Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

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!

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

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Blog Posts

Watchdogs File Suit for NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports

Watchdogs File Suit for NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports Watchdogs File Suit for NNSA’s Performance Evaluation ReportsSanta Fe, NM – Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico has once again filed a lawsuit to pry loose the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports that evaluate contractor performance at its eight nuclear weapons sites. Approximately 57,000 people are employed by NNSA’s nuclear weapons production complex, 95% of them contractor personnel. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the independent Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars since 1992.

NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports grade contractor performance, award performance fees and contain no classified information. Nevertheless, NNSA seeks to hide how taxpayers’ money is spent from the public, issuing only terse three page summaries instead of the full and complete Reports. Nuclear Watch sued in 2012 to obtain the full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports, after which NNSA started releasing them within three working days. But NNSA has again been releasing only summaries since 2019, despite a Freedom of Information Act request by Nuclear Watch that the agency never responded to.

To illustrate the importance of these Performance Evaluation Reports, in its FY 2021 Los Alamos Lab summary NNSA noted that the contractor “[s]ucessfully made advances in pit production processes…” Plutonium “pits” are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons whose expanded production the Pentagon has identified as the number one issue in the United States’ $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. NNSA has directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to begin producing at least 30 pits per year by 2026 and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to begin producing at least 50 pits per year by 2030.

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A Guide to “Scoping” the New LANL SWEIS

“Scoping” means determining the issues that should be included in public analyses required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of proposed major actions by the federal government. According to the Department of Energy ‘s own NEPA implementation regulations, DOE must prepare a new or supplemental site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) for its major sites when there are “significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns.” The last site-wide EIS for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was completed in 2008 and is badly outdated. Moreover, since 2018 the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, has been aggressively expanding the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores for nuclear weapons at the Lab.

On August 19, 2022, NNSA finally announced its intent to prepare a new LANL SWEIS, but apparently the agency will not address expanded plutonium pit production.1 NNSA’s dubious argument is that it performed the legally required NEPA analysis for expanded plutonium pit production in a 2008 Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the 2008 LANL SWEIS and a woefully inadequate “Supplement Analysis” in 2020 that concluded a new SWEIS was not needed. 2 3

Issues That Must Be Addressed in a New LANL SWEIS

This is meant to be a guide to (or list of) the issues that must be addressed in a new draft LANL SWEIS. It is not completely exhaustive, nor is it a comprehensive fact sheet on the substance of the issues. Nuclear Watch New Mexico will offer suggested scoping comments for interested citizens and submit its own comprehensive formal comments before the October 3 deadline or extended deadline (see “Timing” below).

Continue reading

“Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising” – 77 Years Later, 4 Artists from Hiroshima Reflect

Today marks the 77 years since the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan during World War II. Three days ago, August 6, marks the same anniversary for the bombing of the city of Hiroshima, Japan. In both cities the blast completely annihilated everything within a 1-mile radius from the center of explosion. The bombs not only decimated the current population, destroyed property, and scorched the land; the entirety of the ways of life of these communities was ripped away in a terrorizing flash.

"The atomic explosion almost completely destroyed Hiroshima's identity as a city. Over a fourth of the population was killed in one stroke and an additional fourth seriously injured, so that even if there had been no damage to structures and installations the normal city life would still have been completely shattered." - The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (atomicarchive.com)

The total effects of the only two nuclear weapons ever detonated in warfare are not fully known, despite 77 years of people (scientists, military experts, civilians, Japan, etc.) trying to estimate the number of the dead and injured. "The most credible estimates cluster around a “low” of 110,000 mortalities and a “high” of 210,000, an enormous gap (the estimates for each city have a range of ±10,000)." - Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

A man prays as paper lanterns are floated on the Motoyasu river on Aug. 6, 2022 in Hiroshima, Japan. | Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

The events of August 6 and 9, 1945, forever changed the world. But today, besides continuing to attempt to know the extent of the cost of life of these bombings, how are we moving forward in reflection and in growth? How, as a global community, can we explore and prioritize processing the deep, deep pain of these events? The city of Nagasaki has been rebuilt since World War II and is today an important tourist site, serving as a significant spiritual center for movements to ban nuclear weapons. Aging survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, continue to push for a nuclear ban and hope to convince younger generations to join the movement.

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New & Updated

The Age of Predatory Nuclear-Weapon States Has Arrived

Putin’s nuclear threat marks the start of a new era.

