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

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!

Nuclear Watch Analysis of NNSA FY 2022 Budget Request

LANL FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2022 Budget Request – 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 Blog Posts

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2021

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2021

Today, Sunday, September 26, 2021, marks the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations has been working toward achieving global nuclear disarmament since the organization’s inception; it was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, with a mandate to make specific proposals for the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons has been observed annually since 2014, serving as a tool to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination. In 2013, the year the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was introduced, the President of the General Assembly noted that a “renewed international focus on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons has led to a reinvigoration of international nuclear disarmament efforts.”

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This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

The original mission of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico had two specific stipulations: it was to be the FIRST and only operating underground nuclear waste repository in U.S; and it is ONLY authorized to take a certain kind of nuclear weapons waste – legacy transuranic (TRU) waste. In December of last year, the U.S. Department of Energy published a notice of intent to expand WIPP. The notice details expansion of the plant in two ways: capacities and types of waste permissible, as well as extended storage/operation timelines. The federal government’s plans would expand the size of the nuclear weapons dump to more than twice its current size and more than is allowed: Federal law and legal agreements with New Mexico clearly limit the amount of waste at WIPP, but the expansion would allow more than that capacity (as described in the April 2020 National Academy of Sciences Report “Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.”) This means an increased volume of waste, as well as an increased number of shipments travelling to WIPP over the entire rest of the century.

The original complete set of legal permits, contracts and laws governing WIPP includes the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which 1) gives the New Mexico Environment Department regulation over the permit for DOE operation of WIPP and 2) limits amount of waste and how long WIPP operates (2024);

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76 Years After the First Nuclear Bomb Test, the U.S. is Still Dead Set on Building Weapons of Mass Destruction

76 Years After the First Nuclear Bomb Test, the U.S. is Still Dead Set on Building New Weapons of Mass Destruction

Last week, July 16 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb explosion. Within another month, memorials and commemorations will be held for the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the U.S. bombed on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. Although it was unknown to most residents of New Mexico until after the United States’ atomic bombing of Japan, the citizens and communities in the southern region of the state were in fact the first nuclear victims.

When the U.S. Army detonated an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., “its thunderous roar during the rainy season knocked people from breakfast tables in Tularosa and sent others on the Mescalero Apache reservation into hiding.” (axios.com) Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in New Mexico are working to pressure lawmakers to compensate those who have suffered extremely because of the experiment. Rare forms of cancer and other health problems have been discovered in those living near the site of the Trinity Test, and the vast, noxious consequences of this experiment have had lasting impact on now multiple, entire generations.

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South Carolina Environmental Law Project and Nuclear Watchdogs Virtual Press Conference

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, along with other watchdog groups, has announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its expanded production of plutonium cores for the U.S. nuclear weapons “modernization” plans. There has been inadequate environmental review by federal agencies, who have failed to detail potential impacts of the projects around communities in New Mexico and South Carolina.

The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration demanding the federal agency that oversees U.S. nuclear research and bombmaking must “take a legally required ‘hard look’ at impacts on local communities and possible alternatives before expanding manufacturing of the plutonium cores used to trigger nuclear weapons.”

The push from U.S. officials to “modernize” the country’s nuclear arsenal cites only general global security concerns that do not justify the science and brand new, untested technology that will be necessary to the task. citing global security concerns. Although “most of the plutonium cores currently in the stockpile date back to the 1970s and 1980s,” scientific experts estimate that plutonium pits will last 100 years or more., and on warhead type, the best estimate of minimum pit life is 85–100 years.minimum.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina face enormous (and, frankly, unrealistic) deadlines to produce a massive number of plutonium cores in coming years – 50 or more cores at South Carolina and 30 or more at Los Alamos National Lab. The Savannah River Site location now has estimated costs up to $11.1 billion, with a completion date ranging from 2032 to 2035. The U.S. doesn’t need the new plutonium cores with the taxpayer bearing the burden for the expense of lagging deadlines and bloated budgets.

“The watchdog groups said Tuesday that the agency took a piecemeal approach to decide on locating the production at Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site, where nearby communities are already underrepresented and underserved.”

Tom Clements of Savannah River Site Watch said the South Carolina location was picked for political reasons following the failure of a facility designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel. As the Savannah River Site has never served as a storage or production site for the pits in its history, establishing pit construction there would be “a daunting technical challenge that has not been properly reviewed,” Clements said.

With very real, current threats the U.S. is facing right now, we don’t need another Rocky Flats situation in New Mexico or South Carolina where a $7 billion, yearslong cleanup is required after the facilities fail due to leaks, fires and environmental violations, doing irreparable damage to the earth and placing communities there in unequivocal peril.

Cleanup Funding Request at Los Alamos Would Be Needed Increase

DOE Environmental Management released the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Congressional Budget Request and asked for a $107.5 million increase over last year for legacy cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The FY22 EM funding request for cleanup at LANL totaled $333.5 million, which was a record request for cleanup at the Lab.

The Budget Request gives lifecycle costs. LANL has spent $3.8 billion on cleanup from 1997 to 2020. The high estimate is $4.6 billion for FY21 to FY90. This gives a total lifecycle cost of $8.4 billion from 1997 through 2090. The assumption included with these estimates is that most of the waste will remain buried at LANL. This is the first time DOE has mentioned legacy cleanup lasting until 2090. Last year the completion date was given as 2036.

Is legacy cleanup completion being pushed back to prioritize pit production? If DOE starts spending more on cleanup like this year in the future, shouldn’t cleanup take less time? The numbers work out to DOE only spending an average of $50 million between now and 2090, so DOE must not have plans to spend $330 million annually through 2090.

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Modernization: The Mainspring of NNSA FY 2022 Budget Request in the Form of Ballooning SRS Pit Costs

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s detailed fiscal year 2022 budget request was (partially) unveiled last week on Friday, May 28, in the evening before a long holiday weekend. The Biden Administration’s total NNSA FY22 budget request is just under $20 billion, requesting of $15.48 billion for NNSA “Total Weapons Activities” and following suit with Trump’s excessive nuclear weapons budget of $15.35 billion that Congress appropriated for FY 2021.

Of particular note in the budget request is that it will cost more than double what the National Nuclear Security Administration had previously estimated for the total of DOE’s Plutonium Bomb Plant construction at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The facility would be a converted production plant for the fabrication of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear warheads. The cost for the plant has ballooned from the previous estimate of $4.6 billion to a now staggering $11.1 billion. What’s more, the schedule for the facility’s initial operation has slipped up to five years. The plans for the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant have already run far over budget and fallen behind schedule, and “these troubling and potentially debilitating developments foreshadow problems to come to the challenging pit-production project,” according to the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch.

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New & Updated

One Man Shouldn’t Control the Nuclear Button

Congress should require consultation, so generals wouldn’t have to break the rules to save the world.

Gen. Mark Milley is being criticized for taking actions to forestall the possibility of an inappropriate nuclear launch order by President Trump. The criticism is based on steps the general allegedly took, as described in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril.” Gen. Milley was ostensibly concerned that Mr. Trump was unstable and might order a nuclear launch for political reasons. The general told Congress last month that because he believed China had unwarranted worries of a U.S. attack, he acted to “de-escalate” the situation and contacted his Chinese counterparts to indicate that no attack was planned.

