 in terms of targeting planning would change the way the military thinks about how to use the weapon. General Schwartz's answer was both clear and blunt: 'Without a doubt. Improved accuracy and lower yield is a desired military capability. Without question.' When asked whether that would result in a different target set or just make the existing weapon better, General Schwartz said: 'It would have both effects.'
"With the increased accuracy of the B61-12 the strike planners will be able to select a lower yield and still achieve the same (or even better) damage to the underground target. Using lower yields will significantly reduce collateral damage by reducing the radioactive fallout that civilians would be exposed to after an attack. The difference in fallout from a 360-kiloton B61-7 surface burst compared with a B61-12 using a 10-kiloton selective yield option is significant.
"General Schwartz said that the B61 tail kit 'has benefits from an employment standpoint that many consider stabilizing'. I later asked him what he meant by that and his reply was that critics (myself included) claim that the increased accuracy and lower yield options could make the B61-12 more attractive to use because of reduced collateral damage and radioactive fallout. But he said he believed that the opposite would be the case; that the enhanced capabilities would enhance deterrence and make use less likely because adversaries would be more convinced that the United States is willing to use nuclear weapons if necessary.
"With the increased accuracy of the B61-12 and combined with the future deployment of the F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter-bomber to Europe, it is clear that NATO is up for quite a nuclear facelift.
"Initially the old NATO F-16A/B and Tornado PA-200 aircraft that currently serve in the nuclear strike mission will not be able to make use of the increased accuracy of the B61-12, according to U.S. Air Force officials. The reason is that the aircraft computers are not capable of 'talking to' the new digital bomb. As a result, the guided tail kit on the B61-12 for Belgian, Dutch, German, Italian and Turkish F-16s and Tornados will initially be 'locked' as a 'dumb' bomb. Once these countries transition to the F-35 aircraft, however, the enhanced targeting capability will become operational also in these countries.
"It is unclear how improving the nuclear posture in Europe fits with NATO's arms control goal to seek reductions in Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. Instead, the increased military capabilities provided by the B61-12 and F-35 would appear to signal to Russia that it is acceptable for it to enhance its non-strategic nuclear posture in Europe as well.
Such considerations ought to be well behind us, more than two decades after the end of the Cold War, but they continue to tie down posture planning and political signaling."
NukeWatch Presentation to Northern New Mexico Citizens' Advisory Board on LANL's Area G, February 12, 2014
Scott Kovac, Director of Operations for NukeWatch, gave a talk at the public meeting of the Northern New Mexico Citizens' Advisory Board on the problem of LANL's Area G, February 12th, 2014.
(View presentation)(See the NukeWatch Area G page for more on this issue)
With ICBM Mission Increasingly Irrelevant, Morale Is Low and Failures Multiply Recent scandals and failures involving US strategic missile forces personnel on all levels have thrown a spotlight on morale issues in what was once the critical front line of defense, but now a mission with little relevance to today's needs. Here's a selection of recent press:
Nuclear Corps, Sidelined in Terror Fight, Produces a Culture of Cheating
Helene Cooper, NYTimes, Jan. 22, 2014
"Many military officials believe that demoralization may have led to a spate of recent mishaps among Air Force nuclear missile officers. In the past year, a general who oversaw nuclear weapons was dismissed for drunken antics during an official trip to Moscow, 17 officers assigned to stand watch over nuclear-tipped Minuteman missiles were removed for violating safety codes and having bad attitudes, and missileers with nuclear launch authority were caught napping with the blast door open... Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flew to Wyoming and Nebraska on Jan. 9 to reassure disheartened missileers that what he called their lonely work was still valued. It was the first visit to missile crew members by a Pentagon chief since 1982. But on the day of his trip, another scandal erupted as investigators reported that dozens of missile launch officers had been implicated in an investigation into illegal drugs. That inquiry eventually widened to include the cheating scandal at Malmstrom..." [by month's end 92 of the the missile launch officers at Malmstrom - nearly half- were implicated.]
Nuclear Cheating Scandal: Blame the Mission, Not the Missileers
Tom Collina, Arms Control Association, Jan 29, 2014
"In the wake of alarming reports that some Air Force nuclear-armed missile operators have been cheating on performance tests, using drugs, napping on duty, failing to follow safety rules, and more, the Pentagon announced Jan. 23 it is setting up an independent review of all U.S. nuclear forces, to be completed in 90 days. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he is 'deeply concerned' about 'the overall health, and the professionalism, and discipline of our strategic forces.'
