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

“Let us not recover from the coronavirus only to find ourselves in an even more dangerous world, one menaced by an uncontrolled arms race and persistent fear of nuclear escalation.” Now Is Not the Time to Start an Arms Race

Pentagon press briefing on the Defense Department’s Covid-19 response. (Lisa Ferdinando / Defense Department)

As the coronavirus spreads, Congress still has to review the Pentagon’s defense budget request.

Freedom of Information in the Time of COVID-19

In principle, the COVID-19 outbreak could provide a compelling new justification for expediting the processing of certain Freedom of Information Act requests related to the pandemic. But it is more likely to slow down the handling of most requests as agency employees work remotely and other concerns are understandably prioritized.

The impact of COVID-19 was surveyed by the Congressional Research Service in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Processing Changes Due to COVID-19: In Brief, March 27, 2020.

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

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Livermore Lab FY 2021 Budget Chart – Courtesy Tri-Valley CAREs – VIEW

_____________________________________________

Click the image to view and download this large printable map of DOE sites, commercial reactors, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear transportation routes, surface waters near sites and transport routes, and underlying aquifers. This map was prepared by Deborah Reade for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

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

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

Recent Posts

Feinstein, Colleagues to DOD: ‘Low-Yield’ Nuclear Weapons Not a Deterrent

PRESS RELEASE | feinstein.senate.gov

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper questioning the decision to begin fielding W76-2 “low-yield” nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads.

            “We write to express our concern about the recent decision to begin fielding the W76-2 low-yield nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, a decision we do not support,” wrote the senators.

            “It is inconsistent for the United States to begin fielding new nuclear weapons while we urge other countries not to do so. We should be focusing on diplomatic solutions, and we ask that you urge President Trump to extend New START before it expires next year in order to begin negotiating a successor treaty that addresses U.S. security needs.”

            Full text of the letter is available here and below.

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Senators Introduce Legislation to Counteract Trump Exit from Iran Deal

Iran Diplomacy Act calls for a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear program

PRESS RELEASE | markey.senate.gov

Washington (February 19, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have introduced S.3314, the Iran Diplomacy Act, which calls upon the United States and Iran to return to no less than their commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. On January 14, 2020, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom triggered the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism in an attempt to address Iran’s breaches of the agreement, all of which followed the Trump administration’s unilateral exit from the deal on May 8, 2018.

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Holes found in protective liner at SC nuclear fuel factory

Inspectors at the Westinghouse nuclear fuel factory near Columbia recently found 13 small leaks in a protective liner that is supposed to keep pollution from dripping into soil and groundwater below the plant.

ARTICLE BY SAMMY FRETWELL | thestate.com

Bluff Road nuclear fuel factory near Columbia, S.C. It is operated by Westinghouse. PHOTO COURTESY HIGH FLYER

Now, the company plans to check a concrete floor beneath the liner, as well as soil below the plant, for signs of contamination that could have resulted from the tears, which were characterized in a federal inspection report as ‘’pinhole leaks.’’ The pinhole leaks, discovered by Westinghouse late in 2019, may have formed after company employees walked across the liner and weakened it, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Nuclear waste site near Carlsbad opposed by New Mexico House committee vote

“These wastes are going to last for millions and millions of years. They are extremely toxic. The idea is to dispose of these in an area where there are gas and mineral resources. This is really not what New Mexico needs.” – Dave McCoy with Citizen Action New Mexico

ARTICLE BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | currentargus.com

Legislation to oppose the transportation and storage of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico cleared a State House committee as Holtec International continues to develop a plan to store such waste at a proposed facility near the Eddy-Lea county line.

House Memorial 21 was introduced by New Mexico Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-50) intended to prevent the controversial proposal that could see up to 100,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods stored on a temporary basis at the site in southeast New Mexico for at least 40 years.

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New & Updated

Covid-19 is Killing Off Our Traditional Notions of National Defense

“It never made any sense, as Trump’s 2021 budget had initially proposed, to increase spending on nuclear weapons by $7 billion while cutting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding by $1.2 billion.”

Covid-19 is Killing Off Our Traditional Notions of National DefenseMAX BOOT | washingtonpost.com

I have always been a strong supporter of the U.S. armed forces, because I believe they are needed to safeguard our freedom and prosperity in a dangerous world. But even hawks like me cannot be blind to the prevalence of “black swan” events in the past 20 years.