The critics are missing the point. The overriding issue is not whether Gen. Milley was correct in his assessment, or whether he was authorized to take the reported actions, but what the consequences could have been if his concern had been warranted. It is not hyperbole to say that the consequences could have been a profound tragedy and, in the worst case, the end of civilization.

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Survivors Of The Trinity Nuclear Test Weren’t Warned — Then Were Lied To After

NPR’s Leila Fadel talks with Lesley Blume about the struggle of the survivors of the Trinity nuclear test in 1945 — one locals didn’t know was coming and caused serious health issues.
“The compensation act – RECA as it’s called – is about to expire next July…What’s happening right now is that
several members of Congress from New Mexico and from other Western states are trying to extend RECA, and they’re making a bid to have the Trinity downwinders included under this legislation at last, among other exposed communities.”

Heard on All Things Considered

Survivors Of The Trinity Nuclear Test Weren't Warned — Then Were Lied To After
An aerial view of the aftermath of the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site in New Mexico in 1945. The device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. Credit Associated Press

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This was most of America’s introduction to nuclear power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HARRY TRUMAN: A short time ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy.
FADEL: President Harry Truman’s announcement in August of 1945 heralded a terrifying new weapon.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMAN: It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

FADEL: But the Atomic Age actually began the month before At the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico. The first nuclear test, codenamed Trinity, was a closely guarded secret. Locals, some as close as 12 miles away, had no idea it was coming. Lesley Blume wrote about them for National Geographic.

Welcome back.

LESLEY BLUME: Thank you so much.

FADEL: So, first, tell us what happened during that first test, codenamed Trinity.

BLUME: It was a huge success, but it also – the bomb was a lot more powerful than they had expected, three to five times as powerful. And, you know, initially they thought that the cloud was only going to go up about 12,000 or 13,000 feet. Well, guess what. It went up between 50,000 and 70,000 feet. It created sort of an estimated fallout zone about 100 miles long and 30 miles wide…

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International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2021

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2021

Today, Sunday, September 26, 2021, marks the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations has been working toward achieving global nuclear disarmament since the organization’s inception; it was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, with a mandate to make specific proposals for the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons has been observed annually since 2014, serving as a tool to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination. In 2013, the year the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was introduced, the President of the General Assembly noted that a “renewed international focus on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons has led to a reinvigoration of international nuclear disarmament efforts.”

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‘Humanity remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation

“Now is the time to eliminate nuclear weapons from our world, and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace”, declared UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday, marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Addressing the threat of nuclear weapons, said Mr, Guterres, has been central to the work of the United Nations since its inception; the first General Assembly resolution in 1946 sought “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” 

The UN chief pointed out that, although the total number of nuclear weapons has been decreasing for decades, some 14,000 are stockpiled around the world, which is facing the highest level of nuclear risk in almost four decades: “States are qualitatively improving their arsenals, and we are seeing worrying signs of a new arms race.” Humanity, continued the UN chief, remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation.

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Veterans Group Urges President Biden to Adopt No First Use Policy

To mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, September 26, Veterans For Peace is publishing an Open Letter to President Biden: Just Say NO to Nuclear War!

Veterans Group Urges President Biden to Adopt No First Use Policy
ST. LOUIS, MO –
Veterans For Peace, with over 140 chapters in the United States and affiliates abroad, is calling on President Biden to step back from the brink of nuclear war by declaring and implementing a policy of No First Use and by taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. The full letter will be published on the VFP website and offered to mainstream newspapers and alternative news sites: Click here to view.

While timed to coincide with the UN-declared International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a major motivation for the letter is the Nuclear Posture Review, currently underway.

The letter therefore states, “As veterans who have fought in multiple U.S. wars, we are concerned about the very real danger of a nuclear war that would kill millions of people and could possibly even destroy human civilization. Therefore we are asking to have input into the Nuclear Posture Review that your administration has recently initiated.”

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New push on to expand nuclear radiation compensation in US

“There is always money when there’s political will. This is a social, environmental and restorative justice issue that we, as a nation, can no longer look away from.” — Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium

September 22, 2021 

New push on to expand nuclear radiation compensation in US
Corbin Harney, an elder with the Western Shoshone Tribe, beats a drum during a May 2002 tribal protest near the planned Yucca Mountain national nuclear waste dump.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is renewing a push to expand a U.S. compensation program for people who were exposed to radiation following uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.

Advocates have been trying for years to bring awareness to the lingering effects of nuclear fallout surrounding the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico, where the U.S. military detonated the first atomic bomb, and on the Navajo Nation, where more than 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted over decades to support U.S. nuclear activities.

Under legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico, and Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, other sites across the American West would be added to the list of places affected by fallout and radiation exposure. Eligibility also would be expanded to include certain workers in the industry after 1971, such as miners.

The legislation also would increase the amount of compensation someone can receive to $150,000 and provide coverage for additional forms of cancer.

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Op-Ed: Gen. Milley did the wrong thing for honorable reasons. We need new rules for starting nuclear war

“But let’s be clear about where the problem lies: It’s with the existing U.S. system for controlling the use of nuclear weapons… If the United States is intent on maintaining at the ready a large nuclear strike force, as is apparently the case, the nation needs comprehensive safeguards to prevent reckless and ill-considered decisions regarding their use.

September 16, 2021

A new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa contains a singularly startling allegation. In the waning weeks of the Trump administration, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twice called his counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, of the People’s Liberation Army, offering assurances that the United States was not about to launch an attack against China.

“If we’re going to attack,” Milley told Li, according to Woodward and Costa, “I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

The surprise turns out to be the revelation of Milley’s actions. Some in the Defense Department may have known about the calls, but one thing seems clear: President Trump, the U.S. commander in chief, did not. Milley acted of his own volition, without prior presidential approval. On that point, Christopher Miller, then serving as acting Defense secretary, is emphatic, describing Milley’s actions to Fox News as a “disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination.”

Providing adversaries with advance notice of U.S. military actions does not number among the prescribed duties of the chairman of the joint chiefs. Arguably, the Woodward-Costa allegations, if accurately reported, qualify as treasonous. At the very least, they raise serious doubts about Milley’s respect for the bedrock principle of civilian control of the military. To state the matter bluntly, when adherence to that principle raised the possibility of an outcome not to Milley’s liking, he seemingly granted himself an exemption.

Of course, all of this happened in a specific context: Woodward and Costa’s chilling account is only the latest to depict the unraveling Trump presidency following the November election. Unwilling to accept defeat, the incumbent all but ceased to govern and instead devoted himself to overturning the election’s results by any means necessary, violating the rule of law and waiving the Constitution.

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Woodward/Costa book: Worried Trump could ‘go rogue,’ Milley took secret action to protect nuclear weapons

“Woodward and Costa write that after January 6, Milley ‘felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions.’
Milley called it the ‘absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility, the authors write.”

September 14, 2021

Washington (CNN) Two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to “Peril,” a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

Woodward and Costa write that Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, ‘was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.’

