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

“One cannot level one’s moral lance at every evil in the universe. There are just too many of them. But you can do something and the difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.”

Daniel Berrigan – from the book “Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings.

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

Links between Box Elder landfill, California business charged in radioactive waste scandal emerge

“[Bradley] Angel, with Green Action, says his organization is relieved that Tetra Tech EC has been taken off the Hunter’s Point cleanup but still worries about all projects Tetra Tech is involved in.

“Promontory Point Resource’s application in Utah stresses the convenient value of superfund cleanup sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tetra Tech, which designed the Promontory landfill, has also been deeply invested in other northern California superfund projects. Besides Hunter’s Point, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency and news accounts show the company is actively involved in cleanups at other Bay Area superfunds like the Alameda Naval Air Station and McLellan Air Force Base. All these sites contain radioactive contaminants.”

By: Eric Peterson / Special to the Standard-Examiner | standard.net March 19, 2021

Promontory Point Resources landfill is again seeking out-of-state waste and is eyeing superfund sites in northern California for waste to bring in. Photo supplied, The Box Elder News Journal

After sitting empty for years on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County, Promontory Point Resources is trying once again to receive out-of-state waste for its landfill after abandoning a previous attempt in 2018.

In its new Class V landfill application with the state Department of Environmental Quality, the company talks about the lucrative market in contaminated soils from superfund cleanup sites in northern California.

“The full market demand for excavated soil disposal from just counties around the San Francisco Bay appears to have an average in the range of 250,000 to 350,000 tons per year,” the document states.

The report does not mention many sites by name, although they are very well known in California.

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Cap on Trident nuclear warhead stockpile to rise by more than 40%

Boris Johnson announcement on Tuesday will end 30 years of gradual disarmament

By: Tricia Ennis | 13abc.com

The increased limit, from 180 to 260 warheads, is contained in a leaked copy of the integrated review of defence and foreign policy. Photograph: Tam McDonald/MoD/EPA

Britain is lifting the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads it can stockpile by more than 40%, Boris Johnson will announce on Tuesday, ending 30 years of gradual disarmament since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The increased limit, from 180 to 260 warheads, is contained in a leaked copy of the integrated review of defence and foreign policy, seen by the Guardian. It paves the way for a controversial £10bn rearmament in response to perceived threats from Russia and China.

The review also warns of the “realistic possibility” that a terrorist group will “launch a successful CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear] attack by 2030”, although there is little extra detail to back up this assessment.

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Santa Fe’s benefit from LANL coalition questioned

“We have RCLC, which is funded primarily by the Department of Energy funds, yet DOE doesn’t necessarily listen to the resolutions that we put forward about reducing plutonium pit production. They don’t ask us what we think as city of Santa Fe residents.”

sfnewmexican.com March 18th, 2021

Mar. 18—Concerns from City Councilor Renee Villarreal over how the city of Santa Fe would benefit by remaining in an amended joint power agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities continued during Wednesday night’s Quality of Life Committee meeting.

Santa Fe is one of nine cities, counties, towns and tribal governments that make up the regional coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities in Northern New Mexico more say in decision-making related to job development and cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Villarreal, however, questioned how the coalition advocates for city policy stances on requests for expanded cleanup at the site and the reduction of plutonium pit production.

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THE UK TO INCREASE NUCLEAR CAPABILITY BY 40%: British Defense Review Ends Nuclear Reductions Era

 fas.org March 17th, 2021

The United Kingdom announced yesterday that it has decided to abandon a previous plan to reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile to 180 by the mid-2020s and instead “move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads.”

The decision makes Britain the first Western nuclear-armed state to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile since the end of the end of the Cold War. In terms of numbers, it takes Britain back to a stockpile size it had in the early-2000s. The change is part of “a shift to a more robust position on security and deterrence.”

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NNSA Says No Injuries, Contamination During February 26 Incident At LANL Plutonium Facility

February 26 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility (PF-4) waste generator site at Technical Area 55 involving sparking in a where a metal waste item in a transuranic waste drum has resulted in a potential noncompliance notification to the New Mexico Environment Department.

By: | Los Alamos Reporter March 17, 2021

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office confirmed that there were no injuries, no fire, contamination or release of material to the environment.

“During normal waste packaging operations, small sparks were observed in a plastic waste bag containing a High Efficiency Particular Air (HEPA) from a titanium welding area inside a glovebox,” she said. “The staff at TA-55 responded quickly and effectively, appropriately following safety protocol to evacuate the area and notify the Los Alamos Fire Department.”

A March 12 letter from NNSA to NMED noting the potential for noncompliance under the Hazardous Waste Facility permit says preliminary calculations indicate that there is no imminent or potential threat to human health or the environment and that NNSA is providing this report as a precautionary measure to keep NMED informed of the fact-finding extent of condition and the planned recovery path.

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Ongoing ‘review’ forces Pentagon official to pull out of SC pit production briefing

A Pentagon official backed out of a plutonium pit production briefing in Columbia this week because the Biden administration is “engaged in a full review of the program,” according to Rick Lee, the chairman of the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council.

By:  | postandcourier.com

Rick Lee, the chairman of the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council, pictured here during a meeting in 2018. The council met in Columbia on Monday. (Colin Demarest/Staff)
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters Drew Walter was scheduled to make a presentation about pit production – the crafting of nuclear weapon cores, potentially in both South Carolina and New Mexico – “and why the Department of Defense feels it’s imperative that we get underway with the program,” Lee said.
But until the new administration settles on “what they want to do moving forward,” the chairman continued, Walter “would not be available for that kind of gathering.”
Exactly what the purported review covers or drills down on is unclear. A big question, Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements suggested Wednesday, “is if there is any kind of formal review of pits and overall nuclear weapons modernization at DOE and DOD.”

