Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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.


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


Nuclear Watch New Mexico was in DC the last week of April, talking to congress and top officials on critical nuclear weapons and waste issues as part of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 35th annual DC Days 2023.

Banner displaying “Nuclear Weapons Are Now Illegal” at the entrance in front of the Los Alamos National Lab to celebrate the Entry Into Force of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty on January 22, 2021

Follow the Money!

Map of “Nuclear New Mexico”

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands after signing the arms control agreement banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missles, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty.

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

The Wall St. Journal has compiled a searchable database of contaminated sites across the US. (view)
Related WSJ report:

New & Updated

McGovern is first member of Congress to address UN about Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

“For some reason, we have a lot of the establishment that say it’s just a fact that we have to live with it,” McGovern said…“If we can’t reach our goal quickly, maybe we can engage in curtailing nuclear weapons.”

“Anything can happen if there’s the political will,”


NORTHAMPTON — A treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons and ban anything associated with their development and manufacture has been ratified by 69 countries, with an additional 28 countries in the process of ratification, since the international agreement was signed in 2017.

The United States, though, along with many of its allies and another eight nations that possess nuclear weapons, remain holdouts to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, otherwise known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.

For the first time on Monday, though, as the weeklong Second Meeting of State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons got underway at the United Nations in New York, a member of the U.S. Congress was present for the discussions.

Comments to the New Mexico Environment Dept. in Support of Comprehensive Cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Request for a Hearing

Nuclear Watch New Mexico November 6, 2023 | Email

New Mexico Environment Department
Hazardous Waste Bureau
2905 Rodeo Park Drive, Building 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505-6303
By email to [email protected]

SUBJECT: Support for Comprehensive Cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Request for a Hearing

Dear New Mexico Environment Department:
We strongly support the Environment Department’s mandate for comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Material Disposal Area C, an 11.8-acre dump consisting of seven unlined pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. This mandate will help maximize protection of human health and the environment and ensure that our critical drinking water resources are permanently protected.

We completely agree that the cleanup remedy for Area C must, in NMED’s own words, “consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste,” plus a soilvapor extraction system to remove the underground plume of volatile organic compounds (which are typically carcinogenic solvents).

Another large earthquake shows seismic activity continues to increase in West Texas, experts say

The 5.2 magnitude earthquake is tied for the fourth strongest in Texas history. It occurred in an area where oilfield companies have long been injecting wastewater from fracking underground.

By Erin Douglas, The Texas Tribune | November 9, 2023

Oil & Gas Industry Joins Fight Against Nuclear Waste Site Proposed in Southeast New Mexico

“The cross-country transport, consolidation, and interim storage of America’s entire inventory of spent nuclear fuel should only be considered once a permanent repository is underway and should never occur absent consent from affected communities,” – Nov 1. Letter from the Permian Basin Coalition (Occidental Petroleum, Concho Resources, Diamondback Energy and Fasken Oil and Ranch)

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | November 7, 2023

Some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the Permian Basin came out against a proposed nuclear waste facility in southeast New Mexico.

The basin spans southeast New Mexico and West Texas and is regarded as one of the most active fossil fuel regions in the world. It was forecast to produce about 5.9 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) in November, according to the Energy Information Administration. That is about half of the more than 12 million bopd of total U.S. output.

All that oil production is driven by some of the world’s largest energy companies establishing heavy operations in the region.

State program to protect waterways called costly but necessary

“…It’s imperative for the state to gain more autonomy, even if the price seems steep, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a final rule that cemented the high court’s decision into official policy, leaving about 95% of New Mexico’s waters unprotected, the regulators said.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 2, 2023

State regulators have estimated the time and money required to develop full authority to protect New Mexico’s rivers, streams and lakes in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that sharply narrowed the federal government’s power to regulate wetlands and waterways.

It will cost the state $7 million to $9 million a year to run a program that regulates all types of polluted discharges into state and federal waters and will take seven to 10 years to establish, state officials told the Buckman Direct Diversion Board on Thursday.

