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

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Pantex Plant FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

KCP FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

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

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

Atop the Powerful Budget Committee at Last, Bernie Sanders Wants to Go Big

To the chagrin of Republicans, the democratic socialist senator will play a central role in shepherding Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s agenda through Congress.

“Sanders, the next chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, plans to take a hard look at fraud at the defense budget in his new perch, he tells POLITICO

“You understand you’re talking to the guy who led the effort to lower defense spending by 10 percent,” the Vermont Independent and self-described Democratic Socialist boasted.

You’re talking about the military budget, which is now higher than the next 10 nations combined,” he continued. “You’re talking about the Pentagon budget, which is the only major government agency which has not been able to undertake an independent audit. And I don’t think anyone has any doubt that there’s massive waste and cost overruns in the military budget.”

“I think if you check the record,” he added, “you’ll find that every major defense contractor has been found guilty of collusion and fraud.”

Alan Rappeport and  | nytimes.com

Shortly before the 2016 election, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican nominee for vice president and the speaker of the House, told a group of college Republicans why he thought Democrats winning control of the Senate would be a policy nightmare.

“Do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee?” Mr. Ryan asked. “A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

Republicans have long feared the prospect of Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, taking the helm of the powerful committee given his embrace of bigger government and more federal spending with borrowed money. With Democrats reclaiming the Senate, that fear is about to become a reality. Mr. Sanders, the most progressive member of the chamber, will have a central role in shaping and steering the Democrats’ tax and spending plans through a Congress that they control with the slimmest of margins.

Concern grows over massive US cyberattack – New Mexico’s national labs, Los Alamos and Sandia, cited as possible targets among many

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said the breach escalates the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.

“On top of the dangers that we faced during the Cold War this now raises new concerns…Could our nuclear weapons be hacked for malicious reasons? Could hackers take advantage of LANL’s checkered safety and security record and cause a life threatening event in our own backyard? The sooner we all have a nuclear weapons-free world the safer we will be.”

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal / BY: T.S. LAST / JOURNAL NORTH

SANTA FE — While the Department of Energy says that a cyberoffensive was limited to business networks, concerns remain about the depth of the breach and what threat it could still pose to national security and New Mexico’s two national laboratories.

Some news reports say that the hacks are believed to have been instigated by a Russian intelligence agency. The reports specifically mention Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, where atomic research is conducted, as being vulnerable.

In addition, Los Alamos National Laboratory is tasked with producing plutonium pits, the triggering device in nuclear warheads.

Earlier this week the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a warning, calling the hack “a grave risk” to federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as critical infrastructure entities and private sector businesses. It said the suspected breach dates back to at least March.

In a joint statement this week, CISA, the FBI and the director of national intelligence said they were working together to investigate a “significant ongoing cybersecurity campaign.”\

‘Highly skeptical’: House Armed Services chairman concerned about SRS pit production

Biden administration expected to take ‘critical look’ at next-generation warhead, estimated to be twice as explosive as Trident

By: Colin Demarest cdemarest@aikenstandard.com / postandcourier.com

An aerial view of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site. The site is about 30 minutes south of Aiken.
Photo courtesy of High Flyer
In blunt, if not damning, remarks at a Friday event, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed serious reservations about plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site and questioned the competency of the National Nuclear Security Administration, overall.
Likening the conversion of the failed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility to flipping a bowling alley into a restaurant, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith said he was “highly skeptical that they’re going to be able to turn that building into an effective pit production facility. Highly skeptical.”
And that’s concerning, he further suggested, because failure risks the health of the nation’s nuclear arsenal – however big or small one might want it “They’ve been around for a long time,” the Washington Democrat said of U.S. nuclear weapons. “We have to make sure they work.”

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US Nuclear Warhead Standoff ‘Has Significant Implications for UK’

Biden administration expected to take ‘critical look’ at next-generation warhead, estimated to be twice as explosive as Trident

 / theguardian.com

HMS Vigilant, one of the four Trident nuclear submarines. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Britain’s most senior defence official admitted there would be “very significant implications” for the future of the Trident nuclear deterrent if Democrats in the US Congress refused to fund a next-generation warhead.

Sir Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said that the UK was monitoring the US standoff closely but could not say what impact a refusal to start work on the new W93 warhead would have – or how many billions it would cost.

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THE SOFTENING RHETORIC BY NUCLEAR-ARMED STATES AND NATO ALLIES ON THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

BY: / warontherocks.com

Probably the most iconic moment during the negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or “nuclear ban treaty”) was the gathering of a dozen allied ambassadors standing around U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the corridors of the U.N. building in New York, protesting against the ongoing negotiations. While nuclear-armed states and NATO allies remain opposed to the treaty, the tone is softening, and at least two NATO allies are breaking the consensus.