Milley worried that Trump could ‘go rogue,’ the authors write.
“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.
In response, Milley took extraordinary action, and called a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.
“Got it?” Milley asked, according to the book.
“Yes, sir.”
‘Milley considered it an oath,’ the authors write.
“Peril” is based on more than 200 interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses, and it paints a chilling picture of Trump’s final days in office. The book, Woodward’s third on the Trump presidency, recounts behind-the-scenes moments of a commander in chief unhinged and explosive, yelling at senior advisers and aides as he desperately sought to cling to power. It also includes exclusive reporting on the events leading up to January 6 and Trump’s reaction to the insurrection, as well as newly revealed details about Trump’s January 5 Oval Office showdown with his vice president, Mike Pence. Woodward and Costa obtained documents, calendars, diaries, emails, meeting notes, transcripts and other records. The book also examines Joe Biden’s decision to run for office again; the first six months of his presidency; why he pushed so hard to get out of Afghanistan; and how he really feels about Trump. CNN obtained a copy of “Peril” ahead of its release on September 21.

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U.S. still prepared to engage with North Korea after missile test

“North Korea’s cruise missiles usually generate less interest than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions. However, analysts said calling it “strategic” could mean it was a nuclear-capable system.”

Reuters reuters.com September 13, 2021

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, Sept 13 (Reuters) – The United States remains prepared to engage with North Korea, a White House spokeswoman said on Monday, despite Pyongyang’s announcement that it had tested a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend.

“Our position has not changed when it comes to North Korea, we remain prepared to engage,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

North Korea’s state media announced on Monday what it said were successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile that analysts said could be the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability. read more

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial indications were that North Korea had carried out such a test.

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This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

The original mission of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico had two specific stipulations: it was to be the FIRST and only operating underground nuclear waste repository in U.S; and it is ONLY authorized to take a certain kind of nuclear weapons waste – legacy transuranic (TRU) waste. In December of last year, the U.S. Department of Energy published a notice of intent to expand WIPP. The notice details expansion of the plant in two ways: capacities and types of waste permissible, as well as extended storage/operation timelines. The federal government’s plans would expand the size of the nuclear weapons dump to more than twice its current size and more than is allowed: Federal law and legal agreements with New Mexico clearly limit the amount of waste at WIPP, but the expansion would allow more than that capacity (as described in the April 2020 National Academy of Sciences Report “Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.”) This means an increased volume of waste, as well as an increased number of shipments travelling to WIPP over the entire rest of the century.

The original complete set of legal permits, contracts and laws governing WIPP includes the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which 1) gives the New Mexico Environment Department regulation over the permit for DOE operation of WIPP and 2) limits amount of waste and how long WIPP operates (2024);

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Why China’s attack on Nato ‘double standards’ suggests it will continue to build up nuclear arsenal

“The alliance’s head Jens Stoltenberg accused Beijing of increasing its firepower ‘without constraint’ and urged it to sign up to international arms controls – But Beijing hit back by criticising Nato’s nuclear sharing arrangements and said the US and Russia should lead the way by disarming”

scmp.com September 12, 2021

China is expected to continue building up its arsenal of nuclear weapons despite Nato’s appeal for it to sign up to international arms controls. Last week Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg criticised China’s efforts to develop its nuclear capacity – by building more warheads, delivery systems and silos – “without any limitation or constraint”.

He told Nato’s annual arms control conference in Brussels that this was making the world “more unpredictable, more competitive and more dangerous”.

20 years after 9/11, Yankee’s nuclear fuel still poses security risk

“Deb Katz, the executive director of Citizens Awareness Network, a New England-wide anti-nuclear group, said her group supports ambitious improvements to the storage facilities.

“We support hardening the waste on site. This includes double walling the casks, increasing the distance between the casks, if possible, berming them in to protect them from acts of malice,” she said.

“The waste must stay on site until there is a scientifically sound and environmentally just solution,” she said, referring to a nuclear industry move toward building interim nuclear waste storage facilities. One is proposed for west Texas, the other in New Mexico.”

By Susan Smallheer, Brattleboro Reformer benningtonbanner.com September 11, 2021

VERNON — The Vermont Department of Health is still planning for the worst at the Vermont Yankee site in Vernon.

But the worst, thanks to the active decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee site currently underway, is not as bad as it could have been six years ago, when Vermont Yankee shut down and its nuclear fuel was moved out of the reactor core and put into storage in giant steel and concrete casks.

“The Health Department’s Radiological and Nuclear Emergency Response Plan originally had a heavy emphasis on releases from Vermont Yankee, which could impact large areas and populations while it operated. Even with the shutdown of Vermont Yankee, we continue to maintain many of our resources for radiological emergency response,” said William Irwin, the state’s radiological health chief.

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Lawmakers set for battle over next-gen nuclear missile

“For the W87-1, whose plutonium cores, or pits, are to be produced in part by the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility in South Carolina, at stake are jobs and billions of federal dollars to upgrade buildings or construct new factories. It’s all intertwined with shaky plans launched by the Trump administration to have Savannah River and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico produce a combined 80 pits per year by 2030.”

defensenews.com September 9, 2021

Lawmakers set for battle over next-gen nuclear missile
Senior Airman Ryan Page inspects the front of a booster in preparation for a missile roll transfer on April 20, 2021, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Missile handlers follow a step-by-step checklist to ensure the Minuteman III ICBM is able to roll between two vehicles for routine maintenance before it returns to the field. (Airman Elijah Van Zandt/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON ― Nuclear modernization opponents and defenders are gearing up to fight again over the next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile and other efforts.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and a skeptic of nuclear spending on the House Armed Services Committee, confirmed he plans to offer nuclear-themed amendments when the annual defense bill receives House floor consideration later this month. One aims to pause the Air Force’s nascent Ground Based Strategic Deterrent in favor of maintaining the missile it would replace, the Minuteman III; another would zero out funds for the GBSD’s warhead, the W87-1.

“The bottom line is that we could pause the entire GBSD program and push forward into the future a $100 billion expense,” Garamendi, who chairs the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, told Defense News.

With the Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review due early next year, Garamendi said the amendments are part of his “strategy to raise the issues, to gather the data, test the arguments against the opposition … and create an occasional success.”

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General Assembly President calls for halt to nuclear tests

The President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, on Wednesday called for an end to nuclear tests, as ambassadors gathered to commemorate the International Day against Nuclear Tests, observed annually on 29 August.

news.un.org September 8, 2021

Despite recent developments in advancing nuclear disarmament, more remains to be done, said Mr. Bozkir, urging countries which have yet to sign or ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to do so without delay.

“More than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted since the advent of nuclear weapons. While the rate of testing has declined, they have not stopped,” he said.

“These tests have long lasting health and environmental consequences. They devastate the communities they impact. They displace families from their homelands.”

Progress on disarmament

Underlining the General Assembly’s commitment to nuclear disarmament, Mr. Bozkir welcomed progress achieved over the past year amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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US attorney details illegal acts in construction projects, sealing the fate of the “nuclear renaissance”

“The indictment reveals important new information about how Benjamin and Westinghouse conspired to hide crucial information about reactor completion dates from the owners…It states that the defendant made “false and misleading statements” and “knowingly devised a scheme” to continue the project based on misrepresentations.”