POLITICO | Opinion by Stephen Young, Union of Concerned Scientists | September 30, 2022 politico.com

Members of the United Nations Security Council listen as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine on September 27, 2022, in New York City.
Members of the United Nations Security Council listen as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine on September 27, 2022, in New York City. | Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes at least one thing clear: It’s time for us to update how we think about nuclear weapons. For the first time in the nuclear era, one country used loudly issued nuclear threats — repeated just last week — to deter other countries from intervening in a large-scale conventional war of aggression. We have entered the age of “predatory nuclear-weapon states.”

For political analysts and military officials, this is not an unexpected phenomenon. On the contrary, the concept falls under the so-called stability-instability paradox. Because the threat of nuclear war is so terrifying and the risk of annihilation so real, lower-level conflict actually becomes more feasible. One nuclear-armed country can undertake major conventional military action, expecting that its nuclear capability will prevent outside intervention. That is what’s happening in Ukraine.

BREAKING: Putin illegally annexes 4 occupied regions, escalating war as Ukraine applies to join NATO

“Kyiv has vowed to keep fighting to retake its occupied land, and on Friday appeared on the verge of handing Russia’s military another significant setback.”

NBC NEWS | September 30, 2022 nbcnews.com

The Russian leader repeated his threats of nuclear war to defend his fragile hold over the annexed territory, a dramatic escalation of the seven-month conflict that has seen Moscow respond to heavy losses by calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists and intensifying its confrontation with the West.

The speech was met with an immediate response by Kyiv and its allies.

As well as announcing the annexation, Putin has partially mobilized his military — prompting domestic blowback and an exodus of Russians fleeing the draft — and ramped up his nuclear threats against Ukraine and the West. The moves are seen as a wider escalation after a series of punishing battlefield defeats at the hands of a lightning counteroffensive by Kyiv.

UN chief calls for end to ‘era of nuclear blackmail’

Guterres renews call for the abolition of nuclear weapons as concerns grow over Russia’s threat to use them in Ukraine.

ALJAZEERA | September 26, 2022 aljazeera.com

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has renewed his call for the global abolition of nuclear weapons as concerns grow over Russia’s threat to use them in the Ukraine war.

“Decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we can hear once again the rattling of nuclear sabres,” Guterres told a special UN General Assembly session on nuclear disarmament on Monday.

Nuke waste managers work to improve safety after incidents at repository near Carlsbad

Crews at Idaho National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad met last week to improve safety standards shared between the two facilities after a string of problematic waste shipments from the lab triggered a state investigation.

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | September 22, 2022 yahoo.com

So far this year, WIPP personnel were alerted to issues with three shipments of transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste from the Idaho lab, leading to suspensions of waste shipments from the biggest shipper of waste to WIPP.

The first incident was reported on April 9, per a letter from the New Mexico Environment Department which regulates the U.S. Department of Energy’s permit to operate WIPP, and involved a liquid substance found on a waste drum that initially tested positive for radioactivity.

This led to an evacuation of the waste handling building, and a temporary halt on shipments of that kind from Idaho National Laboratory while the waste was sent back to Idaho.

Watchdogs File Suit for NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico has once again filed a lawsuit to pry loose the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports that evaluate contractor performance at its eight nuclear weapons sites. Approximately 57,000 people are employed by NNSA’s nuclear weapons production complex, 95% of them contractor personnel. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the independent Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars since 1992.

NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports grade contractor performance, award performance fees and contain no classified information. Nevertheless, NNSA seeks to hide how taxpayers’ money is spent from the public, issuing only terse three page summaries instead of the full and complete Reports. Nuclear Watch sued in 2012 to obtain the full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports, after which NNSA started releasing them within three working days. But NNSA has again been releasing only summaries since 2019, despite a Freedom of Information Act request by Nuclear Watch that the agency never responded to.

To illustrate the importance of these Performance Evaluation Reports, in its FY 2021 Los Alamos Lab summary NNSA noted that the contractor “[s]ucessfully made advances in pit production processes…” Plutonium “pits” are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons whose expanded production the Pentagon has identified as the number one issue in the United States’ $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. NNSA has directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to begin producing at least 30 pits per year by 2026 and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to begin producing at least 50 pits per year by 2030.