"But the scope of this review- limited to personnel issues- must be expanded. At its core, the problems facing the nuclear force have little to do with people and everything to do with the declining mission. As Hagel well knows, nuclear deterrence is no longer a high priority mission for defending the United States. It is a backwater, a dead end assignment. As the Pentagon put it in 2010, 'The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.'"
For Air Force Officers, The Long Wait For A Nuclear Attack Can Be A Bore
Washington Post, Feb 3, 2014
"It's not stress, drugs or cheating on proficiency tests that's the problem for about 550 Air Force officers who serve 24-hour shifts in capsules 60 feet underground. They're waiting as their predecessors have done for 50 years to launch nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The real cause of their difficulties is their 'mission': to be ready to turn keys and press buttons on a moment's notice in response to an attack that no one really expects will ever come. The Cold War ended more than 20 years ago. Then-President George H.W. Bush took the B-52s and B-1 long-range strategic bombers off nuclear alert. Why do we still keep 90 Air Force officers in capsules 24 hours a day babysitting all 450 ICBMs ready to go when there is no immediate danger?"
Nuclear Missile Force Poses A Headache For US Military Agence France-Presse, Jan. 19, 2014.
"Commanders have said they would support reducing the costly arsenal of land-based nuclear missiles, as weapons aboard submarines are able to reach any target on the globe. But lawmakers whose states host the silos oppose any cutbacks, said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which promotes reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles.
'There's no purpose to their mission anymore... This is an outdated command, fielding obsolete weapons ...The only mission for the ICBM is to immolate millions of innocent civilians.'"
Successful Citizen Activism Against
Expanded U.S. Plutonium Pit Production
This is the unsung story of successful citizen activism against repeated government attempts to expand the production of plutonium pit cores, which has always been the choke point of resumed U.S. nuclear weapons production. This history is a critical part of the march toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. We gratefully dedicate it to Leroy Moore, longtime activist with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, and J. Carson Mark, retired director of the Los Alamos Lab's Theoretical Division and ardent arms control advocate.
(View/download full report- PDF)
Nuke Mission Strains Against 'Budgetary Gravity' John Fleck, writing for the Albuquerque Journal, Jan 21:
"In the years since Oppenheimer brought the World War II Manhattan Project to Los Alamos, New Mexico hitched its economic wagon to this stream of federal spending. Our state's economic growth in the years since the Great Recession is among the slowest in the country; at the same time, the National Nuclear Security Administration, wrestling with problems managing its nuclear program, has become an increasingly unreliable horse... an increasingly unreliable economic partner."
"The authors of a second recent report on the nuclear budget, by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote, 'It is unclear how long the nation's nuclear weapons program can defy budgetary gravity'. Those thinking about the future of New Mexico's economy should take note." (read the full ABQ Journal story)
Nuclear Watch Press Release, Jan.14, 2014: Budget Deal a Mixed Bag for Nuclear Weapons Programs- Planned Long-Term Trend Not Sustainable
"...Whereas the NNSA and the labs have won an ambiguous victory in the B61 LEP, the rest of the omnibus appropriations bill demonstrates how deeply troubled their nuclear weapons programs are..."
View/download Nuclear Watch press release PDF View/download the appropriations bill (n.b. the NNSA section begins at p. 34- PDF p. 70.)
Trouble Brewing for U.S.- Russia Nuclear Treaties
As this is written, news is breaking of the leak of a phone conversation between US officials re the Ukraine crisis; the White House has blamed Moscow and called it a "new low" in relations. There've been several 'new lows' recently, including the Snowden affair, and the press last year saw a number of obituaries for the "reset" Obama had promised. And below the surface of the short-term news, tensions have been brewing concerning US and Russian nuclear deployments, suggesting that in the absence of initiative, the inertia of the two countries' nuclear forces give these enterprises a life of their own, setting up possible conflicts. Unfortunately, as the Times reported last year, "the United States is quietly adopting a new approach to its old cold war rival: the cold shoulder."
Here are some of the current disputes:
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Suspicion regarding Russian INF commitment U.S. Says Russia Tested Missile, Despite INF Treaty- Michael Gordon, NYTimes, 1/29/14
"Russia has tested a new ground-launched cruise missile- prohibited by the treaty banning medium-range missiles that was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Beginning in May, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department's senior arms control official, has repeatedly raised the missile tests with Russian officials, who have responded that they investigated the matter and consider the case to be closed.
