A new investigative report released exclusively to The Seattle Times by the nonprofit watchdog group Hanford Challenge documents the fires as well as other mishaps and compliance problems that the authors say “calls into question” the safety of sending Hanford’s wastes to Perma-Fix.
RICHLAND, Benton County — In May 2019, workers at the Perma-Fix Northwest plant pulled a hunk of radioactive waste from a powerful kiln heated to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to ensconce the material in glass for eventual burial.
The workers let it cool — but not long enough — before setting it on a pallet. The residual heat caused the wood to burn. A crew from the plant sprayed chemicals on the fire before Richland firefighters arrived to finish that job.
A Washington Department of Ecology inspector in a report noted that a fire alarm system was not operating that month and that the incident “could have been catastrophic.”
“South Carolina could be left holding the plutonium bag…It’s clear that the plutonium bomb plant at SRS is being driven by contractors and boosters who stand to profit by making South Carolina ground zero for an unacceptable new nuclear arms race that endangers national security and that places our state at environmental risk.” — Tom Clements, Savannah River Site Watch
Earlier this month, efforts to build a jobs-rich nuclear weapons component factory in South Carolina reached a milestone that boosters hoped would keep construction plans on track over the next decade.
The National Nuclear Security Administration finalized a study that said the factory would not have a major effect on the environment at the Savannah River Site, the 310-square mile weapons complex near Aiken that would house the plant.
But the Nov. 5 announcement occurred at virtually the same time Joe Biden was in the process of winning the presidency — and as Biden prepares to take office in January, questions are surfacing about the factory’s future.
President Donald Trump’s plans for the pit factory almost certainly will be reviewed by Biden to see if it’s worth continuing the effort as envisioned, say national defense experts and others who track issues at SRS.
“Given the current high incidence rate at the WIPP facility, including a reported death of an employee, the circumstances of which are currently unknown, it is clear that the Permittees are unable to successfully mitigate COVID-19 risk to protect human health while conducting the activities under the scope of this Request,” the letter said.
Construction of a $100 million utility shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could be halted after the New Mexico Environment Department denied a request to extend state authorization to build the shaft, citing missed deadlines in the planning of the project and the continued spread in COVID-19 cases at the facility.
The shaft, part of an almost $300 million rebuild of WIPP’s ventilation system, along with a series of fans and filter buildings known as the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS), was intended to improve airflow in the WIPP underground and allow for waste emplacement and mining to occur simultaneously along with future expansions of the nuclear waste repository.
BY: | washingtonpost.com
MARIETTA, Ga. — There were dozens of Jon Ossoff signs at the rally outside the Cobb County Civic Center, but the touring campaign bus, the bulk of the applause and the final words belonged to the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who used them to boost two Democratic Senate campaigns.
“Georgia is positioned to do a marvelous thing,” Warnock told the crowd. “Send a young Jewish man, the son of immigrants, who sat at the feet of Congressman John Lewis, and a kid who grew up in the public-housing projects of Savannah, Georgia, the pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, to the United States Senate at the same time.”
Two weeks into the extraordinary runoff races that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, Warnock and Ossoff have combined their efforts to try to win Georgia’s pair of Senate seats. Their names are stacked together on yard signs; they’ve called each other “brother” at joint campaign appearances. But it is Warnock who is animating the Democratic base — and the Republican opposition.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A mock B61-12’s strike in the dusty Nevada desert successfully completed the first in a series of flight tests with the U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter jet, demonstrating the bomb’s first release from an internal bomb bay at greater than the speed of sound.
The flight test of the B61-12 with the F-35A Lightning II this summer was the first ever at Sandia National Laboratories’ Tonopah Test Range featuring the fighter jet. It was also the first of a testing series that will conclude with full-weapon systems demonstrations designed to increase confidence the bomb will always work when needed and never under any other circumstances.
“We’re showing the B61-12’s larger compatibility and broader versatility for the country’s nuclear deterrent, and we’re doing it in the world of COVID-19,” said Steven Samuels, a manager with Sandia’s B61-12 Systems Team. “We’re not slowing down. We’re still moving forward with the B61-12 compatibility activities on different platforms.”
In partnership with the National Nuclear Security Administration, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Air Force, Sandia completed a B61-12 full-weapon system demonstration with the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet in March, and another in July with the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit bomber.
Industry-induced earthquakes have been an increasing concern in the central and eastern United States for more than a decade.
BY: Thomas H. Goebel The Conversation
The way companies drill for oil and gas and dispose of wastewater can trigger earthquakes, at times in unexpected places.
California was thought to be an exception, a place where oil field operations and tectonic faults apparently coexisted without much problem. Now, new research shows that the state’s natural earthquake activity may be hiding industry-induced quakes.
As a seismologist, I have been investigating induced earthquakes in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Our latest study, released on Nov. 10, shows how California oil field operations are putting stress on tectonic faults in an area just a few miles from the San Andreas Fault.
“Trio of resignations follow defense secretary’s firing.”
The firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper kicked off a rapid-fire series of high-level departures at the Pentagon on Tuesday, setting off alarms on Capitol Hill that the White House was installing loyalists to carry out President Donald Trump’s wishes during an already tense transition.
In quick succession, top officials overseeing policy, intelligence and the defense secretary’s staff all had resigned by the end of the day Tuesday, replaced by political operatives who are fiercely loyal to Trump and have trafficked in “deep state” conspiracy theories.
Fears continue to swirl over what these newly installed leaders will do as Trump fights the results of last week’s election, and after he has shown he is willing to use troops to solve political problems.
Tuesday’s exodus led one top Democrat to accuse the administration of gutting the Pentagon in a way that could be “devastating” for national security.
“It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition,” said House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith. “If this is the beginning of a trend — the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst.”
“After Brouillette and Gordon-Hagerty feuded last winter over the size of the NNSA’s budget — a contest that broke in Gordon-Hagerty’s favor when President Donald Trump requested roughly $20 billion as she recommended, instead of the $17.5 billion Brouillette preferred — Trump’s second secretary of energy tightened his grip over the NNSA in ways that his predecessor, Rick Perry had not.”
Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette kept close tabs on then-National Nuclear Security Administration boss Lisa Gordon-Hagerty for months, sending chaperones to her meetings with Congress and monitoring her personal calendar before abruptly demanding her resignation last week, a source told Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.
It was a dramatic end to a year of strife between the two, who clashed over the size of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) budget and provided the Washington nuclear policy establishment with the latest experimental data about exactly how much autonomy the NNSA and its nuclear weapons programs have from the broader DOE’s nuclear-cleanup and energy programs.
“The proposed ISP facility imperils America’s energy security because it would be a prime target for attacks by terrorists, saboteurs, and other enemies,” read [Gov. Abbott’s] letter. “Spent nuclear fuel is currently scattered across the country at various reactor sites and storage installations.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continued to voice his disapproval against nuclear waste storage in the Permian Basin region in a letter last week to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) opposing such a project in Andrews, Texas.
Interim Storage Partners (ISP), a joint venture between Waste Control Specialists and Orano USA, was formed in 2018 to request the NRC resume evaluation of an application submitted originally in 2016 to build a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) that would hold spent nuclear fuel rods temporarily at the surface while a permanent repository is developed.
Abbott has been a frequent critic of the concept of a CISF and of siting such a facility in the Permian Basin, writing a letter to President Donald Trump in September to oppose CISFs in both Texas and New Mexico.
Was DOE uranium enrichment plant responsible for star athlete’s cancer death?
PIKETON, Ohio (WKRC) – For the first time, Larry Farmer, the father of a local, All-American baseball pitcher, sat down for an exclusive interview with Local 12’s Chief Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman to talk about the life and death of his famous son, Zach Farmer, who passed away from leukemia five years ago, blaming his death on radioactive elements he believes drifted to his former family home from the now-closed Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
A LEGEND THAT LIVED TO BE ON THE MOUND
Larry says Zach — the legendary southpaw from Piketon — was a natural from the beginning.
“No one could hit off him,” Larry said with a grin, adding that his son would routinely have 15 to 19 strikeouts a game, often leading the Piketon Red Streaks to victory.
“He lived to be on the mound,” his dad said, looking away and pausing to recall his son’s brilliant playing days.
At Piketon High School, Zach achieved more than nearly every other baseball player in Ohio history, including 599 strikeouts (No. 2 in Ohio High School Athletic Association history) and an overall record of 38-7, (No. 3 on the OHSAA list). He was even incredible at the plate with a head-spinning .505 batting average.