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Leave Nuclear to the Sun: Solar Energy & Renewables are the Source of the Future

The nuclear energy industry has had a fraught year. Well…I mean, haven’t we all…But still, it’s pleasantly surprising to see such a looming giant begin to wither and fall. The nuclear power industry is failing, as evidenced not only by the alarming reports of fraud, corruption, and other fiascos that occurred at multiple nuclear facilities over the course of 2020, but also by the numbers that prove renewables are simply better for ALL of our futures – not just the nuclear business moguls our taxpayer dollars so generously continue to bail out.

Solar to be No. 1 in US for new 2021 electricity generating capacity

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Bombs Away: Weapon Systems That Biden Administration Could Curtail or Retire

Here are some of weapons that might be reviewed by the president-elect

By: Michael R. Gordon | Wall Street Journal

President-elect Joe Biden has said that he will reduce “excessive” expenditures on nuclear modernization. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2017 that the Pentagon’s plans for updating and sustaining the nuclear triad of air, sea and land-borne weapons would cost $1.2 trillion, and some lawmakers say the eventual cost might exceed $1.5 trillion. Here are some of the weapons that might be reviewed.
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DOE Publishes Reactor Impact Statement

“Given that no clear mission need has been established for the VTR and with an estimated price tag of $3 billion to $6 billion, with completion ranging from 2026 to 2030, it is doubtful if the project will go forward..Just as for other costly, complex DOE projects, the price tag is certain to grow and the schedule certain to slip if the project is pursued.” — Savannah River Site Watch

By: NATHAN BROWN nbrown@postregister.com

Idaho National Laboratory photo

The U.S. Department of Energy has released the draft environmental impact statement for a test reactor it would like to build at Idaho National Laboratory.

The statement on the Versatile Test Reactor was released Monday and is available online through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s website, energy.gov/ne/office-nuclear-energy. Public comment will conclude 45 days after the federal Environmental Protection Agency publishes notice in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on Dec. 31. DOE will then hold two virtual public hearings, dates to be announced.
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DOE Awards Savannah River National Laboratory Management and Operating Contract

Cincinnati – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) awarded the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) Management and Operating (M&O) contract to Battelle Savannah River Alliance, LLC (BSRA) of Columbus, OH.

The Cost-Plus-Award-Fee contract will include a 5-year base period (inclusive of 120 day transition period) and potential award terms of up to 5 more years, for a total period of up to 10 years. The anticipated contract value is approximately $3.8 billion over the potential 10-year period of performance.

The procurement was competed as a full-and-open competition, and EM received three proposals. The Department determined the BSRA proposal provided the best value to the Government considering Laboratory Vision, Key Personnel, Management and Operations, Past Performance, Transition Plan, and Cost and Fee.

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Actual amount of radioactive contamination caused by the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, as revealed by Japanese citizen scientists

Minna-no Data Site, an independent nonprofit network of radioactivity-measuring laboratories, was established with the aim of reducing citizen exposure to radiation, through conducting extensive food measurements and releasing this information to the public.

As a result of this investigation, [Minna-no Data Site] determined that the radioactive contamination was by no means limited to Fukushima Prefecture and that one hundred years from now there will still be several highly-contaminated areas where humans should not live.


Uninhabitable: Booklet by Citizen Scientists Uncovers True Extent of Radioactive Contamination in Japan’s Soil and Food

“As a result of this investigation, we determined that the radioactive contamination was by no means limited to Fukushima Prefecture and that one hundred years from now there will still be several highly-contaminated areas where humans should not live.

Now, eight years after the accident, not only has the government yet to establish a criterion for radioactive concentration in the soil, but the authorities are continuing to enforce the policy of compelling people to return to their homes if the air dose rate goes below 20 mSv/year.”

By: beyondnuclearinternational

From Minna-no Data Site, a citizen’s collaborative radioactivity monitoring project

Minna-no Data Site (Everyone’s Data Site) is a network of 30 citizens’ radioactivity measurement laboratories from all over Japan.

After the 2011 Fukushima accident, many independent citizen-operated radioactivity measurement laboratories sprang up across Japan.

In September 2013, a website called “Minna-no Data Site” was established in an effort to integrate all of the radioactivity measurement data into a common platform and disseminate accurate information in an easy-to-understand format.

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New & Updated

Progressives Face Tough Road in Bid to Cut Biden Defense Budget

⋅ ‘Legacy’ weapons programs to come under review, Reed says
⋅ Critics eye Northrop’s intercontinental ballistic missile

By: / bloomberg.com

The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.

“Arbitrary reductions would not be the right way to go,” Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said in an interview Monday. Congress will weigh President Joe Biden’s first budget request and review the military services’ proposals to see if they cut unnecessary, so-called “legacy” weapons programs and facilities, Reed said.

Reed’s position is significant because Biden’s election elevated a narrative within the Democratic Party that the president will be under enormous pressure from progressives to slash defense spending. National security makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary budget.