"With President Obama pledging to seek deeper cuts in nuclear arms, the State Department has been trying to find a way to resolve the compliance issue, preserve the treaty and keep the door open to future arms control accords.
"It is little secret that some quarters in Moscow have long had objections to the INF Treaty. In February 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that Russia and the United States were barred from having INF missiles while other countries could have them*. At the same time, Sergei Ivanov, then minister of defense and now chief of Putin's presidential administration, called the INF Treaty a mistake. More recently, however, Russian officials have seemed more comfortable with the treaty. In May 2012, the chief of the Russian General Staff explicitly ruled out withdrawal."
"If the charge regarding the ground-launched cruise missile is true, it will have implications for U.S.-Russia arms control, bringing into question Moscow's good faith in meeting treaty obligations. Capitol Hill critics wasted little time in using the New York Times story to challenge the administration's entire approach to arms control, even with regard to the Iran nuclear deal and arrangements to destroy Syria's chemical weapons."
*The Russians note that while the US is unlikely to need INF capabilities in dealing with Mexico or Canada, Russia's geographical situation is different.
One of Russia's concerns with the INF restrictions could be neighboring China: for example it's deployment of Long Sword, a ground-launched long-range cruise missile. See an inventory of Chinese cruise missiles here.
Note that a joint Indian-Russian program is developing a hypersonic cruise missile, the BrahMos 2, to be ready for Indian forces in 2017.
Update, February 11, 2014: Is Russia Violating the INF Treaty?
"The issue of INF compliance encompasses three separate, but closely related strands. One is technical- the substance of allegations, the properties of the missiles in question, and verification issues. Another relates to arms control and strategic concerns- how the INF treaty provisions fit or don't fit into the Russian national-security strategy. The third is politics- the reasons why allegations about treaty noncompliance continue to surface in public debate and the likely consequences for US foreign policy."
Nikolai Sokov and Miles A. Pomper, writing in The National Interest, give an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding allegations of Russian violations of the INF treaty. (article here) Update Feb 26, Global Security Newswire:Ex-Chief of Russian Strategic Forces: U.S. Has Violated Arms Control Pact 'Numerous' Times
US Europe-Based Ballistic Missile Defense Systems US BMD deployments in Europe- Russian withdrawal from START?
The USS Donald Cook has deployed in Spain, the first of four ships carrying Aegis' ballistic missile defense system planned for stationing in Europe. The deployment was announced at the Munich Security Conference by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who called it, "An important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran."
Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry department for security and disarmament said, "We are concerned that the US is continuing to build up missile defense capability without considering the interests and concerns of Russia. Such a policy can undermine strategic stability and lead to a situation where Russia will be forced to exercise its right of withdrawal from the START treaty."
Read more at Voice of Russia: Russia may quit START III after US deploys the USS Donald Cook, equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, in Spain
Tactical Nuclear Weapons Russia will not disclose, says U.S. in violation of NPT
Feb. 2, 2014. Russia does not intend to disclose information about the storage locations for its tactical nuclear weapons or about their amount, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry department for security and disarmament Mikhail Ulyanov has said.
"Yes, we are invited to adopt some confidence-building measures by disclosing the storage places of the armaments and their quantity. But whom will it make life easier for, if we disclose such information? Only for terrorists."
As for U.S. and and NATO calls for Russia to reduce tactical nuclear armaments, Ulyanov said: "The subject of Russian tactical nuclear armament is far-fetched and fanned quite artificially. In the past 20 years Russia reduced its tactical nuclear armaments by 75%. All these armaments are deployed solely on Russian territory. They are stored at centralized facilities, i.e. are not deployed and pose no threat to anyone. The situation is absolutely different with NATO and the Americans. Approximately 200 tactical nuclear warheads are located in six countries of Europe and they are deployed. Which means they pose a potential threat to us. Moreover, NATO has such a notion as nuclear sharing which means that pilots from non-nuclear countries are trained to pilot nuclear-carrying aircraft. From the viewpoint of nuclear nonproliferation this is a violation of the letter and sprit of the NPT. Many countries share this viewpoint. We are not refusing to conduct a dialogue but we don't see a subject for even a preliminary conversation until all these weapons are withdrawn beyond Europe and before the infrastructure that permits their rapid return to the European continent is liquidated."