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Local Governments Should Leave the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

Summary: Local governments get little in return for being members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC). That is because the Coalition is ineffective, dysfunctional, wastes taxpayers’ money and stands in the way of genuine, comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The RCLC was created to serve the interests of the Department of Energy and Los Alamos County, both of whom strongly support expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons and supply 80% of the Coalition’s funding. The Regional Coalition brings no discernible economic benefit to local governments other than already rich Los Alamos County because the Lab’s presence is an economic net loss to them. Local governments should not put their time and money into the Coalition. Instead, their constituents would be better served if local governments left the coalition and advocated for comprehensive cleanup that would permanently protect the environment while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

Background

In 2011 the Department of Energy pulled promised funding from the Community Involvement Fund administered by the New Mexico Community Foundation that supported independent, often critical citizen and tribal analyses of DOE cleanup programs. At the same time DOE began funding the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities modeled on earlier alliances with local governments around the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, CO and the Mound Plant, near Mound, OH. As an early Regional Coalition fact sheet noted:

“As shown at Rocky Flats (Colorado) and Mound (Ohio), upfront investments in regional, governmental partnerships yield significant returns for the taxpayer. At Rocky Flats, for instance, DOE provided the local government organization approximately $300,000/year for seven years. In return, DOE was able to proactively resolve complex technical and policy issues. As the U.S. Government Accountability Office recognized, resolving those issues with local elected officials was part of the reason Rocky Flats closed years early, saving the taxpayer billions of dollars. Mound realized similar savings through its investments with local governments.” 1

Saving taxpayers’ money is always a virtue, except when it’s at the expense of needed cleanup, the lack of which can impact precious water resources and ongoing generations. The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) and Rocky Flats’ shared mission of plutonium pit production was abruptly stopped at the Colorado site in 1989 by an FBI raid investigating environmental crimes.2 Subsequent “cleanup” at the Rocky Flats Plant was cleanup on the cheap. Originally estimated to take decades and cost up to $40 billion dollars, DOE’s so-called cleanup took less than 10 years and cost under $7 billion.

Local govts should leave Regional Coalition

The Nuclear Weapons Dimensions of the 2021 Integrated Review: A First Look

ACROSS THE POND AND OVER TO THE SAVANNAH RIVER AND NEW MEXICO MOUNTAINS: The UK will rearm itself with new American-made W93 warheads, and the plutonium pits for these weapons will be manufactured here at LANL and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

BY: basicint.org March 16th, 2021

Today’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (IR), Global Britain in a Competitive Age, is said to contain the most comprehensive review of UK nuclear weapons policy since the end of the Cold War (pp.76-78). Although there is certainly some continuity with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, it sets a decisive course away from the United Kingdom’s long-term trend towards nuclear arms reductions and greater transparency.

Warhead Numbers and Transparency

The most headline-grabbing change to UK nuclear weapons policy is the increase to the cap on its overall nuclear warhead stockpile from 180 to 260, which was leaked last week and is now confirmed. This 44.4% increase decisively moves the Johnson Government away from the pledge made by the Coalition Government in 2010 to limit numbers to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s. While neither confirming that numbers will actually rise nor stating the precise reasons for this change, the IR claims vaguely that the previous target cap must be abandoned due to ‘recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats’ (p.76).

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New United Kingdom Defense Strategy a Troubling Step Back on Nuclear Policy

“We have RCLC, which is funded primarily by the Department of Energy funds, yet DOE doesn’t necessarily listen to the resolutions that we put forward about reducing plutonium pit production. They don’t ask us what we think as city of Santa Fe residents.”

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2021
Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext 104

The United Kingdom announced today that it will move to increase its total nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling by over 40 percent and reduce transparency about its nuclear arsenal. This is a needless and alarming reversal of the longstanding British policy to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons.

These changes, which are outlined in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, are also inconsistent with the British government’s prior pledges on nuclear disarmament under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United Kingdom now joins China and perhaps Russia as the permanent members of the UN Security Council that are planning to increase the size of their warhead stockpiles.

The review attributes the need to increase the total stockpile ceiling from 180 warheads to 260 warheads to “the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats,” but it does not explain how raising the number of warheads will enhance deterrence against these threats.
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New & Updated

Regional Coalition Of LANL Communities Struggles To Survive

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico complained that the RCLC main selling point was to lobby for mission diversification and accelerated cleanup and said he would argue that the Coalition has been a spectacular failure on both counts.

“When the Coalition was founded in 2011, LANL’s nuclear weapons budget was $1.9 billion. A decade later that budget is $2.9 billion and the total spending on core nuclear weapons research and production has risen year after year to where now it’s a full 70 percent of all funding and all of the remaining 30 percent either directly or indirectly supports those nuclear weapons,” Coghlan said.

By: MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.com | losalamosreporter.com May 3, 2021

The next couple of months may determine the demise of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. The City of Santa Fe opted last month not to approve the RCLC’s amended and restated joint powers agreement which has been hanging out there waiting for the City’s decision since March 2019. The City is slated to decide whether to withdraw completely from the RCLC later this month.

The Taos County Commission is slated to decide Tuesday whether it wishes to continue as a member and Santa Fe County Commissioners have the same decision to make at their May 11 meeting.

Los Alamos County Council is expected to discuss its RCLC status in June which will be the first time the Council will have had an agenda item on the RCLC since it approved the amended JPA in July of 2020. The discussion is at the request of Council Vice Chair James Robinson. Councilor David Izraelevitz, who serves as RCLC treasurer, has been a strong advocate of the RCLC and has recently addressed several meetings of members of the Santa Fe City Council at the behest of Councilor Michael Garcia to encourage them to approve the amended JPA. City of Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez also attended a Santa Fe City Council meeting to advocate and answer questions.

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Los Alamos lab sees two mishaps in a week

The water spill should be a reminder that the plutonium facility’s work is done by people, and people make mistakes, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“Pit production will place a real time-pressure crunch on the workers and lead to more accidents,” Kovac said.

“It should lead us to consider the consequences if someone left a plutonium furnace on or something that could endanger the public…these kinds of missteps are likely to increase as the lab ramps up production of plutonium pits used to trigger nuclear warheads. Current plans call for the lab to make 30 of the nuclear bomb cores a year by 2026,”

| santafenewmexican.com April 26, 2021

Los Alamos National Laboratory had two mishaps in one week: a glove box breach that contaminated workers’ protective equipment and a spill of 1,800 gallons of water into a vault corridor after an employee left a valve open.