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Nuclear Weapons — They’re Illegal

“Remember that when your congressional members pitch expanding nuclear weapons production as jobs programs; you can respond that they are illegal. Tell them they should show visionary leadership and moral courage by helping to create cleanup and green energy jobs instead.”

By:  / Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 22 will go down in history as the day when the tide turned against nuclear weapons. That was the day when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into effect, signed by 122 countries.

It specifically prohibits nations from developing, testing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and assisting others in doing so. It reinforces existing international law obligating all states not to test, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

What immediate impact will it have here, given that the Los Alamos National Laboratory is the birthplace of nuclear weapons and now sole producer of plutonium pit triggers for the expanding U.S. stockpile? The brutally honest answer is no impact, not immediately.

But think about it. Nuclear weapons are now internationally illegal, just as horrendous chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction have long been. But nuclear weapons are the worst WMDs, potentially killing millions more while causing radioactive fallout and famine-inducing nuclear winter. Ask your New Mexican congressional members to explain why nuclear weapons shouldn’t be internationally banned just like chemical and biological WMDs, all of which cause agonizing, indiscriminate suffering and death.

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Semis Hauling Millions of Radioactive Loads Across the Country

“…Charles is concerned, not only with the radiation he and other drivers may have been exposed to, but with the fallout from the radioactive rigs that continue to travel our nation’s highways.”

By: Duane Pohlman, WKRC

Semis hauling millions of radioactive loads across the country (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Each year, millions of radioactive loads are shipped across the country, many on trucks that travel right beside you on our highways.

The federal government says the shipments are safe, but some of those who handle and haul the toxic material disagree.

In this exclusive Local 12 Investigation, Chief Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman interviews two of those workers.

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Newly Released Documents Shed Light on 1983 Nuclear War Scare with Soviets

“On a hair trigger”: The Soviet Union put warplanes loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert during a 1983 war scare that was one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.

By: Nate Jones & David E. Hoffman / Washington Post

The Soviet Union put fighter-bombers loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert in East Germany during a NATO nuclear weapons command exercise in November 1983, and the alert included “preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons,” according to newly released U.S. intelligence records that confirm a “war scare” during some of the most tense months of the Cold War.

It was disclosed previously that the NATO exercise, named Able Archer 83, triggered worries in the Kremlin. But the new documents provide precise details for the first time of the Soviet military response to the NATO exercise, an annual event that practiced a simulated nuclear attack on the forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

According to the documents, the heightened Soviet alert was raised in the fighter-bomber divisions of Soviet forces stationed in East Germany. All command posts were ordered to be manned around-the-clock by augmented teams. In tandem, the chief of the Soviet air forces, Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, ordered all units of the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland to be covered by the alert.
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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

“We are very pleased that Native American-owned firms are being considered and selected for the remediation of uranium mine sites,” Valinda Shirley, executive director of the Navajo EPA Shirley said in a statement. “The award of these contracts propels the cleanup of our priority mine sites across the Navajo Nation.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, worth up to $220 million over the next five years.

The majority of the funding comes from the $1 billion Tronox settlement in 2015. According to the EPA, work is scheduled to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. A news release stated that the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950s.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to:

  • Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture,
  • Environmental Quality Management Inc.,
  • Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

In addition, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and clean-up of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, the news release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a prepared statement:

The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups. We strongly encourage these companies to create more opportunities for Navajo businesses to receive sub-contracts for the work related to assessments and clean-up efforts. We have many Navajo-owned entrepreneurs and businesses that have the expertise and experience to help clean-up our communities.

Each of the companies will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building.

READ THE ENTIRE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

LANL Looks to Reduce Risks of Volatile Waste

“Many of the drums probably have sat around for years, even decades, posing a hazard,” said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“It’s an example of nuclear weapons work getting the priority while cleanup and waste management is on the back burner,”

Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking steps to address the hazards posed by dozens of barrels of radioactive waste mixed with incompatible chemicals, which have the potential to explode.

The lab is responding to a report in October by the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which found the lab had failed to analyze chemicals present in hundreds of containers of transuranic nuclear waste.

Incompatible chemicals could blend together and cause a container to burst, releasing a high level of radiation that would threaten workers and the public, the report said.

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Editorial: LANL’s lack of wildfire plan, action irresponsible

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One would think an entity with 13 nuclear facilities that experienced two catastrophic wildfires in recent years would be taking fire prevention seriously.

After all, the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire burned about 7,500 acres of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, resulting in $331 million in damages. And that figure doesn’t include an estimated $15 million in lost productivity per week during a 15-day shutdown and recovery period.

And then there was the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. While it ultimately burned only about 1 acre of LANL land, it forced roughly 10,000 LANL employees out of their offices and out of Los Alamos for more than a week.

But according to a recent report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, managers at LANL have not fully implemented measures designed to reduce the impact from wildland fires, including tree thinning in buffer zones below overhead power lines.

