The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability DC Days 2022: NukeWatch (Virtually) Visits Washington DC

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability held its annual DC Days conference virtually again this year beginning May 16, 2022. Nuclear Watch New Mexico was proud to participate in this week-long event, where we discussed issues related to nuclear waste and nuclear weapons modernization under the Biden Administration, especially regarding expanded plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Lab and at the Savannah River Site, and the generational problem of nuclear waste storage in the United States.

We urged legislators against supporting the expanded production of plutonium “pits” because of the following facts:

  • The Biden Administration is continuing plans to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 without offering concrete justification for the additional nuclear bomb cores.
  • Multiple studies by government agencies have found that pits last for at least 100 years. The rhetoric surrounding the current push to “modernize” the nation’s nuclear arsenal is based on fearmongering regarding “adversaries modernizing their stockpiles and building new systems” based inherently on the age-old obsession with America being FIRST in everything. A more concrete, “scientific” reason that those hawks with stake in the game have provided as well is that “Many of our [U.S.] systems are more than 30 years old.” We pointed out to lawmakers themselves, as well as reminded the agencies in charge of government accountability regarding spending, military science, and nuclear worker safety, that the facts show that the average age of pits in the active nuclear weapons stockpile is around 40 years old, while studies show that pits last for at least 100 years, and more than 15,000 existing pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX. New production of plutonium pits is not only not necessary, but also irresponsible in terms of these priorities of spending, science, and safety for our taxpayers in these communities where expanded pit production would take place.
  • During our campaign to end support for expanded plutonium pit production, we were emphatic in pointing out that independent experts find it nearly impossible that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Savannah River Site (SRS) will be able to meet the unjustified legislative requirement for 80 pits per year by 2030. In the meanwhile, tens of billions of taxpayer dollars will be squandered.
  • Expanded plutonium pit production is not necessary because no production is scheduled to maintain the safety and reliability of existing nuclear weapons. • Future pit production will be for new-design nuclear weapons that can’t be tested because of a global testing moratorium, thereby degrading confidence in the stockpile. Or it could prompt the U.S. to resume testing which would shatter the international nonproliferation regime. • LANL has long had a small existing production capability that will always be inherently limited but nevertheless sufficient should stockpile problems arise in the future. Pit production at SRS should be vigorously opposed because it will be a completely new mission there and once established could be scaled up way beyond LANL, helping to fuel the accelerating new arms race.
  • We pointed out these glaring problems in the plans for more pit production, but what were our actual proposed solutions? Calling for government action can sometimes feel like a long road to nowhere. So what did we do, and what can you do to stop this unnecessary, massive plunge towards a new global arms race?!
    • Call for rigorous reviews of the claimed rationales for and the environmental impacts of expanded plutonium pit production required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
    • Tell your elected representatives that you don’t support expanded pit production. Congress is currently deciding whether it will back or nix massive budget increases for nuclear weapons in annual Defense Authorization and Appropriations Acts. They need public pressure to make the right choice. This is what we’re here for – we’re loud, but we’re small, so WE NEED YOUR HELP TOO.
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