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

“Those who sacrificed for our country’s national security, in some cases unknowingly, should not have to doubly fear this crisis,” Groups Demand Relief for Nuclear Frontline Communities

Over 120 local and national organizations are urging the U.S. Congress to provide assistance to nuclear frontline communities.

Every year, Los Alamos National Laboratory produces 7 million pounds of chemical waste and 15,000 pounds of low-level radioactive waste, as well as more than 700 cubic yards of more highly radioactive waste, according to Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

Freedom of Information in the Time of COVID-19

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

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

LANL’s Central Mission: Los Alamos Lab officials have recently claimed that LANL has moved away from primarily nuclear weapons to “national security”, but what truly remains as the Labs central mission? Here’s the answer from one of its own documents:

LANL’s “Central Mission”- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications (PDF) 4/27/11

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

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

_____________________________________________

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

After Decades of Secrets, Rocky Flats Should Still Give Pause




FOR MORE INFORMATION: The rockyflatsambushedgrandjury.com web site offers many Resource Materials in support of The Ambushed Grand Jury non-fiction and profit book about the Rocky Flats criminal investigation and Special Federal Grand Jury investigation, including pictures and videos.

Chernobyl fire: Huge forest blaze moves within one kilometre of abandoned nuclear plant

A forest fire that has raged in Ukraine for more than a week has spread to within a kilometre of the Chernobyl power plant, environmental campaigners have warned.

Footage of the region has shown fires raging through the 30km exclusion zone set up around the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, with black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters attempting to beat back the blaze from helicopters.

Continue reading

Lawmakers cry foul as Trump considers retreating from Open Skies Treaty

Supporters of a treaty meant to reduce the risk of accidental war are sounding the alarm President Trump could withdraw from the agreement as the world’s attention is consumed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Open Skies Treaty allows the pact’s 35 signatories, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation flights over each other’s territories with the intention of providing transparency about military activities to avoid miscalculations that could lead to war.

Administration officials insist a review is ongoing as four top Democrats warned this past week that withdrawing “in the midst of a global health crisis is not only shortsighted, but also unconscionable.”

“We are deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s sustained push to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and we reject the administration’s arguments for pursuing withdrawal,”
Continue reading

Joel Pett Political Cartoons | Lexington Herald Leader

Researchers Find Plutonium Particles in Soil Near Rocky Flats

“Researchers from Northern Arizona University (NAU) found extensive plutonium “hot” particles in soil near the former Rocky Flats nuclear site. Particles this size can be inhaled and lodged in lung tissue, increasing risk of radioactive exposure from inhalation.”

ARTICLE BY: KEELY SUGDEN | kdvr.com

Researchers find plutonium particles in soil near Rocky Flats
Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge

DENVER (KDVR) – Researchers Michael Ketterer and Scott Szechenyi from (NAU) concluded, “These particles are found to be pervasive in non-US Government land east of Rocky Flats, and it is reasonable to believe that ongoing wind transport is continuing to spread the contamination across open space used by the public, and toward residential areas.”

Surface soil was collected from the Jefferson County right-of-way property immediately west of Indiana Street in 2019.

Continue reading

NEW OAK RIDGE EARTHQUAKE RISK ANALYSIS SAYS PUBLIC SAFETY RISK IS TEN TIMES GREATER THAN PREVIOUS ESTIMATES

OREPA CALLS FOR PUBLIC HEARING: “WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE INFORMED AND CONSULTED ABOUT THE RISKS.”

OREPA

            The third time is proving far from charming for the government’s plan to continue making nuclear bomb parts in Oak Ridge. The National Nuclear Security Administration this week released its third Supplement Analysis [SA] for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex. Buried on page 31 of the report is the finding that the consequences of a worst-case scenario are ten times greater under the current plan than previously disclosed in the 2011 Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement.

Continue reading

Air Force Wants to Add More Long-Range Bombers to its Inventory

“The Air Force has been looking to improve its fleet by purchasing the upcoming B-21 Raider and modernizing the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.” The Air Force has classified the costs of the B21 heavy bomber. Among other armaments, it will carry theW80-4 Long Range Stand Off nuclear warhead.

ARTICLE BY: CONNIE LEE | nationaldefensemagazine.org

The Air Force wants “just north” of 220 long-range bombers in its inventory by 2040, a service official said April 9.

Previously, the service said it wanted 175 aircraft in the current fleet, but “that was a programmatically derived approach,” Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters during a call with reporters.

Continue reading

New & Updated

ACT NOW TO STOP THE NEW BOMB PLANT!