The report is so disappointing because the Las Conchas Fire, which burned about 156,293 total acres, started when a tree fell on a power line in the Santa Fe National Forest, resulting in a fast-burning “crown fire” that burned through tree canopy.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Biden Administration Asked to Review Plutonium Pit Expansion Plans

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico: “It’s important to note that no future pit production is to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, it is for speculative new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested because of the international testing moratorium, or perhaps worse yet may prompt the U.S. back into testing, after which surely other nations would follow.”

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Public interest organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requesting that it address calls for a rigorous environmental review of plans to expand production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina.

The non-profit groups—Nuclear Watch New MexicoSRS Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment—have previously submitted a number of formal comments and information related to the environmental and public health risks associated with a significant expansion of plutonium “pit” production at the two DOE sites.
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Consequences of Uranium Mining in the Southwest

Addressing the consequences of uranium mining in the Southwest, Anna Benally said, “When uranium mining came to Navajo Land, we were never told it was unsafe to be around it. We were never told to keep our children from playing near it or keep our livestock from coming around it. We were just happy to have jobs.”

By: Kristin Scheer | Peace Works Kansas City

Uranium mining is still causing problems in the US. This was the topic of Radio Active Magazine on KKFI, 90.1 FM Community Radio, on Feb. 9. Activists from the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), based in Albuquerque, NM, joined PeaceWorks-KC leaders for the program.

The MASE activists on the program were Anna Benally, a former uranium mine employee turned activist who is working to heal the land and protect the health of people and livestock, and Susan Gordon, coordinator of MASE. PeaceWorks Board members Ann Suellentrop and myself introduced the MASE leaders and interviewed them. The podcast is online at https://kkfi.org/program-episodes/fighting-uranium-contamination-in-the-southwest/.

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Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab Opens Office in the City of the Santa Fe (“Holy Faith”) of Peace and Environmental Protection

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – A Lab press release has announced that “[c]onnections between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the City of Santa Fe will be strengthened with the Laboratory’s opening of a new downtown office” after signing a 10-year lease on a 28,000-square-foot building. The Lab’s press release ignores LANL’s $2.9 billion nuclear weapons production budget (up 33% in one year), its proposed 46% cut to cleanup to $120 million, serious groundwater contamination and recent reports how it has neglected wildfire protection. Two catastrophic wildfires in the last 21 years on or near the Lab blanketed a large portion of northern New Mexico with possibly contaminated smoke.

The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and while in Japan paid homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

LANL Falls Behind on Wildfire Protection While Expanding Nuclear Weapons Production Watchdog Calls for New Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy’s Inspector General is reporting that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is falling seriously behind in wildfire protection. This is despite the fact that the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire forced the mandatory evacuation of both LANL and the Los Alamos townsite, burned 3,500 acres of Lab property and came within a half-mile of Area G, its largest waste dump. At the time Area G stored above ground some 40,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes. It could have been catastrophic had they burst and sent respirable airborne plutonium across northern New Mexico (inhaled plutonium is a very serious carcinogen).

In 2011 the Los Conchas Fire raced 13 miles in 24 hours to the Lab’s western boundary, where it was stopped along State Highway 4. Both it and the Cerro Grande Fire sent huge plumes of harmful smoke across northern New Mexico, possibly carrying Lab contaminants as well (operation of radioactive air emissions monitoring equipment was suspended during the Cerro Grande Fire).

FULL PRESS RELEASE

Jay Coghlan from Nukewatch New Mexico and Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear discuss the recent developments in Nuclear Weapons proliferation and the new international ban on nuclear weapons.

Living on the Edge also cover reasons why nuclear power may not be the low carbon panacea for transitioning our electric grid that is so widely promoted these days.

Wildland Fire Prevention Still Lagging at LANL

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has had two major wildland fires — the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 and the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. Each fire burned partially on Lab property within miles of several nuclear facilities. LANL’s wildfire prevention should be 100% in place and constantly updated. But a February 1, 2021, report by the DOE Inspector General found that activities designed to reduce the impact from wildland fire had not been fully implemented at LANL. The DOE-IG found that while the contractor, Triad, had identified fire risks, it had not completely implemented all measures to prevent serious fires.

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Radiation Illnesses and COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation

“In Indigenous lands where nuclear weapons testing took place during the Cold War and the legacy of uranium mining persists, Indigenous people are suffering from a double whammy of long-term illnesses from radiation exposure and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

By: Jayita SarkarCaitlin Meyer | thebulletin.org February 3, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is wiping out Indigenous elders and with them the cultural identity of Indigenous communities in the United States. But on lands that sprawl across a vast area of the American West, the Navajo (or Diné) are dealing not just with the pandemic, but also with another, related public health crisis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 is killing Native Americans at nearly three times the rate of whites, and on the Navajo Nation itself, about 30,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and roughly 1,000 have died. But among the Diné, the coronavirus is also spreading through a population that decades of unsafe uranium mining and contaminated groundwater has left sick and vulnerable.