By Tom Clements | thebulletin.org

VC Summer nuclear site in South Carolina, with operating unit 1 in the background and abandoned twin unit Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor construction in the foreground; Tim Mousseau ©2018. Used with permission to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

The ill-fated construction of new nuclear reactors in South Carolina—one of two such troubled Westinghouse reactor construction projects in the United States—was abruptly terminated on July 31, 2017, but the effort to determine legal accountability for the project’s colossal failure is only now hitting its stride.

The South Carolina legislature conducted hearings about the project’s collapse. But it has fallen to the United States Attorney for South Carolina to outline internal decisions that led to project abandonment—via court filings, plea agreements, and indictments. These filings are proving to be the best documentation so far of criminal behavior related to projects that were part of a much-hyped “nuclear renaissance” that began in the early-2000s but has since petered out in the United States.

On August 18, 2021, a second Westinghouse official was charged in a federal grand jury indictment filed with the court in Columbia, South Carolina. The charges outline “the scheme” to cover up key details about the problem-plagued project to construct two 1,100 megawatt (MW) Westinghouse AP1000 light-water reactors at the VC Summer site north of Columbia.

The project was initiated in May 2008 and gained final approval in February 2009.

According to the 18-page indictment, former Senior Vice President of New Plants and Major Projects Jeffrey Benjamin “had first-line responsibility for Westinghouse’s nuclear reactors worldwide.” He was charged, according to a news release, “with sixteen felony counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, and causing a publicly-traded company to keep a false record.” On August 30, the US attorney’s office announced that Benjamin would be arraigned on August 31.

In order for SCANA, parent of utility South Carolina Electric and Gas, to gain a federal production tax credit of $1.4 billion, essential to the financial viability of the project, both units had to be finished by December 31, 2020.

 

Benjamin and Westinghouse knew that the dates would never be met, but SCANA doggedly stuck with them given production-tax-credit pressure.The indictment reveals important new information about how Benjamin and Westinghouse conspired to hide crucial information about reactor completion dates from the owners, the publicly held utility SCANA, now defunct, and its junior partner, the state-owned South Carolina Public Service Authority (known as Santee Cooper). It states that the defendant made “false and misleading statements” and “knowingly devised a scheme” to continue the project based on misrepresentations via Westinghouse to the owners, state regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, investors, and ratepayers. Nervous SCANA officials played along with the inept cover-up efforts and passed on false and inaccurate information to regulators.

Benjamin, the fourth official to be charged, faces 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Issuance of the indictment suggests he intends to face trial rather than plead guilty—a risky proposition given the waste of $9 billion on construction of a project that delivered nothing to consumers (and potential jury members) but a series of nine rate hikes. While those hikes were eventually eliminated and further rate hikes were avoided, a small nuclear construction charge in current bills stands as an enduring reminder of the debacle.

On May 21, 2021, Carl Churchman, Westinghouse Electric Corporation vice president and project director, was indicted on the felony charge of making false statements to the FBI about the status of the project. He pleaded guilty on June 10.

In February, Kevin Marsh, former SCANA CEO, also entered a guilty plea in federal court for conspiracy to commit felony fraud. And Stephen Byrne, former SCANA chief operating officer and executive vice president, pleaded guilty in July 2020 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Both gave false testimony numerous times to regulators.

The August 18, 2021 news release from the South Carolina US Attorney’s Office made clear that the investigation continues: “`This indictment with its attendant allegations and charges is another step toward justice for all those responsible for the VC Summer nuclear plant fiasco,’ said FBI Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic.”The two SCANA officials and Westinghouse’s Churchman are subject to five-year prison sentences and stiff fines but will likely face reduced sentences in exchange for fully cooperating with investigators, something required in their plea agreements.

Both Westinghouse and SCANA were eventually forced into bankruptcy. Westinghouse was acquired by Brookfield Business Partners, and SCANA vanished after an easy takeover by Dominion Energy, approved in December 2018. The fate of the debt-strapped, state-owned partner Santee Cooper rages on in the South Carolina Legislature.

One entity that will likely never be held responsible for the disastrous project that it authorized is the South Carolina Public Service Commission. Members of this body unanimously voted in favor of anything SCANA requested during the entire course of the project and balked at providing oversight as it fell apart. All were replaced by the Legislature at the end of their terms with new members, who have been less accommodating to utility requests.

Public interest intervenors were prescient in their early assessments of the project. Friends of the Earth, which intervened before the Public Service Commission against the project in August 2008, noted SCANA’s disregard for energy efficiency and alternative forms of energy. That organization predicted that the project’s fate would be what the US Attorney’s Office affirmed in the August 18, 2021 indictment: “from the outset, the Project was characterized by cost overruns and significant delays.” Likewise, toward the end of the project in June 2017, just after Westinghouse declared bankruptcy, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club filed a formal complaint detailing why the project must be canceled. As money hemorrhaged, the owners made that earth-shaking decision a month later. And the mighty crash still reverberates.

In Georgia, construction of the other AP1000 project, located at Plant Vogtle, stumbles along to massive cost overruns and significant schedule delays. A main difference between the projects: Georgia Power has a large enough customer base to absorb the financial blow of its struggling project. With cost projections for the two Vogtle units nearing a stunning $30 billion, finishing dates presented to the Georgia Public Service Commission remain open to question.

The Carolina and Georgia reactor projects went forward under laws related to “construction work in progress” that allowed financing charges to be billed to the ratepayers from the start of construction, long before the reactors were online. Both the South Carolina law, the Baseload Review Act, and Georgia’s Nuclear Energy Financing Act have been repealed.

The fault for the shocking AP1000 misadventure falls squarely on the shoulders of Westinghouse and the involved utilities. They all fell victim to their own reactor-promotion propaganda but lacked the technical and management competence to pull off the projects as envisaged. With pursuit of large light-water reactors in the United States all but dead, the nuclear industry is now endlessly touting an array of “small modular reactors” and a dizzying menu of so-called “advanced reactors,” all of which exist only on paper. It’s unclear if there’s a path forward for this nuclear renaissance redux, and if there is, whether taxpayers will be put on the hook for financing some of it.

Germany Calls on Iran to Resume Nuclear Talks

Informal negotiations stalled after Iran’s new hardline president was elected in June. Tehran has caused an international outcry in recent months over the broadening scope of its nuclear program.

US President Joe Biden has signaled his eagerness to resume direct talks, but Iranian officials have yet to do the same.”

AFP, Reuters

Informal talks in Vienna in April did not get far

The German Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it “vehemently” urged Iran to restart negotiations aimed at reviving a defunct nuclear deal.

“We are ready to do so, but the time window won’t be open indefinitely,” a ministry spokesman said.

The French foreign ministry made a similar statement later on Wednesday.

In 2015, Iran, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, plus EU representatives, worked out a deal to place curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sought to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons by restricting the extent to which it could enrich uranium, install nuclear centrifuges, and stockpile radioactive material. In exchange, the other signatories agreed to drop certain sanctions against Tehran.

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‘A combination of failures:’ why 3.6m pounds of nuclear waste is buried on a popular California beach

The San Onofre nuclear power plant shut down years ago – but residents and experts worry what will happen with the waste left behind

Kate Mishkin

The defunct San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Clemente, California. Photograph: Lenny Ignelzi/AP

More than 2 million visitors flock each year to California’s San Onofre state beach, a dreamy slice of coastline just north of San Diego. The beach is popular with surfers, lies across one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the Unites States and has a 10,000-year-old sacred Native American site nearby. It even landed a shout-out in the Beach Boys’ 1963 classic Surfin’ USA.