(ref: Voice of Russia)
"If you really want a future world free of nuclear weapons, you can hardly make a better investment than to give to Nuclear Watch New Mexico. They need and deserve your support so that they can carry on their groundbreaking work. I urge you to be generous with them!" - Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight.
WIPP Radiological Contamination Release Latest: New Mexico congressional delegation statements about the leak and WIPP
on the Watchblog.
"WIPP should never be a high-level facility." -Sen. Martin Heinrich
Quote of the Week:
"I support the provision in the current law that bans high-level waste at WIPP. WIPP was not fully studied for high-level waste, and it does not meet permit requirements for high-level waste. Additionally, New Mexico's people and state government are the ones who have the power to decide what waste our state will accept and under what terms. Any attempt to alter WIPP's mission would take many years of study, permitting, and require the state of New Mexico's full support."
-U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico. Read more New Mexico congressional delegation statements about the WIPP leak on the WatchBlog
New from the Union of Concerned Scientists: Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster
by Lochbaum, Lyman, and Stranahan, UCS 2014
A book-length account of the unfolding Fukushima catastrophe from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Ukraine Crisis, Nuclear Dimension Russia Today reports with some alarm that Mikhail Golovko, an MP of the Ukrainian right-wing Svoboda party, has threatened to 'restock Ukraine's nuclear arsenal', quoting Golovko: "We'll regain our status as a nuclear power and that'll change the conversation. Ukraine has all the technological means needed to create a nuclear arsenal which would take us about three to six months."
Note that when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine held the world's third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile, larger than those of Britain, France, and China combined. All 1900 strategic nuclear warheads were transferred to Russia for dismantling between 1994 and 1996. (ref) Was it the right call in light of current events?
Feb. 16: Frank Munger reports on Los Alamos support for the Y-12 Red Team looking for less costly alternatives to the Uranium Processing Facility at Atomic City Underground
Rachel Maddow on the Y-12 break-in and other recent US nuclear facility failings with Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, 1/24/14
US Nuclear Arsenal, 1945 to 2013
Graphic by Matt Vasilogambros, writing in the National Journal Jan 17; based on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' September survey.
The United States and the Soviet Union account for 97% of the 125,000 nuclear warheads built since 1945. Of the total, the US built 66,500 warheads, of which 59,000 have been disassembled.
Joseph Cirincione and Eric Schlosser Commonwealth Club 1/8/14
Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione speaking at the Carnegie Council Dec. 10, 2013, on
current prospects for non-proliferation and nuclear arms reduction. "Will the trend toward disarmament continue, or are we on the brink of a new arms race- or worse, nuclear war?" Highly recommended- Cirincione makes many important points.
LANL's Central Mission Los Alamos Lab officials have recently claimed that LANL has moved away from primarily nuclear weapons to "national security", but what truly remains as the Labs central mission? Here's the answer from one of its own documents:
LANL's "Central Mission"- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for
Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications (PDF) 4/27/11
Historical note: In 1950, AEC officials secretly discussed closing Los Alamos Laboratory
In a declassified memorandum dated June 29 1950, the AEC's Walter Hamilton wrote: "The profits which might be gained by moving out of Los Alamos now might be more top scientists in the project, faster progress on weapons research projects, and financial economies which would free dollars for bombs instead of water wells and golf courses for Los Alamos. It's worth thinking about!"
View the complete memo (PDF)
"The fact of the matter is, every nuclear weapon is an accident waiting to happen or a potential act of mass murder. And the fewer nuclear weapons there are, the less likely there is to be a disaster."
Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control, in conversation with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Sept 18, 2013
"I have very strong doubts the West would be prepared even to consider what it should bring to the table to calm down the quite real Russian concerns accumulated over more than a decade of neglect by the West of Russia's security concerns."
Igor Sutyagin, research fellow, Royal United Services Institute, London.
B-61 Nuclear Bomb:
Worth more than twice it's weight in gold
Each 700-pound B61 nuclear bomb will soon be overhauled at a price tag of $28 million. But 700 lbs. of solid gold is currently worth only $12.4 million. It would actually be cheaper to make the B61 nuclear bomb out of gold. Use this online form to tell your representative to cut B61 funding!
Cathie Sullivan's charming hand-printed note cards are now available at Etsy.com. Cathie is a long-time supporter and board member of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and she is generously donating part of each sale to Nuclear Watch. Enjoy her selection at Etsy- and please Tweet and Facebook her cards too!
"Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount."
-Gen. Omar Bradley
Our Mission: Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities, mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs, greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex, and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.