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Nukes aren’t just for bombers and subs. Here are some unusual ways militaries have also planned to drop the bomb

Throughout the Cold War, the prospect of bombers dropping nuclear bombs and submarines launching nuclear-tipped missiles terrified people around the world. Those were the major delivery methods, but both militaries developed an array of smaller nuclear weapons for tactical use, and planners in those militaries gave very real consideration to using them.

By: Benjamin Brimelow | businessinsider.com Jan 28, 2021

Davy Crockett nuclear bomb
US officials examine an M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon, which used one of the smallest nuclear warheads ever developed by the US. US government

The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was small enough to fit into a large backpack but still had a yield of a kiloton. It was intended to be planted by small, specially trained teams that would set a time fuse before attempting to escape.

You can actually view these asinine “backpack nukes” at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque. These “small” weapons, many of them more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, would have obliterated any battlefield and irradiated much of the surrounding area.


The Little Boy (15 kilotons) and Fat Man (21 kilotons) atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, remain the only nuclear weapons used in combat.

Those bombs destroyed the cities, killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of people, and left thousands more with long-term health problems. The carnage and destruction are the first things that come to mind when discussing nuclear weapons.

But nukes weren’t just for destroying cities. Early in the Cold War, the tactical use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield was not only researched extensively but actually considered.

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Critical Events

Environment Department to host quarterly Los Alamos community engagement meeting on February 25

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) will host a virtual Los Alamos community engagement meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.

The purpose of these regularly scheduled meetings is to engage the community in discussion of topics related to NMED’s work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The meeting will include an update on air monitoring data gathered by NMED in association with Middle DP Road contamination and the NMED Department of Energy Oversight Bureau (DOE-OB) will provide an overview of how to access and search publicly available data and information on the Los Alamos Intellus NM database. There will also be time allotted for questions and brief public statements.

To submit questions ahead of time and to request interpretation services or other assistance may contact NMED DOE-OB Bureau Chief Chris Catechis at 505-469-6521 or chris.catechis@state.nm.us. Questions may also be asked during the meeting and do not need to be submitted prior.

Meeting link: https://nmed-oit.webex.com/nmedoit/j.php?MTID=mdb86e0171b378e278e61a5b90065e362
Meeting number: 177 492 6062
Meeting password: pkDtFwCT745
Phone access: (415)-655-0001
Phone access code: 177 492 6062

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

Nuclear News

The Future of War in Biden’s America

Danny Sjursen offers a Bidenesque tour of U.S. militarism.

By: Danny Sjursen Tom’s Dispatch | consortiumnews.com

2009: Vice President Joe Biden with U.S. sailors stationed in San Diego who were preparing to deploy to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. (U.S. Navy, Amanda L. Ray)

Hard as it is to believe in this time of record pandemic deaths, insurrection, and an unprecedented encore impeachment, Joe Biden is now officially at the helm of the U.S. war machine.  He is, in other words, the fourth president to oversee America’s unending and unsuccessful post-9/11 military campaigns.

In terms of active U.S. combat, that’s only happened once before, in the Philippines, America’s second-longest (if often forgotten) overseas combat campaign.

Yet that conflict was limited to a single Pacific archipelago. Biden inherits a global war — and burgeoning new Cold War — spanning four continents and a military mired in active operations in dozens of countries, combat in some 14 of them, and bombing in at least seven. 

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Bombs Away: Weapon Systems That Biden Administration Could Curtail or Retire

Here are some of weapons that might be reviewed by the president-elect

By: Michael R. Gordon | Wall Street Journal

President-elect Joe Biden has said that he will reduce “excessive” expenditures on nuclear modernization. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2017 that the Pentagon’s plans for updating and sustaining the nuclear triad of air, sea and land-borne weapons would cost $1.2 trillion, and some lawmakers say the eventual cost might exceed $1.5 trillion. Here are some of the weapons that might be reviewed.
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DOE Publishes Reactor Impact Statement

“Given that no clear mission need has been established for the VTR and with an estimated price tag of $3 billion to $6 billion, with completion ranging from 2026 to 2030, it is doubtful if the project will go forward..Just as for other costly, complex DOE projects, the price tag is certain to grow and the schedule certain to slip if the project is pursued.” — Savannah River Site Watch

By: NATHAN BROWN nbrown@postregister.com

Idaho National Laboratory photo

The U.S. Department of Energy has released the draft environmental impact statement for a test reactor it would like to build at Idaho National Laboratory.

The statement on the Versatile Test Reactor was released Monday and is available online through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s website, energy.gov/ne/office-nuclear-energy. Public comment will conclude 45 days after the federal Environmental Protection Agency publishes notice in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on Dec. 31. DOE will then hold two virtual public hearings, dates to be announced.
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DOE Awards Savannah River National Laboratory Management and Operating Contract

Cincinnati – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) awarded the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) Management and Operating (M&O) contract to Battelle Savannah River Alliance, LLC (BSRA) of Columbus, OH.