Continue reading

NPT Review Conference To Be Postponed

“The specter of unconstrained nuclear competition looms over us for the first time since the 1970s. We are witnessing what has been termed a qualitative nuclear arms race, one not based on numbers but on faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons. Regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension are worsening, and proliferation challenges are not receding,” United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director | armscontrol.org

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has forced a postponement of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), possibly until early 2021. Originally scheduled to be held at UN headquarters in New York from April 27 until May 22, the conference typically involves hundreds of representatives from most of the 191 states-parties to the treaty, as well as nongovernmental organizations and meeting support personnel. The conference caps off a five-year cycle of meetings through which states-parties review implementation and compliance with the treaty and seek agreement on action steps to overcome new challenges and to fulfill core goals and objectives.

Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)
Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)

Continue reading

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET
“At a time when it is clear to everyone that US national security spending is poorly aligned with actual threats to the nation, the DoD proposal would make it even harder for Congress and the public to refocus and reconstruct the defense budget.”

The Department of Defense is quietly asking Congress to rescind the requirement to produce an unclassified version of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) database.

Preparation of the unclassified FYDP, which provides estimates of defense spending for the next five years, has been required by law since 1989 (10 USC 221) and has become an integral part of the defense budget process.

But the Pentagon said that it should no longer have to offer such information in an unclassified format, according to a DoD legislative proposal for the pending FY 2021 national defense authorization act.

Continue reading

New study says LANL nuclear pit production could go higher

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said he doubted the lab has the “expertise and competence” to produce 80 plutonium pits, “but they’re going to eat up taxpayers’ money.” Coghlan said he’s also concerned about defense leaders refusing to use the thousands of pits stockpiled during the Cold War and instead favoring new, heavily modified pits. That raises the question of whether the Pentagon might resume nuclear testing on these untried cores instead of computer simulations.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory should be able to produce 80 plutonium pits to meet surges in demand, not just the official goal of 30 pits a year, according to a proposed update to the lab’s last sitewide analysis.

Defense plans call for the lab to produce 30 pits — the grapefruit-sized explosive centers in nuclear warheads — in 2026 and the Savannah River Site to manufacture 50 in 2030.

Continue reading

ONE YEAR OF U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING WOULD PROVIDE 300,000 ICU BEDS, 35,000 VENTILATORS AND SALARIES OF 75,000 DOCTORS

| newsweek.com

The amount of money spent in one year by the U.S. on nuclear weapons could instead provide 300,000 ICU (intensive care unit) beds, 35,000 ventilators and 75,000 doctors’ salaries, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)–a “coalition of non-government organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the UN [United Nations} nuclear weapon ban treaty.”

In its recent report, the group stated that, according to armscontrol.org, the U.S. spent $35.1 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The costs are based on reported averages, but the study noted that the $35.1 billion in nuclear weapons spending would instead pay for “300,000 beds in intensive care units, 35,000 ventilators, and the salaries of 150,000 U.S. nurses and 75,000 U.S. doctors.”

Continue reading

E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

“Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical plants and other major polluters.”

LISA FRIEDMAN | nytimes.org

One former senior E.P.A. official called the move “a nationwide waiver of environmental rules.”Credit: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.

The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Continue reading

Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Find Opposition Within: Staff Scientists

“Federal scientists and lawyers, told to undo regulations that some have worked on for decades, have embedded data into technical documents that environmental lawyers are using to challenge the rollbacks.”

ARTICLE BY: CORAL DAVENPORT | nytimes.com

“WASHINGTON — President Trump has made rolling back environmental regulations a centerpiece of his administration, moving to erase Obama-era efforts ranging from landmark fuel efficiency standards and coal industry controls to more routine rules on paint solvents and industrial soot.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus and the Urgent Need to Redefine National Security

“In order to address serious domestic concerns [such as coronavirus], the United States must seek significant savings by reducing the Pentagon budget, ending endless wars, and returning to the arms control and disarmament arena.”

ARTICLE BY: MELVIN GOODMAN | counterpunch.org

The Coronavirus and the Urgent Need to Redefine National Security
Photograph Source: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy – Public Domain

For far too long, the United States has been wastefully spending its precious budgetary resources on a nineteenth-century military strategy and a strategic arms policy that has brought no advantages to the American people.  For the past three decades, our national security policies have been ineffectual and irrelevant to the genuine threats we face today.  These threats do not emanate from Russia or China. Rather, they stem from an underfunded and highly vulnerable public health system, a cyber world that is out of control, and a crumbling infrastructure.  In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D-plus to the nation’s infrastructure, with the lowest grades going to roads, bridges, mass transit, and water management systems.