Creating a permitting program to cover discharges going into designated waters of the state could be achieved within five years, even though those waters make up a much larger array than the ones that fall under federal jurisdiction, Environment Department officials said.

The state program would be an important step, but only a step, of the river diversion, a joint city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County project that draws water from the Rio Grande, they told the board.

LANL reports glove box breach, tritium drift weeks apart

“…Anti-nuclear activists contend the increasing number of glove box mishaps are part of a trend that will continue as the lab processes more plutonium, partly in pursuit of making the bowling ball-sized cores, or pits, that detonate warheads.

“It’s reasonable to assume it will accelerate with expanded [pit] production,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 1, 2023

A Los Alamos National Laboratory worker recently punctured a glove used to handle radioactive material in a sealed compartment, and wind blew airborne tritium into the liquid waste treatment facility a few weeks earlier, a federal watchdog reported.

The worker punctured the glove while handling a sharp measuring caliper instead of an electronic device that’s normally used for the task but was disabled, according to an October report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The breach contaminated a protective glove the worker was wearing but not the skin, and it didn’t cause an airborne radioactive release, the report said.

This is the second glove box breach in as many months and among a half-dozen the safety board has reported this year.

State, feds will seek independent expert over chromium plume threatening San Ildefonso Pueblo

“Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s operations director, agreed getting a third set of eyes on the project would be helpful, especially if this expert can suggest an alternative to the pump-and-treat method.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 1, 2023

Federal officials said Wednesday they were pursuing an independent expert to help resolve their dispute with the state on how to clean up a decades-old toxic chromium plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory that has worsened since pumping was shut down seven months ago.

State regulators in March ordered the U.S. Energy Department to stop extracting tainted water, treating it and injecting it back into the 1.5-mile-long plume to dilute the pollution, contending this approach pushed the contaminants toward San Ildefonso Pueblo and deeper into the aquifer.

At a Wednesday meeting, a federal cleanup manager reiterated the Energy Department’s position the pump-and-treat method was reducing the hexavalent chromium and keeping it from spreading to the pueblo — and with the work halted, the contamination is rebounding.

“We’ve erased a lot of the gains we’ve made over the last few years of operating [by shutting down],” said Michael Mikolanis, head of the Energy Department’s environmental management in Los Alamos.

The worsening situation increases the urgency to bring in a third party that can provide fresh analysis and a different perspective to help move the state and federal agencies past their impasse, Mikolanis said.

Santa Fe New Mexican MY VIEW: See the Untold Chapter of the Oppenheimer Story

Tina Cordova, the fourth-generation cancer survivor and activist who founded the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, is profiled in the new film First We Bombed New Mexico. / Courtesy Lois Lipman

By Lois Lipman, SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | October 21, 2023

President Joe Biden visited New Mexico a few weeks ago promoting “Bidenomics,” but for a group of New Mexicans from the Tularosa Basin, it was his brief exchange with Tina Cordova that was monumental.

Cordova is a descendant of the people who called a sparsely populated area of south-central New Mexico home — a group that would find not only their lives changed, but also the lives of their future children and grandchildren as a result of what happened the morning of July 16, 1945. So why did Biden stop to talk to Tina Cordova?

Cordova is a fourth-generation cancer survivor from the radiation of the Trinity Test and has been on a decadeslong crusade for the unwitting victims of the world’s first atomic bomb…

Amid current upgrades, commission foresees replacing LANL plutonium facility

An anti-nuclear watchdog group contends the pits’ main purpose is to be fitted into the new warheads — not to upgrade existing weapons — and expanding the arsenal requires more pits than the lab can make.

“The commission ill-advisedly wants a replacement for LANL’s plutonium pit production facility to help fuel the new nuclear arms race with new-design nuclear weapons,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, wrote in an email. “This is so tragic and unnecessary when no future pit production is scheduled to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing, extensively tested stockpile.”