The Cost-Plus-Award-Fee contract will include a 5-year base period (inclusive of 120 day transition period) and potential award terms of up to 5 more years, for a total period of up to 10 years. The anticipated contract value is approximately $3.8 billion over the potential 10-year period of performance.

The procurement was competed as a full-and-open competition, and EM received three proposals. The Department determined the BSRA proposal provided the best value to the Government considering Laboratory Vision, Key Personnel, Management and Operations, Past Performance, Transition Plan, and Cost and Fee.

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Critics say Turkey’s unfinished nuclear plant already redundant

Turkey’s power plant building spree has resulted in an enormous idle capacity but the construction of new plants continues at the expense of taxpayers despite the country’s bruising economic woes.

BY: Thomas H. Goebel The Conversation 

A view of the construction site of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu, is pictured during the opening ceremony in the Mediterranean Mersin region on April 3, 2018. Photo by IBRAHIM MESE/AFP via Getty Images.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power for 18 years, is under increasing fire for poorly planned, prodigal investments whose long-term financial fallout is coming into sharper relief as the country grapples with severe economic woes. Standing out among the most dubious investments is a series of power plants, including a nuclear energy plant still under construction, that have created an idle capacity threatening to haunt public finances for years.

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John Pilger: The Most Lethal Virus is Not Covid-19. It is War.

Covid-19 has provided cover for a pandemic of propaganda, says John Pilger.

BY:  John Pilger

Armed Services Memorial. (Geograph/David Dixon)

Britain’s Armed Services Memorial is a silent, haunting place. Set in the rural beauty of Staffordshire, in an arboretum of some 30,000 trees and sweeping lawns, its Homeric figures celebrate determination and sacrifice.

The names of more than 16,000 British servicemen and women are listed. The literature says they “died in operational theatre or were targeted by terrorists”.

On the day I was there, a stonemason was adding new names to those who have died in some 50 operations across the world during what is known as “peacetime”. Malaya, Ireland, Kenya, Hong Kong, Libya, Iraq, Palestine and many more, including secret operations, such as Indochina.

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Fracking Likely Triggered Earthquakes in California a Few Miles From the San Andreas Fault

Industry-induced earthquakes have been an increasing concern in the central and eastern United States for more than a decade.

BY: Thomas H. Goebel The Conversation 

Activity in the San Ardo oil field near Salinas, California, has been linked to earthquakes. Eugene Zelenko / Wikimedia / CC BY 4.0

The way companies drill for oil and gas and dispose of wastewater can trigger earthquakes, at times in unexpected places.

In West Texas, earthquake rates are now 30 times higher than they were in 2013. Studies have also linked earthquakes to oil field operations in OklahomaKansasColorado and Ohio.

California was thought to be an exception, a place where oil field operations and tectonic faults apparently coexisted without much problem. Now, new research shows that the state’s natural earthquake activity may be hiding industry-induced quakes.

As a seismologist, I have been investigating induced earthquakes in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Our latest study, released on Nov. 10, shows how California oil field operations are putting stress on tectonic faults in an area just a few miles from the San Andreas Fault.

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Nuclear Media

The Biggest Radioactive Spill in US History Never Ended

How the US poisoned Navajo Nation.

BY:  | vox.com

For decades, Navajo Nation was a primary source for the United States’ uranium stockpile during the nuclear arms race. It was home to more than 700 uranium mines, which provided jobs to Navajo residents. But the mining industry came with impending peril. Cases of lung cancer and other diseases began cropping up in a community that had previously had few of them. Land, air, and water was poisoned. And on July 16, 1979, the mining led to the biggest radioactive spill in US history.

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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

Support a Santa Fe County resolution calling for a new site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) at the Los Alamos Lab before plutonium “pit” bomb core production is expanded.

The last SWEIS was in 2008 and much has changed.

Public comment period beginning not sooner than 3:30 pm (exact time indefinite), Tuesday January 26.

To participate by phone, call 1-408-418-9388, using meeting number 968 291 714 and password DcTWMVai436. To participate via internet, go to https://sfco.webex.com/sfco/j.php?MTID=maa656c921d094b90a0b6ce6ab2f26db9

The Santa Fe County agenda is available at https://www.santafecountynm.gov/documents/agendas/agendas/BCC_Agenda_1-26-2020.pdf
The draft resolution is available at https://wp.me/aar4I0-3cl and below:

Resolution Requesting NNSA Complete Full SWEIS for LANL Before Expanding Plutonium Pit Production

 

New & Updated

Progressives Face Tough Road in Bid to Cut Biden Defense Budget

⋅ ‘Legacy’ weapons programs to come under review, Reed says
⋅ Critics eye Northrop’s intercontinental ballistic missile

By: / bloomberg.com

The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.

