“DOE and NNSA appear to be deliberately slow-walking the issuance of a formal Record of Decision on expanded plutonium pit production in an apparent effort to prevent the federal courts from reviewing the agencies’ failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.”
The state Environment Department has fined the U.S. Department of Energy $304,000 over missed deadlines at Los Alamos National Laboratory in documenting waste shipments, a problem state officials said was part of a longtime pattern of delayed reporting.
The agency cited the Energy Department, the lab and the lab’s contracted operator, Triad National Security LLC, for eight violations dating back to 2017 — in most cases for being a year or more late in recording deliveries of mixed waste.
All violations occurred under former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who had pressed for more lax waste management during her tenure. They also occurred under a previous lab operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC. Triad took over management of the lab in November 2018.
“This has been a recurring issue that had not been addressed by the past administration,” said Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Environment Department, explaining why the lab was being cited now for the older violations.
Under state Environment Secretary James Kenney, the agency wants to be clear on its expectations for compliance and accountability going forward, Hayden said.
The New Mexico Environment Department has notified the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration and Triad National Security at Los Alamos National Laboratory a civil penalty of $303,600 under the Hazardous Waste Act in connection with the repeat violations of the 1995 Federal Facility Compliance Order.
The amount was calculated using the NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau’s Civil Penalty Policy dated March 2017.
NMED claims NNSA and Triad repeatedly failed to submit waste shipment information for waste containers within 45 days as required for eight shipments involving some 20 containers from the Waste Treatability Group.
The containers allegedly contained radioactive material described as 10-100 nanocuries per gram, halogenated organic liquid, activated or inseparable lead, or solids with heavy metals.
NNSA spokesperson Toni Chiri said in an email late Thursday that the information for the containers identified by the NMED resulted from administrative discrepancies that were identified, self-reported, and corrected by LANL.
More radioactive material has been found on a former Los Alamos National Laboratory site where low-income housing is being built.
Debris containing two forms of uranium was discovered last month in Los Alamos County, just south of where a utility crew found enough low-level radioactive waste in February to fill three drums.
Crews removed another three drums of contaminated debris, including glass shards, wood and metal objects, from the second site, according to state and federal officials. Other unearthed material remains isolated at the site until it can be analyzed and properly disposed of.
NM Environment Department Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief Kevin Pierard said the widespread waste at the site represents “a substantial risk to human health and the environment”.
New Mexico Environment Department officials are unhappy with the Department of Energy’s response to the discovery in February of contamination at the Middle DP Road Site in Los Alamos. NMED has given DOE 30 days to provide a schedule of preliminary screening plan (PSP) activities that “indicates that DOE understands the seriousness of this matter” including a timeframe for implementation for its implementation.
In a letter signed by NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief Kevin Pierard and sent to DOE Los Alamos NNSA and Environmental Management Field Office managers, DOE has been asked to include the basis for the current delay and limitations in implementation of the PSP “to ensure full transparency and understanding of why this important risk to public health is not being addressed in a more timely manner”.
In April 7, 2020, NMED directed DOE to develop and implement a PSP that would include sampling and investigation activities and a schedule for implementing those activities.
“Although DOE agreed to develop a PSP, it did not provide a schedule for development and implementation of a PSP. DOE stated that it intends to complete tasks associated with Section X of the Consent Order ‘as soon as practicable’,” the letter states.
Pierard notes that based on information provided to NMED since the discovery of the Middle DP Road Site on February 14, “contamination appears to be widespread”.
MOX Project Wasted Vast Sums of Money on Stockpiling Huge Amounts of Equipment that Project Managers Knew would be Obsolete when the Project Began Operation – Investigations Needed
Columbia, SC – The announced sale of surplus equipment from the failed plutonium fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site exposes the lack of financial and managerial accountability with the project, according to the non-profit public-interest group conducting public interest oversight of the site.
With no accounting to the public about details of the sale of equipment they own, DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration has hired two sales firms to sell the equipment stored in an off-site warehouse in Barnwell, South Carolina. (See sales company news releases in “notes” below. See photos of the facility on the SRS Watch website, ©SRS Watch: https://srswatch.org/savannah-river-site-watchphotos/) It is unknown where proceeds from the sale will go.
A review of the surplus property posted on the website of one of the sales companies reveals a host of things are being offered at rock-bottom, give-away prices: transformers, switchboards, control panels, electrical supplies, HVAC equipment, valves and an assortment of other materials. But no plutonium gloveboxes, furnaces to produce plutonium oxide or plutonium pellet presses seem to be offered for sale.
The United States is responsible for 1,032 detonations — more than the rest of the countries put together.
A May 22 Washington Post story reported that in mid-May top national security officials discussed resumption of full-scale US nuclear explosive testing. The next day, the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons was holding, virtually, its annual meeting.
“Resumption of nuclear explosive testing is absolutely unacceptable. Even discussing nuclear testing again is dangerously destabilizing.” The statement also observes: “This episode comes in the context of ongoing upgrading of nuclear forces by the world’s nuclear-armed states. It is supported by extensive laboratory research and experimentation which in part serves as a substitute for functions once served by nuclear explosive testing.”
A regional watchdog group said the development plans raise some questions.
Technical Area 36, where commercial, industrial and mixed-use complexes would be built, was formerly a firing site where uranium and beryllium were detonated in the open air, so some toxic residue probably lingers there, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
The site is also across the road from Area G, where massive legacy waste produced during the Cold War is buried, Kovac said. Contaminants might be released into the air if that old disposal area is excavated, he said.
Within this clifftop community once shrouded from public view, it’s no secret the Los Alamos area needs more housing for future growth.
Los Alamos County wants the U.S. Energy Department to turn over 3,074 acres in White Rock at no cost so the land can be used for housing, stores, offices, light industry and schools.
To sweeten the deal, Los Alamos National Laboratory would be able to use part of the land to build support facilities and enhance its operations.
Less than 10 percent of the land would be developed — 275 acres — and most of that would be for housing, which county officials say is needed for the lab’s growing workforce and to create a larger pool of workers living in town to help attract other businesses.
Department of Energy officials recently notified the New Mexico Environment Department that more radioactive waste was found on DP Road on May 18, in addition to radioactive waste that was discovered in February in the same general area.
The new waste was discovered 80 feet south of a parcel of land located approximately halfway down DP Road on the right side, heading eastbound. The land the new waste was discovered on was transferred from the Department of Energy to Los Alamos County in 2018.
Samples collected by Triad National Security identified the waste as containing Uranium 234 and Uranium 238. Officials aren’t sure of the level of radioactivity as the material is still being tested by Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The decision on the second pit production facility can wait. NNSA could announce its decision to move forward on building a pit-production facility in South Carolina as early as September. Based on the above context, this decision should be delayed for a number of reasons:
1. Since the Savannah River Site staff has no experience with pit production, the facility would have to be designed and the staff trained by the Los Alamos group. But the Los Alamos group has not yet demonstrated that that it can design and staff its own pit production facility.
2. Within a decade, we should have a new lower limit on the functional lives of the legacy pits. If they will indeed last for at least 150 years, as the Livermore experts concluded, then there will be no need for a large production facility to replace them anytime soon. The Los Alamos facility, if it can be made operational, should be sufficient for some decades.
3. The argument for producing additional warheads with insensitive high explosive for the Minuteman III replacement is very weak, and the debate over the need to produce new pits for a warhead to replace the W-76, the most numerous warhead in the US operational stock (about 1,500) cannot be made until NNSA and Defense Department are ready to discuss what pit they would use in the W93.
June, 11, 2020
Source: The Independent
By Mary Perner
On May 28, 24 non-governmental organizations, including Livermore’s Tri-Valley CAREs, signed onto a letter that was delivered to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. The letter was in response to recent reports that senior White House officials had discussed conducting the first U.S. nuclear weapon test explosion since 1992.
““A U.S. nuclear test blast would certainly not advance efforts to rein in Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals or create a better environment for negotiations. Instead, it would break the de facto global nuclear test moratorium, likely trigger nuclear testing by other states, and set off a new nuclear arms race in which everyone would come out a loser.” — Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association
The Senate Armed Services Committee has advanced an amendment aimed at reducing the amount of time it would take to carry out a nuclear test.
The amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), would make at least $10 million available to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary,” according to a copy of the measure obtained by The Hill on Monday.
The amendment was approved in a party-line, 14-13 vote during the committee’s closed-door markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week, a congressional aide said.
TENNESSEE NUCLEAR WEAPONS FACILITY CONTINUES TO BE PLAGUED BY SAFETY PROBLEMS
SAFETY BOARD: OAK RIDGE NUCLEAR STORAGE FACILITY UNSAFE
NNSA AND CONTRACTOR CONSPIRE TO DOCTOR SAFETY RECORDS
The safest building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is not safe enough. That is the conclusion of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in an April 21, 2020, Staff Report on the storage of reactive materials at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF). The Staff Report was released on June 1, 2020, accompanied by a letter from Safety Board Chair Bruce Hamilton to Dan Brouillette, Secretary of Energy.
Faced with three separate discoveries of highly enriched uranium that posed an undetermined safety risk because it was pyrophoric, the contractor at Y-12, Consolidated Nuclear Services, without characterizing the materials, decided to re-categorize all the materials as not pyrophoric. NNSA agreed and took the additional step of ordering the contractor to revise the Documented Safety Analysis for the HEUMF to incorporate the material types into the facility safety basis. Neither action was justified, according to the Safety Board, and neither was sufficient to assure worker safety.
“The original tree huggers, a group of women of color, inspired generations of would-be tree huggers through their sacrifice, and their story illustrates what it means for an influential history to get erased from a movement; for leadership and contributions to get largely ignored. Though parts of this history might still be known to some, it is valuable for these histories to be taught, celebrated and acknowledged continuously—so we’re all aware that people of color have been leading environmental efforts throughout history, and still do.”
When you hear the term “tree hugger,” what—or who—do you see? What image, or images, pop into your head?
It likely starts with the vague idea of folks who are often—and perhaps overly—passionate about protecting nature.
But then, if you expand it, what do they look like? Is it a man or a woman? Are they white? Do they look like, say, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo if they were out living the #vanlife together? As touching as that movie might be, it presents an all-too-familiar picture for what we might all imagine when we think of tree huggers.
It also misses a lot.
“There are some new designs, but they are not demonstrably greater, so we are still dealing with the same exact issues,” said Samuel Hickey, a research analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “And realistically, we have a much better solution to the accumulation of spent nuclear fuel, and that is dilution and permanent geological disposal of waste.”
Also at issue is the potential that reprocessing of nuclear waste could undercut efforts to promote nonproliferation abroad.
The nuclear industry’s push for the next generation of reactors is spurring a renewed look at reusing nuclear waste as reactor fuel, rather than burying it.
The implications of such a move have the potential to upend decades of nuclear waste management and global nonproliferation strategies. It also highlights a debate about safety and cost issues from recycling — longtime concerns that advocates say can be overcome.
The 27-page document, signed June 4 by DOE Senior Adviser for Environmental Management William (Ike) White, directs managers at the agency’s 16 nuclear cleanup sites to make a list of missed contract milestones and a “path forward” for finishing the work on an adjusted schedule. The documents should lay out the impact of delays on contractor fees. No date for submission or approval of such plans is listed.
The Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management will cut contractors some slack when it comes to work deadlines missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a policy that became official last week.
The nuclear cleanup office “will continue to evaluate COVID-19 impacts on the ability of contractors to perform required work,” according to the formal “COVID-19 Remobilization Framework and Site-Specific Template.”
In the next few days, the latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to become public. It will make headlines even if it doesn’t contain any news.
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat said Tuesday that since the United States has already withdrawn from an international agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it can’t now use its former membership of the pact to try to impose a permanent arms embargo on the Islamic Republic.The accord, which Iran signed with the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia in 2015, has been unraveling since President Donald Trump pulled Washington out in 2018 and reinstated sanctions designed to cripple Tehran under what the U.S. called a “maximum pressure” campaign.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft have said that extending a permanent U.N. backed arms embargo against Iran is now a top priority for Washington.
“For many, in Utah and across the country, the horrors of nuclear testing never ended — even after it was made illegal both above ground in 1963 and underground in 1996.” — thehill.com
Robert Richter’s IN OUR HANDS is about a magical day, June 12, 1982, when one million people took to the streets of New York to peacefully protest for an end to the nuclear arms race. It remains the largest single peace demonstration in US history.
“It understood that spent fuel remains hazardous for millions of years, and that the only safe long-term strategy for safeguarding irradiated reactor fuel is to place it in a permanent repository for deep geologic isolation from the living environment,” Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, is worried that Holtec could become permanent.
The meeting was designed to allow public comment on a proposed Consolidated Interim Storage Facility by Holtec International.
A planned nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad was challenged in federal court, as opponents sought to appeal a decision by the federal government to reject contentions to the project that would see spent nuclear fuel rods stored temporarily at a location near the Eddy-Lea county line.
Beyond Nuclear filed its appeal on June 4 in the U.S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia, questioning the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s April 23 decision to reject challenges to Holtec International’s application for a license to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) that would hold nuclear waste at the surface until a permanent, deep geological repository was available to hold the waste permanently.
Chain Reaction is Ploughshares Fund’s annual gala, gathering leaders in our field, devoted partners, and new advocates to generate a nexus of ideas, opportunities, and strategies to advance nuclear policy and promote the elimination of nuclear weapons. Enjoy the full video of Chain Reaction: Securing Our Future, live-streamed via Zoom on June 8, 2020.
Our speakers were right. The threats to our security—whether from nuclear weapons, from COVID-19, from police brutality, from systematic racism, from climate change—are real, and the consequences are dire.
The last major treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear might hangs in the balance as the Trump administration pushes to replace it with a long-shot arms-control pact that also includes China five months before the U.S. presidential election.
Russia has said it is willing to extend New START unconditionally. But the Trump administration has balked, saying the treaty signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 is outdated, insufficient and overly advantageous for Moscow.
But Moscow warns against insisting on including China in New Start negotiations
Russia has confirmed that it will open talks with the US this month on extending a major nuclear disarmament treaty but warned that Washington’s insistence on including China could scuttle efforts.
Donald Trump has withdrawn from a number of international agreements but voiced a general interest in preserving New Start, which obliged the US and Russia to halve their inventories of strategic nuclear missile launchers.
In the next few days, the latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to become public. It will make headlines even if it doesn’t contain any news.
A mega-row is emerging between the United States and its major European allies — Britain, Germany and France — over Washington’s decision to stop issuing waivers so that foreign companies can help Iran’s civil nuclear activities. In a joint statement on Saturday, the three European countries said: “We deeply regret the U.S. decision.”
Petitioner charges the Nuclear Regulatory Commission knowingly violated U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act and up-ended settled law prohibiting transfer of ownership of spent fuel to the federal government until a permanent underground repository is ready to receive it.
[WASHINGTON, DC – June 4, 2020] Today the non-profit organization Beyond Nuclear filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting review of an April 23, 2020 order and an October 29, 2018 order by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), rejecting challenges to Holtec International/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance’s application to build a massive “consolidated interim storage facility” (CISF) for nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec proposes to store as much as 173,000 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated or “spent” nuclear fuel – more than twice the amount of spent fuel currently stored at U.S. nuclear power reactors – in shallowly buried containers on the site.
New Mexico could become home to nuclear waste generated at nearly 90 nuclear power plants across the country.
Rose Gardner is not giving up.
A Eunice resident, Gardner has spent the past few years fighting a proposal to store high-level nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico.
“I was born here in Eunice, New Mexico, and have lived through a lot of ups and downs, oil booms and busts,” Gardner told NM Political Report. “But never have I ever felt that we needed an industry as dangerous as storing high-level nuclear waste right here.”
Gardner, who co-founded the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, is part of a groundswell of opposition to a project currently under consideration by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would see the world’s largest nuclear waste storage facility be built along the Lea-Eddy county line.
Holtec International, a private company specializing in spent nuclear fuel storage and management, applied for a license from the NRC in 2017 to construct and operate the facility in southeastern New Mexico that would hold waste generated at nuclear utilities around the country temporarily until a permanent, federally-managed repository is established. The license application is making steady progress in the NRC’s process, despite the pandemic.
According to a new report by the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, the U.S. spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. This figure includes $11.1 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, and $24.3 billion to the Department of Defense. That amount equals spending $67,352 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons. In this time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, some question whether these taxpayers’ dollars could fund the needed masks, gloves, personal protective equipment and other equipment for medical professionals and patients, as well as for essential workers across the country. https://www.icanw.org/global_nuclear_weapons_spending_2020
As Alicia Sanders-Zakre, former Nuclear Watch New Mexico intern and current Policy and Research Coordinator for the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who is the primary author of the report, Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending, said in this week’s Update:
“The billions spent on nuclear weapons in 2019 didn’t save lives – it was a waste of resources needed to address real security challenges, including pandemics and climate change.”
The report, entitled, “Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” carefully reviewed the nuclear weapons budgets of nine nuclear-armed countries.
The United States sharply increased nuclear expenditures over the previous year, from $29.6 billion to $35.4 billion.
Spending by the world’s nine nuclear nations climbed to nearly $73 billion in 2019, nearly half of it by the United States alone. At the same time, the Trump administration has prioritized nuclear weapons in its defense budget while abandoning nuclear treaties, fumbling negotiations and confounding allies.
The administration’s lack of coherent goals, strategies or polices have increased nuclear dangers, leaving the U.S. “blundering toward nuclear chaos with potentially disastrous consequences.” Those are the findings of two separate reports published in May that examine nuclear spending and strategy under Trump.
The findings of the reports lay bare the soaring costs and dangers of the Trump administration’s pursuit of more nuclear pits; the fast tracking of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles; and the deployment of new, low-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapons. In May, The Washington Post reported that Trump officials are in ongoing discussions about resuming explosive nuclear weapons testing.
Come meet NukeWatch staff.
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Tuesday Nov. 19
City of Mud Gallery
1114 A Hickox St, Santa Fe,
New Mexico 87505
(straight across from Tune-Up Cafe)
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.
EXCERPT FROM POST BY CASSANDRA VARAKA, POLICY DIRECTOR OF WAND |
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.
Both are existential threats, but only one is getting the attention it deserves.
“The current attention gap between the climate crisis and nuclear weapons is bizarre, given their common existential stakes and challenges. Climate change and nuclear weapons have a symbiotic relationship: Each threat exacerbates the other. Climate change is setting the stage for conflict between nuclear-armed states, and a recent study suggests that even a regional nuclear war would cool the planet by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius and cause mass starvation for over a decade. Not to mention the fact that even during peacetime, decades of uranium mining, nuclear testing, and nuclear waste dumping have contaminated some of our planet’s ecosystems beyond repair, displacing entire communities—often communities of color—in the process.
The flip side of this symbiosis, however, means that climate change and nuclear weapons also share a common solution. A progressive nuclear policy should be based upon four core principles of the Green New Deal—international cooperation, reductions, transparency, and justice. Only by challenging the nuclear-industrial complex in its entirety—in a way akin to how the Green New Deal challenges the carbon economy in its entirety—can a progressive nuclear policy pull us back from the brink of atomic and environmental catastrophe. Progressive climate change policies should include demilitarization and disarmament provisions, and progressive nuclear policies should address the climate and humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Similarly, nuclear activists and climate change activists are natural allies in the fight against existential risk, and both causes would benefit from a more robust partnership.
To that end, the significant attention imbalance between climate change and nuclear weapons must be urgently corrected; keeping them siloed reinforces an incomplete narrative about the nature of these existential threats.
“There’s enough high-level nuclear waste awaiting disposal in the U.S. to fill a football field 65 feet (20 meters) deep. Few states want to house it within their borders.”
“The public defines ‘safe’ as zero risk…the technical community defines ‘safe’ as complying with regulatory standards.” – Robert Halstead, head of the Agency for Nuclear Projects, is currently fighting plutonium shipments to Nevada and spent nuclear fuel transfers to the proposed Yucca Mountain dump.
The plutonium core for the first atomic weapon detonated in 1945 was taken from Los Alamos National Laboratory to a test site in the New Mexico desert in the backseat of a U.S. Army sedan.
Officials put other bomb parts inside a metal container, packed it into a wooden crate and secured it in the steel bed of a truck under a tarp, the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration says in a historical account.
Grainy black-and-white photos show special agents and armed military police accompanying the shipment nearly 75 years ago.
“Nuclear materials transportation has evolved since then,” the department posted online last year.
Today, radioactive shipments are hauled in double-walled steel containers inside specialized trailers that undergo extensive testing and are tracked by GPS and real-time apps.
But whether shipping technology has evolved enough to be deemed safe depends on whom you ask.
Two scientific studies modelling the effects of nuclear war released in the past few weeks have revealed some terrifying figures:
- 91.5 million deaths in a matter of hours, if nuclear conflict breaks out between the United States and Russia,
- 125 million deaths in case of a week-long conflict between India and Pakistan using 100 kilotonne nuclear warheads,
- A 30% reduction in surface sunlight due to the 36 teragrams of black carbon released into the atmosphere after the India-Pakistan conflict,
- Two billion people at risk of famine.
The two studies, Princeton’s Science and Global Security programme “Plan A” [ 1] and Science Advances’ Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe [ 2], show that there is no such thing as a contained nuclear conflict.
These are not farfetched scenarios. This new research comes out as tensions are increasing between India and Pakistan, and four of the nine nuclear-armed states have tested nuclear missiles in just the past two weeks. [3, 4] You can read more about this new research here.
The science is clear: we need to eliminate nuclear weapons, before they are used again.
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.
Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico debunking the argument that the economic impact of the proposed new nuclear facility at Los Alamos is an efficient use of $6 billion.
“The splitting of the atom has changed everything but our way of thinking; hence we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Nat’l Security Archive, George Washington University, Nuclear Documentation Project
Atomic Heritage Foundation
Extensive historical documentation
A blog about nuclear secrecy, past and present, run by Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Archive of Nuclear Data
From the NRDC Nuclear Program
Wilson Center Digital Archive International History Declassified: Nuclear History
See the featured collections
Poisoned Waters and Poisoned Places
In 2001, ANA activists worked closely with Peter Eisler, an investigative reporter then at USA Today (now at Reuters), to produce this huge series of reports about the breadth of contamination and health risks from the U.S. nuclear weapons venture.
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.”
Motions to Dismiss
All documents electronically filed with the court on August 31, 2016
NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, and LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL SECURITY, LLC, Defendants
NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT, Intervenor
DOE Motion to Dismiss (PDF)
- DOE Attach 1 Motion to Dismiss Memorandum (PDF)
- DOE Attach 2 2005 Consent Order (PDF)
- DOE Attach 3 2016 Consent Order (PDF)
- DOE consent motion for page limit (PDF)
- Order granting additional pages limit (PDF)
LANS Motion to Dismiss (PDF)
- LANS Motion to Dismiss Memorandum (PDF)
- Exhibit A March 2005 Consent Order (PDF)
- Exhibit B NMELC Notice 01-20-2016 (PDF)
- Exhibit C NMELC Additional Notice 05-05-16 (PDF)
- Exhibit D NWNM CO Comments 05-31-2016 (PDF)
- Exhibit E June 2016 Consent Order (PDF)
- Exhibit F Framework Agreement Jan 2012 (PDF)
- LANS request for judicial notice 8-31-16 (PDF)
NMED Motion To Dismiss (PDF)
- Attach 1 2016 Consent Order (PDF)
“We have gone on piling weapon upon weapon, missile upon missile helplessly, almost involuntarily, like the victims of some sort of hypnosis, like men in a dream, like lemmings headed for the sea…”
-George Kennan, 1981 From IN THE NATION; A Collision Course
Full Budget Requests
Nuke Watch Analyses
FY 2011 NNSA Weapons Budget Request
Summary: The environmental risks posed by irradiated fuel are extreme: As observed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, it has “the capacity to outlast human civilization as we know it and the potential to devastate public health and the environment.” Nuclear Energy Inst., Inc. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 373 F.3d 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2004).If irradiated fuel is dispersed into the environment, its radionuclides are sufficiently toxic to cause irreparable contamination of large areas of land and entire river and lake systems and coastal ecosystems.
The risk of nuclear weapons proliferation posed by irradiated fuel is also significant. Each metric ton of spent fuel typically contains more than one Nagasaki-bomb equivalent of plutonium and, as of 2016, well over 70,000 metric tons had already be been created in the United States by the commercial nuclear power reactors. Spent fuel, storage and/or disposal may pose a risk of theft if it is stored or disposed of in a manner that would allow access in a few hundred years when the fission product radiation barrier would have declined to low levels.