But for all the good vibes and stellar sunsets, beneath the surface hides a potential threat: 3.6m lb of nuclear waste from a group of nuclear reactors shut down nearly a decade ago. Decades of political gridlock have left it indefinitely stranded, susceptible to threats including corrosion, earthquakes and sea level rise.

The San Onofre reactors are among dozens across the United States phasing out, but experts say they best represent the uncertain future of nuclear energy.

“It’s a combination of failures, really,” said Gregory Jaczko, who chaired the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the top federal enforcer, between 2009 and 2012, of the situation at San Onofre.

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Action Alerts

Help Us STOP “FOREVER WIPP!”

The Department of Energy is seeking to modify WIPP‘s nuclear waste permit. 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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Environment Department files complaint against U.S. Department of Energy to speed clean-up of legacy waste, terminate 2016 Consent Order at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Non-compliance with 2016 Consent Order causing unacceptable delays, threatening public health and the environment

Click above for more information on the entry into force of the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Nuclear Media

Newly Released Documentary Film on Santa Susana Field Lab

In the Dark of the Valley is the first feature film to focus on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former nuclear and rocket-engine testing site near Los Angeles. The film is an in-depth exploration into the site’s long history of cover-ups and negligence by site owners Boeing, NASA, and the Department of Energy. It also tells the harrowing story of how a community of mothers, led by Melissa Bumstead, have dealt with the struggles of childhood cancer and their new found life of environmental advocacy.

More Nuclear News

A Little Radiation Is Not Good For You

“…between 1977 and 1990, scientists tripled their estimate of the damage inflicted by a given dose of radiation. A 1992 study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that nuclear weapons production workers exposed to small doses were four to eight times more likely to contract cancer than previously estimated…even the very lowest background levels of radiation exposure are harmful to health and have statistically significant negative effects on DNA.”
Photograph Source: Joi Ito – CC BY 2.0

In a rare pushback against the radioactive pollution industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — well known as a rubber stamp for the nuclear lobby — has flatly rejected an attempt to further weaken the agency’s radiation exposure regulations.

After six years of deliberation, the NRC’s three commissioners, two Democrats and one Republican, voted unanimously to reject formal petitions submitted in February 2015 urging the agency to adopt a cost-cutting scheme known as “hormesis” which claims that “a little radiation is good for you.” The September 16 decision by the NRC says this “threshold theory posits that “there is some threshold dose below which there is either no radiation-related health detriment or a radiation-related health benefit that outweighs any detriment.”

The order then rebukes this concept, finding the petitioners “fail to present an adequate basis supporting the request,” and “Convincing evidence has not yet demonstrated the existence of a threshold below which there would be no … effects from exposure to low radiation doses.”

The basis for hormesis had been explicitly rejected ten years earlier, the NRC pointed out, by the National Academy of Sciences in its 2005 report “Biologic Effects of Ionizing Radiation, 7th Ed” or BEIR-VII. The National Research Council summed up its book-length BEIR-7 report saying, “the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”

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Nuclear waste facility near Carlsbad sees COVID-19 surge as infections rise in New Mexico

Carlsbad Current-Argus currentargus.com

COVID-19 infections resurged at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in recent weeks as cases of the virus climbed in the communities surrounding the nuclear waste repository in southeast New Mexico.

There were 14 positive cases among workers at the site or associated with the facility reported between Aug. 17 and 31, per the latest report from Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) – WIPP’s primary operations contractor.

In total, WIPP reported as of Aug. 31, there were 25 active cases.

WIPP officials did not report the identities of patients or companies where the infected workers were employed.

All employees at WIPP were encouraged to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, per an NWP news release, and required to wear protective face masks when indoors, vaccinated or not, and social distance when possible.

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Biden blasted for ‘wishful thinking’ as new ‘potential nuclear crisis’ looms

“Iran deserves a measure of the blame for resurrecting a matter that diplomats spent more than a dozen years putting to rest…It is the US that is overwhelmingly responsible for the current crisis.”

The US President promised throughout the 2020 election campaign he would restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, which Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. However, his administration are reportedly getting “closer” to giving up on the deal.

Since Mr Biden took office on January 20, Iran elected hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi as their new President.

While talks have been held between Washington and Tehran on renewing the JCPOA, no new agreement has been struck.

Borzou Daragahi, senior non-resident fellow at Washington think tank the Atlantic Council, said Mr Biden’s administration “still needs to figure out what it wants in Iran”.

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Texas bans storage of highly radioactive waste, but a West Texas facility may get a license from the feds anyway

The new law may soon be in conflict with federal regulators. A decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on one company’s license could come as early as Monday.

Texas bans storage of highly radioactive waste

More nuclear waste may be heading to WIPP on US 285

[WIPP is the world’s only operating underground nuclear waste dump. It is limited to nuclear weapons waste, but the federal government is trying to expand WIPP and break its promises and social contract with New Mexicans.

Help Us STOP FOREVER WIPP-Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The nuclear waste dump is permitted to operate until 2024, but the Federal government wants to expand the amount and types of waste allowed with NO end date.

We need your help to protect New Mexico!]

“At a recent Santa Fe County Town Hall, activist Cindy Weehler of 285 ALL said the U.S. Department of Energy made it clear that it’s going to expand its nuclear waste program, she said. She said she’s concerned about the new type of radioactive waste that would be traveling through the county, which would be diluted plutonium, instead of contaminated items.”

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Spanning the length of the state, U.S. Highway 285 is a major thoroughfare for truck transports and other traffic. This busy highway, nicknamed “Death Highway” due to the number of fatal accidents on it, may get busier.

Concerned citizens in Santa Fe County recently called out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for expanding its mission in a permit renewal application to include more nuclear waste being shipped along the 285 corridor.

Part of Highway 285 goes along the southern edge of the city of Santa Fe, and local activists are calling on local and federal leaders to halt this increase in nuclear waste transportation.

The permit application is requesting to add two nuclear waste storage panels to WIPP that would increase the waste volume in these areas.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Montco offering potassium iodide tablets in the event of a nuclear emergency

Radioactive iodine, a contaminant that could be released in the event of a nuclear accident, can increase the risk of thyroid cancer. Potassium iodide (KI) can help protect the thyroid gland against radioactive iodine.

Maria Pulcinella whyy.org

The Limerick Generating Station is pictured in Montgomery County. (Exelon)

If you live, work, or attend school within a 10-mile radius of the Limerick nuclear power plant, local health officials have a freebie for you — albeit not a sexy one.

Montgomery County’s Office of Public Health will be handing out potassium iodide tablets to those in close proximity to the Limerick Generating Station.

The distribution is part of a statewide emergency preparedness effort — the Limerick site is one of Pennsylvania’s four active nuclear power plants.