“Arbitrary reductions would not be the right way to go,” Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said in an interview Monday. Congress will weigh President Joe Biden’s first budget request and review the military services’ proposals to see if they cut unnecessary, so-called “legacy” weapons programs and facilities, Reed said.

Reed’s position is significant because Biden’s election elevated a narrative within the Democratic Party that the president will be under enormous pressure from progressives to slash defense spending. National security makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary budget.

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Nuclear Weapons — They’re Illegal

“Remember that when your congressional members pitch expanding nuclear weapons production as jobs programs; you can respond that they are illegal. Tell them they should show visionary leadership and moral courage by helping to create cleanup and green energy jobs instead.”

By:  / Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 22 will go down in history as the day when the tide turned against nuclear weapons. That was the day when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into effect, signed by 122 countries.

It specifically prohibits nations from developing, testing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and assisting others in doing so. It reinforces existing international law obligating all states not to test, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

What immediate impact will it have here, given that the Los Alamos National Laboratory is the birthplace of nuclear weapons and now sole producer of plutonium pit triggers for the expanding U.S. stockpile? The brutally honest answer is no impact, not immediately.

But think about it. Nuclear weapons are now internationally illegal, just as horrendous chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction have long been. But nuclear weapons are the worst WMDs, potentially killing millions more while causing radioactive fallout and famine-inducing nuclear winter. Ask your New Mexican congressional members to explain why nuclear weapons shouldn’t be internationally banned just like chemical and biological WMDs, all of which cause agonizing, indiscriminate suffering and death.

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Semis Hauling Millions of Radioactive Loads Across the Country

“…Charles is concerned, not only with the radiation he and other drivers may have been exposed to, but with the fallout from the radioactive rigs that continue to travel our nation’s highways.”

By: Duane Pohlman, WKRC

Semis hauling millions of radioactive loads across the country (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Each year, millions of radioactive loads are shipped across the country, many on trucks that travel right beside you on our highways.

The federal government says the shipments are safe, but some of those who handle and haul the toxic material disagree.

In this exclusive Local 12 Investigation, Chief Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman interviews two of those workers.

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Newly Released Documents Shed Light on 1983 Nuclear War Scare with Soviets

“On a hair trigger”: The Soviet Union put warplanes loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert during a 1983 war scare that was one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.

By: Nate Jones & David E. Hoffman / Washington Post

The Soviet Union put fighter-bombers loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert in East Germany during a NATO nuclear weapons command exercise in November 1983, and the alert included “preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons,” according to newly released U.S. intelligence records that confirm a “war scare” during some of the most tense months of the Cold War.

It was disclosed previously that the NATO exercise, named Able Archer 83, triggered worries in the Kremlin. But the new documents provide precise details for the first time of the Soviet military response to the NATO exercise, an annual event that practiced a simulated nuclear attack on the forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

According to the documents, the heightened Soviet alert was raised in the fighter-bomber divisions of Soviet forces stationed in East Germany. All command posts were ordered to be manned around-the-clock by augmented teams. In tandem, the chief of the Soviet air forces, Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, ordered all units of the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland to be covered by the alert.
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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

“We are very pleased that Native American-owned firms are being considered and selected for the remediation of uranium mine sites,” Valinda Shirley, executive director of the Navajo EPA Shirley said in a statement. “The award of these contracts propels the cleanup of our priority mine sites across the Navajo Nation.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, worth up to $220 million over the next five years.

The majority of the funding comes from the $1 billion Tronox settlement in 2015. According to the EPA, work is scheduled to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. A news release stated that the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950s.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to:

  • Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture,
  • Environmental Quality Management Inc.,
  • Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

In addition, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and clean-up of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, the news release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a prepared statement:

The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups. We strongly encourage these companies to create more opportunities for Navajo businesses to receive sub-contracts for the work related to assessments and clean-up efforts. We have many Navajo-owned entrepreneurs and businesses that have the expertise and experience to help clean-up our communities.

Each of the companies will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building.

READ THE ENTIRE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

LANL Looks to Reduce Risks of Volatile Waste

“Many of the drums probably have sat around for years, even decades, posing a hazard,” said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“It’s an example of nuclear weapons work getting the priority while cleanup and waste management is on the back burner,”

Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking steps to address the hazards posed by dozens of barrels of radioactive waste mixed with incompatible chemicals, which have the potential to explode.

The lab is responding to a report in October by the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which found the lab had failed to analyze chemicals present in hundreds of containers of transuranic nuclear waste.

Incompatible chemicals could blend together and cause a container to burst, releasing a high level of radiation that would threaten workers and the public, the report said.

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Editorial: LANL’s lack of wildfire plan, action irresponsible

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One would think an entity with 13 nuclear facilities that experienced two catastrophic wildfires in recent years would be taking fire prevention seriously.