“Nuclear modernization plans may change. Flournoy’s desire for a strong deterrent for China includes a nuclear deterrent. But given the costs of the ongoing nuclear modernization strategy, Flournoy wants to consider all options.“
BY: Aaron Mehta
WASHINGTON — On June 20, 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden delivered keynote remarks at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security, the think tank founded and, at that point, led by Michèle Flournoy.
Flournoy introduced Biden, praising him as a national security thinker and noting the ties between his staff at the White House and CNAS. Biden, in turn, acknowledged the little-kept secret of the defense world: that Flournoy was in line to become the first woman to serve as defense secretary under President Hillary Clinton.
“Well, madam secretary,” Biden said with a laugh as the crowd applauded. “I’m writing a recommendation for her, you know.”
Columbia, South Carolina – An independent safety board that monitors activities of the U.S. Department of Energy reports a “hard shutdown” during the initial startup of cesium removal from high-level nuclear waste at the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS).
This is the second time that DOE has failed to mention a significant startup problem at SWPF, potentially undermining trust in its reporting to the public on the initial operations of this key facility to process liquid high-level nuclear waste, according to the public interest organization Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch). SWPF began “hot commissioning” involving radioactive liquid on October 5, 2020.
Several nuclear waste experts are urging members of Congress and the public to oppose any proposals to transport highly radioactive nuclear waste from power plants to temporary or long-term storage sites.
Researchers with multiple groups dedicated to analyzing the potential consequences of nuclear waste storage said Friday they have major concerns with plans to transport spent fuel to other parts of the country — even for permanent storage at a place such as Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Work on the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository has been stalled for nearly a decade.
Waste is gathered at about 80 sites across the nation as the federal government continues looking for a permanent solution for highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, spurring environmental and health worries.
Washington state has picked an environmental manager from its Yakima Department of Ecology office to oversee state regulations at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
David Bowen will replace Alex Smith as Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program manager based in Richland starting Dec. 16. Smith took another state job at the end of October.
“I know Hanford is challenging and complex,” Bowen said, “But I’m excited for the opportunities it presents.”
More than 100 people tuned in to a virtual community engagement meeting hosted by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Thursday evening where the proposed venting of four flanged tritium waste containers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, contain at Middle DP Road and the 2016 Consent Order were the main topics addressed.
BY: MAIRE O’NEILL
Stephanie Stringer, NMED Resource Protection Division Director, discussed a temporary authorization request from LANL for the venting of four flanged tritium waste containers currently stored at LANL. She said the containers were packaged at LANL’s Weapon Engineering Tritium Facility in 1996 and 1997 and were moved to Technical Area 54 in 2007.
Stringer said radiolysis of tritiated water in the containers over time has potentially resulted in hazardous concentrations of flammable hydrogen and oxygen mixture in the headspace of the FTWCs. She said the containers where they’re stored right now do not meet the Department of Transportation requirements and cannot be moved without releasing that pressure or treating the waste containers, so they need to be vented prior to transport, treatment and final disposal.
“It is difficult to imagine a military justification for such an increase in the number of nuclear bombers – even without New START.”
BY: HANS KRISTENSEN
The US Air Force is working to expand the number of strategic bomber bases that can store nuclear weapons from two today to five by the 2030s.
The plan will also significantly expand the number of bomber bases that store nuclear cruise missiles from one base today to all five bombers bases by the 2030s.
The expansion is the result of a decision to replace the non-nuclear B-1B bombers at Ellsworth AFB and Dyess AFB with the nuclear B-21 over the next decade-and-a-half and to reinstate nuclear weapons storage capability at Barksdale AFB as well.
The expansion is not expected to increase the total number of nuclear weapons assigned to the bomber force, but to broaden the infrastructure to “accommodate mission growth,” Air Force Global Strike Command Commander General Timothy Ray told Congress last year.
On 7 July 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Just over three years later, the TPNW reached the 50 national ratifications needed to become international law. The treaty will enter into force on January 22, 2012, and nuclear weapons will become officially illegal under international law. This day will represent a culmination of years of campaigning for nuclear weapons to be reframed as a collective humanitarian problem, one which requires prohibition and elimination, rather than a national military defense asset that needs to be managed and even upgraded.
“Analytical attempts to belittle or undermine the significance of this treaty may appease the minority of countries that cling to these weapons of mass destruction for now, but make no mistake — the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a game-changer. And it is not going anywhere.”
— ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE Policy and Research Coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (and former Nuclear Watch New Mexico Intern)
“We simply want a healthy livable community where we can safely live a good life. Where we can grow old and raise our grandchildren. I am hoping that soon we will not have to see the piles of uranium waste in our front yards – a constant reminder of what each family has experienced and the after-effects of this tragedy.”
The hunt for industrial brine has opened massive and unexpected sinkholes, which is taking delicate work, and more than $54 million, to fill.
“Carlsbad sits on the edge of the Permian Basin, an underground geological formation that stretches from southeastern New Mexico to West Texas and accounted for more than 35% of the U.S.’s domestic oil production in 2019. The surrounding desert is lined with rows of pumpjacks and the occasional white tower of a drilling rig.”
On a July morning in 2008, the ground below southeastern New Mexico began to shift and crack, shooting a huge plume of dust into the air. Within minutes, a massive sinkhole emerged, which eventually grew to roughly 120 feet deep and 400 feet in diameter.
“At the time, it was an unfortunate situation, but most people considered it to be a one-off,” says Jim Griswold, a special project manager with New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department. But a few months later, in November, dust once again streamed toward the sky as another similarly sized sinkhole opened, cracking a nearby roadway.
Both holes — and later, a third in Texas — emerged at the site of brine wells, industrial wells through which freshwater is pumped into a subterranean layer of salt. The freshwater mixes with the salt, creating brine, which is brought to the surface for industrial purposes; in this case, oil drilling. After the second sinkhole emerged, Griswold’s department head gave him a new task: Characterize the stability of the state’s 30 other brine wells and report back on where the next crisis might arise.
“The Program specifically states that ‘construction should not be allowed to proceed until the design is sufficiently mature to minimize change orders,’” the lawsuit read. “No one in NWP’s upper management in Carlsbad had ever borne responsibility for seeing a construction project of this magnitude to completion.”
A $32 million lawsuit brought by a subcontractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant alleged the company that runs the facility breached its contract to rebuild the nuclear waste repository’s air system.
Critical Applications Alliance (CAA), a Carlsbad-based joint venture between Texas-based Christensen Building Group and Kilgore Industries was hired by Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) in 2018 to construct the ventilation system at WIPP for $135 million, but its contract was terminated on August 31, about two years into the project.
Known as the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS), the system was intended to increase airflow in WIPP’s underground waste disposal area to allow for waste emplacement and mining operations to occur simultaneously.
Available air at WIPP was reduced in 2014 due to an accidental radiological release that led to contamination in parts of the underground.
“Her resignation came after a budget dispute between the NNSA and Brouillette and other officials spilled into the open earlier this year.”
The U.S. official overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile resigned Friday after clashing with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.
Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and undersecretary of Energy for nuclear security, resigned after being told by Brouillette’s office that President Donald Trump had lost faith in her ability to do her job, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Some administration officials were disappointed that she’d been pushed out, saying that she was widely viewed by those in her field as capable, the people said.
In a pair of tweets Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he terminated his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
Esper’s tenure as top Pentagon official followed the resignations of Trump’s first Secretary of Defense James Mattis and then-acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
WASHINGTON — In a pair of tweets Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he terminated his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” Trump wrote.
“I think the industry will have, when it comes to national security, a very positive view” of a Biden presidency, Punaro said.
The defense industry is taking a largely positive view of its prospects under an administration led by Joe Biden, who clinched the presidency on Saturday.
Although defense manufacturers have benefited from increased spending, tax cuts and deregulation under President Trump, their executives have told investors that they expect the former vice president and longtime senator will largely maintain the status quo with respect to defense spending.
“The dangers of tritium come from inhalation, ingestion, and absorption… when the radionuclide unites with carbon in the human body, plants, or animals, it becomes organically bound (OBT) and can remain in the human body for 450 to 650 days. One study found traces of tritium in the body 10 years after exposure.”
