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.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We must remind Japan that if the radioactive nuclear wastewater is safe, just dump it in Tokyo, test it in Paris and store it in Washington, but keep our Pacific nuclear-free.”

— Vanuatu’s celebrated former ‘Turaga Chief’ Motarilavoa Hilda Lini

A team of IAEA experts check out water storage tanks TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 27 November 2013. Photo Credit: Greg Webb / IAEA

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

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”

Nuclear Watch Interactive Map – U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan and 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: https://www.wsj.com

New Nuclear Media: Art, Films, Books & More

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. 

The EPA designated Hanford the most toxic place in America; it is also the most expensive environmental clean-up job the world has ever seen, with a $677 billion price tag that keeps growing.

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Fallout from a nuclear past: A new book explores the human toll of “nuclear colonization” in New Mexico

Of the three waves of colonization New Mexico has undergone — Spanish, American and nuclear — the latter is the least explored. And for author Myrriah Gómez, there were personal reasons to reveal the truth about how “nuclear colonization” has altered the state’s past and continues to shape its future.

By Alicia Inez Guzmán Searchlight New Mexico | December 2022 searchlightnm.org

Gómez, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, is the author of  “Nuclear Nuevo México,” a book that explores the history of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the fundamental tension of living in its shadow. Its publication this month by the University of Arizona Press couldn’t be timelier: Los Alamos is currently preparing to build plutonium “pits” that act as triggers in nuclear weapons, putting the lab front and center in an ongoing national debate about nuclear impacts.

“If Spanish colonialism brought Spanish colonizers and U.S. colonialism brought American colonizers,” as Gómez writes in her book, “then nuclear colonialism brought nuclear colonizers, scientists, military personnel, atomic bomb testing, and nuclear waste among them.”

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New & Updated

Santa Fe new Mexican “MY VIEW” – Tina Cordova: No more nuclear sacrifice in our state

“No more waste. No more wasteland. No more sacrifice. No more sacrifice zone. No more suffering. We’ve done enough.”

Santa Fe New Mexican, Tina Cordova | January 28, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium Founding Member Tina Cordova, center, with other survivors at the Tularosa Downwinders vigil, July 17, 2021.

Many years ago, Jan. 27 was designated the National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders, a time to recognize the sacrifice and suffering so long experienced by those who were overexposed to radiation as part of our country’s testing of nuclear weapons. The people of New Mexico were, after all, the first “Downwinders” any place in the world.

It would be monumental if our government would do more than set aside a day to remember us and actually take responsibility for the damage that was done to us. Holding the government to account is an ongoing fight that we wage every day with Congress — only to be told it’s going to cost too much. This, while they pass an $857 billion defense budget.

This year, as the people of New Mexico reflect on what happened to us more than 77 years ago, we should also reflect on what is about to happen to us today. A proposal is making its way through the federal government that would allow private industry to store tens of thousands of tons of high-level nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico.

We cannot accept the risk of this prospect and must fight this effort with all that we have.

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Mary Dickson: Downwinders deserve more than a day of recognition

Congress must act to compensate victims of atomic testing.

Salt Lake Tribune | January 18, 2023 sltrib.com

(AP Photo, File) This July 16, 1945, file photo shows an aerial view after the first atomic explosion at Trinity Test Site in New Mexico.

Last month, as 2022 drew to a close, Congress approved $857 billion in defense spending under the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

I can’t help but be struck by the amount we are putting toward a one-year military budget — $45 billion more than was requested and a full $80 billion more than last year — at the same Downwinders are pushing for an expansion of the exceedingly limited Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).

It’s been 32 years since RECA was enacted in 1990, and during that time only $2.5 billion has gone toward partial restitution for the harms caused to ordinary citizens by our own government as a result of atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada. When it comes to defense, there always seems to be a surplus of funds, but not enough for the tens of thousands of unfortunate civilians who became casualties of the production and testing of lethal weapons of mass destruction.