The incidents were the latest in a series of accidents in recent months at the lab, as reported by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

In the board’s most recent report, an alarm sounded March 29 when a worker tore a protective glove attached to a sealed compartment known as a glove box while handling a piece of plutonium.
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CHERNOBYL: 35 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE WORLD’S WORST NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

Women mourn near a tomb of a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster at the Mitino cemetery in Moscow...
Women mourn near a tomb of a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster at the Mitino cemetery in Moscow. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CLICK ON THE PHOTO ABOVE FOR A GALLERY OF CHERNOBYL: 35 YEARS LATER, FROM THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

ON THIS DAY in 1986, workers ran a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine. But the test went awry, starting a fire in a reactor and leading to one of the largest nuclear disasters in history. Smoke from the fire and a second explosion launched radioactive elements into the atmosphere, scattering them over the surrounding fields and towns.

Chernobyl is generally recognized as the worst nuclear accident on record, directly killing 31 people and causing widespread contamination in Eurasia. It’s estimated that thousands of people will eventually die earlier than they would have due to the cancers caused by their exposure.

Today, 35 years later, scientists are still uncovering the extent of the damage and starting to answer questions about the long-term legacy of radiation exposure on power plant workers, the people in the nearby community, and even their family members born years later.

READ: New studies highlight the possible impact of Chernobyl on genes
  • Published on Science Daily, the studies—both conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH)—sought to find what kind of changes the exposure to carcinogenic ionizing radiation had on those who came into contact with the explosion.

WIPP completes maintenance outage, intends to up shipments of nuclear waste post-pandemic

Reinhard Knerr, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office said WIPP will resume accepting shipments of low-level transuranic waste from DOE sites around the country and will continue to emplace the waste for final disposal in WIPP’s underground mine.

By:  | currentargus.com April 26, 2021

Shipments and disposal of nuclear waste resumed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a two-month pause in the repository’s primary operations to allow personnel to complete several maintenance projects underground and on the surface.

WIPP completed 97 projects during the maintenance outage which ran from Feb. 15 to April 15, upgrading infrastructure throughout the facility.

The work involved mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, ground control, safety and engineering, and the break included a site-wide power outage to allow electrical work to be completed safely.

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Groups Notify Biden Admin of Impending Lawsuit Over Nuclear Bomb Core Plans

Multi-state coalition says DOE’s plans to massively expand plutonium pit production violate a major environmental law and constitutes an environmental injustice.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico commented, “Instead of maintaining the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, NNSA may actually undermine it because all future pit production is for speculative new-design nuclear weapons. This is a colossal and unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money on top of already wasted taxpayers’ money.”

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A coalition of public interest organizations notified (PDF below) the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) urging a comprehensive review of plans to vastly ramp up production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

In Tuesday’s letter to department officials, the groups say this lack of review violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would saddle already-burdened communities nearby the two DOE sites with significant quantities of toxic and radioactive waste, contravening President Biden’s executive order of making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency.

“The federal government appears ready to embark on this significant change in U.S. nuclear policy without studying the cross-country risks and environmental justice impacts, which indicates that the health and safety of workers and downwind and downriver communities are not worth the consideration or protection they deserve,” said Leslie Lenhardt, a staff attorney for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a law firm representing the coalition.

The organizations listed in the letter include Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, The Imani Group, Honor Our Pueblo Existence, Tewa Women United, Nuclear Watch New MexicoSavannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

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Sparks flying from nuclear waste barrel prompt investigation

Flawed packing of radioactive waste caused sparks to fly from a container at Los Alamos National Laboratory, prompting evacuation of the work area and later the underground disposal site near Carlsbad where two similarly packed canisters were stored.

| santafenewmexican.com April 15, 2021

The sparking caused no injuries, damage or radiation to be released, according to a letter the lab wrote to the New Mexico Environment Department.

But any combustion involving transuranic nuclear waste is deemed dangerous and calls up memories of the 2014 incident in which a ruptured container from Los Alamos closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico for three years and cost almost $2 billion to clean up.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant aims to expand underground facility to hold nuclear waste

“WIPP is supposed to be limited. The state did not agree to 12 panels.”

By:  | currentargus.com April 15, 2021

A plan to build two new areas to dispose of nuclear waste began taking shape at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after the U.S. Department of Energy published a report on the feasibility of adding an 11th and 12th waste panel to the underground nuclear waste repository.

At WIPP, low-level transuranic (TRU) waste made up of equipment and materials radiated during nuclear activities is permanently emplaced in an underground salt deposit more than 2,000 feet underground.

In its original design, WIPP was planned to have eight panels for such disposal, but much of that space was restricted and abandoned following an accidental radiological release in 2014 that contaminated parts of the underground and led to a three-year pause of WIPP’s emplacement operations.

It was estimated, per DOE records, that 1.8 panels were lost in the incident for a total of 30,861 cubic meters (m3) of lost storage capacity.

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Japan To Dump Wastewater From Wrecked Fukushima Nuclear Plant Into Pacific Ocean

Japan’s government announced a decision to begin dumping more than a million tons of treated but still radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years.

 | npr.org April 13, 2021

The plant was severely damaged in a 2011 magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people in northeast Japan dead or missing.

Despite Tokyo’s assurances that discharging wastewater will not pose a threat to people or the environment, the decision was roundly criticized by the local fishing community, environmental groups and Japan’s neighbors. Within hours of the announcement, protesters rallied outside government offices in Tokyo and Fukushima.

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster


Fukushima Wastewater Will Be Released Into the Ocean, Japan Says

 | beyondnuclear.org April 13, 2021

The government says the plan is the best way to dispose of water used to prevent the ruined nuclear plant’s damaged reactor cores from melting.

As reported by the New York Times.

The New York Times also ran a companion piece, focused on the official international protest of the ocean dumping, as by the neighboring governments of South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

The Washington Post has also reported on this story.

Thom Hartmann interviewed Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps on his national radio show (“Fukushima Nuclear Fish Coming to Your Plate, Happy?”). Here is the write up:

More nuclear waste is about to be released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima. Where it will be absorbed by plants, eaten by small fish, who are eaten by bigger fish, and concentrated through a process called “bioaccumulation.” Pretty soon those fish end up on your plate… Looking forward to a swim off the west coast? Enjoying your fish?

Here is the link to the recording of the interview.

[Corrections: The actual volume of radioactive wastewater to be dumped in the ocean is currently enough to fill around 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools; the dumping is not set to begin until a couple years from now, not before the Tokyo Olympics.]