New Mexico Environment Department comments to NRC, opposing ISP CISF 0.37 miles from NM state line, in TX
See the comments posted online, here. November 3, 2020
See the governor’s Nov. 3rd letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in the form of written comments on the Interim Storage Partners/Waste Control Specialists Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Accompanying press release:
November 4, 2020
The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) proposes to vent up to 114,000 curies of radioactive tritium gas to the open atmosphere while claiming that it poses no public health and safety risks. Public outcry and congressional pressure prompted the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to host a public information virtual meeting on this issue on October 20. Due to the overwhelming turnout of some 150 interested citizens and ear-splitting technical difficulties NNSA is holding another public virtual meeting at 5:00 pm Thursday November 5.
Interested citizens can join the discussion at https://www.lanl.gov/environment/flanged-tritiumwaste-containers.shtml
If you wish to speak or ask questions you should pre-register at the same site.
Are the stars finally aligning for Washington and Moscow to extend the New START treaty?
Nuclear arms control is reportedly on the agenda for a rush-meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today. Over the past weeks, Russia had softened its preconditions for extending the New START Treaty––the only strategic arms control agreement still in place between the two nuclear superpower––while
President Donald Trump last week said that he had spoken with President Vladimir Putin and “we are – he very much wants to, and so do we, work out a treaty of some kind on nuclear weapons…”
The New START treaty limits US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear forces, and additionally facilitates inspections and exchanges of information on the status and movements of their intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. Signed in 2010, the treaty expires in February 2021 but can be extended for another five years.There is nothing other than personalities and bad advice that is preventing Moscow and Washington from extending New START. Retaining the treaty is clearly in the interest of both countries, particularly as other arms control agreements have been abandoned and military tensions are steadily increasing.
WASHINGTON — 30 organizations representing a diverse set of issue areas — strengthening diplomacy, protecting migrants and refugees, preventing wars of choice, reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe, combating corruption, promoting human rights and sound environmental policies, and standing up for democratic values — released the following statement regarding the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report:
“Despite the fact that we do not all advocate on the same issues, we are compelled to state clearly in one voice: The results of negotiations for the final text of the NDAA are disastrous. The FY2020 NDAA conference report has been so severely stripped of vital House-passed provisions essential to keeping the current administration in check that it no longer represents a compromise, but a near complete capitulation.
The results of negotiations for the final text of the #ndaa2020 are disastrous and far removed from our vision for a just, peaceful, and democratic foreign policy. Read our statement in partnership with 30 other organizations here: https://t.co/AiO3aMlA4X
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) December 10, 2019
The 3488-page Conference Report is at:
The 741-page Joint Explanatory Statement is at:
The 19-page bill summary is at:
On Plutonium Pit Production:
Nuclear Forces have been the cornerstone of our national defense and the conference agreement funds the President’s budget request for Nuclear National Security Administration programs, including nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation activities. In addition, the FY20 NDAA supports the U.S. Strategic Command requirement to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 and doesn’t prohibit the Department from deploying low-yield nuclear weapons. It also clarifies nuclear safety authorities.
1. Page 1907 of the report defines a requirement to submit the costs of complying with cleanup agreements:
SEC. 4409. ESTIMATION OF COSTS OF MEETING DEFENSE ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP MILESTONES REQUIRED BY CONSENT ORDERS.
”The Secretary of Energy shall include in the budget justification materials submitted to Congress in support of the Department of Energy budget for each fiscal year (as submitted with the budget of the President under section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code) a report on the cost, for that fiscal year and the four fiscal years following that fiscal year, of meeting milestones required by a consent order at each defense nuclear facility at which defense environmental cleanup activities are occurring. The report shall include, for each such facility—”(1) a specification of the cost of meeting such milestones during that fiscal year; and ”(2) an estimate of the cost of meeting such milestones during the four fiscal years following that fiscal year.”.
2. On page 1914 of the report: Prohibiting the DOE high-level waste interpretation from being applied (only) to Hanford.
However, the Joint Explanatory Statement (p. 492 of PDF) states: “The conferees note that the inclusion of the provision does not prejudice how to process high-level waste nor does it discourage the use of the Department of Energy’s interpretation of high-level waste in future years or at other locations.”
3. On pages 1942-51 of the report: Changes to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).
Among those changes is trying to ensure DNFSB access to DOE sites. One example is that DNFSB has access to nuclear facilities “without regard to the hazard or risk category assigned to a facility by the Secretary.”
Drawing upon six decades of constructive contacts between American and Russian citizens, we the participants in the latest Dartmouth Conference have decided to issue this urgent appeal to our governments, warning of the dangers of a new nuclear arms race and strongly urging both governments to act immediately to extend the New START Treaty beyond its February 2021 expiration.
ARTICLE & ANALYSIS BY: James F. Collins, David Mathews, Vitaliy Naumkin & Yury Shafranik | russiamatters.org
The contractor that’s been in charge of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s operations for the past year lost track of 250 barrels of waste, while the company heading the legacy cleanup mislabeled and improperly stored waste containers and took months to remedy some infractions, according to the state’s yearly report on hazardous waste permit violations.
Triad National Security LLC, a consortium of nonprofits that runs the lab’s daily operations, had 19 violations of its permit from the New Mexico Environment Department. Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos, also known as N3B, which is managing a 10-year cleanup of waste generated at the lab, was cited 29 times. Triad’s most notable violation was shipping 250 barrels of mostly mixed waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad without tracking them. Mixed waste contains low-level radioactive waste and other hazardous materials. Inspectors found records still listed the waste at the national lab.
Mislabeled containers should be taken seriously because they can cause incidents if the contents aren’t identified, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
Lab personnel didn’t update the shipping data because they were waiting for WIPP to acknowledge it had received the waste, lab spokesman Matt Nerzig said in an emailed statement. “There was no risk to public health or safety and the inventory is now correct,” Nerzig said, adding that shipping updates now will be done when waste leaves the lab. But a watchdog group said failing to track such a high volume of waste is an egregious error that falls in line with the lab’s long history of serious missteps.
“The fact that LANL has mischaracterized, misplaced, mis-inventoried — or whatever — 250 barrels of waste is pretty astounding,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “We see mistakes being made by a new contractor. So definitely, all of this is cause for concern.”
Concerns that a calcium residue might be flammable prompted officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory to curtail plutonium operations and suspend waste shipments in early November, according to a federal report.
The lab suspended most waste generation and certification at its plutonium facility and halted all waste shipments after officials questioned the accuracy of documentation, particularly on how much calcium-and-salt residue remained in transuranic waste after processing, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent oversight panel, said in a Nov. 15 report that was publicly released Friday.
Calcium is used to help reduce oxidation in plutonium. Traces of the substance typically linger after processing, and if they are too high, they can ignite when exposed to open air, the report says.
The report didn’t say how long the operations and waste shipments were suspended. A lab spokesman could not comment Monday.
Officials from multiple agencies met in Carlsbad on Nov. 5 and 6 to discuss the hazard, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, Triad National Security LLC — the consortium that operates the lab — and N3B, a cleanup contractor. They concluded there wasn’t enough evidence of a flammable calcium level to keep operations suspended, the report said.
However, they decided to withhold shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant until further testing could be conducted, the report said.
The underground storage facility near Carlsbad forbids waste that has volatile chemicals mixed in.
WIPP became more vigilant about testing for flammable mixtures after a waste container was packaged in 2014 with a volatile blend of wheat-based kitty litter and nitrate salts, which caused it to explode and leak radiation. WIPP shut down for almost three years while it underwent a $2 billion cleanup.
“If DOE and LANL continue to treat the public with disdain, it is going to be a long and difficult permitting process. All in all, this first meeting was disappointing and unproductive.” — Joni Arends, of CCNS
This week the renewal of the New Mexico Environment Department hazardous waste permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) began in a very controlled public meeting at the Cities of Gold in Pojoaque. There was no presentation by the Department of Energy (DOE) or its contractor, Triad National Security, LLC, about their plans to renew the application. If the public had questions, they were instructed to write them on a half-sheet comment and question card. There was no explanation about if and how those comments and questions would be answered.
Listen to the full story:
CCNS has prepared a pre-emptive sample public comment letter you can use to express what needs to be included in LANL’s permit application, including proposals to install confined burn and detonation facilities, and coming into compliance with the federal and state hazardous waste laws and regulations dealing with tank systems (that are used to treat liquid hazardous and radioactive waste) and seismic requirements. The last surface rupture on the Pajarito Plateau fault system was 1,400 years ago – thus requiring additional LANL submittals and NMED review. LANL_Permit_Renewal_App_public_comment_120519 The current ten-year LANL permit expires in late December 2020. Under the regulations, the permit application is due to the Environment Department 180 days before the permit expires, or in late June 2020. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/lanl-permit/ The hazardous waste permit renewal application for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is on the same timeline. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp-permit-page/ CCNS and others have made numerous requests to both LANL and WIPP management to submit their applications in the spring of 2020 to give additional opportunity for the public to review both. At the meeting, CCNS asked when LANL would submit its application. A LANL staff member said they could not disclose the date.
WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers involved in annual defense authorization negotiations finalized a sweeping deal late Monday that creates a new Space Force among other policies, but it dropped contentious border wall restrictions and several other provisions favored by progressives.
The 3,488-page compromise bill, which supports $738 billion in defense spending for 2020, left out limits on the border wall, low-yield nuclear weapons and the president’s authorization to wage war on Iran. However, Democratic leaders did win ― in exchange for the Space Force ― an agreement for 12 weeks of paid parental leave to millions of federal workers, which could give some House Democrats otherwise opposed to the large defense bill a reason to vote for it.
The agreement caps months of negotiations made unusually complex because Democrats control the House and Republicans the Senate. The House is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday, as Congress has only a few days to pass the bill before the House’s Christmas recess begins Thursday afternoon. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
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November 27, 2018
RE: DOE Order 140.1 should be annulled by Congress
Dear House/Senate Armed Services Committee Members:
We are writing to ask that you annul the May 2018 DOE Order 140.1, Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and reinstate the previous DOE Order 140.1.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (“DNFSB” or “Safety Board”) was established by Congress in September 1988 (Public Law 100-456) in response to growing concerns about health and safety protection that the Department of Energy (“DOE”) was providing the public and workers at defense nuclear facilities. In so doing, Congress sought to provide the general public with an independent source of critical oversight to add assurance that DOE’s defense nuclear facilities are safely designed, constructed, operated, and decommissioned. Over the past 30 years, the Safety Board’s authority and funding has been supported by Congress on a bi-partisan basis.
An 85-gallon drum of radioactive waste leaked into its secondary container. Nearly two dozen waste containers were either mislabeled or not labeled at all. Officials failed to conduct mandated hazardous waste inspections.
During Los Alamos National Laboratory’s most recent fiscal year, officials logged 69 instances of noncompliance with the federal permit that allows the facility to store, manage and treat hazardous waste, according to a newly released annual report that details the violations.
NNSA Has Taken Steps to Prepare to Restart a Program to Replace the W78 Warhead Capability
GAO-19-84: Published: Nov 30, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2018.
The National Nuclear Security Administration is preparing to restart a program to replace the W78 nuclear warhead, which is used in Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles. The goal is to produce the first W78 replacement warhead in fiscal year 2030. Pending further study, this replacement warhead may also be used in Navy submarine launched ballistic missiles.
Dear Friends of Nuclear Watch New Mexico:
The Los Alamos and Sandia Labs are the tip of the spear for a one-trillion dollar “modernization” program that will completely rebuild every type of warhead in the nuclear stockpile while giving them new military capabilities. This so-called modernization program will also rebuild the production side of the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex, including the proposal to quadruple production of plutonium pit bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). This so-called modernization will be at enormous cost to the taxpayer and our disappearing middle class, robbing citizens of better schools, highways, hospitals, etc.
- Paris: President Emmanuel Macron said today that France would shut down 14 of the country’s 58 nuclear reactors currently in operation by 2035, of which between four and six will be closed by 2030.
Join In Giving Tuesday
We have two days for getting deals – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On #GivingTuesday, we have a day for giving back. Together, people are creating a new ritual for our annual calendar. #GivingTuesday is the opening day of the giving season.
Founded by the team in the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92nd Street Y, #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. This year, #GivingTuesday falls on November 27. #GivingTuesday harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season. It can inspire people to take collective action to improve their communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they believe in, and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday demonstrates how every act of generosity counts, and that they mean even more when we give together.
Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation
NISG (Nuclear Issues Study Group) worked to get a resolution opposing the transportation of High Level Radioactive Waste in front of the City of Belen. The Belen City Council passed the resolution on Nov. 19th! It was 3 votes yes and 1 abstention. Belen is the 18th City or county or chapter house to pass it in New Mexico and Texas.
Read more about it here
Santa Fe County passed a similar resolution – A Resolution in the Interest of Protecting Our Lives, Land and Water From Radioactive Waste Risks.
Read more about it here
– 1987 treaty has kept nuclear weapons out of Europe
– Trump announced withdrawal from deal with Russia in October
European officials are seeking to act as intermediaries between Russia and the US in the hope of salvaging a cold war-era arms control treaty that Donald Trump has threatened to scrap.
However, the diplomats involved are not confident of success in the effort to save the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Although they have the support of senior officials in the US defence and state departments, they face opposition from the White House, particularly from the national security adviser, John Bolton.
BY MARCUS WEISGERBER defenseone.com
NOVEMBER 14, 2018
Rep. Adam Smith laid out new terms for a debate over the Pentagon’s plans to expand the military’s nuclear arsenal.
The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is taking aim at the Trump administration’s plans to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.
While Democrats will only control one chamber of Congress for the next two years, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., called for lawmakers to “totally redo the Nuclear Posture Review,” the administration’s blueprint for replacing Cold War-era nuclear weapons with newer ones envisioned to be aroundContinue reading
Santa Fe, NM – On Wednesday evening the Santa Fe City Council passed the following:
A resolution requesting that the New Mexico Environment Department strengthen the revised Los Alamos National Labs Cleanup Order to call for additional characterization of legacy nuclear wastes, increased cleanup funding, and significant additional safety training. The resolution also called for the suspension of any planned expanded plutonium pit production until safety issues are resolved.
Santa Fe, NM.
On the evening of Wednesday October 25, the Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution requesting that the New Mexico Environment Department strengthen the revised Los Alamos National Labs cleanup order to call for additional characterization of legacy nuclear wastes, increased cleanup funding, and significant additional safety training. The resolution also called for the suspension of any planned expanded plutonium pit production until safety issues are resolved.
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Wins Nobel Peace Prize
NukeWatch Calls on New Mexico Politicians and Santa Fe Archbishop To Support Drive Towards Abolition
Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly applauds the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (as disclosure, NukeWatch is one of ICAN’s ~400 member groups around the world). This award is especially apt because the peoples of the world are now living at the highest risk for nuclear war since the middle 1980’s (with the possible exception of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan). During President Reagan’s military buildup the Soviet Union became convinced that the United States might launch a pre-emptive nuclear first strike. Today, we not only have Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea and Kim Jong-un’s counter threats, but also renewed Russian fears of a US preemptive nuclear attack.
NukeWatch also applauds the shrewdness of the Nobel Prize Committee in making this Peace prize award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in distinct contrast to its award to President Obama early in his first term. Ironically, Obama went on to launch a one trillion dollar-plus rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, its delivery systems and production complex, which Trump now seeks to accelerate.
Generally unknown to the American taxpayer, our government has quietly tripled the lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile though increased accuracy (including more precise heights of burst). The American taxpayer has been constantly told that the purpose of the US nuclear weapons stockpile is for deterring others. However, only a few hundred nuclear weapons are necessary for just deterrence. Instead, the official (but not well publicized) policy declared by the Department of Defense following a 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review” is:
The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy. *
In other words, the US keeps thousands of nuclear weapons in order to fight a nuclear war, which even President Reagan admitted cannot be “won.” Nevertheless, the Trump Administration is now conducting a new Nuclear Posture Review, which is expected to endorse new lower yield, more “usable” nuclear weapons and a new nuclear-armed cruise missile well suited to be the proverbial “bolt out of the blue.”
In 1970 the original five nuclear weapons powers (the US, USSR (now Russia), UK, France and China) pledged in the NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) to enter into serious negotiations leading to global nuclear disarmament, in exchange for which all other countries agreed to not acquire nuclear weapons (the exceptions were Israel, India, and Pakistan, and later North Korea which withdrew). Out of frustration with the lack of progress under the NPT, this last July 7 at the United Nations 122 countries passed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which bans nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use, threat of use, and deployment of any country’s nuclear weapons in another country. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN for being the lead nongovernmental organization sheparding the Treaty, which the United States and other nuclear weapons have adamantly opposed.
As past Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King put it, “the arc of history bends towards justice.” Given the nuclear weapons powers refusal to enter into negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament, the NonProliferation Treaty has always been unjust in that it instituted global nuclear “apartheid” between the haves and have nots. Nuclear Watch calls on New Mexican politicians to get on the right side of history and end their unquestioning support for expanded nuclear weapons programs in our state.