Continue reading

LANL set to release radioactive vapors

Los Alamos National Laboratory will release radioactive vapors into the atmosphere to ventilate several barrels of tritium-tainted waste generated during the Cold War. Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in the 1990s he won a lawsuit against the Energy Department for falsely claiming a building’s “shielding factor” kept radioactive emissions within federal limits.

“The undocumented assertion in the application that half of the tritium could remain behind in equipment should be viewed with suspicion,” Coghlan said.

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

The lab informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month that it would ventilate four waste containers, beginning April 17, to relieve the built-up, radioactive hydrogen in the barrels’ headspace to prevent them from rupturing while they’re being handled. The EPA approved the application for the radioactive release last year.

Continue reading

Groups Request DOE Publish “Notice” of Release of Plutonium Bomb Document in Federal Register

“Request to Publish Notice of Draft Supplement Analysis in the Federal Register, DOE/EIS-0380-SA-06: Draft Supplement Analysis”

Public interest groups working for US DOE to fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in its unjustified plans to produce more plutonium “pits” for new and refurbished nuclear weapons have written to DOE concerning plans for expanded pit production at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The lawyer for SRS Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico (Santa Fee, NM) and Tri-Valley CARES (Livermore, CA) wrote to DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on March 20, 2020, requesting that NNSA  publish in the Federal Register a notice that a document on pit production was released on March 10, 2020 and, further, that it be opened for a 45-day comment period from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

The group letter is posted here:  Request for Publication of Notice of Draft SA in Federal Register March 20 2020

Continue reading

More time sought for public input on nuclear fuel proposal

ARTICLE BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | washingtontimes.com

FILE – In this April 29, 2015, file photo, an illustration depicts a planned interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico as officials announce plans to pursue the project during a news conference at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, N.M. Federal regulators are recommending licensing a proposed multibillion-dollar complex in southern New Mexico that would temporarily store spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors around the United States. But the preliminary recommendation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is making waves with critics who say the agency did not look closely enough at potential conflicts with locating the facility in the heart of one of the nation’s busiest oil and gas basins. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are requesting that federal regulators extend the public comment period for an environmental review related to a multibillion-dollar complex that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the United States.

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Undisclosed delays plague atomic programs, cost billions to fix

“The Trump administration wants $3.1 billion more this year than last for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons budget, but internal government documents show the raise is devoted substantially to covering previously undisclosed cost overruns and avoiding years of new delays in the majority of U.S. atomic weapons programs.”

ARTICLE BY: JOHN M. DONNELLY | rollcall.com

UNITED STATES – MARCH 28: Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, under secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA administrator, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing titled “Department of Energy’s Atomic Energy Defense Programs,” in Dirksen Building on Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The new NNSA budget request is the latest example of the agency’s long-running problems

The Trump administration wants $3.1 billion more this year than last for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons budget, but internal government documents show the raise is devoted substantially to covering previously undisclosed cost overruns and avoiding years of new delays in the majority of U.S. atomic weapons programs.

The administration has sold the 25 percent budget boost for the National Nuclear Security Administration only in broad terms as necessary to maintain America’s nuclear deterrent. However, the additional funds are needed not so much to advance capabilities as merely to keep troubled programs from falling further behind, according to the “official use only” correspondence obtained by CQ Roll Call.

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Action Alerts

Demand the Need for Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Expanded Pit Production

Comments will be accepted through April 24.
They can be mailed to: NNSA Los Alamos Field Office, Comments, LANL SWEIS SA, 3747 West Jemez Road, Los Alamos, NM, 87544.
Comments may also be emailed to: lanlsweissa@nnsa.doe.gov.

Nuclear Watch NM will have sample comments at www.nukewatch.org by April 10, 2020.

Need for Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Expanded Pit Production
US Defense Secretary James Mattis walks past a protester as he arrives at hearing on nuclear weapons in Washington, DC [Mark Wilson/AFP]

LEARN MORE ABOUT PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION

Critical Events

FY21 Public Witness Hearing – Submit Comments to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will hold an “FY21 Public Witness Hearing” to allow the public to comment on issues under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, which includes nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, and nuclear clean up.

The deadline to submit comments is March 31.

Comments can be sent to:
EW.Approp@mail.house.gov with the subject line: “Public Testimony for the Record FY21”

*Please be sure to follow written testimony instructions which can be found here

Save the Dates: August 5-9

Nuclear News

Legacy Nuclear Weapons Maintenance Wastes

Every base where legacy nuclear weapons (early-generation) were deployed (Bomber, Fighter Interceptor Squadrons (FIS), Nike Ajax, BOMARC Missile, ICBM), were maintained, or decommissioned, is potentially contaminated with highly classified 91(b) radioactive material (RAM) from the maintenance of the nuclear weapons during the replacing of the polonium-beryllium (Po-Be) TOM initiators.

GEORGE AIR FORCE BASE, CA

BY ANNETTE CARY | georgeafb.info

There is an under-reported news story about radioactive contamination at Air Force bases that were closed and transferred to the public by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

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Most Hanford workers to stay home over coronavirus concerns. No word on for how long

The site in Eastern Washington was used during World War II and the Cold War to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. It was left massively contaminated with radioactive and hazardous chemical waste, which is being cleaned up now at a cost of about $2.5 billion a year.

BY ANNETTE CARY | tricityherald.com

Most Hanford nuclear reservation workers will stay home temporarily as planning is done to increase safety related to COVID-19 coronavirus. Essential employees will report to the site. COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Thousands of Hanford workers will stay home for a second day Tuesday after the Department of Energy announced Sunday evening that the site was going into a temporary planning status to ensure the safety of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only workers essential to the nuclear reservation’s safety and security should report to work, unless they receive a call from their supervisor saying they are needed for planning work, DOE said.

Hanford employs about 9,300 workers, plus some additional subcontractor employees.

Continue reading

Coronavirus pandemic could delay licensing of nuclear waste facility near Carlsbad

New Mexico’s congresspeople called on the federal government to extend a public comment period for an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a proposal by Holtec International to build a nuclear waste repository in southeast New Mexico.

ADRIAN HEDDEN | currentargus.com

Gov. Chris Christie, Camden Mayor Dana Redd and other officials spoke about the international firm’s role in reviving the city during a Sept. 7 ribbon-cutting.

The letter signed by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and U.S. Reps. Xochitl Torres Small, Ben Ray Lujan Deb Haaland (D-NM), urged the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to extend the 60-day public comment period until public hearings could be held in New Mexico.

The request followed a State ban on gatherings of more than 10 people amid a global outbreak of coronavirus that left thousands dead across the world.

The comment period began Friday as the draft environmental impact statement was published in the Federal Register.

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Navy asks Lockheed Martin to build additional Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic nuclear missiles

The Trident II D5 is the primary U.S. sea-based nuclear ballistic missile, and is deployed aboard U.S. Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.

BY JOHN KELLER | tricityherald.com

Navy asks Lockheed Martin to build additional Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic nuclear missilesWASHINGTON – Strategic weapons experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. will build additional UGM-133A Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic nuclear missiles and support deployed D5 nuclear weapons under terms of a half-billion-dollar order announced Thursday.

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U.S. Department of Energy to continue cleaning up New Mexico nuke sites

During the Cold War and Manhattan Project, Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico was used to develop and test nuclear weapons, leaving behind a legacy of nuclear waste and environmental contamination.

ADRIAN HEDDEN | currentargus.com

For the next decade, the U.S. Department of Energy planned to continue disposing of nuclear waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, while also improving infrastructure at the site and continuing clean-up efforts at nuclear facilities across New Mexico and the U.S.

In its 2020-2030 “Vision” released this month, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) outlined plans for WIPP, and two other national laboratories it owns in New Mexico: Los Alamos (LANL) and Sandia (SNL) national laboratories.

WIPP is the nation’s only permanent repository for low-level transuranic (TRU) waste, which is permanently buried in an underground salt formation about 2,150 feet underground.

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Political Battle Brewing Over New Nuclear Program

“Congressional leadership has yet to receive the military requirement or justification for another new nuclear warhead,” a spokesperson for HASC Democrats said in an email.

“As recently as July 2019, the Department of Energy projected it would begin work on this warhead in 2023. Work on this new warhead will add billions of dollars to an already strained nuclear modernization plan.”

BY JON HARPER | nationaldefensemagazine.com

Political Battle Brewing Over New Nuclear Program

The Trump administration’s proposal to begin work on a new nuclear warhead program to modernize the nation’s aging stockpile is expected to be hotly contested.

For fiscal year 2021, President Donald Trump requested $28.9 billion for the Pentagon’s nuclear enterprise. He requested an additional $15.6 billion for efforts by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the stockpile, including $53 million for NNSA work on a new warhead, dubbed the W93.

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LANL Cleanup: What you can do

Please consider attending and giving public comments at local public meetings concerning cleanup at Los Alamos. Public comments do make a difference!

Follow NukeWatch and submit public written comments. We frequently comment on environmental impact statements and provide sample comments. Support Us: https://nukewatch.org/get-involved/donate/

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.

New & Updated

Covid-19 is Killing Off Our Traditional Notions of National Defense

“It never made any sense, as Trump’s 2021 budget had initially proposed, to increase spending on nuclear weapons by $7 billion while cutting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding by $1.2 billion.”

Covid-19 is Killing Off Our Traditional Notions of National DefenseMAX BOOT | washingtonpost.com

I have always been a strong supporter of the U.S. armed forces, because I believe they are needed to safeguard our freedom and prosperity in a dangerous world. But even hawks like me cannot be blind to the prevalence of “black swan” events in the past 20 years.

Continue reading

NPT Review Conference To Be Postponed

“The specter of unconstrained nuclear competition looms over us for the first time since the 1970s. We are witnessing what has been termed a qualitative nuclear arms race, one not based on numbers but on faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons. Regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension are worsening, and proliferation challenges are not receding,” United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director | armscontrol.org

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has forced a postponement of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), possibly until early 2021. Originally scheduled to be held at UN headquarters in New York from April 27 until May 22, the conference typically involves hundreds of representatives from most of the 191 states-parties to the treaty, as well as nongovernmental organizations and meeting support personnel. The conference caps off a five-year cycle of meetings through which states-parties review implementation and compliance with the treaty and seek agreement on action steps to overcome new challenges and to fulfill core goals and objectives.

Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)
Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)

Continue reading

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET
“At a time when it is clear to everyone that US national security spending is poorly aligned with actual threats to the nation, the DoD proposal would make it even harder for Congress and the public to refocus and reconstruct the defense budget.”

The Department of Defense is quietly asking Congress to rescind the requirement to produce an unclassified version of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) database.

Preparation of the unclassified FYDP, which provides estimates of defense spending for the next five years, has been required by law since 1989 (10 USC 221) and has become an integral part of the defense budget process.

But the Pentagon said that it should no longer have to offer such information in an unclassified format, according to a DoD legislative proposal for the pending FY 2021 national defense authorization act.

Continue reading

New study says LANL nuclear pit production could go higher

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said he doubted the lab has the “expertise and competence” to produce 80 plutonium pits, “but they’re going to eat up taxpayers’ money.” Coghlan said he’s also concerned about defense leaders refusing to use the thousands of pits stockpiled during the Cold War and instead favoring new, heavily modified pits. That raises the question of whether the Pentagon might resume nuclear testing on these untried cores instead of computer simulations.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory should be able to produce 80 plutonium pits to meet surges in demand, not just the official goal of 30 pits a year, according to a proposed update to the lab’s last sitewide analysis.

Defense plans call for the lab to produce 30 pits — the grapefruit-sized explosive centers in nuclear warheads — in 2026 and the Savannah River Site to manufacture 50 in 2030.

Continue reading

ONE YEAR OF U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING WOULD PROVIDE 300,000 ICU BEDS, 35,000 VENTILATORS AND SALARIES OF 75,000 DOCTORS

| newsweek.com

The amount of money spent in one year by the U.S. on nuclear weapons could instead provide 300,000 ICU (intensive care unit) beds, 35,000 ventilators and 75,000 doctors’ salaries, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)–a “coalition of non-government organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the UN [United Nations} nuclear weapon ban treaty.”

In its recent report, the group stated that, according to armscontrol.org, the U.S. spent $35.1 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The costs are based on reported averages, but the study noted that the $35.1 billion in nuclear weapons spending would instead pay for “300,000 beds in intensive care units, 35,000 ventilators, and the salaries of 150,000 U.S. nurses and 75,000 U.S. doctors.”

Continue reading

E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

“Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical plants and other major polluters.”

LISA FRIEDMAN | nytimes.org

One former senior E.P.A. official called the move “a nationwide waiver of environmental rules.”Credit: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.

The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Continue reading

Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Find Opposition Within: Staff Scientists

“Federal scientists and lawyers, told to undo regulations that some have worked on for decades, have embedded data into technical documents that environmental lawyers are using to challenge the rollbacks.”

ARTICLE BY: CORAL DAVENPORT | nytimes.com

“WASHINGTON — President Trump has made rolling back environmental regulations a centerpiece of his administration, moving to erase Obama-era efforts ranging from landmark fuel efficiency standards and coal industry controls to more routine rules on paint solvents and industrial soot.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus and the Urgent Need to Redefine National Security

“In order to address serious domestic concerns [such as coronavirus], the United States must seek significant savings by reducing the Pentagon budget, ending endless wars, and returning to the arms control and disarmament arena.”

ARTICLE BY: MELVIN GOODMAN | counterpunch.org

The Coronavirus and the Urgent Need to Redefine National Security
Photograph Source: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy – Public Domain

For far too long, the United States has been wastefully spending its precious budgetary resources on a nineteenth-century military strategy and a strategic arms policy that has brought no advantages to the American people.  For the past three decades, our national security policies have been ineffectual and irrelevant to the genuine threats we face today.  These threats do not emanate from Russia or China. Rather, they stem from an underfunded and highly vulnerable public health system, a cyber world that is out of control, and a crumbling infrastructure.  In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D-plus to the nation’s infrastructure, with the lowest grades going to roads, bridges, mass transit, and water management systems.

Continue reading

LANL set to release radioactive vapors

Los Alamos National Laboratory will release radioactive vapors into the atmosphere to ventilate several barrels of tritium-tainted waste generated during the Cold War. Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in the 1990s he won a lawsuit against the Energy Department for falsely claiming a building’s “shielding factor” kept radioactive emissions within federal limits.

“The undocumented assertion in the application that half of the tritium could remain behind in equipment should be viewed with suspicion,” Coghlan said.

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

The lab informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month that it would ventilate four waste containers, beginning April 17, to relieve the built-up, radioactive hydrogen in the barrels’ headspace to prevent them from rupturing while they’re being handled. The EPA approved the application for the radioactive release last year.

Continue reading

Groups Request DOE Publish “Notice” of Release of Plutonium Bomb Document in Federal Register

“Request to Publish Notice of Draft Supplement Analysis in the Federal Register, DOE/EIS-0380-SA-06: Draft Supplement Analysis”

Public interest groups working for US DOE to fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in its unjustified plans to produce more plutonium “pits” for new and refurbished nuclear weapons have written to DOE concerning plans for expanded pit production at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The lawyer for SRS Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico (Santa Fee, NM) and Tri-Valley CARES (Livermore, CA) wrote to DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on March 20, 2020, requesting that NNSA  publish in the Federal Register a notice that a document on pit production was released on March 10, 2020 and, further, that it be opened for a 45-day comment period from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

The group letter is posted here:  Request for Publication of Notice of Draft SA in Federal Register March 20 2020

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More time sought for public input on nuclear fuel proposal

ARTICLE BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | washingtontimes.com

FILE – In this April 29, 2015, file photo, an illustration depicts a planned interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico as officials announce plans to pursue the project during a news conference at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, N.M. Federal regulators are recommending licensing a proposed multibillion-dollar complex in southern New Mexico that would temporarily store spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors around the United States. But the preliminary recommendation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is making waves with critics who say the agency did not look closely enough at potential conflicts with locating the facility in the heart of one of the nation’s busiest oil and gas basins. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are requesting that federal regulators extend the public comment period for an environmental review related to a multibillion-dollar complex that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the United States.

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Undisclosed delays plague atomic programs, cost billions to fix

“The Trump administration wants $3.1 billion more this year than last for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons budget, but internal government documents show the raise is devoted substantially to covering previously undisclosed cost overruns and avoiding years of new delays in the majority of U.S. atomic weapons programs.”

ARTICLE BY: JOHN M. DONNELLY | rollcall.com

UNITED STATES – MARCH 28: Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, under secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA administrator, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing titled “Department of Energy’s Atomic Energy Defense Programs,” in Dirksen Building on Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The new NNSA budget request is the latest example of the agency’s long-running problems

The Trump administration wants $3.1 billion more this year than last for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons budget, but internal government documents show the raise is devoted substantially to covering previously undisclosed cost overruns and avoiding years of new delays in the majority of U.S. atomic weapons programs.

The administration has sold the 25 percent budget boost for the National Nuclear Security Administration only in broad terms as necessary to maintain America’s nuclear deterrent. However, the additional funds are needed not so much to advance capabilities as merely to keep troubled programs from falling further behind, according to the “official use only” correspondence obtained by CQ Roll Call.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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11 ESSENTIAL BOOKS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Staying engaged in the effort to prevent nuclear war requires an understanding of the history of nuclear weapons and the impact their use and production has had on people and the planet. View this list from Ploughshares Fund of some of the best books about nuclear weapons. From well-loved classics to warnings from the past few years, we hope that this selection sheds some light on the need to prevent the spread and further use of nuclear weapons.

Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and PersistenceAmb. Wendy R. Sherman. The lead negotiator of the Iran nuclear agreement takes readers inside the world of international diplomacy. An autobiography of one of our most effective negotiators — often the only woman in the room. She shows how we can learn to apply core skills of diplomacy to the challenges in our own lives and to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom, Elaine Scarry. Literary critic and social theorist makes the case that the US president’s unchecked power to order a nuclear weapons launch is a violation of the Constitution, and is fundamentally incompatible with the deliberative principles of democracy.

The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel, Jeffrey Lewis. Middlebury College professor, nuclear expert and Ploughshares Fund grantee explores a hypothetical nuclear war involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea and Japan rooted in real historical events, quotes, and facts about nuclear weapons technology. This work of fiction is presented in the style of a report from a government commission charged with investigating the events.

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Daniel Ellsberg. Former United States military analyst offers his recollections and analysis of a cache of secret documents related to the US nuclear arsenal. The book contains chilling details about narrowly-avoided disasters, flawed launch protocols, and philosophies and strategies regarding the true purpose of the US nuclear arsenal.

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, William J. Perry. The 19th US Secretary of Defense tells the story of his coming of age during the nuclear era, and reflects on how his experiences over the past 70 years have shaped his thinking about the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, Kristen Iversen. The author, who grew up near the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility, presents a detailed account of the government’s efforts to hide the effects of the toxic and radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats, and of local residents’ attempts to seek justice in court.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Schlosser. Acclaimed author and producer explores the history of nuclear weapons systems in the United States. Sobering accounts of nuclear accidents, near misses, and technological developments raise questions about the management and safety of the US nuclear arsenal. Eric Schlosser is a member of the Ploughshares Fund Board of Directors.

African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement, Vincent Intondi. Associate Professor of African-American Studies at Montgomery College chronicles the history of African-American involvement in the nuclear disarmament movement. and explores the connection between nuclear issues and the fight for racial equality.

Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race, Richard Rhodes. This Pulitzer Prize-winning author chronicles events during the Ronald Reagan administration that led to the US and the Soviet Union coming within minutes of nuclear war, setting the stage for the 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War, Nate Jones. National Security Archive staffer writes about a NATO military exercise that the Soviet Union initially mistook for a real nuclear first-strike.

Hiroshima, John Hersey. Required reading for any aspiring journalist, nuclear policy analyst, or anyone interested in the history, this short book collects essays originally published in the New Yorker written about survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

Stay engaged in the effort to prevent nuclear war. Read these 11 essential books on nuclear weapons.

Doom Towns

A graphic novel by Andy Kirk with artist Kristian Purcell

“The U.S. tested nearly a thousand atomic weapons in the Nevada desert 125 miles north of Las Vegas…. Did they really build fake towns out in the desert and then blow the whole place up with atomic bombs? And the answer is yes, in fact, they did do that…

“The purpose as stated by the civil defense agencies of creating these “Doom Towns” and then widely disseminating on film their being destroyed was to encourage Americans to be concerned about the possibility of civilians being the target of nuclear attack.”

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1983 by Taylor Downing

1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink

Taylor Downing, Da Capo Press, 4/24/18

Recently, a declassified report lifted the veil on the events of a week in November 1983, the year KAL007 was shot down and America watched “The Day After”, when we had in fact, a very close brush with World Death. The Able Archer story is a timely and important reminder of the variety of things that can happen to drive a situation to the brink of nuclear disaster when there is posturing and provocation and no trust.

Excerpts from the Christian Science Monitor book review:

“Able Archer 83 was sparked by a routine NATO military exercise. But, as writer Taylor Downing documents in “1983: Reagan, Andropov and a World on the Brink”, a carefully-researched and absorbing book, it occurred when mistrust and suspicion between the superpowers was sky-high. Indeed, relations were so tense that Soviet political and military leadership believed the exercise was a ruse to enable NATO to launch a pre-emptive strike… The Soviets concluded that this was not an exercise but the real thing and put their own military on the highest readiness level. So fully armed fighter planes sat continuously idling on runways waiting for a signal to take off. Meanwhile, in Washington, nothing seemed amiss. Only much later did the United States realize that Soviet leaders had been petrified with fear. A top-secret US report concluded, “We may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger.” (source: CSM)

More on Able Archer: Slate’s cover story from April 2017:
The Week the World Almost Ended- In 1983, the U.S. simulated a nuclear war with Russia- and narrowly avoided starting a real one. We might not be so lucky next time..

The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Ron Rosenbaum, in his fascinating and highly readable “How The End Begins” (2011) notes that when Kissinger told Nixon that Ellsberg was “the most dangerous man in America” he wasn’t referring to the Pentagon Papers but to what Ellsberg knew about top secret nuclear war plans from his work at RAND. Ellsberg had also made off with thousands of nuclear war-fighting strategy documents in addition to the Pentagon Papers, but decided to release the latter first. As it turned out much of the nuclear papers were lost during the turmoil following the Pentagon Papers release. This book, long overdue, is about what he learned then.

Ellsberg recalls being tasked to review the strategic war-fighting plans in effect under Eisenhower, and discovering that they called for “hitting every city, actually every town, above 25,000 population” in Russia and China and to some extent East Europe. Pressed for an estimate of death toll, the pentagon came back with 600 million dead. And that was not counting US and West European death tolls. “I thought, ‘This is the most evil plan that has ever existed. It’s insane.'”

Referring to US and Russian ICBM forces still to this day on alert: “Here is what we now know: the United States and Russia each have an actual Doomsday Machine.”

Democracy Now interview with transcript

Harper’s Magazine excerpt, Dec 6, 2017

Dave Davies excellent NPR interview

at Amazon

Quotes

“Let us not recover from the coronavirus only to find ourselves in an even more dangerous world, one menaced by an uncontrolled arms race and persistent fear of nuclear escalation.” Now Is Not the Time to Start an Arms Race

Pentagon press briefing on the Defense Department’s Covid-19 response. (Lisa Ferdinando / Defense Department)

As the coronavirus spreads, Congress still has to review the Pentagon’s defense budget request.

“Nuclear power robbed us of everything. We still can’t go into the forests. Families with children used to go into the forest to gather wild plants and teach about nature. That was a common practice, taken for granted. But today we can’t do any of that.” Kenichi Hasegawa, a former dairy farmer in Namie Town, Fukushima

People, wearing protective masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), place candles as they pay their respect to victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis, in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
People, wearing protective masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), place candles as they pay their respect to victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis, in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Nine years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, causing the ensuing accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The effects of this disaster are ongoing: radiation contaminated a large area and has had serious impacts on the environment and the livelihoods that depended so much on the natural environment.

With sadness but no ceremony, Japan marks disaster anniversary

“This destabilizing deployment further increases the potential for miscalculation during a crisis,”

 

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), an opponent of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review report’s call for new low-yield warhead capabilities, on the decision to deploy the W76-2. He further described it as “misguided and dangerous.” — armscontrol.org

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee returns to base in Kings Bay, Georgia in 2011. The boat is reportedly the first to have some of its missiles armed with low-yield nuclear warheads. (Photo: James Kimber/U.S. Navy)
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee returns to base in Kings Bay, Georgia in 2011. The boat is reportedly the first to have some of its missiles armed with low-yield nuclear warheads. (Photo: James Kimber/U.S. Navy)

U.S. Deploys Low-Yield Nuclear Warhead Shannon Bugos

The U.S. Navy has fielded a low-yield nuclear warhead for some of its submarine-launched ballistic missiles for the first time, the Defense Department confirmed in February.

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“[Even] a “limited” India-Pakistan nuclear war would significantly affect every person on the globe, be they a school teacher in Nebraska, a factory-worker in Shaanxi province or a fisherman in Mombasa.”
Sebastien Roblinnationalinterest.com 

“Nowhere On Earth Would Be Safe From An India-Pakistan Nuclear War”

An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher, displayed at the Republic Day Parade on New Delhi’s Rajpath, January 26, 2004

The India-Pakistan conflict is the world’s most dangerous.

India’s official policy is that it will never be first to strike with nuclear weapons—but that once any nukes are used against it, New Dehli will unleash an all-out retaliation.

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