Environmental Racism, Environmental Justice

“When uranium mining occurred in white communities, the waste it produced was removed from the proximity of the residents. This level of clean-up did not take place when uranium mining occurred close to low-income communities of color”

By: | snakeriveralliance.org April 10, 2021

Those living near Nuclear Power Plants (NPP’s) face extreme health risks. Blood, thyroid, breast, and other forms of cancer have the potential to form due to the various types of radioactive emissions that escape the NPP’s through the air, water, and soil.

The World Nuclear Association and The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claim that exposure to low-level radiation is undetectable and not unsafe, yet countless studies confirm the danger of the radiation that occurs during normal operation at an NPP. According to Dean Kyne and Bob Bolin, Children are especially vulnerable to this exposure.

Toxic incinerators, uranium mines, atomic reactors, and other nuclear dumping sites are generally located on cheap land where there are limited resources and little organized opposition (Jantz, p. 249). Unfortunately, because of this, they are often located in Black, Indigenous, and low-income communities that suffer the devastating consequences of improperly handled nuclear waste and pollution.

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DOE Planning to Increase Down-Blended Plutonium Shipments to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Savannah River Site is the third largest shipper of waste to WIPP, with 1,679 as of April 3, per the latest records from WIPP.

By:  | currentargus.com April 7, 2021

Federal nuclear waste managers are planning to ramp up shipments of plutonium from a site in South Carolina for final disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) began preparing equipment at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina used to package and inspect drums of the waste before shipping to WIPP where it will be permanently disposed of in the repository’s underground salt formation.

The plutonium waste will be inspected to verify that it meets the criteria required for emplacement at WIPP, which is used to dispose of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste – mostly clothing items and equipment radiated during nuclear activities.

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The New Shaft Permit Modification Part 3: Your Comments and the May 17th Public Hearing

As demanded by organizations and individuals, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has scheduled a public hearing on adding a New Utility Shaft to the WIPP permit. The hearing will start at noon on Monday, May 17, 2021. Hundreds of people commented on the proposed new shaft in 2019 and 2020, 97 percent of whom objected to WIPP expansion and the new shaft.

NMED allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to bypass the public process and start digging the new shaft with just a Temporary Authorization. But after receiving so many public comments in 2020 against the new shaft and against the Temporary Authorization, NMED stopped the construction of the shaft until after the public hearing. Public comments do make a difference!

You can comment now on the proposed new WIPP shaft, which is part of DOE’s plan to expand WIPP and operate it forever, rather than developing new repositories. The plan violates existing limits set in federal law, state agreements, the WIPP Permit, and DOE’s decades-old social contract with New Mexicans.

Your comments and participation can help stop the new shaft and DOE’s WIPP expansion plan!

The Figure shows the existing WIPP underground on the right side, the proposed New Utility Shaft “Shaft #5” in the center, and the proposed new underground disposal space on the left side. Graphic by Steven Zappe.

SAMPLE COMMENTS

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Santa Fe City Council rejects LANL coalition agreement

sfnewmexican.com March 31, 2021

The Santa Fe City Council has rejected an amended joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities over concerns about the organization’s impact and one councilor’s plan to introduce a measure removing the city from the group.

“I don’t think we should just approve an updated JPA because we want to go along to get along,” said City Councilor Renee Villarreal, who noted she intends to propose the city end its affiliation with the coalition. “Some of my colleagues say we should have a seat at the table, but I think we should have it at the right table.”

The council voted 5-3 against the agreement, with Mayor Alan Webber and Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth and Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez voting in favor. City Councilor Michael Garcia, the city’s representative on the coalition, abstained.

Rejecting the agreement does not pull the city out of the organization.

Villarreal has been the loudest critic of the coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory more of a voice in its job development and cleanup. She questioned in previous committee meetings how the city stood to benefit.

“Our values have not aligned,” Villarreal said. “I’m trying to understand changing the JPA, what does that change? How does our voice actually get heard since it hasn’t been heard the last 10 years?”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trinity Downwinders: 75 Years And Waiting

Excerpt from Rep. Hank Johnson’s closing comments:
“I heard the figure $2.5 billion in claims have been paid out thus far to 37,000 claimants. The cost of maintaining our nuclear weapons over the next 10 years will be $494 billion, almost $50 billion a year.
So, $50 billion a year to take care of our nuclear weapons, and over the time that this act has been in place we’ve spent $2.5 billion to compensate folks who have been adversely impacted by radiation.
That’s just a pittance, and its pathetic that our values are more towards protecting and taking care of our weapons than we are with taking care of the people who were adversely impacted.”
Watch the Hearing with the House Judiciary Committee below, which occurred 3/24/21. Click HERE to visit the website. Click HERE to read the Santa Fe New Mexican article written about the hearing. See Hearing below:

Critique of the RCLC Amended Joint Powers Agreement

The Santa Fe City Council will vote on March 31 to adopt or not the Amended Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) among seven local governments and two Pueblos to continue the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC). Separately, at a date yet to be determined, the City Council may consider whether or not to continue participation in the Coalition.

The City of Santa Fe should reject the Amended Joint Powers Agreement because the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has wholly failed to live up to the stated goals of the original JPA.

  • The RCLC was first formed in 2011. Local governments bought into it on the premise that the Coalition would successfully lobby for mission diversification and accelerated cleanup. After spending two million taxpayer dollars on itself the Coalition has been a spectacular failure in both.
  • The Amended JPA states: the Parties share a common interest in assuring that LANL’s missions remain sustainable and diversified…” The Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos County have provided 80% of RCLC’s funding. The County specifically cites the “interdependent needs of LANL and Los Alamos County.” DOE and Los Alamos County explicitly seek expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores, in which the City of Santa Fe does not share a common interest. Expanded pit production is LANL’s overwhelming growth area (270% increase from $308 million in FY 2020 to $847 million in FY 2021). Concerning “common interests,” DOE completely ignores City resolutions calling for resolution of nuclear safety problems before pit production expansion, comprehensive cleanup and a new site-wide environmental impact statement (particularly important for wildfire protection).

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Newly Released Documentary Film on Santa Susana Field Lab

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

  • Cleveland International Film Festival  April 7-20 Tickets are $10: clevelandfilm.org

ICBM Information Project – View the Interactive ICBM Timeline

The Pentagon is currently planning to replace its current arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a brand-new missile force, known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD.