After all, the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire burned about 7,500 acres of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, resulting in $331 million in damages. And that figure doesn’t include an estimated $15 million in lost productivity per week during a 15-day shutdown and recovery period.

And then there was the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. While it ultimately burned only about 1 acre of LANL land, it forced roughly 10,000 LANL employees out of their offices and out of Los Alamos for more than a week.

But according to a recent report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, managers at LANL have not fully implemented measures designed to reduce the impact from wildland fires, including tree thinning in buffer zones below overhead power lines.

The report is so disappointing because the Las Conchas Fire, which burned about 156,293 total acres, started when a tree fell on a power line in the Santa Fe National Forest, resulting in a fast-burning “crown fire” that burned through tree canopy.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Biden Administration Asked to Review Plutonium Pit Expansion Plans

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico: “It’s important to note that no future pit production is to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, it is for speculative new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested because of the international testing moratorium, or perhaps worse yet may prompt the U.S. back into testing, after which surely other nations would follow.”

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Public interest organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requesting that it address calls for a rigorous environmental review of plans to expand production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina.

The non-profit groups—Nuclear Watch New MexicoSRS Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment—have previously submitted a number of formal comments and information related to the environmental and public health risks associated with a significant expansion of plutonium “pit” production at the two DOE sites.
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Consequences of Uranium Mining in the Southwest

Addressing the consequences of uranium mining in the Southwest, Anna Benally said, “When uranium mining came to Navajo Land, we were never told it was unsafe to be around it. We were never told to keep our children from playing near it or keep our livestock from coming around it. We were just happy to have jobs.”

By: Kristin Scheer | Peace Works Kansas City

Uranium mining is still causing problems in the US. This was the topic of Radio Active Magazine on KKFI, 90.1 FM Community Radio, on Feb. 9. Activists from the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), based in Albuquerque, NM, joined PeaceWorks-KC leaders for the program.

The MASE activists on the program were Anna Benally, a former uranium mine employee turned activist who is working to heal the land and protect the health of people and livestock, and Susan Gordon, coordinator of MASE. PeaceWorks Board members Ann Suellentrop and myself introduced the MASE leaders and interviewed them. The podcast is online at https://kkfi.org/program-episodes/fighting-uranium-contamination-in-the-southwest/.

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Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab Opens Office in the City of the Santa Fe (“Holy Faith”) of Peace and Environmental Protection

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – A Lab press release has announced that “[c]onnections between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the City of Santa Fe will be strengthened with the Laboratory’s opening of a new downtown office” after signing a 10-year lease on a 28,000-square-foot building. The Lab’s press release ignores LANL’s $2.9 billion nuclear weapons production budget (up 33% in one year), its proposed 46% cut to cleanup to $120 million, serious groundwater contamination and recent reports how it has neglected wildfire protection. Two catastrophic wildfires in the last 21 years on or near the Lab blanketed a large portion of northern New Mexico with possibly contaminated smoke.

The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and while in Japan paid homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

LANL Falls Behind on Wildfire Protection While Expanding Nuclear Weapons Production Watchdog Calls for New Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy’s Inspector General is reporting that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is falling seriously behind in wildfire protection. This is despite the fact that the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire forced the mandatory evacuation of both LANL and the Los Alamos townsite, burned 3,500 acres of Lab property and came within a half-mile of Area G, its largest waste dump. At the time Area G stored above ground some 40,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes. It could have been catastrophic had they burst and sent respirable airborne plutonium across northern New Mexico (inhaled plutonium is a very serious carcinogen).

In 2011 the Los Conchas Fire raced 13 miles in 24 hours to the Lab’s western boundary, where it was stopped along State Highway 4. Both it and the Cerro Grande Fire sent huge plumes of harmful smoke across northern New Mexico, possibly carrying Lab contaminants as well (operation of radioactive air emissions monitoring equipment was suspended during the Cerro Grande Fire).

FULL PRESS RELEASE

Jay Coghlan from Nukewatch New Mexico and Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear discuss the recent developments in Nuclear Weapons proliferation and the new international ban on nuclear weapons.

Living on the Edge also cover reasons why nuclear power may not be the low carbon panacea for transitioning our electric grid that is so widely promoted these days.

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.”

Read more…

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

“I am pleased to recognize today’s entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades. The treaty is an important step towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and a strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament,”

January 22nd 2021 – UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.

“…We’re in a storytelling crisis, and the kind of storytelling that we are talking about right now needs to be revved up to the nth degree. While we—those of us in the journalism and nuclear spaces—understand the gravity of where we are, and how dangerous our current global stockpile is, and that we have fewer means of communication for de-escalation than ever, the rest of the world isn’t getting it. And as the pandemic worsens, this issue is getting less and less attention”

A cropped image of the cover of “Fallout,” by Lesley M. M. Blume, which tells the behind-the-scenes story of John Hersey’s reporting on Hiroshima. Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster