Nuclear News Archive
NukeWatch Press Releases Archive
Quotes of the Week Archive
At recent public forums, the Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory claimed that cleanup is more than half complete.
What these staged events fail to disclose, contradicting repeated claims of transparency, is that decisions already have been made behind closed doors to remove only approximately 6,500 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic waste, while leaving 30 times as much buried permanently above our groundwater aquifer.
LANL used to claim that groundwater contamination from lab operations was impossible. Today, we sadly know otherwise. Deep groundwater under LANL is contaminated with chromium, perchlorate and high explosives. Intermediate aquifers linked to deep groundwater are contaminated with tritium, industrial solvents, heavy metals and plutonium.
NNSA Draft Supplement Analysis – Submit Public Comments through August 12
A Draft Supplement Analysis (SA) of the Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) is now available. NNSA is preparing the SA to determine whether, prior to proceeding with the action to produce plutonium pits at a rate of no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030, the existing Complex Transformation SPEIS should be supplemented, a new environmental impact statement prepared, or no further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis is required.
CALL TO ACTION: Review and submit comments on the Draft SA through August 12, 2019.
Santa Fe, NM – Today the Trump Administration released more budget details for the Department of Energy and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons programs for fiscal year 2020. This same fiscal year will also mark the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising
In sum, the world is facing the most serious nuclear threats since the first half of the 1980’s. At that time President Ronald Reagan said, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought” and called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
Today is Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday to honor and celebrate Native American and Indigenous peoples.
Among the many injustices suffered by native communities in the centuries that have passed since Europeans arrived on North America’s shores and claimed it for their own is the dangerous and deadly exposure to the radioactive materials used to create nuclear weapons. The United States’ nuclear arsenal has taken an especially hard toll on the Navajo, who continue to live with the repercussions of nuclear mining even today.
The process of building nuclear weapons starts with mining. One of the main elements of a nuclear bomb is enriched uranium. Some of the world’s richest uranium deposits span across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah — heavily overlapping with the Navajo Nation. These mines provided the uranium used in the Manhattan Project; the United States’ top-secret endeavor to build the first nuclear bombs. Between 1944 and 1986 mining companies blasted 4 million tons of uranium out of Navajo land. Until 1971, uranium from these mines was sold exclusively to the United States government. Many Navajo were employed in the uranium mines and exposed to unsafe conditions by the companies in employing them. The mining companies knew that mine workers were at heightened risk for developing lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases in 15 or 20 years. Additionally, the mines operated in a way that contaminated the surrounding lands and water by leaving large piles of radioactive materials exposed.
Many Navajo continue to live in close proximity to contaminated uranium mines. Of the 523 abandoned mines, the Environmental Protection Agency has only successfully cleaned up nine. The legacy of these mines and the contamination they leached into the environment on the Navajo Nation has been devastating: the cancer rate on the reservation doubled from the early 1970’s to the late 1990’s, even as the cancer rate declined nationwide. Each and every day, minority populations like the Navajo continue to be unduly affected by the militaristic pursuits of our government. For the Navajo, that means generations of health problems in the name of our nuclear weapons. We owe it to them, and to all the marginalized communities harmed by our pursuit and maintenance of nuclear weapons, to highlight the price they have been forced to pay for our nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week it has decided to demolish and remove, without state oversight, 13 of 18 remaining structures from its portion of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory as part of the much-delayed cleanup of the site.
However, in a so-called record of decision it issued Monday, the federal agency said it recognizes that the demolition and removal of the other five structures must be “compliant” with state permits and state hazardous waste laws.
“Placing a novel warhead design in the active nuclear weapons stockpile with a substantially untested pit is irresponsible. Rapidly increasing production at sites with spotty records compounds that error with added safety hazards. Increasing plutonium pit production to a rate of 80 or more annually is both reckless and unnecessary.”
Behind closed doors, Congress is in the process of making a decision that will have a profound impact on nuclear risk levels and global security. Hanging in the balance is a decision to recklessly increase production of plutonium bomb cores or “pits.” The NDAA conference committee must not make that mistake.
Pits are the triggers for thermonuclear weapons. Currently, the United States does not manufacture plutonium pits on an industrial scale. In its fiscal 2020 budget request the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) seeks authorization to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 at two facilities separated by some 1,500 miles. The Senate NDAA fully funds the request. The House instead authorizes 30 pits per year, all at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in NM. Los Alamos is presently authorized to produce 20 pits annually.
A group of governors from western states voiced “disappointment” in a recently released five-year strategic plan for ongoing operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, contending they weren’t adequately consulted on the future of the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad.
BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | carlsbadcurrentargus.com
Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center said the plan was insufficient in that it did not detail plans and costs needed to keep WIPP open until 2050. He said the plan detailed projects intended to keep WIPP open beyond 2025, without adequately explaining the associated costs.