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Watchdog sues nuclear agency over LANL evaluations

“Coghlan said an example of why the full assessment is necessary is a note on last year’s report for the Los Alamos lab saying it had struggled with some production activities and experienced several challenges carrying out the plutonium mission, and “mission execution was impacted by lapses in safety performance.”

By Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com The Santa Fe New Mexican | September 17, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

A New Mexico watchdog group is suing the federal agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons programs for issuing only summaries of its yearly report cards on national laboratories and withholding what the group contends is vital information on deficiencies.

The lawsuit seeks to compel the National Nuclear Security Administration to post in its public reading room the complete report cards for the eight national laboratories involved in nuclear weapons — ones it has withheld in the past and all future assessments.

Allowing the public to see, in particular, the full report on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s shortcomings is increasingly important as the lab gears up to make 30 plutonium bomb cores a year with an escalating federal budget, Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s yearly report cards assess the performances of contracted lab operators and award bonuses to the organizations based on their grades in a process that is not classified, Coghlan argued.
Continue reading

A Guide to “Scoping” the New LANL SWEIS

“Scoping” means determining the issues that should be included in public analyses required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of proposed major actions by the federal government. According to the Department of Energy ‘s own NEPA implementation regulations, DOE must prepare a new or supplemental site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) for its major sites when there are “significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns.” The last site-wide EIS for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was completed in 2008 and is badly outdated. Moreover, since 2018 the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, has been aggressively expanding the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores for nuclear weapons at the Lab.

On August 19, 2022, NNSA finally announced its intent to prepare a new LANL SWEIS, but apparently the agency will not address expanded plutonium pit production.1 NNSA’s dubious argument is that it performed the legally required NEPA analysis for expanded plutonium pit production in a 2008 Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the 2008 LANL SWEIS and a woefully inadequate “Supplement Analysis” in 2020 that concluded a new SWEIS was not needed. 2 3

Issues That Must Be Addressed in a New LANL SWEIS

This is meant to be a guide to (or list of) the issues that must be addressed in a new draft LANL SWEIS. It is not completely exhaustive, nor is it a comprehensive fact sheet on the substance of the issues. Nuclear Watch New Mexico will offer suggested scoping comments for interested citizens and submit its own comprehensive formal comments before the October 3 deadline or extended deadline (see “Timing” below).

Continue reading

ACTION ALERTS

Defuse Nuclear War & October Events

Live Stream this Sunday (Oct. 2) 12:00 PM (Noon) MT, with speakers including presentations by Daniel Ellsberg, Professor Vincent Intondi, Dr. Assal Raad, Emma Claire Foley, Khury Petersen-Smith, Alice Slater, Norman Solomon, David Swanson, Alyn Ware, Marcy Winograd, Hanieh Jodat, and Ryan Black. Register: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/


Defuse Nuclear War October Month of Action

How To Reduce the Risk of Nuclear War

It’s easy to be part of the Defuse Nuclear War efforts –   Remember the 60th anniversary of the 13 Days in October – the Cuban Missile Crisis – is being recognized as the time when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. almost came to nuclear war.


Alos look out for a Friday, October 14th picket event in Santa Fe at the federal bldg (USPS) on Federal Place in front of the offices of Senator Ben Ray Lujan and Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez.  We’re asking staffers from Senator Heinrich’s office to join us there.  More details will be forthcoming!

Public Comments about the Scope of the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operations of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL SWEIS) Due by Tuesday, October 18!

On August 19th, DOE announced a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Los Alamos National Laboratory: https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/nnsa-nepa-reading-room.


View our “Guide to LANL SWEIS ‘Scoping'” Here:

A Guide to “Scoping” the New LANL SWEIS


Many changes have occurred at LANL since 2008, including the proposals to increase the production of plutonium pits, or the triggers, for nuclear weapons, from 20 to 30 per year – a 50 percent increase.  This means that if the proposed expansion of production goes into effect, there will be 50 percent more radioactive and hazardous waste will be generated, more water will be used, and more emissions into the air.

NukeWatch will have sample/suggested comments for you to use by October 12.