The National Nuclear Security Administration was told by a federal judge to prepare a new analysis of the risks of an earthquake at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where nuclear weapons parts are made. Instead, NNSA prepared a very narrow analysis of the effects of an earthquake on three buildings at Y-12. They published this Supplement Analysis in April and invited public comment.

If you want to read the Supplement Analysis, you can find it on OREPA’s website: www.orepa.org. On the right hand column, just under the UPF lawsuit heading.

Your comments should be sent by May 26 to:
Ms. Terri Slack
P.O. Box 2050
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
or by email to: NEPA.Comments@npo.doe.gov

MORE INFORMATION

Smith, Cooper Statement on Trump Administration’s Withdrawal From the Open Skies Treaty

May 21, 2020 | PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Jim Cooper (D-TN), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, today issued the following statement in response to reports that the Trump Administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty:

“The Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty is a slap in the face to our allies in Europe, leaves our deployed forces in the region at risk, and is in blatant violation of the law. This decision weakens our national security interests, isolates the United States since the Treaty will continue without us, and abandons a useful tool to hold Russia accountable.

“What’s more, this decision has been made without any consultation with Congress. Not only does the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act require a minimum 120-days’ notification of the withdrawal notice, but also multiple communications from the House Armed Services Committee and other congressional chairmen have gone unanswered.

“The Trump Administration continues to give Russia the upper hand with regards to arms control, which leaves our allies and deployed forces less protected in Europe. Despite the Department of Defense’s rhetoric about the dire need to prepare for ‘great power competition,’ this decision will undoubtedly do the exact opposite, and further fracture our relationships with allies needed to push back against Russian aggression in the region.”

Citing financial cost of pandemic, House liberals demand cut in military spending

Twenty-nine of the House’s most liberal Democratic members called Tuesday for a cut in military spending in the yearly national defense authorization bill — a declaration, they said, that is meant to focus federal resources on the coronavirus pandemic.

MIKE DEBONIS | washingtonpost.com

The demand, however, stands to greatly complicate the Democratic-controlled House’s ability to advance the National Defense Authorization Act, one of the most consequential must-pass measures that Congress assembles each year. It is likely to generate objections from Republicans and more moderate Democrats alike — and create headaches for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.

The signers are almost all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including lead sponsors Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), who have long called for lower levels of Pentagon spending to free more resources for domestic spending. But the pandemic, they argue, presents a new imperative for defense cuts.

Continue reading

Scuttlebiz: Will ‘pit production’ save SRS?

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of urgency by the federal law “requiring” pit production begin by 2030. That law carries as much weight as the 1982 federal act requiring the nation to have a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain 12 years ago. Still waiting…”

DAMON CLINE | augustachronicle.com

It’s a choice that – from a local economic development perspective – isn’t much of a choice.

Here it is: 1) Convert the Savannah River Site’s unfinished Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility into a nuclear weapons plant; or 2) Let the MOX plant keep rotting while New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory continues producing the nation’s stockpile of “plutonium pits.”

Considering that about $9 billion is at stake, and that SRS needs a new “mission,” I believe it’s safe to assume local leaders want what’s behind Door No. 1.

The National Nuclear Security Administration laid out the two alternatives last month in a draft environmental impact study addressing the nation’s need to manufacture 80 new nuclear weapon cores a year by 2030.

Continue reading

Huge Deficit = Defense Budget Cuts? Maybe Not

The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood.

| breakingdefense.com

The current Washington consensus sees deep defense budget cuts in the face of soaring deficits driven by the emergency legislation to stabilize the American economy as it reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may be wrong. The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood. The next administration — Republican or Democratic — will develop budgets beyond that, but the constraints of long-standing strategy will prevent major changes to force structure and acquisition that would drive deep budget cuts.   

Continue reading

Will the Trump administration’s accusations doom the nuclear test ban treaty?

“Although US accusations are unlikely to be true, they could give a convenient pretext to officials who want to withdraw the US signature from the treaty, allowing the United States to resume its own nuclear testing. In fact, that may be the entire point.”

ANDREAS PERSBO | thebulletin.org

In April, while most of the world was focused on defeating a devastating viral pandemic, the US State Department quietly released its annual compliance report, describing whether and how the United States and other countries have been abiding by various arms control agreements. The report is sober reading for those hoping that the coronavirus would usher in a new era of international collaboration.

The report made waves for raising “concerns” about China’s adherence to a “zero-yield” nuclear testing standard, as called for by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although neither the United States or China has ratified the treaty, both have signed it, and both claim to abide by a nuclear testing moratorium.