The GBSD program consists of a like-for-like replacement of all 400 Minuteman III missiles that are currently deployed across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, and will also include a full set of test-launch missiles, as well as upgrades to the launch facilities, launch control centers, and other supporting infrastructure. The GBSD program will keep ICBMs in the United States’ nuclear arsenal until 2075, and is estimated to cost approximately $100 billion (in Then Year dollars) in acquisition fees and $264 billion (in Then Year dollars) throughout its life-cycle.

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Action Alerts

Beyond the Bomb’s world premier of False Alarm this Friday

May 7th at 8pm EST/5pm PST: View the premiere of False Alarm by documentary filmmaker/director Nick Lyell.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director and other guests including Dr. Kalamaoka’aina Niheu, Co-founder of the Mauna Medic Healers Hui and the Standing Rock Medic Healer Council.

About the film:
False Alarm investigates the diverse reactions to the surreal and traumatic morning when families, soldiers, tourists, and every person in Hawaii was forced to confront an unthinkable reality—an incoming nuclear missile. The film offers a picture of the hope of resistance and tragedy of acceptance around militarism, colonialism, and nuclear weapons through the lens of the 2018 Hawai’i false missile alert.

The False Alarm Premier screening is May 7th at 8pm EST/5pm PST

VIEW MORE →

Zoom Conference on Prohibiting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons – Saturday, May 15, 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm ~ via Zoom

A nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would incinerate hundreds of millions of people immediately, and lead to a Nuclear Winter which could slaughter an estimated 7 billion of the Earth’s 7.7 billion people, mostly through starvation.  Building back civilization would require over 1,000 years  [Daniel Ellsberg talk, 12/13/2020].   A U.S. nuclear  first-strike against China would result in a similar catastrophe.

These are the stakes.   As a step toward reducing the danger of Nuclear War, a coalition of groups has called upon Congress to legislate – and the President to declare – that the United States will neither initiate nor threaten to initiate the first use of Nuclear Weapons.

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Environment Department files complaint against U.S. Department of Energy to speed clean-up of legacy waste, terminate 2016 Consent Order at Los Alamos National Laboratory

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

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

Nuclear Media

Newly Released Documentary Film on Santa Susana Field Lab

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

  • Cleveland International Film Festival  April 7-20 Tickets are $10: clevelandfilm.org

More Nuclear News

Sleepwalking into Nuclear War?

“People like to think that every nuclear-armed country has only one “button”, with which a president could consciously choose to start a nuclear war, after careful deliberation. But in fact there are thousands of people in the world controlling different parts of different arsenals who could independently initiate a nuclear war.” – Caitlin Johnstone 

JONATHAN POWER | indepthnews.net

LUND, Sweden (IDN) — Last week on Tuesday (April 20), US Strategic Command, the part of the military responsible for nuclear weaponry and its use, posted an official Tweet that read, “We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option”.

This came just as Russia was pulling back its large deployment of troops on Ukraine’s border which, in turn, was triggered in part by President Joseph Biden’s decision to ship for the first time sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.

The crisis has now passed but the lesson lingers. Arguably we are closer to war with Russia than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 (which I wrote about last week, April 20).

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Offline Iowa Nuclear Plant Eyed as Site of Solar Project

AP News | apnews.com

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A decommissioned eastern Iowa nuclear plant could become the site of a new massive solar energy project.

NextEra Energy of Florida on Tuesday laid out plans in a meeting with nearby landowners to build a solar farm near the now-idle Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported.

The company said the project could bring in a $700 million capital investment and about 300 construction jobs. The solar farm would stretch across 3,500 acres near the plant and would produce up to 690 megawatts of solar energy — more than the nuclear plant had generated.

“We’re also hoping to accompany that solar project with up to 60 megawatts of AC-coupled batteries,” project manager Kimberly Dickey said in the meeting. Battery storage allows a company to store energy for use during peak energy-use times.

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Scotland Reaches Green Landmark – Scotland generated 97.4% of its electricity demand from renewables last year

By: Juan Cole | scheerpost.com

In 2011, Scotland’s government, urged on by visionaries like Richard Dixon, set itself the ambitious goal to get 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. At that time, it only only got about a fourth from clean energy sources, and a lot of that was hydro.

The report card is in for 2020 and Scotland generated 97.4% of its electricity demand from renewables last year, just a whisker less than the 100% goal.

Scotland will host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in a few months, and is well placed to assert climate leadership.

Scotland no longer has a coal plant, and its one natural gas plant is under-utilized and seems likely to close in a few years.

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DOE’s NNSA Reveals it’s Out of Money. Flat Broke. Busted. Nothing Left for Beneficial Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program to Convert Reactor from Weapon-Grade Uranium Fuel

By: SRS Watch | srswatch.com

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has revealed that it has spent all of our money. Busted flat. Nothing left. Nada. Zilch. Nichts.

Well, that’s what it seems like at the NNSA has notified GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy that there are no funds available to convert a test reactor in Vallecitos, California from weapon-grade uranium (highly enriched uranium, HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU), as part of an nuclear non-proliferation effort.

On March 25, 2021, NNSA told GE Hitac hi Nuclear Energy: “you are hereby notified that Department of Energy funding will not be available in fiscal year 2021 to complete the conversion of NTR to LEU fuel.” And GE subsequently told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that ” DOE funding is not currently available for conversion of the NTR fuel.”

See: “GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, LLC – Annual Statement of Non-availability of Federal Government Funding for Conversion from HEU to LEU for VNC Nuclear Test Reactor (NTR) at https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML21084A808

BUT WAIT!  NNSA continues to front for boosters and contractors engaged in project to convert the abandoned plutonium fuel (MOX) plant at the Savannah River Site into the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at a cost of $4.6 billion (add higher number if you wish) by 2030 (add any date you wish).  So, there seems to be money available for projects dangerous to our national security – making plutonium pits for unneeded and provocative new nuclear weapons – but not a penny left to get HEU out of commerce. This confirms that the priorities of NNSA are totally screwed up and that it’s placing contractor enrichment and parochial politics above national security.  Congress must make sure that the HEU conversion program is fully funded and that the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (with W87-1 warhead) and the new SLBM (with W93 warhead) – the first new weapons to get new plutonium pits – are terminated and funded halted.  As in nada, zilch, nothing.

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People downwind of atomic blasts renew push for US payout

“Officials say the team at Sandia is working with researchers from Australia as well as particle-technology researchers who are building a second concentrating solar power facility in Saudi Arabia to test variants of key components.”