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We could all learn a lesson on disarmament from Archbishop Hunthausen

Nagasaki, Japan, is shown four years after an atomic bomb was detonated over the city Aug. 9, 1945. “Hiroshima challenged my faith as a Christian in a way I am only now beginning to understand,” the late Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle said in 1981. “That awful event and its successor at Nagasaki sank into my soul, as they have in fact sunk into the souls of all of us, whether we recognize it or not.” (CNS/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel files)

“I am grateful for having been invited to speak to you on disarmament because it forces me to a kind of personal disarmament. This is a subject I have thought about and prayed over for many years. I can recall vividly hearing the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. I was deeply shocked. I could not then put into words the shock I felt from the news that a city of hundreds of thousands of people had been devastated by a single bomb. Hiroshima challenged my faith as a Christian in a way I am only now beginning to understand. That awful event and its successor at Nagasaki sank into my soul, as they have in fact sunk into the souls of all of us, whether we recognize it or not.”

Those are the opening lines of the “Faith and Disarmament” speech Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen delivered on June 12, 1981. Hunthausen had become active in resistance to the U.S. stockpiling of nuclear weapons and the new Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system, which included the Bangor Trident submarine base in Puget Sound just 20 miles west of Seattle.

In that 1981 speech, Hunthausen referred to the Trident submarines based there as “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.” In context, it was both a profound and prophetic statement of fact.

As Hunthausen said, “Trident is the Auschwitz of Puget Sound because of the massive cooperation required in our area — the enormous sinful complicity that is necessary — for the eventual incineration of millions of our brother and sister human beings.”

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Stop Nuclear Waste Site Expansion Before it’s Too Late

Many New Mexicans are aware that Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Southern New Mexico is the nation’s sole repository for radioactive weapons waste, but did you know that WIPP has surpassed its authorized capacity and that the federal Department of Energy has given it a new mission: to build a new shaft and more than double its capacity?

The resulting increased amount of radioactive plutonium being transported through the Santa Fe area should worry us all. You might assume that nuclear experts have the storage and transportation situation well in hand, but the Los Alamos National Laboratory and WIPP have dismal safety records.

If the powder form of plutonium being carried by tractor-trailers on N.M. 599, Interstate 25, and U.S. 285 is accidentally released into the air, even minuscule doses are 100 percent carcinogenic, especially to children, and cleanup is virtually impossible. And it is our local jurisdictions that respond first to highway accidents. To better understand the danger, see stopforeverwipp.org.



Fortunately there is something citizens can to do try to stop this dangerous expansion. Contact Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has to approve such a change. Tell her to tell the Energy Department to stop digging a fifth shaft at WIPP. You can use governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor.

John Watson-Jones

Galisteo

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The Secret ‘White Trains’ That Carried Nuclear Weapons Around the U.S.

For as long as the United States has had nuclear weapons, officials have struggled with how to transport the destructive technology.

The epicenter of nuclear transit was the Pantex Plant, about 17 miles outside of downtown Amarillo, Texas, a maze-like complex of dozens of buildings located on 10,000 acres of land. Amarillo was the final destination for almost all of America’s nuclear trains and the Pantex Plant was the nation’s only assembly point for nuclear weapons, a role it maintains to this day.

BRIANNA NOFIL | UPDATED: MAY 6, 2021, ORIGINAL: MAY 31, 2018 history.com

At first glance, the job posting looks like a standard help-wanted ad for a cross-country trucker. Up to three weeks a month on the road in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, traveling through the contiguous 48 states. Risks include inclement weather, around-the-clock travel, and potentially adverse environmental conditions. But then the fine print: Candidates should have “experience in performing high-risk armed tactical security work…and maneuvering against a hostile adversary.”

The U.S. government is hiring “Nuclear Materials Couriers.” Since the 1950s, this team of federal agents, most of them ex-military, has been tasked with ferrying America’s roughly 6,000 nuclear warheads and extensive supply of nuclear materials across the roads and highways of the United States. America’s nuclear facilities are spread out throughout the country, on over 2.4 million acres of federal real estate, overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE)—a labyrinth of a system the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called “highly scattered and fragmented…with few enforceable rules.”

Some sites are for assembly, some are for active weapons, some are for chemicals, some are for mechanical parts. What this means in practice is that nuclear materials have to move around—a lot.

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Staffers see little interest or action on nuclear waste issues

“The Town of Vernon supports a repository site or sites under the following conditions: Approval by the Federal Government, DOE, Congress, and the NRC. Deemed/tested safe by engineering and environmental experts by known and reasonable standards. Received approval/consent from the state, territory, town, or country chosen to be the repository/repositories. This includes one single repository, multiple repositories, or interim storage,”

Demolition of the stack that handled the release of radioactive gases from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant site was completed last month.
Photo provided by NorthStar

BRATTLEBORO — The 117th Congress has introduced few bills this session dealing with nuclear power and nuclear waste, staffers for Vermont’s congressional delegation told a Vermont committee studying federal nuclear waste policies Monday.

The committee, an arm of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, is investigating whether it should take a stand on what happens to the high-level radioactive waste currently stored at the Vermont Yankee site in about four-dozen stainless steel and concrete casks.

Two companies, including the parent company of NorthStar Decommissioning, which owns the Vermont Yankee plant and is demolishing it, want to build interim storage facilities for high-level waste — one in west Texas and the other in New Mexico. Interim storage would hold radioactive waste until a federal depository is built.

The two congressional staffers who met with the committee, Haley Pero, from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., office, and Thea Wurzburg of Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.’s office, both said they have seen little interest from the Biden administration in taking on the difficult issues of nuclear power and its nuclear waste.

The administration of former President Donald Trump tried to revive funding for the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste facility in Nevada, but made no progress, Pero said. Not as many bills have come up this year, Pero said.

Congress’ attention is elsewhere, the two staffers said.

The Vermont panel last year backed off an earlier endorsement of interim waste storage, like the facilities proposed by NorthStar in Texas and Holtec International in New Mexico.

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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.

Critical Events

Help Us STOP “FOREVER WIPP!”

The Department of Energy is seeking to modify WIPP‘s nuclear waste permit. 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

Continue reading

New & Updated

One Man Shouldn’t Control the Nuclear Button

Congress should require consultation, so generals wouldn’t have to break the rules to save the world.

Gen. Mark Milley is being criticized for taking actions to forestall the possibility of an inappropriate nuclear launch order by President Trump. The criticism is based on steps the general allegedly took, as described in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril.” Gen. Milley was ostensibly concerned that Mr. Trump was unstable and might order a nuclear launch for political reasons. The general told Congress last month that because he believed China had unwarranted worries of a U.S. attack, he acted to “de-escalate” the situation and contacted his Chinese counterparts to indicate that no attack was planned.

The critics are missing the point. The overriding issue is not whether Gen. Milley was correct in his assessment, or whether he was authorized to take the reported actions, but what the consequences could have been if his concern had been warranted. It is not hyperbole to say that the consequences could have been a profound tragedy and, in the worst case, the end of civilization.

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Survivors Of The Trinity Nuclear Test Weren’t Warned — Then Were Lied To After

NPR’s Leila Fadel talks with Lesley Blume about the struggle of the survivors of the Trinity nuclear test in 1945 — one locals didn’t know was coming and caused serious health issues.
“The compensation act – RECA as it’s called – is about to expire next July…What’s happening right now is that
several members of Congress from New Mexico and from other Western states are trying to extend RECA, and they’re making a bid to have the Trinity downwinders included under this legislation at last, among other exposed communities.”