January 27, designated as a National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders, marks the 72nd anniversary of the first nuclear blast at the Nevada Test Site in 1951. All these years later, Downwinders are still fighting for acknowledgement and compensation for the suffering and devastating losses that we’ve endured as a result of radioactive fallout spread across the country.

Mike Pompeo says world has ‘no idea’ how close India and Pakistan came to nuclear war

Former US secretary of state says in his book that Washington’s timely intervention prevented an escalation.

“It took us a few hours – and remarkably good work by our teams on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad – to convince each side that the other was not preparing for nuclear war,”

Aljazeera | January 25, 2023 aljazeera.com

India Pakistan came close to a nuclear war in 2019: Pompeo
Mike Pompeo | Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

India and Pakistan came close to a nuclear war in 2019 and Washington’s intervention prevented an escalation, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says in his new memoir.

This happened in February 2019 after New Delhi broke precedent by launching air raids inside Pakistani territory after blaming an armed group there for a suicide bombing that killed 41 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the flashpoint Kashmir region. In response to the attack, Islamabad shot down an Indian warplane, capturing the pilot.

Simulated temperature changes 2 years after a hypothetical nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Misery of even a “limited” nuclear war between India and Pakistan would be global: 50-125 million immediate deaths, and then the weather changes. Source: science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aay5478

A time of unprecedented danger: It is 90 seconds to midnight

This year, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine. The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight — the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.

 | January 24, 2023 thebulletin.org

The war in Ukraine may enter a second horrifying year, with both sides convinced they can win. Ukraine’s sovereignty and broader European security arrangements that have largely held since the end of World War II are at stake. Also, Russia’s war on Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks.

And worst of all, Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict by accident, intention, or miscalculation is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.

A time of unprecedented danger: It is 90 seconds to midnight

Continue reading the full 2023 Doomsday Clock statement.

Unusual blood cancer cases among US troops who manned nuclear missile silos at a base in Montana are raising new questions for the military

“If the cancers are related to their service, it will not be the first time. American service members have been exposed cancer-causing agents in the past, such as those who were sent to the Pacific to help clean up the fallout from extensive nuclear weapons testing.

By , Business Insider | January 23, 2023 businessinsider.com

In this June 24, 2014 file photo, a gate is closed at an ICBM launch control facility in the countryside outside Minot, N.D., on the Minot Air Force Base.
In this June 24, 2014 file photo, a gate is closed at an ICBM launch control facility in the countryside outside Minot, N.D., on the Minot Air Force Base. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File

The US military is looking into unusual blood cancer cases among officers who previously manned nuclear missile silos at a base in Montana, an Air Force official said following the release of a new report.

Nine military officers who worked at Malmstrom Air Force Base as missileers, troops tasked with standing by in underground bunkers to fire nuclear missiles, have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at ages noticeably younger than the median age for this disease, and the military is investigating if there is a connection between their respective services at the facility — some of which stretch back decades — and the disease, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The report cited a briefing presented by US Space Force Lt. Col. Daniel Sebeck earlier this month to his unit and obtained by the AP.

“There are indications of a possible association between cancer and missile combat crew service at Malmstrom AFB,” Sebeck said in his presentation, adding that there was concern over the “disproportionate number of missileers presenting with cancer, specifically lymphoma.”

Nuclear Ban Treaty: Updates & 2nd Anniversary Celebrations 🎉

January 22, 2023

International, signatures, TPNW: Djibouti signs TPNW

On January 9, 2023, the small island country of Djibouti became the 92nd country to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Djibouti voted in favor of the treaty at the treaty negotiations in 2017 and is the latest country to finally sign it. Another 30 countries voted for the treaty and have not yet signed it, while 27 countries have signed the treaty but are still going through the ratification process.

Djibouti is now committed to a swift ratification process, so it can join the 68 countries who have signed and fully ratified the TPNW, putting the treaty’s prohibitions into effect in those countries. Djibouti is also calling on all countries who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the treaty. A UN General Assembly resolution passed in December 2022 called on all states to sign, ratify, or accede to the TPNW “at the earliest possible date”.