Continue reading

Featured Video Play Icon

Released From Silence

One year anniversary of the release of the documentary short film “The Atomic Soldiers”

“The Atomic Soldiers” lets the veterans who witnessed the Hood test in Nevada tell their own stories. But the painful memories sometimes choke their recollections, leaving long and moving silences in place of words. “You don’t send 14,000 troops through ground zero and not call it anything but genocide,” says one.

Continue reading

Ground U.S.-North Korean Diplomacy in International Law

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical.

| nationalinterest.org

In the years since the summits between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi, U.S.-North Korean diplomacy has fizzled to a halt. This is a grave mistake. Both North Korea and the United States need to get serious about reviving diplomatic efforts to eliminate their nuclear weapons.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical. North Korean and U.S. nuclear weapons put the rest of the world at risk—and drain valuable resources from needed economic recovery efforts and social services. ICAN estimated that together North Korea and the United States spent $36 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The United States spent $35.4 billion and North Korea spent about $0.6 billion.

Continue reading

Trump Admin Sprints to Weaken Environmental Protections During Pandemic

‘There’s a lot they want to get done before the election, just in case.’

The Trump administration is diligently weakening U.S. environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, U.S. federal agencies have eased fuel-efficiency standards for new cars; frozen rules for soot air pollution; proposed to drop review requirements for liquefied natural gas terminals; continued to lease public property to oil and gas companies; sought to speed up permitting for offshore fish farms; and advanced a proposal on mercury pollution from power plants that could make it easier for the government to conclude regulations are too costly to justify their benefits.

Continue reading

Pit Production Must ‘Press Forward’ Despite Coronavirus Pandemic, NNSA Chief Says

Preparations and planning for plutonium pit production must continue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a “difficult” and challenging time, National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty wrote in a recent letter.

“The plutonium pit production mission is one of our highest national security priorities and is being done in accordance with congressional direction,” Gordon-Hagerty wrote to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat. “We must press forward with this project in order to meet Department of Defense deliverables.”

Udall and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, another New Mexico Democrat, in late April wrote to the National Nuclear Security Administration, asking the weapons-and-nonproliferation agency to extend a public comment period tied to plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory, near Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Gordon-Hagerty in her April 30 response said she appreciated the “interest in this matter” and that she takes the “concerns very seriously.”

Continue reading

Moving Forward With the W93 SLBM Warhead Strengthens U.S. and British Security

Bulging Deficits May Threaten Prized Pentagon Arms Projects

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: 2019 GLOBAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING

The nuclear-armed states spent nearly three-quarters of one hundred billion dollars in 2019 on building and maintaining nuclear warheads and delivery systems. The incalculable human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons only add to this shocking figure. From 2018 to 2019, there was an estimated $7.1 billion increase in nuclear weapon spending, and these totals will only continue to rise in the next decade according to documented nuclear weapon programmes and budgets in several nuclear-armed countries.

FULL REPORT

Help Us Stop Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab! Submit Written Formal Comment.
Click to See Suggested Comments

Due Saturday May 9 but generally the government will accept comments for the following week.

See Updated Plutonium Pit Production Fact Sheet Here

Action Alerts

A Pandemic Pivot: From Warfare to Human Care

Join PeaceWorks in Kansas City for a Memorial Day Rally to Urge Pandemic Pivot from Warfare to Human Care  

Monday, May 25: 10:00 a.m. rally will kick off the event in the parking lot of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, 3800 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Social distancing will be observed as participants hear speakers urge legislators to “Move the Money” from militarism to humanitarianism. Among the speakers will be spokespersons for PeaceWorks KC, the Poor People’s Campaign, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Vets for Peace. 

MORE INFORMATION

Deadline for Formal Public Comments

  • May 26 Y-12 Supplement Analysis on Uranium Processing Facility seismic issues.
  • June 2 for Savannah River Site draft environmental impact statement on plutonium pit production.
  • July 22 Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage on high-level waste so-called interim storage.

Critical Events

Save the Dates: August 5-9

Nuclear News

Remembering Dave Freeman – green cowboy, pioneer of U.S. energy policy

Arjun Makhijani | ieer.org

It was 1970. Dave Freeman had transitioned from being an energy advisor in Johnson’s White House to Nixon’s. At one of our lunches since he had moved to Washington, D.C. after retiring as the Chairman of the Port of Los Angeles, he recounted a conversation with John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s assistant for domestic policy:

“Ehrlichman told me ‘Dave, you had better get out of here. Things are going to get very hot and nasty in the coming campaign [to re-elect Nixon]. This is no place for a Democrat like you.’”