By: The Associated Press / March 24, 2021 | apnews.com

The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)
The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In the desert northeast of Las Vegas, residents living along the Nevada-Arizona border would gather on their front porches for bomb parties or ride horses into the fields to watch as the U.S. government conducted atomic tests during a Cold War-era race to build up the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

About 100 of those tests were aboveground, and U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona testified during a congressional subcommittee hearing Wednesday that residents at the time marveled at the massive orange mushroom clouds billowing in the distance.

“They had no idea. They were never told that they were being exposed to dangerous cancer-causing radiation,” Stanton said. “As a direct result of the radiation exposure from these tests, thousands of Arizonans have suffered from cancer, entire families have suffered from cancer and far too many have died.”

He and others testified as part of a renewed push for compensation from the U.S. government following uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Sandia Labs to build solar power testing center in New Mexico

“Officials say the team at Sandia is working with researchers from Australia as well as particle-technology researchers who are building a second concentrating solar power facility in Saudi Arabia to test variants of key components.”

By: The Associated Press / March 26, 2021 | kob.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Sandia National Laboratories has been awarded a $25 million contract to build, test and operate a new solar power test facility on its campus in New Mexico.

Using a concentrated beam of sunlight to heat up sand-like particles, lab officials say the system will be able to produce thermal energy for thousands of hours and will have the capacity to store six hours of energy. This heat can be used to spin a turbine or power an engine to generate electricity.

The contract was announced Thursday by the lab and the U.S. Energy Department. The goal of the federal agency is to develop technology that can make concentrating solar power plants more reliable and easier to build using fewer high-cost materials so that they can be more widely commercialized.

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Transcript of interview with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Washington’s top diplomat holds roundtable with Japanese media in Tokyo

By: ERI SUGIURA| asia.nikkei.com

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters during an online group interview in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy)

TOKYO — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a virtual roundtable with Nikkei Asia and other Japanese media in Tokyo on Wednesday, a day after he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met for “two-plus-two” talks with Japanese counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi.

Here is an edited transcript of the group interview with Blinken:

— Opening remarks

The partnership between the United States and Japan is absolutely vital. I think it’s vital to our country’s respective citizens to the region, and in so many ways to the world. It really starts with our common commitment to democracy. And I think that’s especially significant today because democracy is under challenge and under threat in ways that it hasn’t been before, certainly not in recent years, particularly from autocratic countries were on the rise around the world.

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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

Beyond the Bomb’s world premier of False Alarm this Friday

May 7th at 8pm EST/5pm PST: View the premiere of False Alarm by documentary filmmaker/director Nick Lyell.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director and other guests including Dr. Kalamaoka’aina Niheu, Co-founder of the Mauna Medic Healers Hui and the Standing Rock Medic Healer Council.

About the film:
False Alarm investigates the diverse reactions to the surreal and traumatic morning when families, soldiers, tourists, and every person in Hawaii was forced to confront an unthinkable reality—an incoming nuclear missile. The film offers a picture of the hope of resistance and tragedy of acceptance around militarism, colonialism, and nuclear weapons through the lens of the 2018 Hawai’i false missile alert.

The False Alarm Premier screening is May 7th at 8pm EST/5pm PST

VIEW MORE →

Zoom Conference on Prohibiting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons – Saturday, May 15, 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm ~ via Zoom

A nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would incinerate hundreds of millions of people immediately, and lead to a Nuclear Winter which could slaughter an estimated 7 billion of the Earth’s 7.7 billion people, mostly through starvation.  Building back civilization would require over 1,000 years  [Daniel Ellsberg talk, 12/13/2020].   A U.S. nuclear  first-strike against China would result in a similar catastrophe.

These are the stakes.   As a step toward reducing the danger of Nuclear War, a coalition of groups has called upon Congress to legislate – and the President to declare – that the United States will neither initiate nor threaten to initiate the first use of Nuclear Weapons.

Continue reading

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

Regional Coalition Of LANL Communities Struggles To Survive

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico complained that the RCLC main selling point was to lobby for mission diversification and accelerated cleanup and said he would argue that the Coalition has been a spectacular failure on both counts.

“When the Coalition was founded in 2011, LANL’s nuclear weapons budget was $1.9 billion. A decade later that budget is $2.9 billion and the total spending on core nuclear weapons research and production has risen year after year to where now it’s a full 70 percent of all funding and all of the remaining 30 percent either directly or indirectly supports those nuclear weapons,” Coghlan said.

By: MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.com | losalamosreporter.com May 3, 2021

The next couple of months may determine the demise of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. The City of Santa Fe opted last month not to approve the RCLC’s amended and restated joint powers agreement which has been hanging out there waiting for the City’s decision since March 2019. The City is slated to decide whether to withdraw completely from the RCLC later this month.

The Taos County Commission is slated to decide Tuesday whether it wishes to continue as a member and Santa Fe County Commissioners have the same decision to make at their May 11 meeting.

Los Alamos County Council is expected to discuss its RCLC status in June which will be the first time the Council will have had an agenda item on the RCLC since it approved the amended JPA in July of 2020. The discussion is at the request of Council Vice Chair James Robinson. Councilor David Izraelevitz, who serves as RCLC treasurer, has been a strong advocate of the RCLC and has recently addressed several meetings of members of the Santa Fe City Council at the behest of Councilor Michael Garcia to encourage them to approve the amended JPA. City of Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez also attended a Santa Fe City Council meeting to advocate and answer questions.

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Los Alamos lab sees two mishaps in a week

The water spill should be a reminder that the plutonium facility’s work is done by people, and people make mistakes, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“Pit production will place a real time-pressure crunch on the workers and lead to more accidents,” Kovac said.

“It should lead us to consider the consequences if someone left a plutonium furnace on or something that could endanger the public…these kinds of missteps are likely to increase as the lab ramps up production of plutonium pits used to trigger nuclear warheads. Current plans call for the lab to make 30 of the nuclear bomb cores a year by 2026,”

| santafenewmexican.com April 26, 2021

Los Alamos National Laboratory had two mishaps in one week: a glove box breach that contaminated workers’ protective equipment and a spill of 1,800 gallons of water into a vault corridor after an employee left a valve open.

The incidents were the latest in a series of accidents in recent months at the lab, as reported by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

In the board’s most recent report, an alarm sounded March 29 when a worker tore a protective glove attached to a sealed compartment known as a glove box while handling a piece of plutonium.
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CHERNOBYL: 35 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE WORLD’S WORST NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

Women mourn near a tomb of a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster at the Mitino cemetery in Moscow...
Women mourn near a tomb of a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster at the Mitino cemetery in Moscow. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CLICK ON THE PHOTO ABOVE FOR A GALLERY OF CHERNOBYL: 35 YEARS LATER, FROM THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

ON THIS DAY in 1986, workers ran a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine. But the test went awry, starting a fire in a reactor and leading to one of the largest nuclear disasters in history. Smoke from the fire and a second explosion launched radioactive elements into the atmosphere, scattering them over the surrounding fields and towns.

Chernobyl is generally recognized as the worst nuclear accident on record, directly killing 31 people and causing widespread contamination in Eurasia. It’s estimated that thousands of people will eventually die earlier than they would have due to the cancers caused by their exposure.

Today, 35 years later, scientists are still uncovering the extent of the damage and starting to answer questions about the long-term legacy of radiation exposure on power plant workers, the people in the nearby community, and even their family members born years later.

READ: New studies highlight the possible impact of Chernobyl on genes
  • Published on Science Daily, the studies—both conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH)—sought to find what kind of changes the exposure to carcinogenic ionizing radiation had on those who came into contact with the explosion.

WIPP completes maintenance outage, intends to up shipments of nuclear waste post-pandemic

Reinhard Knerr, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office said WIPP will resume accepting shipments of low-level transuranic waste from DOE sites around the country and will continue to emplace the waste for final disposal in WIPP’s underground mine.

By:  | currentargus.com April 26, 2021

Shipments and disposal of nuclear waste resumed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a two-month pause in the repository’s primary operations to allow personnel to complete several maintenance projects underground and on the surface.

WIPP completed 97 projects during the maintenance outage which ran from Feb. 15 to April 15, upgrading infrastructure throughout the facility.

The work involved mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, ground control, safety and engineering, and the break included a site-wide power outage to allow electrical work to be completed safely.

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Groups Notify Biden Admin of Impending Lawsuit Over Nuclear Bomb Core Plans

Multi-state coalition says DOE’s plans to massively expand plutonium pit production violate a major environmental law and constitutes an environmental injustice.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico commented, “Instead of maintaining the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, NNSA may actually undermine it because all future pit production is for speculative new-design nuclear weapons. This is a colossal and unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money on top of already wasted taxpayers’ money.”

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A coalition of public interest organizations notified (PDF below) the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) urging a comprehensive review of plans to vastly ramp up production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

In Tuesday’s letter to department officials, the groups say this lack of review violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would saddle already-burdened communities nearby the two DOE sites with significant quantities of toxic and radioactive waste, contravening President Biden’s executive order of making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency.

“The federal government appears ready to embark on this significant change in U.S. nuclear policy without studying the cross-country risks and environmental justice impacts, which indicates that the health and safety of workers and downwind and downriver communities are not worth the consideration or protection they deserve,” said Leslie Lenhardt, a staff attorney for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a law firm representing the coalition.

The organizations listed in the letter include Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, The Imani Group, Honor Our Pueblo Existence, Tewa Women United, Nuclear Watch New MexicoSavannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

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Sparks flying from nuclear waste barrel prompt investigation

Flawed packing of radioactive waste caused sparks to fly from a container at Los Alamos National Laboratory, prompting evacuation of the work area and later the underground disposal site near Carlsbad where two similarly packed canisters were stored.

| santafenewmexican.com April 15, 2021

The sparking caused no injuries, damage or radiation to be released, according to a letter the lab wrote to the New Mexico Environment Department.

But any combustion involving transuranic nuclear waste is deemed dangerous and calls up memories of the 2014 incident in which a ruptured container from Los Alamos closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico for three years and cost almost $2 billion to clean up.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant aims to expand underground facility to hold nuclear waste

“WIPP is supposed to be limited. The state did not agree to 12 panels.”

By:  | currentargus.com April 15, 2021

A plan to build two new areas to dispose of nuclear waste began taking shape at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after the U.S. Department of Energy published a report on the feasibility of adding an 11th and 12th waste panel to the underground nuclear waste repository.

At WIPP, low-level transuranic (TRU) waste made up of equipment and materials radiated during nuclear activities is permanently emplaced in an underground salt deposit more than 2,000 feet underground.

In its original design, WIPP was planned to have eight panels for such disposal, but much of that space was restricted and abandoned following an accidental radiological release in 2014 that contaminated parts of the underground and led to a three-year pause of WIPP’s emplacement operations.

It was estimated, per DOE records, that 1.8 panels were lost in the incident for a total of 30,861 cubic meters (m3) of lost storage capacity.

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Japan To Dump Wastewater From Wrecked Fukushima Nuclear Plant Into Pacific Ocean

Japan’s government announced a decision to begin dumping more than a million tons of treated but still radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years.

 | npr.org April 13, 2021

The plant was severely damaged in a 2011 magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people in northeast Japan dead or missing.

Despite Tokyo’s assurances that discharging wastewater will not pose a threat to people or the environment, the decision was roundly criticized by the local fishing community, environmental groups and Japan’s neighbors. Within hours of the announcement, protesters rallied outside government offices in Tokyo and Fukushima.

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster


Fukushima Wastewater Will Be Released Into the Ocean, Japan Says

 | beyondnuclear.org April 13, 2021

The government says the plan is the best way to dispose of water used to prevent the ruined nuclear plant’s damaged reactor cores from melting.

As reported by the New York Times.

The New York Times also ran a companion piece, focused on the official international protest of the ocean dumping, as by the neighboring governments of South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

The Washington Post has also reported on this story.

Thom Hartmann interviewed Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps on his national radio show (“Fukushima Nuclear Fish Coming to Your Plate, Happy?”). Here is the write up:

More nuclear waste is about to be released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima. Where it will be absorbed by plants, eaten by small fish, who are eaten by bigger fish, and concentrated through a process called “bioaccumulation.” Pretty soon those fish end up on your plate… Looking forward to a swim off the west coast? Enjoying your fish?

Here is the link to the recording of the interview.

[Corrections: The actual volume of radioactive wastewater to be dumped in the ocean is currently enough to fill around 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools; the dumping is not set to begin until a couple years from now, not before the Tokyo Olympics.]

Environmental Racism, Environmental Justice

“When uranium mining occurred in white communities, the waste it produced was removed from the proximity of the residents. This level of clean-up did not take place when uranium mining occurred close to low-income communities of color”

By: | snakeriveralliance.org April 10, 2021

Those living near Nuclear Power Plants (NPP’s) face extreme health risks. Blood, thyroid, breast, and other forms of cancer have the potential to form due to the various types of radioactive emissions that escape the NPP’s through the air, water, and soil.

The World Nuclear Association and The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claim that exposure to low-level radiation is undetectable and not unsafe, yet countless studies confirm the danger of the radiation that occurs during normal operation at an NPP. According to Dean Kyne and Bob Bolin, Children are especially vulnerable to this exposure.

Toxic incinerators, uranium mines, atomic reactors, and other nuclear dumping sites are generally located on cheap land where there are limited resources and little organized opposition (Jantz, p. 249). Unfortunately, because of this, they are often located in Black, Indigenous, and low-income communities that suffer the devastating consequences of improperly handled nuclear waste and pollution.

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DOE Planning to Increase Down-Blended Plutonium Shipments to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Savannah River Site is the third largest shipper of waste to WIPP, with 1,679 as of April 3, per the latest records from WIPP.

By:  | currentargus.com April 7, 2021

Federal nuclear waste managers are planning to ramp up shipments of plutonium from a site in South Carolina for final disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) began preparing equipment at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina used to package and inspect drums of the waste before shipping to WIPP where it will be permanently disposed of in the repository’s underground salt formation.

The plutonium waste will be inspected to verify that it meets the criteria required for emplacement at WIPP, which is used to dispose of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste – mostly clothing items and equipment radiated during nuclear activities.

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The New Shaft Permit Modification Part 3: Your Comments and the May 17th Public Hearing

As demanded by organizations and individuals, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has scheduled a public hearing on adding a New Utility Shaft to the WIPP permit. The hearing will start at noon on Monday, May 17, 2021. Hundreds of people commented on the proposed new shaft in 2019 and 2020, 97 percent of whom objected to WIPP expansion and the new shaft.

NMED allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to bypass the public process and start digging the new shaft with just a Temporary Authorization. But after receiving so many public comments in 2020 against the new shaft and against the Temporary Authorization, NMED stopped the construction of the shaft until after the public hearing. Public comments do make a difference!

You can comment now on the proposed new WIPP shaft, which is part of DOE’s plan to expand WIPP and operate it forever, rather than developing new repositories. The plan violates existing limits set in federal law, state agreements, the WIPP Permit, and DOE’s decades-old social contract with New Mexicans.

Your comments and participation can help stop the new shaft and DOE’s WIPP expansion plan!

The Figure shows the existing WIPP underground on the right side, the proposed New Utility Shaft “Shaft #5” in the center, and the proposed new underground disposal space on the left side. Graphic by Steven Zappe.

SAMPLE COMMENTS

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Santa Fe City Council rejects LANL coalition agreement

sfnewmexican.com March 31, 2021

The Santa Fe City Council has rejected an amended joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities over concerns about the organization’s impact and one councilor’s plan to introduce a measure removing the city from the group.

“I don’t think we should just approve an updated JPA because we want to go along to get along,” said City Councilor Renee Villarreal, who noted she intends to propose the city end its affiliation with the coalition. “Some of my colleagues say we should have a seat at the table, but I think we should have it at the right table.”

The council voted 5-3 against the agreement, with Mayor Alan Webber and Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth and Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez voting in favor. City Councilor Michael Garcia, the city’s representative on the coalition, abstained.

Rejecting the agreement does not pull the city out of the organization.

Villarreal has been the loudest critic of the coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory more of a voice in its job development and cleanup. She questioned in previous committee meetings how the city stood to benefit.

“Our values have not aligned,” Villarreal said. “I’m trying to understand changing the JPA, what does that change? How does our voice actually get heard since it hasn’t been heard the last 10 years?”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trinity Downwinders: 75 Years And Waiting

Excerpt from Rep. Hank Johnson’s closing comments:
“I heard the figure $2.5 billion in claims have been paid out thus far to 37,000 claimants. The cost of maintaining our nuclear weapons over the next 10 years will be $494 billion, almost $50 billion a year.
So, $50 billion a year to take care of our nuclear weapons, and over the time that this act has been in place we’ve spent $2.5 billion to compensate folks who have been adversely impacted by radiation.
That’s just a pittance, and its pathetic that our values are more towards protecting and taking care of our weapons than we are with taking care of the people who were adversely impacted.”
Watch the Hearing with the House Judiciary Committee below, which occurred 3/24/21. Click HERE to visit the website. Click HERE to read the Santa Fe New Mexican article written about the hearing. See Hearing below:

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.

Learn More

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

“One cannot level one’s moral lance at every evil in the universe. There are just too many of them. But you can do something and the difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.”

Daniel Berrigan – from the book “Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings.

“It’s long past time to demystify the nuclear enterprise, to strip away the fear and trembling, and ask how many weapons are needed to do what.”

We Don’t Need a Better Nuclear Arsenal to Take on China – Fred Kaplan, SLATE News

“The point of nonviolence is to build a strong new floor beneath which we can no longer sink; a platform which stands a few feet above napalm, torture, exploitation, poison gas, A and H bombs, [and] the works. Give a man a decent place to stand.Joan Baez

“[Nuclear Weapons] aren’t just wildly expensive. They’re dangerous. Because they are designed to fire while enemy missiles are still in the air, former Defense Secretary William Perry warns that they “could trigger an accidental nuclear war.”
Mr. Perry has proposed phasing out America’s land-based nuclear weapons and relying on a safer air- and sea-based deterrent. If Mr. Biden followed Mr. Perry’s advice, he could save more than enough money to prepare vaccines for the 50 to 100 viruses most likely to cause the next pandemic.” – Let’s Cut Our Ridiculous Defense Budget

“President Ronald Reagan believed that nuclear weapons are immoral, and so he sought their complete elimination, and I agreed – and still do with deep conviction. In the end, this is a matter of profound morality.” – George P. Schultz, US Secretary of State 1982-89

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