The post Djibouti signs TPNW appeared first on NuclearBan.US.

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Letter to Biden: Sign the TPNW

Draft letter to President Biden is here:

To sign your organization onto this letter:

Press release here:

Op-Ed/short version of the Biden letter here:

To send this to Biden as an individual, click here

The post Letter to Biden: Sign the TPNW appeared first on NuclearBan.US.

PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION BRIEFING

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico January 17, 2023 Email

GAO report: NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Pit Production Capability, January 12, 2023, gao.gov/products/gao-23-104661

  • “NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Scope of Work Includes Dozens of Programs, Projects, and Other Activities Managed by Multiple NNSA Offices at Multiple Sites.” p. 19
  • “NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Establishing its Pit Production Capability.” p. 40
  • They [NNSA officials] said they did not want to introduce uncertainty about dates and wanted to avoid releasing preliminary or unpalatable information that was subject to change.” pp. 40-41
  • “NNSA will have spent billions of dollars without having an overall idea of total program costs, or when program objectives, to include the capability to produce 80 pits per year, will be reached.” pp. 55-56

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Nuclear waste project in New Mexico opposed in recent poll, company asserts local support

…Opponents, including Southwest Research – a frequent critic of Holtec and the nearby Waste Isolation Pilot Plant repository for transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste – maintained the project would bring an undue risk to New Mexicans nearby and Americans along the waste transportation routes.

That’s why opposition was spread across political parties, gender and ethnicity,said Nuclear Waste Program Manager Don Hancock at Southwest Research and Information Center.

The poll showed more than half of those surveyed in the region were against the project…

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | January 14, 2023 currentargus.com

A rendering of what Holtec International's interim nuclear waste repository would look like if completed.
A rendering of what Holtec International’s interim nuclear waste repository would look like if completed.

New Mexicans in every region of the state allegedly opposed storing high-level nuclear waste in their state, according to a recent poll, as a New Jersey company hoped to build a facility to do so near Carlsbad.

The poll, commissioned by Albuquerque-based Southwest Research and Information Center in a partnership with the Center for Civic Policy surveyed 1,015 voters across the state from Dec. 7 to 14.

It found 60 percent of those surveyed were in opposition to the project, with 30 percent supporting and 10 percent undecided.

Independent Government Accountability Office Releases Scathing Report on Expanding Plutonium Pit Production; Pressure Mounts on Los Alamos Lab to Increase Production

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 12, 2023 | Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing report entitled NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Pit Production Capability. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its parent Department of Energy have been on the GAO’s High Risk List for project mismanagement since 1991.

Plutonium pits are the essential radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. There has been only limited production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) since 1989 when a FBI raid investigating environmental crimes abruptly shut down production at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. NNSA now plans to spend $2.9 billion in FY 2023 alone to establish production of at least 30 pits per year at LANL and 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

The two main findings of GAO’s report are:

  • NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Scope of Work Includes Dozens of Programs, Projects, and Other Activities Managed by Multiple NNSA Offices at Multiple Sites (p 19)

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GAO: Cost, time estimates for making nuclear bomb cores flawed – Santa Fe New Mexican

The GAO report said the lack of detailed estimates of the costs, time and resources involved is especially glaring because this is the largest and most expensive weapons project undertaken by the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department branch that oversees the arsenal.

“Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said an agency that boasts about having top-level technicians should have no problem supplying all the necessary information about pit production, including total costs.”

BY SCOTT WYLAND, THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | January 13, 2023 santafenewmexian.com

Estimates for costs and the time required to produce nuclear bomb cores, including 30 per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory, are severely lacking and could make it difficult for federal managers to avoid cost overruns, delays and other problems, a government watchdog said in a report released Thursday.

The plan for the lab and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce a combined 80 nuclear warhead triggers, or “pits,” each year by 2035 is a massive, complex undertaking that demands detailed scheduling, a careful accounting of costs and clear estimates of how long various tasks will take — none of which are being done by the federal agency in charge of nuclear weapons, the Government Accountability Office said in its 78-page report.

US nuclear agency falls short on scheduling, cost estimates

The U.S. agency in charge of jumpstarting the production of key components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal is falling short when it comes to having a comprehensive schedule for the multibillion-dollar project

“Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, pointed to some of the price tags associated with the project having doubled over the last four years. He said production overall at the two sites could cost at least $60 billion over 30 years with radioactive waste disposal and other environmental and public health concerns adding to the bill.

“Until Congress and the New Mexican delegation demand credible cost estimates and schedules, Coghlan said lawmakers “should stop rewarding the guilty with yet more money…That is simple good governance that could help slow our sleepwalk into the new and unpredictable nuclear arms race,” he said.

BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – KOB, THE WASHINGTON POST, US NEWS, ABC NEWS | January 13, 2023

FILE – In this Nov. 20, 2013 file photo, seen through thick protective glass, shows the area where workers sand-blast the large stainless steel tanks used in the vitrification process to rid them of contaminants at the Defense Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C. The U.S. agency in charge of jumpstarting the production of key components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal is falling short when it comes to having a comprehensive schedule for the multibillion-dollar project. The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, that plans by the National Nuclear Security Administration for reestablishing plutonium pit production do not follow best practices and run the risk of delays and cost overruns. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton,File)[ASSOCIATED PRESS/Stephen B. Morton]
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. agency in charge of jumpstarting the production of key components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal is falling short when it comes to having a comprehensive schedule for the multibillion-dollar project.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Thursday that plans by the National Nuclear Security Administration for reestablishing plutonium pit production do not follow best practices and run the risk of delays and cost overruns.

The federal government has not manufactured plutonium cores regularly in more than 30 years and faces a congressionally mandated deadline of turning out at least 80 per year by 2030.

The GAO describes the modernization effort as the agency’s largest investment in weapons production infrastructure to date, noting that plutonium is a dangerous material and making the weapon cores is difficult and time consuming.

“NNSA lacks both a comprehensive cost estimate and a schedule outlining all activities it needs to achieve this capability,” the reports states.

ACTION ALERTS

Public Comment Opportunity and Upcoming Meetings on NNSA’s Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by February 14, 2023!

As NNSA announced in the Federal Register (FR) on December 16, 2022 (87 FR 77096), NNSA is holding a 60-day public comment period on the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (DOE/EIS-0549) from December 16, 2022 through February 14, 2023.  NNSA is making the Draft SPDP EIS available for public review and comment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). NNSA has also announced three in-person public hearings and one online virtual meeting to receive comments on the Draft SPDP EIS.


It’s Time to Speak Out at DOE’s Surplus Plutonium Hearings in Carlsbad and Los Alamos

“Buckle up.  This is going to be a contentious discussion.”  

On Tuesday, January 24th and Thursday, January 26th, the Department of Energy will hold in-person public hearings in Carlsbad and Los Alamos, respectively, about their plans to handle, treat and dispose of surplus plutonium in New Mexico.  On Monday, January 30th DOE will also hold a virtual public hearing about these plans to ship 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium in the form of plutonium pits, or the triggers, and non-pit plutonium for nuclear weapons to process at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and dispose at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

This is DOE’s sixth attempt to address how to handle surplus plutonium so that it could no longer be used in nuclear weapons.  DOE’s plan is found in the draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program environmental impact statement (EIS), which is open for public comment until February 14th.  https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doeeis-0549-surplus-plutonium-disposition-program

Previous DOE attempts did not include LANL and WIPP.  That has changed.  LANL and WIPP are now DOE’s targets.

Since 1994, DOE has spent billions of dollars and held dozens of public meetings and hearings about how to prevent access to surplus plutonium.  Immobilization is one method.  But in 2002, DOE canceled the immobilization program “due to budgetary constraints,” even though thousands of public comments supported immobilization of all the plutonium.