Dave found a most interesting and, as it turned out, historic exit. He convinced the Ford Foundation to give him four million dollars (about twenty five million in today’s money) to establish the Energy Policy Project within the Foundation. It would approach energy policy comprehensively; among other things it would explore how much of energy supply could be replaced by energy efficiency.

Continue reading

Russian officials have already repeatedly warned in the past that its Eastern European neighbours’ decision to host US-made strategic systems, including components of America’s Aegis Ashore missile defence system, make them targets for Russia’s strategic nuclear response in the event of a war.

sputniknews.com

The redeployment of US nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland would be a direct violation of the Russia-NATO founding act of 1997, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

“This would be a direct violation of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations between Russia and NATO, in which NATO undertook not to place nuclear weapons in the territory of new members of the North Atlantic Alliance, either at that moment or in the future…I doubt that these mechanisms will be implemented in practical terms,” Lavrov said, speaking to reporters following a videoconference-based meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States on Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the redeployment of US nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland would serve to further damage already-strained Russia-NATO relations and escalate tensions.

Continue reading

Energy Department Nominee Shifts on Yucca Mountain Question

“The administration will not be pursuing Yucca Mountain as a solution for nuclear waste, and I am fully supportive of the president’s decision and applaud him for taking action when so many have failed to do so,” [Mark] Menezes told Cortez Masto.

BY GARY MARTIN | reviewjournal.com
Energy Department Nominee Shifts on Yucca Mountain Question
A contractor walks into the south portal of Yucca Mountain during a congressional tour near Mercury on Saturday, July 14, 2018. (Chase Stevens Las Vegas Review-Journal @csstevensphoto)

WASHINGTON — Mark Menezes, the nominee for deputy secretary of the Energy Department, on Wednesday clarified remarks he made in February, saying the Trump administration has no plans to use Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage site.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., pressed Menezes during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asking for a clarification.

Continue reading

Raytheon to close ABQ site

Raytheon Technologies Corp. is shutting down operations at the Sandia Science and Technologies Park in southeast Albuquerque, where the company employs about 200 people.

BY KEVIN ROBINSON-AVILA | abqjournal.com
Raytheon Technologies is closing its facility at Sandia Science and Technologies Park in Albuquerque and laying off some of its 200 local employees. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Raytheon’s Albuquerque operations will be transferred to other company facilities outside of New Mexico, company spokesperson Heather Uberuaga told the Journal Tuesday.

“After careful and deliberate consideration, Raytheon Technologies has chosen to close the company’s Albuquerque facility and relocate support for key capabilities and customer programs to our other facilities around the country,” Uberuaga wrote in an email.

Continue reading

North Korea is advancing its nuclear program and increasing illicit trade, new UN report says

North Korea is advancing its nuclear program and increasing illicit trade in new and more opaque ways, according to a 267-page U.N. report that provides surveillance photos and new evidence.

PAMELA FALK | cbsnews.com

The annual report, produced by sanctions monitors called the “Panel of Experts,” is a product of the U.N. Security Council. The purpose of the report is to offer recommendations on how to hold North Korea accountable for skirting restrictions imposed by U.N. sanctions since 2006, that are designed to curtail the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Continue reading

There’s a new world super-villain (COVID-19), it’s time for nuclear disarmament

 | diggers.news

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, inspects the preparation of the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in North Korea’s northwest. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

THE Associated Press (AP) this week reported that a barrage of North Korean missiles fired from both the ground and fighter jets splashed down on the waters off the peninsular’s east coast on Tuesday. AP further reports that North Korea also launched several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters. According to a South Korean defence official, North Korea seems to be resuming its military drills that it had scaled back due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. This, consequently, pushing back the deadlocked denuclearisation negotiations fostered by the United Nations.

Continue reading

SFCC, Los Alamos lab join to offer machinist program

BY DILLION MULLIN | santafenewmexican.com

Santa Fe Community College and Los Alamos National Laboratory announced last week a new collaboration to revamp the college’s machinist program.

With the campus providing the latest equipment and curriculum and the lab offering hands-on internships, community college President Becky Rowley said she hopes the first group of students can begin working toward a certificate or associate’s degree in the overhauled program this fall.

Continue reading

LANL Cleanup: What you can do

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

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

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

New & Updated

ACT NOW TO STOP THE NEW BOMB PLANT!