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Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) Public Hearing to “gather information regarding legacy cleanup activities, nuclear safety, and increased production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)” November 16, 2022

November 16, 2022 12:00pm to 9:45pm
Santa Fe Community Convention Center
201 West Marcy Street

Santa FeNM 87501


On November 16, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) will hold a public hearing at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.Continue reading

Coming Soon! Look out for the opportunity to participate in the 10-year renewal of the hazardous waste permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP):

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

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Interfaith Panel Discussion on Nuclear Disarmament - August 9

Interfaith Panel Discussion on the 77th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, Japan

Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

View Recording of the March 9th Progressive Democrats of America Central New Mexico Community Gathering:

PDA CNM Community Gathering - March 9, 2022 - Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, and our own executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Jay Coghlan, spoke at PDA CNM's March 9, 2022 monthly gathering: “[Archbishop Wester's] courage in speaking out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons inspires us at PDACNM to follow his example and continue the fight against this peril, especially given the threat of a possible imminent war between two nuclear powers.”

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

STOP “FOREVER WIPP!”

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

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

Background Information –  Problems with Nuclear Waste
Playlist: Problems with Nuclear Waste


Mixed Waste Landfill Facts

Mixed Waste Landfill Facts

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New Nuclear Media: Recent Books, Art, Film & More

Past Nuclear News

OUT OF GAS? A shortage of tritium fuel may leave fusion energy with an empty tank.

Throughout the decades of fusion research, plasma physicists have been single-minded about reaching the breakeven point and producing excess energy. They viewed other issues, such as acquiring enough tritium, just “trivial” engineering. But as reactors approach breakeven, nuclear engineers say it’s time to start to worry about engineering details that are far from trivial. “Leaving [them] until later would be hugely mistaken.”

By DANIEL CLERY SCIENCE MAGAZINE science.org

In 2020, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories delivered five steel drums, lined with cork to absorb shocks, to the Joint European Torus (JET), a large fusion reactor in the United Kingdom. Inside each drum was a steel cylinder the size of a Coke can, holding a wisp of hydrogen gas—just 10 grams of it, or the weight of a couple sheets of paper.

This wasn’t ordinary hydrogen but its rare radioactive isotope tritium, in which two neutrons and a proton cling together in the nucleus. At $30,000 per gram, it’s almost as precious as a diamond, but for fusion researchers the price is worth paying. When tritium is combined at high temperatures with its sibling deuterium, the two gases can burn like the Sun. The reaction could provide abundant clean energy—just as soon as fusion scientists figure out how to efficiently spark it.

Last year, the Canadian tritium fueled an experiment at JET showing fusion research is approaching an important threshold: producing more energy than goes into the reactions. By getting to one-third of this breakeven point, JET offered reassurance that ITER, a similar reactor twice the size of JET under construction in France, will bust past breakeven when it begins deuterium and tritium (D-T) burns sometime next decade. “What we found matches predictions,” says Fernanda Rimini, JET’s plasma operations expert.

But that achievement could be a Pyrrhic victory, fusion scientists are realizing. ITER is expected to consume most of the world’s tritium, leaving little for reactors that come after.

Six B-21s in Production, Fuel Control Software Already Tested

The nuclear modernization effort, however, does face one potentially significant hurdle, particularly for missiles such as the GBSD and the Long Range Standoff Weapon: the production of plutonium “pits” that go in the center of nuclear warheads.

The National Nuclear Security Administration had set a goal of producing 30 pits per year by 2026 and 80 by 2030. But, “I think NNSA will readily admit they’re not going to make that requirement,” Wolfe said.

By Greg Hadley  airforcemag.com

The B-21 Raider continues to be a “model” program for the Air Force, with six of the new bombers currently in production and some of its software already validated through digital testing, a top general at Air Force Global Strike Command said Feb. 9.

Speaking at the 2022 Nuclear Deterrence Summit, Maj. Gen. Jason R. Armagost said the new stealth bomber will likely fly in 2022, echoing previous predictions by other Air Force officials.

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Nuclear fears mount as Ukraine crisis deepens

Officials and experts are warning that a Russian invasion could inadvertently trigger a nuclear exchange with the U.S.

By BRYAN BENDER January 28, 2022 POLITICO

 As Russian troops bear down on Ukraine and the United States prepares its own military buildup in Eastern Europe, concerns are growing across the ideological spectrum that the standoff could inadvertently escalate into the unthinkable: nuclear war.

President Joe Biden has insisted that he will not use American forces to directly defend Ukrainian territory against a possible Russian invasion. But that is no guarantee that the two sides won’t come to blows.

Wake up call on nuclear waste! Meet the National Radioactive Waste Coalition!