Stay Informed of All Permit-Related Happenings at WIPP! Sign Up for Updates:

The New Mexico Environment Department maintains a Facility Mailing List to which you can add your name and address to get the latest information – just email Ricardo Maestas at the New Mexico Environment Department at ricardo.maestas@state.nm.us and ask to be added to the list.  Or mail your request with your mailing address to:

Ricardo Maestas

New Mexico Environment Department-Hazardous Waste Bureau

2905 Rodeo Park East, Bldg. 1

Santa Fe, NM 87505

WIPP also uses the facility mailing list to inform you about opportunities to provide public comments.  NMED provides their list to WIPP.

More Info and signup options:

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Interfaith Panel Discussion on Nuclear Disarmament - August 9

HELP US SUPPORT NEW MEXICO’S GOVERNOR IN ACTING TO STOP WIPP EXPANSION!

STOP “FOREVER WIPP!”

The Department of Energy is seeking to modify the nuclear waste permit for southeastern New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Dragging out WIPP’s operations decades past the original 20-year agreement violates the social contract made with New Mexicans. WIPP is being equipped to take the waste that will be generated from production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads, and it was never supposed to do that. An expansion of WIPP will impact the entire country, not just residents of southeastern New Mexico.

View the videos below for more information, and, if you live in an area that may be endangered by these nuclear waste transportation risks, please consider making your own “This is My Neighborhood” video!

Background Information – Problems with Nuclear Waste


Mixed Waste Landfill Facts

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Posts Related to: NUCLEAR SAFETY

The Twisted Myth that Nuclear Weapons Make Us Safer

“Mutually Assured Destruction” has been the MO of the world’s nuclear powers for decades. If Russia points a giant nuclear warhead toward the U.S., we would gear up to point an even more massive missile their way, and then, in theory, Russia shrugs its shoulders and says, “Eh, not worth it.” They would be completely “deterred” from advancing a nuclear attack based on the reality that doing this would mean the entire country, continent, and, ultimately the entire world, would become obliterated as we know it; the cost and the risk greatly outweigh any benefit. Supposedly. According to this thesis, the existence of nuclear weapons makes the cost of war seem frighteningly high and thus “discourage[s] states from starting any wars that might lead to the use of such weapons” (Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,”) The idea that nuclear weapons make conventional war safer is widely used as framing for why we need nukes at all, with one specific reason being spread wide and far that nuclear weapons can still be the equalizer against an adversary’s superior conventional forces.

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Safety questions arise as Los Alamos National Laboratory pursues pit production

But a watchdog group argued Los Alamos lab adopting a higher radiation limit for workers than other labs is to create more leeway when it ramps up plutonium pit production.

 | May 6, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

“The collective worker doses would probably go up once they start actual manufacturing,” said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Jay Coghlan, the executive director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said the agency in charge of nuclear security is pushing the lab to crank up pit production, yet it won’t install what’s known as a “safety class active confinement system” that would prevent a heavy radioactive release during an earthquake, catastrophic fire or a serious accident.

“This is a longstanding recommendation that Los Alamos [lab] and NNSA refuse to honor while continually downplaying the risk of expanded pit production,” Coghlan said.

Los Alamos National Laboratory allows workers to have a higher yearly radiation exposure than other national labs do and has not followed a longtime recommendation by safety officials to install a ventilation system in its plutonium facility they say would better protect workers and the public during a serious radioactive breach, according to a recent government watchdog’s recent report.

The report, some critics contend [see our quotes above], is of concern as the lab pursues production of nuclear bomb cores, or pits, at nearly triple the yearly amount it has ever made before.

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LANL Plans to Address Possibly Exploding Drums Shipped to Texas in 2014

Waste Control Specialists near Andrews TX
Aerial View of Waste Control Specialists (WCS) on the TX/NM state line

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has given itself a Categorical Exclusion (CX) under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the removal, relocation, and examination of transuranic (TRU) waste drums at Waste Control Specialists (WCS). These drums are similar to the ones that forced WIPP to close in 2014. LANL officials decided that formal environmental assessments, with public input, of the movement of the possibly exploding waste drums are not needed.

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