The National Nuclear Security Administration was told by a federal judge to prepare a new analysis of the risks of an earthquake at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where nuclear weapons parts are made. Instead, NNSA prepared a very narrow analysis of the effects of an earthquake on three buildings at Y-12. They published this Supplement Analysis in April and invited public comment.

If you want to read the Supplement Analysis, you can find it on OREPA’s website: www.orepa.org. On the right hand column, just under the UPF lawsuit heading.

Your comments should be sent by May 26 to:
Ms. Terri Slack
P.O. Box 2050
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
or by email to: NEPA.Comments@npo.doe.gov

MORE INFORMATION

Smith, Cooper Statement on Trump Administration’s Withdrawal From the Open Skies Treaty

May 21, 2020 | PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Jim Cooper (D-TN), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, today issued the following statement in response to reports that the Trump Administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty:

“The Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty is a slap in the face to our allies in Europe, leaves our deployed forces in the region at risk, and is in blatant violation of the law. This decision weakens our national security interests, isolates the United States since the Treaty will continue without us, and abandons a useful tool to hold Russia accountable.

“What’s more, this decision has been made without any consultation with Congress. Not only does the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act require a minimum 120-days’ notification of the withdrawal notice, but also multiple communications from the House Armed Services Committee and other congressional chairmen have gone unanswered.

“The Trump Administration continues to give Russia the upper hand with regards to arms control, which leaves our allies and deployed forces less protected in Europe. Despite the Department of Defense’s rhetoric about the dire need to prepare for ‘great power competition,’ this decision will undoubtedly do the exact opposite, and further fracture our relationships with allies needed to push back against Russian aggression in the region.”

Citing financial cost of pandemic, House liberals demand cut in military spending

Twenty-nine of the House’s most liberal Democratic members called Tuesday for a cut in military spending in the yearly national defense authorization bill — a declaration, they said, that is meant to focus federal resources on the coronavirus pandemic.

MIKE DEBONIS | washingtonpost.com

The demand, however, stands to greatly complicate the Democratic-controlled House’s ability to advance the National Defense Authorization Act, one of the most consequential must-pass measures that Congress assembles each year. It is likely to generate objections from Republicans and more moderate Democrats alike — and create headaches for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.

The signers are almost all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including lead sponsors Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), who have long called for lower levels of Pentagon spending to free more resources for domestic spending. But the pandemic, they argue, presents a new imperative for defense cuts.

Continue reading

Scuttlebiz: Will ‘pit production’ save SRS?

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of urgency by the federal law “requiring” pit production begin by 2030. That law carries as much weight as the 1982 federal act requiring the nation to have a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain 12 years ago. Still waiting…”

DAMON CLINE | augustachronicle.com

It’s a choice that – from a local economic development perspective – isn’t much of a choice.

Here it is: 1) Convert the Savannah River Site’s unfinished Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility into a nuclear weapons plant; or 2) Let the MOX plant keep rotting while New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory continues producing the nation’s stockpile of “plutonium pits.”

Considering that about $9 billion is at stake, and that SRS needs a new “mission,” I believe it’s safe to assume local leaders want what’s behind Door No. 1.

The National Nuclear Security Administration laid out the two alternatives last month in a draft environmental impact study addressing the nation’s need to manufacture 80 new nuclear weapon cores a year by 2030.

Continue reading

Huge Deficit = Defense Budget Cuts? Maybe Not

The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood.

| breakingdefense.com

The current Washington consensus sees deep defense budget cuts in the face of soaring deficits driven by the emergency legislation to stabilize the American economy as it reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may be wrong. The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood. The next administration — Republican or Democratic — will develop budgets beyond that, but the constraints of long-standing strategy will prevent major changes to force structure and acquisition that would drive deep budget cuts.   

Continue reading

Will the Trump administration’s accusations doom the nuclear test ban treaty?

“Although US accusations are unlikely to be true, they could give a convenient pretext to officials who want to withdraw the US signature from the treaty, allowing the United States to resume its own nuclear testing. In fact, that may be the entire point.”

ANDREAS PERSBO | thebulletin.org

In April, while most of the world was focused on defeating a devastating viral pandemic, the US State Department quietly released its annual compliance report, describing whether and how the United States and other countries have been abiding by various arms control agreements. The report is sober reading for those hoping that the coronavirus would usher in a new era of international collaboration.

The report made waves for raising “concerns” about China’s adherence to a “zero-yield” nuclear testing standard, as called for by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although neither the United States or China has ratified the treaty, both have signed it, and both claim to abide by a nuclear testing moratorium.