A congressional commission foresees eventually replacing Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium facility — despite the billions of dollars being spent to refurbish it — as part of its recommended strategy to bolster the U.S. nuclear arsenal to keep pace with Russia and China.

The Congressional Strategic Posture Commission has released a 160-page report that pushes for the U.S. to boost its nuclear capabilities and conventional military to deter what it describes as increasingly aggressive and well-equipped adversaries, namely Russia and China.

One section calls for improving and expanding infrastructure to research, develop and make better weaponry at a higher volume — and buried in a footnote is a statement of how the upgrades would include replacing the lab’s plutonium facility, known as PF-4, for production and science.

No timeline is given for when PF-4 might be phased out, but the document confirms anti-nuclear critics’ longtime contention the federal government is spending billions of dollars on a facility with a finite life.

At the moment, this is the only facility in the country that can produce the bowling-ball-sized plutonium cores, or “pits,” to detonate warheads. Nuclear security officials want the lab to make 30 pits a year by 2030, saying they’re needed to modernize the arsenal and equip two new warheads being developed.

Two Businessmen Charged for $1M Kickback Scheme Involving Nuclear Weapons Components

An indictment was unsealed today in Kansas City, Kansas, charging two businessmen for an alleged scheme to fraudulently steer and award subcontracts by a major engineering firm for work on nuclear weapons manufacturing projects for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC).


According to court documents, from at least 2011 through approximately January 2021, Michael Clinesmith, 67, of Kansas, allegedly solicited and received kickbacks and bribes from Richard Mueller, 63, of Missouri, in exchange for steering subcontracts from Clinesmith’s employer to Mueller’s company (Subcontractor 1). Clinesmith, a long-tenured employee of a major engineering firm (Company 1) working at the KCNSC, was responsible for designing and procuring gages that were specially designed and manufactured to measure the components of nuclear weapon products. Clinesmith allegedly used his position and authority at Company 1 to steer gage subcontracts to Subcontractor 1 in exchange for Mueller paying him over $1 million for surreptitiously performing some or all of the work. Clinesmith is alleged to have told Mueller how much to bid on gage subcontracts that Company 1 awarded. Then, Clinesmith told his employer, Company 1, that those bids were fair and reasonable without disclosing that, in exchange for the subcontracts, Mueller would secretly funnel to Clinesmith the money awarded to Subcontractor 1. The indictment also alleges that Mueller lied to federal agents regarding the number of impacted subcontracts and his involvement in the scheme.

Russia’s Self-Destructive Move to De-Ratify the CTBT

“A [US] State Department spokesman said the Russian move “needlessly endangers the global norm against nuclear explosive testing,” and that the United States remains committed to observing a moratorium.”

By , ARMS CONTROL NOW | October 17, 2023

As with other critical arms control agreements, the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is under threat due to inattention, diplomatic sclerosis, and worsening relations between nuclear-armed adversaries.

The arctic island of Novaya Zemlya was the site of 132 Soviet nuclear weapons tests for 40 years. President Putin has ordered that the site be ready to resume nuclear explosive testing if so ordered.
The arctic island of Novaya Zemlya was the site of 132 Soviet nuclear weapons tests for 40 years. President Putin has ordered that the site be ready to resume nuclear explosive testing if so ordered.

Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given members of the Russian Duma the green light to “un-ratify” the CTBT, ostensibly to “mirror” the posture of the United States toward the treaty and somehow pressure the United States to ratify the pact. Such a move would be a “self-defeating own goal,” that would set back efforts to bring the CTBT into force and raise questions about Russia’s intentions.
Continue reading

U.S. Strategic Posture Commission Ratchets Up Nuclear Arms Race

Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – Today, America’s Strategic Posture, The Final Report was released by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In its own words:

“The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States was established by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and concludes that America’s defense strategy and strategic posture must change in order to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with China and Russia. Decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared to address the threats from these two nuclear-armed adversaries arising during the 2027-2035 timeframe. Moreover, these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously.”