Forty per cent of all National Nuclear Security Administration funding for nuclear weapons research and production programs is spent in New Mexico alone (around $4 billion annually). Despite that, our state remains mired in poverty and at the bottom of socioeconomic metrics (except for Los Alamos County, which is the second richest county in the USA, next to some of the poorest communities in the country).
Given that New Mexico has the second highest unemployment rate, our congressional delegation should push for cleanup that can create far more jobs than nuclear weapons programs. At the Los Alamos Lab nuclear weapons programs largely center around expanded plutonium pit production, which has endemic nuclear safety problems and is for a new nuclear weapons design that the Navy doesn’t want anyway. Our senators are particularly key, as Tom Udall sits on the very budget committee that former Sen. Pete Domenici used to funnel money to the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, and Martin Heinrich sits on the Armed Services Committee.
In addition, Nuclear Watch calls on Santa Fe Catholic Archbishop John Wester, whose diocese includes the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, to become more vocal in following the lead of the Vatican against nuclear weapons. The Holy See was instrumental to the passage of the nuclear weapons ban treaty, and is hosting a global nuclear disarmament conference November 10-11 in Rome as a direct follow-on. It is our hope that Archbishop Wester goes to that conference.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The fact that we live in a world with unpredictable national leaders that could start a nuclear war at any time should not be used as an excuse against the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Instead, that is exactly why we must have a nuclear weapons ban treaty, just like we already have for chemical and biological weapons. Nuclear weapons abolition will be long and hard in coming, but just like the abolition of slavery, it will come. New Mexicans have a special responsibility to help win this historic struggle. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done, in large part by pressuring our politicians and religious leaders for a future world free of nuclear weapons.”
# # #
* Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original), http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf
For past Soviet Union fears of a nuclear first strike by the US, see for example https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/a-cold-war-conundrum/source.htm
For the increased lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, giving it unparalleled first strike capabilities, see http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578
For information on the November 10-11, 2017 Vatican disarmament conference see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-conference-aims-to-build-momentum-for-nuclear-disarmament-69412
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea. Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth.”
The award was the lead story this morning on Germany’s Deutsche Welle with a video interview with Yanthe Hall of ICAN Germany.
Democracy Now, Oct. 6: Amy Goodman interviews Tim Wright, Asia-Pacific director of ICAN on the Nobel award and the ban treaty. (watch segment).
Santa Fe, NM.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly applauds the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (disclosure: NukeWatch is one of ICAN’s ~400 member groups around the world). This award is especially apt because the peoples of the world are now living at the highest risk for nuclear war since the middle 1980’s, when during President Reagan’s military buildup the Soviet Union became convinced that the United States might launch a pre-emptive nuclear first strike. Today, we not only have Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea and Kim Jong-un’s counter threats, but also renewed Russian fears of a US preemptive nuclear attack… Generally unknown to the American taxpayer, our government has quietly tripled the lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile…”
Military scientists exposed American civilians to radiation without their knowledge or consent. “Behind the Fog” documents a dark chapter of “large-scale organizational deviance”…
From the publisher:
“Martino-Taylor documents the coordinated efforts of a small group of military scientists who advanced a four-pronged secret program of human-subject radiation studies that targeted unsuspecting Americans for Cold War military purposes… Agency and academic partnerships advanced, supported, and concealed the studies from the public at large who ultimately served as unwitting test subjects.
‘They targeted the most vulnerable in society… They targeted children. They targeted pregnant women in Nashville. People who were ill in hospitals. They targeted wards of the state. And they targeted minority populations.’
Martino-Taylor’s comprehensive research illuminates a dark chapter of government secrecy, the military-industrial-academic complex, and large-scale organizational deviance in American history. In its critical approach, Behind the Fog effectively examines the mechanisms that allow large-scale elite deviance to take place in modern society.”
A startling headline, but alas, true. Precautionary measures no doubt, in case the angry war of words goes to military violence and a possible nuclear exchange. It’s unlikely Kim would fire a first strike at the US mainland; but in response to a US strike on North Korea, well maybe. Apparently, some people are seeing America’s ‘military option’ becoming more likely.
“The state will begin testing a siren warning system, a wailing sound, in November. It would give people about 12 to 15 minutes to get to safety, after which they would be required to stay indoors for 48 to 72 hours.”
“The threat of a nuclear attack on California is real enough that a regional task force circulated a document to help the state prepare for a ‘catastrophic’ strike.”
See also October 10, 2017:
-University of Hawaii sent an email to students Monday with tips on how to prepare for a nuclear attack
“Raven Rock is this massive, hollowed-out mountain. It’s a free-standing city… with individual buildings, three-story buildings, built inside of this mountain. It has everything that a small city would- there’s a fire department there, there’s a police department, medical facilities, dining halls. The dining facility serves four meals a day, it’s a 24 hour facility, and it was sort of mothballed to a certain extent during the 1990s as the Cold War ended and then was restarted in a hurry after Sept. 11 and has been pretty dramatically expanded over the last 15 years, and today could hold as many as 5,000 people in the event of an emergency.”
The National Nuclear Security Administration’s own documents have explicitly stated that expanded pit production would have no significant positive effect on job creation and the regional economy of northern New Mexico. Nuclear Watch argues that expanded plutonium pit production could actually have negative effect if it blocks other economic alternatives such as comprehensive cleanup, which could be the real job producer.Continue reading
When asked by Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Rebeccah L. Heinrichs whether the LRSO is a weapon the US military truly needs for nuclear deterrence, Hyten said there was a “million reasons” for the program, most of which are classified.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2016
Contact: Denise Duffield, 213-689-9170 <tel:213-689-9170> office
Cindi Gortner 818-489-1226
Bonnie Klea 818-854-4825
Marie Mason 805-279-0356
U.S. Department of Energy Secretly Funding Front Group to Help it Evade Nuclear Cleanup at Santa Susana Field Laboratory
Controversial grant made at the same time department reneged on financial commitment to national independently administered community fund
Community members living near the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory were outraged to learn that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has secretly been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that the agency’s request for secrecy may have been made to avoid attention from Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime supporter of full cleanup.
SSFL is heavily contaminated with nuclear and chemical contamination resulting from decades of nuclear activities and rocket engine testing, In 2010, agreements (Administrative Orders on Consent or AOCs) were signed between the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and DOE and NASA to cleanup all detectable contamination at their respective portions of the property. The AOC was first proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM) Dr. Inez Triay. Boeing, which owns most of the site, refused to sign the agreement and is pushing for a much weaker cleanup.
In 2011, under the Brown Administration, the DTSC’s commitment to full cleanup began to erode, and along with it, those of NASA and DOE. Over objections from community members and elected officials , the DTSC replaced the longstanding public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, with the SSFL Community Advisory Group (SSFL CAG). The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL, and the group actively lobbies against the AOCs. One CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here .) and states that the AOC will harm the environment and Native American artifacts, which are in fact protected by the AOC. The CAG also denies SSFL’s health impacts. One CAG member, a former SSFL official and current DOE contractor, maligned previous health studies so badly that their authors felt compelled to write an op-ed in the Ventura County Star in defense.
The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded, and neither the CAG nor DTSC have disclosed that information. In December 2015 and in May 2016 , cleanup advocates complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct. No action was taken on the matter.
The complaints were instigated by the CAG’s announcement, at it’s August 19, 2015 meeting, that it would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. A video from the meeting shows CAG member Alec Uzemeck claiming the donation had “no strings,” and that it was anonymous “Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that. We wanna have the money in hand when we announce who the donors are.” (See video here .) The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here ) make it clear that the anonymity was at the donor’s request, and so secret that the CAG leadership would not reveal the donor to the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign.
At it’s August 17, 2016 meeting, a full year after having announced its anonymous gift, the CAG revealed that the donor was the Department of Energy. Uzemeck said, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here. The CAG’s tax returns show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.
The DOE refuses to answer questions about the arrangement, what the grant funds are expended on, explain why the funding was kept secret for a full year, or provide a copy of the grant application and contract. “For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibiiity-Los Angeles in an August 30 email to Dr. Monica Regalbuto, Assistant Secretary for the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.
Community members are also deeply troubled that DOE funded the CAG during the same month that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. Reneging on its contract and failing to disperse a final $300,000 payment to NMCF caused over a dozen community groups to lose key funding.
“DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.” said Duffield in the email to Regalbuto.
Community members are dismayed and angered by the revelations. Simi Valley resident Marie Mason, who has led community cleanup efforts for 28 years, said, “I find it more than shocking that the DOE would fund this group and ask to conceal they are the funding source and especially to not have Senator Boxer find out. I am more than disgusted and filled with sadness. DOE and DTSC are part of the problem with too many close ties to the polluters and total disregard for the communities they are supposed to protect.”
Bonnie Klea, a former worker at SSFL and cancer survivor, said, “I am appalled that DOE funded the CAG so that members can go out and lobby against the AOC and deny the cancer risks from the past, present and future exposure from the site. This is disgusting. ” Klea and others note that the CAG does not represent the views of the community, which overwhelming supports the AOCs. All but 14 of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement, and over 1,600 signed a petition last year urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here .)
Duffield’s email to DOE, sent also to local and state officials, implored the agency for answers and noted that no local elected officials had been consulted with or informed of the funding. “The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements.”
# # #
The Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, or RCC, is a community-based alliance dedicated to the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), commonly known as Rocketdyne.
From: Denise Duffield <dduffield(at)psr-la.org>
Date: Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 12:57 PM
Subject: Time-Sensitive Request re: DOE CAG funding and the SSFL AOC cleanup agreement
Dear Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management Regalbuto:
I was shocked to learn recently that DOE has been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that DOE had apparently requested that the funding be kept secret so that Senator Barbara Boxer wouldn’t learn of it. I write today to both apprise you of this troubling situation and to request further information and documents related to DOE’s decision to fund the SSFL CAG.
The SSFL CAG is a small but highly controversial group that is lobbying against the cleanup agreement (Administrative Order on Consent, or AOC) for SSFL signed by both DOE and the state regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). For example, one CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here.) “The AOC Cleanup: More Harm Than Good?” reads another (here.) The CAG routinely propagates false information about SSFL’s contamination, health impacts, and cleanup. A CAG – Community Advisory Group – should represent the community. However, the SSFL CAG does not even remotely represent the community, which understands that SSFL is contaminated with dangerous radionuclides and chemicals and needs to be fully remediated per the current DOE cleanup agreement. The CAG is a classic “astroturf” (i.e., fake grassroots) group dominated by people with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL.
The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded and how it spends those funds. The CAG has refused to disclose that information, which is troubling for an entity that claims to be public. The community has suspected that the money comes from one or more of the entities that polluted the site and that is trying to get out of its cleanup obligations, and that that is why the CAG wouldn’t disclose the funding source or sources. Now it appears that that is indeed the case. For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.
The DOE SSFL cleanup agreement (AOC) was proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM), Dr. Inez Triay. It was signed by DOE and DTSC in December 2010. The AOC stipulates that Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone at SSFL are to be cleaned up to background. In February 2014, at a meeting of the SSFL Work Group, DOE SSFL Project Director John Jones told the audience of community members, elected officials, and media that the DOE was committed to upholding the AOC agreement (see video here.)
Since then, the community has seen an erosion of DOE’s stated commitment, including a Public Scoping plan which included numerous options that would violate the AOC (such as keeping waste on site), accompanied by a report grossly exaggerating soil removal estimates (see statement by the Southern California Federation of Scientists here.) In addition, the AOC explicitly defines soils as including structures (see page five of AOC here), which are to be cleaned up to background and all wastes to go to licensed low level radioactive waste disposal sites, yet DOE is now taking the position that it can demolish nuclear structures at SSFL at will, using far less protective standards, and dispose of their radioactive wastes anywhere. The DOE has also apparently told the CAG that it is contemplating trying to modify the AOC to be required to perform much less cleanup than it had promised in order to save money (see CAG July 20, 2016 minutes here.)
And now, we have learned that the DOE has been funding the CAG. The DOE is abundantly aware that the CAG openly, actively, and vigorously works to break the AOC cleanup agreement that DOE signed. DOE’s funding of the SSFL CAG is therefore an alarming and direct assault on the AOC itself. It also makes clear that the CAG is an agent of one of the parties responsible for the pollution at the site and which is trying desperately to get out of its obligation to clean up all the radioactive and toxic mess that it made. The CAG regularly lobbies elected officials to try to persuade them to push to weaken the cleanup —an activity outside the scope of a regular community advisory group. It is very troubling for DOE, responsible for the contamination and sworn to uphold a cleanup agreement to clean it all up, to be secretly funding a group that lobbies elected officials to support DOE breaking its agreement.
We are also deeply disturbed by the secrecy surrounding DOE’s grant to the SSFL CAG. The CAG first announced that it was to receive $32,000 in funding at an August 2015 meeting, in which it stated that the donor wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime SSFL cleanup supporter, learning of the funding and taking action thereon. (See video of CAG meeting here.) Only now, a year later, near the end of Senator Boxer’s esteemed Senate career, has the CAG apparently been given permission to reveal that the identity of its funder is the DOE. It is outrageous and unconscionable for a government agency to make a financial contribution to any organization and request that the funding be kept secret, for any reason, let alone for the purpose of evading the attention of a United States Senator who would likely object to what it was doing. The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here) make it clear that the anonymity, which lasted a full year, was at the donor’s request.
Further, the DOE funded the CAG during the same year that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. The DOE’s agreement with NMCF states, “By utilizing a cooperative agreement with an independent entity to distribute grant funds to qualified organizations representing the interests of the public, DOE-EM will ensure that the program is not viewed as a surrogate for DOE’s own preferences, and that long-term DOE-EM decisions are based on input from individuals and/or groups who are most likely to be affected by those decisions.”
In other words, DOE was supposed to stay out of the grant selection process to assure that groups funded were independent of DOE. However, the DOE weighed in heavily against a re-application submitted by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) for the SSFL Work Group, the longstanding advisory group established a quarter of a century ago by the electeds and which represents the main mechanism for the community to learn about and provide feedback on the cleanup and hold the agencies accountable. In August 2013 we applied for and received a $23,000 CIF grant. We re-applied in August 2014, but learned that DOE was pressuring CIF to deny the grant, which violated its commitment to keep hands-off the selection process. To its credit, in November 2014, the NMCF awarded the second grant of $20,000 (and did not fund the SSFL CAG, which had also applied for the funding.)
Very shortly thereafter, the DOE reneged on the final $300,000 it had pledged to NMCF, impacting not just PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group but over a dozen communities nationwide. NMCF sent a message to its grantees on March 16, 2015 stating, “Earlier this year, representatives of the Department of Energy (DOE) advised New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) that the foundation would receive only partial funding for the CIF grant program in 2015. Last month, we were informed that NMCF would only be funded a small portion of the overall budget request solely for administrative oversight of the current 2014-15 grant cycle, and no funding would be allocated to go towards new grant-making. Adding to our confusion and concern, the decision-making process associated with the 2015 CIF appropriation has not been clearly communicated, nor have we been given a clear indication of the reasons for the reduction in funding.”
We cannot say with certainty that DOE revoked funding to the NMCF due to its decision to fund the SSFL Work Group despite the inappropriate pressure by DOE. But, we must point this out as a strong possibility in light of the timing and DOE actions described herein. The CIF grant enabled the return of the trusted public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, which attracted capacity crowds who were able to learn about the contamination that would be left on site if the cleanup agreements were not upheld. DOE had participated in the SSFL Work Group since its inception, but has now stopped attending virtually any public meeting where it could be held to account for its actions. Regardless of DOE’s motivation to abrogate its agreement with NMCF, it is very troubling that the DOE made this decision while simultaneously funding an organization that opposes a cleanup agreement that the DOE has been strongly signaling it wants to break. DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.
It is difficult to overstate just what is at stake for communities near SSFL right now. Decades of nuclear and aerospace activities at SSFL have left a legacy of dangerous nuclear and chemical contamination that continues to migrate from the site to offsite populations. Federal studies have shown an increase in cancers associated with proximity to the site. In 2010, after decades of attempts to achieve full cleanup, the historic AOCs were signed. As a result, $41.5 million dollars were spent for a US EPA survey that identified background radiation and found nearly 500 samples, in just one area of SSFL, that were above background, in some cases dramatically so. The community eagerly anticipated full cleanup, which the AOC stipulated would be complete by 2017.