“It’s not a five-year plan,” Hancock said. “The centerpiece of the plan is WIPP being open until 2050. That’s 30-year plan. They’re saying WIPP’s timeline needs to be doubled. This should be saying how WIPP is transitioning from emplacement to closure, but it does the opposite.”
Hancock said the DOE must communicate with the public on either keeping WIPP, known as a pilot project, open indefinitely or developing other repositories to handle the low-level transuranic (TRU) waste disposed of at the site.
He said another alternative would be for the DOE to develop a plan to emplace the waste at the generator sites – multiple nuclear facilities across the country – themselves.
About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, a U.S. health official said. The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared Monday during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque.
MARY HUDETZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS jhnewsandguide.com
Dr. Loretta Christensen — the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research — said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended last year. Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year, she said. The research is continuing as authorities work to clear uranium mining sites across the Navajo Nation.
“It forces us to own up to the known detriments associated with a nuclear-forward society,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, a tribe whose jurisdiction lies west of Albuquerque.
The hearing held in Albuquerque by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Haaland and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats from New Mexico, sought to underscore the atomic age’s impact on Native American communities. The three are pushing for legislation that would expand radiation compensation to residents in their state, including post-1971 uranium workers and residents who lived downwind from the Trinity Test site in southern New Mexico.
A ‘dirty, dirty process’
Los Alamos has a starring role in a shift to U.S. nuclear policy that’s two presidential terms in the making. Nuclear watchdog groups in the state are concerned about the United States’ evolving nuclear agenda, which will see a sharp increase in plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
LANL recently released its $13 billion expansion proposal to accommodate increased pit production at the site. The expansion is part of a wider push across the country to ramp up the nuclear warhead manufacturing machine, according to Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group.
Plutonium pits are central to nuclear weaponry. They are the “radioactive cores of modern nuclear weapons,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. He added that the pits themselves are weapons. “It was essentially a plutonium pit that destroyed Nagasaki on August 9, 1945,”
The ramp-up is years in the making, as successive presidential administrations have struggled to address how to modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile. But nuclear watchdog groups worry an increase in pit production at LANL would have negative repercussions for the region. While LANL has touted the proposed economic benefits of its proposal for the area, activists argue the dangers outweigh the benefits.
The Trump administration is believed to be preparing to pull out of the 34-nation Open Skies Treaty, a plan that would idle two Offutt-based OC-135B reconnaissance jets and their crews.
The treaty, proposed by President George H.W. Bush following the Cold War, allows member nations to fly supervised photo-reconnaissance flights over one another’s countries. This week, the U.S. and Germany are partnering on an Open Skies mission over Russia.
The planes are crewed and maintained at Offutt by the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, which is part of the 55th Wing. Several dozen Offutt airmen are involved in the program.
– Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
“The impact is not only physical, but spiritual and emotional.”
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., served as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Albuquerque to examine radiation exposure effects in Indian Country. Udall was joined by U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Deb Haaland for the hearing at the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute. For much of the 20th century, New Mexicans were not warned about the health effects of working or living near uranium mines or nuclear test sites. Radiation exposure still affects residents today, including a disproportionate number of Native Americans.
October 8 The MacArthur Foundation Director of the Nuclear Challenges Program Emma Belcher comes on Press the Button to discuss the role of philanthropy in fighting the two existential threats to humanity – nuclear weapons and climate change. On the Early Warning news segment, Erica Fein from Win Without War joins Tom Collina and Akshai Vikram from Ploughshares Fund to discuss the impeachment inquiry and how it’s affecting the debate over the defense budget.
Also, an answer to the question: Do nuclear weapons work in space?
There are about 26 nuclear weapons corporations earning nearly $100 billion per year amongst themselves. ‘They have vested financial interests in producing more and more nuclear weapons,’ says Dr Keith Suter (Australia), Economics Futurist and member of the Club of Rome, ‘and they exert intense political power on decision makers to protect these interests.‘
As the United Nations First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) starts its 2019 session in New York today, plans are progressing to publicise the colossal waste of money on nuclear weapons by physically ‘counting out’ the global nuclear weapons budget.
Over the next four weeks, governments meeting at the UN will debate and vote upon a number of nuclear disarmament resolutions. However, the impact of these resolutions is likely to be minimal as long as there continues to be strong financial interests in maintaining the nuclear arms race.
Count the Nuclear Weapons Money
The Count the Nuclear Weapons Money Action, which takes place during UN Disarmament Week (October 24-30), aims to raise media and public attention to this, and to publicise actions that indivduals and organisations can take to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in nuclear weapons corporations, and shift these budgets and investments to better purposes.
The money counting will take place in a number of outside locations around Manhattan (as well as in New Jersey and Long Island) and at an interactive installation in an art gallery in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Click here if you would like to join the counting.