Continue reading

Featured Video Play Icon

Released From Silence

One year anniversary of the release of the documentary short film “The Atomic Soldiers”

“The Atomic Soldiers” lets the veterans who witnessed the Hood test in Nevada tell their own stories. But the painful memories sometimes choke their recollections, leaving long and moving silences in place of words. “You don’t send 14,000 troops through ground zero and not call it anything but genocide,” says one.

Continue reading

Ground U.S.-North Korean Diplomacy in International Law

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical.

| nationalinterest.org

In the years since the summits between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi, U.S.-North Korean diplomacy has fizzled to a halt. This is a grave mistake. Both North Korea and the United States need to get serious about reviving diplomatic efforts to eliminate their nuclear weapons.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical. North Korean and U.S. nuclear weapons put the rest of the world at risk—and drain valuable resources from needed economic recovery efforts and social services. ICAN estimated that together North Korea and the United States spent $36 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The United States spent $35.4 billion and North Korea spent about $0.6 billion.

Continue reading

Trump Admin Sprints to Weaken Environmental Protections During Pandemic

‘There’s a lot they want to get done before the election, just in case.’

The Trump administration is diligently weakening U.S. environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, U.S. federal agencies have eased fuel-efficiency standards for new cars; frozen rules for soot air pollution; proposed to drop review requirements for liquefied natural gas terminals; continued to lease public property to oil and gas companies; sought to speed up permitting for offshore fish farms; and advanced a proposal on mercury pollution from power plants that could make it easier for the government to conclude regulations are too costly to justify their benefits.

Continue reading

Pit Production Must ‘Press Forward’ Despite Coronavirus Pandemic, NNSA Chief Says

Preparations and planning for plutonium pit production must continue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a “difficult” and challenging time, National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty wrote in a recent letter.

“The plutonium pit production mission is one of our highest national security priorities and is being done in accordance with congressional direction,” Gordon-Hagerty wrote to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat. “We must press forward with this project in order to meet Department of Defense deliverables.”

Udall and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, another New Mexico Democrat, in late April wrote to the National Nuclear Security Administration, asking the weapons-and-nonproliferation agency to extend a public comment period tied to plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory, near Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Gordon-Hagerty in her April 30 response said she appreciated the “interest in this matter” and that she takes the “concerns very seriously.”

Continue reading

Moving Forward With the W93 SLBM Warhead Strengthens U.S. and British Security

Bulging Deficits May Threaten Prized Pentagon Arms Projects

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: 2019 GLOBAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING

The nuclear-armed states spent nearly three-quarters of one hundred billion dollars in 2019 on building and maintaining nuclear warheads and delivery systems. The incalculable human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons only add to this shocking figure. From 2018 to 2019, there was an estimated $7.1 billion increase in nuclear weapon spending, and these totals will only continue to rise in the next decade according to documented nuclear weapon programmes and budgets in several nuclear-armed countries.

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11 ESSENTIAL BOOKS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doom Towns

A graphic novel by Andy Kirk with artist Kristian Purcell

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

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

Read more…

1983 by Taylor Downing

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

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

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

Excerpts from the Christian Science Monitor book review:

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

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

The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg

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

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

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

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

Democracy Now interview with transcript

Harper’s Magazine excerpt, Dec 6, 2017

Dave Davies excellent NPR interview

at Amazon

Quotes

“Those who sacrificed for our country’s national security, in some cases unknowingly, should not have to doubly fear this crisis,” Groups Demand Relief for Nuclear Frontline Communities

Over 120 local and national organizations are urging the U.S. Congress to provide assistance to nuclear frontline communities.

Every year, Los Alamos National Laboratory produces 7 million pounds of chemical waste and 15,000 pounds of low-level radioactive waste, as well as more than 700 cubic yards of more highly radioactive waste, according to Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

“Just as the threat of the new coronavirus must be met by cooperation, common-sense and solidarity among peoples and nations, so must the danger of a nuclear war…
Humankind cannot remain oblivious of this persisting danger to its own survival.
The Novel Coronavirus and Nuclear Weapons

As with viruses, containment of atomic weapons may be good, but eradication is best. —  

“While the 20th century equated national security with bombs, bullets and geography, national security in the 21st century is focused on 1s and 0s — the basis of our digital world — and dollars and cents. Reprioritizing spending away from weapons and towards maintaining U.S. economic, scientific and technological superiority will put us on the path toward economic growth and prosperity.” Coronavirus unmasks America’s real national security vulnerabilities

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

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

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