Heard on All Things Considered

Survivors Of The Trinity Nuclear Test Weren't Warned — Then Were Lied To After
An aerial view of the aftermath of the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site in New Mexico in 1945. The device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. Credit Associated Press

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This was most of America’s introduction to nuclear power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HARRY TRUMAN: A short time ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy.
FADEL: President Harry Truman’s announcement in August of 1945 heralded a terrifying new weapon.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMAN: It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

FADEL: But the Atomic Age actually began the month before At the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico. The first nuclear test, codenamed Trinity, was a closely guarded secret. Locals, some as close as 12 miles away, had no idea it was coming. Lesley Blume wrote about them for National Geographic.

Welcome back.

LESLEY BLUME: Thank you so much.

FADEL: So, first, tell us what happened during that first test, codenamed Trinity.

BLUME: It was a huge success, but it also – the bomb was a lot more powerful than they had expected, three to five times as powerful. And, you know, initially they thought that the cloud was only going to go up about 12,000 or 13,000 feet. Well, guess what. It went up between 50,000 and 70,000 feet. It created sort of an estimated fallout zone about 100 miles long and 30 miles wide…

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International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2021

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2021

Today, Sunday, September 26, 2021, marks the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations has been working toward achieving global nuclear disarmament since the organization’s inception; it was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, with a mandate to make specific proposals for the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons has been observed annually since 2014, serving as a tool to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination. In 2013, the year the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was introduced, the President of the General Assembly noted that a “renewed international focus on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons has led to a reinvigoration of international nuclear disarmament efforts.”

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‘Humanity remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation

“Now is the time to eliminate nuclear weapons from our world, and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace”, declared UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday, marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Addressing the threat of nuclear weapons, said Mr, Guterres, has been central to the work of the United Nations since its inception; the first General Assembly resolution in 1946 sought “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” 

The UN chief pointed out that, although the total number of nuclear weapons has been decreasing for decades, some 14,000 are stockpiled around the world, which is facing the highest level of nuclear risk in almost four decades: “States are qualitatively improving their arsenals, and we are seeing worrying signs of a new arms race.” Humanity, continued the UN chief, remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation.

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Veterans Group Urges President Biden to Adopt No First Use Policy

To mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, September 26, Veterans For Peace is publishing an Open Letter to President Biden: Just Say NO to Nuclear War!

Veterans Group Urges President Biden to Adopt No First Use Policy
ST. LOUIS, MO –
Veterans For Peace, with over 140 chapters in the United States and affiliates abroad, is calling on President Biden to step back from the brink of nuclear war by declaring and implementing a policy of No First Use and by taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. The full letter will be published on the VFP website and offered to mainstream newspapers and alternative news sites: Click here to view.

While timed to coincide with the UN-declared International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a major motivation for the letter is the Nuclear Posture Review, currently underway.

The letter therefore states, “As veterans who have fought in multiple U.S. wars, we are concerned about the very real danger of a nuclear war that would kill millions of people and could possibly even destroy human civilization. Therefore we are asking to have input into the Nuclear Posture Review that your administration has recently initiated.”

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New push on to expand nuclear radiation compensation in US

“There is always money when there’s political will. This is a social, environmental and restorative justice issue that we, as a nation, can no longer look away from.” — Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium

September 22, 2021 

New push on to expand nuclear radiation compensation in US
Corbin Harney, an elder with the Western Shoshone Tribe, beats a drum during a May 2002 tribal protest near the planned Yucca Mountain national nuclear waste dump.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is renewing a push to expand a U.S. compensation program for people who were exposed to radiation following uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.

Advocates have been trying for years to bring awareness to the lingering effects of nuclear fallout surrounding the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico, where the U.S. military detonated the first atomic bomb, and on the Navajo Nation, where more than 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted over decades to support U.S. nuclear activities.

Under legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico, and Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, other sites across the American West would be added to the list of places affected by fallout and radiation exposure. Eligibility also would be expanded to include certain workers in the industry after 1971, such as miners.

The legislation also would increase the amount of compensation someone can receive to $150,000 and provide coverage for additional forms of cancer.

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Op-Ed: Gen. Milley did the wrong thing for honorable reasons. We need new rules for starting nuclear war

“But let’s be clear about where the problem lies: It’s with the existing U.S. system for controlling the use of nuclear weapons… If the United States is intent on maintaining at the ready a large nuclear strike force, as is apparently the case, the nation needs comprehensive safeguards to prevent reckless and ill-considered decisions regarding their use.

September 16, 2021

A new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa contains a singularly startling allegation. In the waning weeks of the Trump administration, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twice called his counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, of the People’s Liberation Army, offering assurances that the United States was not about to launch an attack against China.

“If we’re going to attack,” Milley told Li, according to Woodward and Costa, “I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

The surprise turns out to be the revelation of Milley’s actions. Some in the Defense Department may have known about the calls, but one thing seems clear: President Trump, the U.S. commander in chief, did not. Milley acted of his own volition, without prior presidential approval. On that point, Christopher Miller, then serving as acting Defense secretary, is emphatic, describing Milley’s actions to Fox News as a “disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination.”

Providing adversaries with advance notice of U.S. military actions does not number among the prescribed duties of the chairman of the joint chiefs. Arguably, the Woodward-Costa allegations, if accurately reported, qualify as treasonous. At the very least, they raise serious doubts about Milley’s respect for the bedrock principle of civilian control of the military. To state the matter bluntly, when adherence to that principle raised the possibility of an outcome not to Milley’s liking, he seemingly granted himself an exemption.

Of course, all of this happened in a specific context: Woodward and Costa’s chilling account is only the latest to depict the unraveling Trump presidency following the November election. Unwilling to accept defeat, the incumbent all but ceased to govern and instead devoted himself to overturning the election’s results by any means necessary, violating the rule of law and waiving the Constitution.

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Woodward/Costa book: Worried Trump could ‘go rogue,’ Milley took secret action to protect nuclear weapons

“Woodward and Costa write that after January 6, Milley ‘felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions.’
Milley called it the ‘absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility, the authors write.”

September 14, 2021

Washington (CNN) Two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to “Peril,” a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

Woodward and Costa write that Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, ‘was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.’

Milley worried that Trump could ‘go rogue,’ the authors write.
“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.
In response, Milley took extraordinary action, and called a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.
“Got it?” Milley asked, according to the book.
“Yes, sir.”
‘Milley considered it an oath,’ the authors write.
“Peril” is based on more than 200 interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses, and it paints a chilling picture of Trump’s final days in office. The book, Woodward’s third on the Trump presidency, recounts behind-the-scenes moments of a commander in chief unhinged and explosive, yelling at senior advisers and aides as he desperately sought to cling to power. It also includes exclusive reporting on the events leading up to January 6 and Trump’s reaction to the insurrection, as well as newly revealed details about Trump’s January 5 Oval Office showdown with his vice president, Mike Pence. Woodward and Costa obtained documents, calendars, diaries, emails, meeting notes, transcripts and other records. The book also examines Joe Biden’s decision to run for office again; the first six months of his presidency; why he pushed so hard to get out of Afghanistan; and how he really feels about Trump. CNN obtained a copy of “Peril” ahead of its release on September 21.

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U.S. still prepared to engage with North Korea after missile test

“North Korea’s cruise missiles usually generate less interest than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions. However, analysts said calling it “strategic” could mean it was a nuclear-capable system.”

Reuters reuters.com September 13, 2021

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, Sept 13 (Reuters) – The United States remains prepared to engage with North Korea, a White House spokeswoman said on Monday, despite Pyongyang’s announcement that it had tested a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend.

“Our position has not changed when it comes to North Korea, we remain prepared to engage,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

North Korea’s state media announced on Monday what it said were successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile that analysts said could be the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability. read more

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial indications were that North Korea had carried out such a test.

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This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

The original mission of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico had two specific stipulations: it was to be the FIRST and only operating underground nuclear waste repository in U.S; and it is ONLY authorized to take a certain kind of nuclear weapons waste – legacy transuranic (TRU) waste. In December of last year, the U.S. Department of Energy published a notice of intent to expand WIPP. The notice details expansion of the plant in two ways: capacities and types of waste permissible, as well as extended storage/operation timelines. The federal government’s plans would expand the size of the nuclear weapons dump to more than twice its current size and more than is allowed: Federal law and legal agreements with New Mexico clearly limit the amount of waste at WIPP, but the expansion would allow more than that capacity (as described in the April 2020 National Academy of Sciences Report “Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.”) This means an increased volume of waste, as well as an increased number of shipments travelling to WIPP over the entire rest of the century.

The original complete set of legal permits, contracts and laws governing WIPP includes the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which 1) gives the New Mexico Environment Department regulation over the permit for DOE operation of WIPP and 2) limits amount of waste and how long WIPP operates (2024);

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Why China’s attack on Nato ‘double standards’ suggests it will continue to build up nuclear arsenal

“The alliance’s head Jens Stoltenberg accused Beijing of increasing its firepower ‘without constraint’ and urged it to sign up to international arms controls – But Beijing hit back by criticising Nato’s nuclear sharing arrangements and said the US and Russia should lead the way by disarming”

scmp.com September 12, 2021

China is expected to continue building up its arsenal of nuclear weapons despite Nato’s appeal for it to sign up to international arms controls. Last week Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg criticised China’s efforts to develop its nuclear capacity – by building more warheads, delivery systems and silos – “without any limitation or constraint”.

He told Nato’s annual arms control conference in Brussels that this was making the world “more unpredictable, more competitive and more dangerous”.

20 years after 9/11, Yankee’s nuclear fuel still poses security risk

“Deb Katz, the executive director of Citizens Awareness Network, a New England-wide anti-nuclear group, said her group supports ambitious improvements to the storage facilities.

“We support hardening the waste on site. This includes double walling the casks, increasing the distance between the casks, if possible, berming them in to protect them from acts of malice,” she said.

“The waste must stay on site until there is a scientifically sound and environmentally just solution,” she said, referring to a nuclear industry move toward building interim nuclear waste storage facilities. One is proposed for west Texas, the other in New Mexico.”

By Susan Smallheer, Brattleboro Reformer benningtonbanner.com September 11, 2021

VERNON — The Vermont Department of Health is still planning for the worst at the Vermont Yankee site in Vernon.

But the worst, thanks to the active decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee site currently underway, is not as bad as it could have been six years ago, when Vermont Yankee shut down and its nuclear fuel was moved out of the reactor core and put into storage in giant steel and concrete casks.

“The Health Department’s Radiological and Nuclear Emergency Response Plan originally had a heavy emphasis on releases from Vermont Yankee, which could impact large areas and populations while it operated. Even with the shutdown of Vermont Yankee, we continue to maintain many of our resources for radiological emergency response,” said William Irwin, the state’s radiological health chief.

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Lawmakers set for battle over next-gen nuclear missile

“For the W87-1, whose plutonium cores, or pits, are to be produced in part by the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility in South Carolina, at stake are jobs and billions of federal dollars to upgrade buildings or construct new factories. It’s all intertwined with shaky plans launched by the Trump administration to have Savannah River and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico produce a combined 80 pits per year by 2030.”

defensenews.com September 9, 2021

Lawmakers set for battle over next-gen nuclear missile
Senior Airman Ryan Page inspects the front of a booster in preparation for a missile roll transfer on April 20, 2021, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Missile handlers follow a step-by-step checklist to ensure the Minuteman III ICBM is able to roll between two vehicles for routine maintenance before it returns to the field. (Airman Elijah Van Zandt/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON ― Nuclear modernization opponents and defenders are gearing up to fight again over the next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile and other efforts.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and a skeptic of nuclear spending on the House Armed Services Committee, confirmed he plans to offer nuclear-themed amendments when the annual defense bill receives House floor consideration later this month. One aims to pause the Air Force’s nascent Ground Based Strategic Deterrent in favor of maintaining the missile it would replace, the Minuteman III; another would zero out funds for the GBSD’s warhead, the W87-1.

“The bottom line is that we could pause the entire GBSD program and push forward into the future a $100 billion expense,” Garamendi, who chairs the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, told Defense News.

With the Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review due early next year, Garamendi said the amendments are part of his “strategy to raise the issues, to gather the data, test the arguments against the opposition … and create an occasional success.”

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General Assembly President calls for halt to nuclear tests

The President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, on Wednesday called for an end to nuclear tests, as ambassadors gathered to commemorate the International Day against Nuclear Tests, observed annually on 29 August.

news.un.org September 8, 2021

Despite recent developments in advancing nuclear disarmament, more remains to be done, said Mr. Bozkir, urging countries which have yet to sign or ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to do so without delay.

“More than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted since the advent of nuclear weapons. While the rate of testing has declined, they have not stopped,” he said.

“These tests have long lasting health and environmental consequences. They devastate the communities they impact. They displace families from their homelands.”

Progress on disarmament

Underlining the General Assembly’s commitment to nuclear disarmament, Mr. Bozkir welcomed progress achieved over the past year amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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Must Reads

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.

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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The Button: By William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina

The President has the power to end the world in minutes. Right now, no one can stop him.

Since the Truman administration, America has been one “push of a button” away from nuclear war—a decision that rests solely in the hands of the President. Without waiting for approval from Congress or even the Secretary of Defense, the President can unleash America’s entire nuclear arsenal.

Almost every governmental process is subject to institutional checks and balances. Why is potential nuclear annihilation the exception to the rule? For decades, glitches and slip-ups have threatened to trigger nuclear winter: misinformation, false alarms, hacked warning systems, or even an unstable President. And a new nuclear arms race has begun, threatening us all. At the height of the Cold War, Russia and the United States each built up arsenals exceeding 30,000 nuclear weapons, armed and ready to destroy each other—despite the fact that just a few hundred are necessary to end life on earth.

From former Secretary of Defense and Stanford professor of international relations William Perry and nuclear policy think-tank director Tom Collina, The Button is a fascinating narrative of our living nuclear history—one in which the players hold the fate of the whole world at their fingertips—and a look at presidential power from Truman to Trump.

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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..

Quotes

“The IAEA’s mission is ‘to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies,’ in other words, to sustain the illusion — despite Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima and concern about Iran — that nuclear power can be safe and secure and its waste never at risk of being processed for nuclear weapons.

Fukushima: a lasting tragedy – Patricia Hynes

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