Continue reading

Nuclear weapons should be relics of the past – ALJAZEERA

“As the world marks the International Day against Nuclear Tests, we should all join the fight for global disarmament.”

By Karipbek Kuyukov, the Honorary Ambassador of The ATOM Project, ALJAZEERA | September 26, 2023

The Semipalatinsk Test Site in northern Kazakhstan, where hundreds of nuclear bombs were detonated by the Soviet Union until 1989, is now dotted with craters and boreholes [CTBTO Preparatory Commission/Wikimedia Commons]

In the quiet and peaceful steppe of Kazakhstan, a dark and ominous legacy lingers beneath the surface. Over four decades between 1949 and 1989, 456 nuclear bombs were detonated by the Soviet Union at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in northern Kazakhstan.

While the echoes of nuclear explosions have long faded, the scars of nuclear testing run deep. More than 1.5 million people in Kazakhstan were exposed to the toxic fallout from those tests. Countless lives were irreversibly altered, and the environment was forever scarred. I am a living testament to the horrors of nuclear testing, as I was born without arms due to the effects of nuclear radiation.

Kazakhstan’s Enduring Legacy: From Nuclear Test Site to Leader in Disarmament – ASTANA TIMES

“Famous Kazakh painter Kuyukov, who was born without hands after being exposed to radiation in his mother’s womb, is one of the victims of the many health problems caused at the genetic level by exposure to radiation in the vast area surrounding the nuclear test site.”


Thirty-two years ago (Aug. 29, 1991), the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site was permanently closed by a presidential decree in Kazakhstan, then a part of the Soviet Union, contrary to the position of the central government in Moscow. Kazakhstan subsequently gained independence from the Soviet Union and became the first country in the world to voluntarily turn itself to a non-nuclear weapons state from a nuclear weapons state by abolishing all of its nuclear arsenal, the fourth largest in the world at the time, and removing them to Russia.

A group photo of participants of the regional conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Photo credit:

Eighteen years later, in 2009, at the initiative of Kazakhstan, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution designating August 29, the day the test site was closed, as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. With the threat of nuclear weapons being used again becoming a reality, is it really possible to achieve a nuclear-free world? What should we know about the threat posed by the use and testing of nuclear weapons?

Los Alamos Lab’s Future at a Crossroads: Cleanup or More Nuclear Weapons? NukeWatch Applauds NM State Rejection of Fake Cleanup

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 18, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342, c 505.470.3154 | Email
Scott Kovac – c. 505.316.4148 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – In an important win for genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Lab’s plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and toxic wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. Area C is located in the heart of nuclear weapons production at LANL, contiguous to the Lab’s main plutonium facility which is expanding production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores.

In a September 7, 2023 “Public Notice of Statement of Basis,” the Environment Department ruled:

“For maximum protection of human health and the environment and to ensure that the drinking water resource can be conservatively protected, NMED has determined that the selected [cleanup] remedy for MDA C must consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste… Excavation will ensure that the source of contamination at MDA C is removed…”

Continue reading

Plutonium Contamination at Depth at Los Alamos Lab

New Nuclear Media: Art, Films, Books & More

In Search of Resolution: New Documentary on Nuclear Dangers

The new documentary “In Search of Resolution,” which examines the current state of international nuclear arms control and is the third film of The Nuclear World Project, airs on @PBS stations throughout August.

Filmed in 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this timely documentary examines the continuing dangers posed by the existence of nuclear weapons. The program includes in-depth interviews with scholars, ambassadors, and leaders in the field to provide historical context, while international experts reflect on arms control measures, nuclear disarmament, and possible ways forward.

The film provides, among other things, an interesting inside look at the TPNW MSP1, the 2022 Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, and the 2022 NPT Review Conference.

Find out more and watch online here:

Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America

A new book is out about Hanford, by Joshua Frank, co-editor of Counterpunch, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.

Once home to the United States’s largest plutonium production site, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is laced with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. The threat of an explosive accident at Hanford is all too real—an event that could be more catastrophic than Chernobyl. 
Continue reading