We are now just months away from 2017, but cleanup has yet to begin. Indeed, DOE’s draft EIS – which a court ordered a decade ago and was due to be published years ago – is not yet released. Community members have feared that DOE’s EIS would be a full-bodied attack on the very cleanup agreement DOE had sworn to carry out, and wondered if the EIS was being delayed so as to not come out until after Senator Boxer leaves office and can no longer take action to insist DOE live up to the promises made. This suspicion has only increased given the timing of the announcement that DOE is the CAG’s secret benefactor, and that the reason for the secrecy was to avoid attention from Boxer. The community is appalled and angry, and deserves to know the full details of DOE’s arrangement with the SSFL CAG.
Below please find background information and documentation on these matters, followed by a series of pressing questions. I request that DOE provide answers to the questions, as well as a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application/proposal to the DOE and its DOE grant/contract, as well as any grant report, immediately. If there has been more than one grant to the CAG, provide information about each. The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements. DOE funding a front group to lobby elected officials to push them to support DOE breaking its cleanup agreements would be an outrage.
Background and Documentation
The SSFL CAG was formed in 2012 over the objections of longtime community members and local elected officials. (See community petition here and letter from elected officials Julia Brownley, Fran Pavley, Shelia Kuehl, Linda Parks, and Greig Smith opposing formation of the CAG and supporting instead the longstanding SSFL Work Group here.) The CAG is widely perceived as a front group for the polluters that does not represent the interests of the community, because it is opposes the cleanup agreements that are overwhelming supported by the community. All but a handful of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement. Last year over 1,600 signed a petition urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here.) Yet every member of the CAG opposes the AOCs, despite the requirements that a CAG represent the range of community perspectives.
The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals who are former employees or contractors of the parties responsible for cleaning up the site (Boeing, DOE, and NASA.). Alec Uzemeck worked for Boeing’s predecessor, North American Aviation, at its then-headquarters in Downey for which the Santa Susana site was the field lab. Brian Sujata was Boeing’s project manager for SSFL cleanup, while Boeing was DOE’s contractor for the cleanup. Ross Berman worked for both Tetra Tech and CH2M Hill, contractors for the responsible parties. And Abe Weizberg was an official at SSFL, in charge of safety for the SNAP reactors, one of which experienced 80% fuel damage in an accident. Weitzberg remains a consultant for the DOE.
Since its founding, the SSFL CAG has undertaken a multi-faceted campaign aimed at undoing the SSFL cleanup agreements. This includes exaggerating cleanup soil volumes and truck traffic and claiming that the cleanup will harm the site’s natural environment and Native American artifacts (which are in fact protected by the AOC.) The CAG also attempts to minimize the contamination at SSFL and health impacts. Last year, CAG member and former SSFL official Weitzberg launched an effort to have the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) refute prior health studies and weigh in against the cleanup. In the process, he maligned the authors of those studies, who expressed their objections in an article published in the Ventura County Star here. The CAG has also made a habit of regularly and publicly disparaging longtime community members and cleanup advocates. Whereas meetings of the longstanding SSFL Work Group are packed with concerned members of the public and representatives of elected officials, very few attend CAG meetings. The last meeting had only half a dozen CAG members and a roughly equal number of the public, most of whom were critics of the CAG’s biases and actions.
On August 19, 2015, CAG member Alec Uzemeck announced at an SSFL CAG meeting that the CAG would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. The minutes from the meeting (which can be viewed here) state that the CAG established a non-profit foundation, “…in response to the gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.” The CAG leadership was so secretive about the donor’s identify that it refused to inform the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign, as reflected in the minutes, ” As a result of the fact that the donor is anonymous, Elizabeth Harris has resigned from the CAG…” At the meeting, Uzemeck repeatedly said that the donation had “no strings,” and of the gift said, “Why is it anonymous at this point? Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that.” (See video here.)
In December 2015 and in May 2016, cleanup advocates and community members complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct (see paragraphs 4 -6 on page 2 of the IRP’s May 12, 2016 minutes here.)
Finally, at an SSFL CAG meeting on August 17, 2016, nearly a year after announcing the funding and the donor’s request that its identity be kept secret so as to keep Senator Boxer in the dark, Uzemeck announced, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” A recording of Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here.
The SSFL CAG’s tax returns, which can be viewed here, show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.
Questions for the Department of Energy
1. Did DOE, as reflected in the CAG’s minutes, suggest to the SSFL CAG to form a non-profit foundation so that it could provide funding to the CAG?
2. When did DOE begin discussing funding the CAG? When did it actually make the contribution, and what was the amount of the gift? Has there been more than one?
3. What is the stated purpose of the grant? What will/have grant funds be expended on?
4. Under what category of funding was this grant made? Was it made from the DOE Office of Environmental Management, the same office that reneged on its commitment to NMCF?
5. CAG member Alec Uzemeck repeatedly stated that the grant had “no strings.” Does the DOE grant have any restrictions? Is lobbying prohibited? Is the CAG required to submit a report on its activities? Will it be invited to reapply for funding again this year?
6. Why did DOE request that its gift to the CAG be anonymous? Did the DOE tell the CAG, as expressed by Alec Uzemeck, verbally or in writing, that it wanted its gift secret, at least for a time, because it wanted to avoid repercussions from Senator Barbara Boxer?
7. How does the DOE reconcile public statements that it will uphold the AOC at the same time that it is funding a group that overtly works to destroy the AOC?
8. Did DOE’s animosity toward the Santa Susana cleanup agreement, and its displeasure at CIF funding PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group, cause it to cancel the last year of its funding to NMCF, and thus cost over a dozen community groups throughout the United States to lose funding?
9. Did DOE consult with elected officials historically concerned about SSFL cleanup as to whether the grant should be given to the CAG and whether it was a legitimate group representing the community? Why did DOE ignore the opposition to the CAG expressed, in writing, by the electeds?
10. Why did DOE not publicly solicit grant applications instead of secretly arranging to give the money to the CAG? Why did DOE not solicit a grant application from the longstanding SSFL Work Group established by the electeds, which supports the cleanup agreements DOE is supposedly sworn to uphold? Given that very few people attend CAG meetings, and the Work Group meetings are often standing-room only, why did DOE secretly fund the CAG, without a competitive grant application process, and not solicit an application from SSFL the Work Group?
Again, in addition, I request that DOE provide a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application or proposal to DOE, as well as the DOE-SSFL CAG grant contract or agreement, immediately.
Coordinator, SSFL Work Group
Associate Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles
cc: Senator Barbara Boxer
Congresswoman Julia Brownley
California Senator Fran Pavley
LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks
LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander
DTSC Director Barbara Lee
DTSC IRP Chair Gideon Kracov
The Department of Energy Inspector General has issued its audit report National Nuclear Security Administration’s Management of the B61-12 Life Extension Program. The B61-12 will literally cost twice its weight in gold. It is slated for production beginning 2020 and will blur the line between battlefield and strategic nuclear weapons by combining one strategic and three tactical variants. It will also be the world’s first “smart” nuclear bomb with a steerable tailfin kit giving it vastly improved accuracy. Nevertheless the U.S. government denies that the B61-12 will have any new military capabilities.
In its audit report, the DOE IG notes:
We believe without further improvement to its project management tools, it will be difficult for the program to proactively manage the costs, schedule, and risks of the B61-12 LEP to ensure it can deliver the First Production Unit within cost and meet its critical national security schedule. In addition, there is uncertainty whether the original cost estimate for the B61-12 LEP contains sufficient management reserve to allow the program to respond to the numerous risks identified in the program. Finally, not having documented assurance that unresolved significant finding investigations are a part of weapons design input significantly reduces management’s ability to ensure that redesigned nuclear weapon components have addressed prior safety and reliability concerns.
Regarding the last sentence “… reduces management’s ability to ensure that redesigned nuclear weapon components have addressed prior safety and reliability concerns”:
There was a problem with the new-design arming, firing and fuzing set for the W76-1, which is being produced now in its current Life Extension Program. It wasn’t a showstopper, but nevertheless a problem where new individual AF&F components had to be screened to determine whether their performance was affected.
The graph below from the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study shows how the supermajority of nuclear weapons defects are discovered within the first few years of production. The point I’m reaching for is that as Life Extension Programs become more aggressive and more new-design components are used, design and production defects will be inevitable. It would be far better to maintain the stockpile through a conservative curatorship approach.
Circa 1995 I met with DOE Asst. Sec. for Defense Programs Victor Reis, the so-called father of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Reis explicitly told me that the exorbitant Stockpile Stewardship Program was all about “the other side of the bathtub curve,” meaning it’s all about accelerated defects showing up at some time due to aging. Guess what? It hasn’t happened, not with ongoing surveillance and maintenance and exchange of limited life components that have been almost routine for decades. As the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study concluded,
“It is clear that, although nuclear weapons ages, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desire. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapon retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision.”
Since then, the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study’s conclusion has been buttressed by the JASON’s 2006 Pit Life Study and 2009 Life Extension Programs Study. In short, Life Extension Programs are not necessary for maintaining the nuclear stockpile, and may in fact undermine reliability by intentionally introducing major changes to an extensively tested stockpile. Life Extension Programs are, however, essential for creating new military capabilities for existing nuclear weapons, which is pretty clearly demonstrated by the B61-12 about to go into production, and arguably the W76-1 as well.
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has just published a new book, a memoir titled “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink”. At the same time, NTI has launched the online William J. Perry Project, to “educate and engage the public on the dangers of nuclear weapons in the 21st century”.
“I hope to encourage young people to take the baton I am trying to pass to them. My generation created this existential problem- their generation must find a way to solve it.”
– William Perry.
August 10, 2016
Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, on the 71st anniversary of the destruction of Nagasaki by a plutonium bomb, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) submitted a report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) plans to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. NNSA has scheduled a formal “Critical Decision 2” at the end of this coming September to proceed with preliminary design of the upgraded and new facilities necessary to expand plutonium pit production.
The NNSA is a semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, which has the singular distinction of being the only federal department on the GAO’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayer’s dollars for 25 consecutive years. LANL is NNSA’s so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence” and the nation’s only site for pit production, but major operations at PF-4, its main plutonium facility, have been stopped since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns. In addition, there is no place for LANL to send its radioactive transuranic wastes from plutonium pit production since one of its waste drums ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 and indefinitely closed that multi-billion facility.
Despite all this, funding for NNSA’s nuclear weapons research and production programs is being increased to nearly double the Cold War’s historic average, while nonproliferation, warhead dismantlement and cleanup programs are being cut or held flat. This is in part due to plans to spend at least a trillion dollars over the next 30 years on completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear weapons and producing new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver them. The “modernized” U.S. nuclear force is expected to be operational until at least until 2080, more than a century after the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty’s mandate for global nuclear disarmament.
The GAO’s report found that NNSA’s plans for upgraded and new facilities to expand plutonium pit production to 50-80 pits per year “did not include key performance parameters” and lacked analysis of a full range of alternatives. LANL’s currently approved production level is up to 20 pits per year, sanctioned in a 1996 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that was required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Subsequent NEPA efforts by NNSA to formally approve expanded plutonium pit production at LANL failed, and new efforts to expand plutonium pit production without adequate NEPA coverage could be vulnerable to legal challenge. Additionally, there is no public explanation or justification for the need to expand to 50-80 pits per year other than the nuclear weaponeers saying so. In contrast, independent expert studies have shown that pits have reliable lifetimes of at least a century (the average age of pits in the stockpile is now around 31 years), and up to 20,000 plutonium pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.
In 2012, in the face of exploding costs and rising citizen opposition, NNSA cancelled an earlier proposal to build a Walmart-sized “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project-Nuclear Facility” for expanded plutonium pit production. Now, as an alternative, NNSA and LANL seek to raise the administrative limit on plutonium in the CMRR Project’s first phase, the newly constructed Radiological Lab, from an original 8.4 grams to 400 grams; upgrade PF-4, the Lab’s main plutonium facility; and proceed with a “Plutonium Modular Approach project.”
Raising the amount of plutonium in the Rad Lab to 400 grams allows for dramatically increased “materials characterization” and “analytical chemistry” in direct support of expanded plutonium pit production. But it also raises the Rad Lab from a “radiological facility” to a “Hazard Category 3” nuclear facility, which has never been done before. Planned gloveboxes and the existing ventilation system may have to change and the facility’s seismic safety rating re-examined. The Rad Lab was originally constructed and equipped for a total cost of $400 million, but now up to another $675 million in equipment is being added. On top of that, re-categorizing the Rad Lab to a Hazard Category 3 facility could cost another $365 million. In all, the Rad Lab can cost up to $1.5 billion, while upgrades to PF-4 will cost another billion.
The Plutonium Modular Approach involves building at least two and perhaps three underground “modules” at one billion dollars each or more. The GAO report notes how since NNSA narrowly defined the program requirement as building the modules themselves instead of examining the need for the modules, “there is effectively no project alternative other than the modular approach,” despite DOE’s own orders to complete an analysis of a full range of alternatives.
In all, according to the GAO report, the full CMRR alternative of upgrading the Rad Lab and PF-4 and building at least two modules would cost at least 4 billion dollars, compared to the CMRR”s previous price tag of $5.8 billion (which was up from $975 million in 2005), and this is before the usual cost overruns. The GAO report also notes how the CMRR alternative appears cheaper because non-nuclear weapons operations, such as preparing plutonium for NASA’s spacecraft battery packs, have been eliminated. NNSA’s pattern when faced with its own cost overruns is to cut out all but nuclear weapons production, as it did with the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN. When a Defense Department estimate put UPF construction at $19 billion (up from $6.5 billion), NNSA eliminated dismantlements and downblending of highly enriched uranium so that it could keep production of thermonuclear components that can kill millions.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL is not needed to maintain stockpile safety and reliability, but instead is a must for nuclear weaponeers who want to give existing weapons new military capabilities through so-called Life Extension Programs. This GAO report is more evidence of how taxpayers’ money could be far better spent than on poorly planned, unnecessary and very expensive expanded plutonium pit production.”
# # #
The GAO report NNSA Needs to Clarify Requirements for Its Plutonium Analysis Project at Los Alamos is available at
DOE’s 25 year status on GAO’s High Risk list is documented at
For an extensive history of successful citizen activism against plutonium pit production see
Santa Fe, NM
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is a semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, which has the singular distinction of being the only federal department on the GAO’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayer dollars for 25 consecutive years. LANL is NNSA’s so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence” and the nation’s only site for pit production, but major operations at PF-4, its main plutonium facility, have been stopped since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns. In addition, there is no place for LANL to send its radioactive transuranic wastes from plutonium pit production since one of its waste drums ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 and indefinitely closed that multi-billion facility.
Despite all this, funding for NNSA’s nuclear weapons research and production programs is being increased to nearly double the Cold War’s historic average, while nonproliferation, warhead dismantlement and cleanup programs are being cut or held flat…
For immediate release July 28, 2016
LANL Estimate of $2.9 Billion for “Remaining” Cleanup
Leaves Nuclear & Toxic Wastes Behind and Kills Needed Jobs
Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will cost $2.9 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year.
That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump. Those wastes sit in unlined pits and trenches, 800 feet above groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande (plutonium contaminants have been detected 200 feet below Area G). During this same period of time the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with will cost ten times as much, even before expected funding increases for expanded production of plutonium bomb core “pits” and increasingly aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities.
DOE’s announcement also pegs the cost of past cleanup at LANL at $3.2 billion to date, raising the question of what has been and will be accomplished with precious taxpayer dollars. The answer is not much for the money. According to DOE’s own data, for the next couple of years only around a sixth of LANL’s “cleanup” funding will actually go to cleanup. Approximately one-third will be used to catch up on worker pensions and another third to babysit improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. More than half of the remaining one-third for real cleanup goes to LANL’s notoriously high overhead.
DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” Despite repeated requests, DOE refused to estimate cleanup costs at LANL until a new Consent Order was finalized with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). Both agencies recently signed it, creating a giant loophole in which the Lab can claim that cleanup is too expensive or impractical to achieve. This is the exact opposite of the original 2005 Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL ask Congress for additional cleanup funding. Subsequently, funding for LANL cleanup has fallen from $224 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017.
Under the Gov. Martinez Administration, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at the Lab’s request and then claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed suit against DOE and LANL for missing compliance milestones under the original Consent Order, with potential fines of more than $300 million. NMED explicitly absolves those violations and fines through the new Consent Order and has intervened in the lawsuit against NukeWatch. This raises the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case, a $2.3 billion per year nuclear weapons facility)?
DOE and NMED kill the chance for serious job creation at the Los Alamos Lab with a deceptive plan for so-called cleanup that leaves tons of radioactive and toxic wastes in the ground that will permanently threaten northern New Mexico’s precious water resources. In addition to the environmental and safety threats and contamination, nuclear weapons programs are not big producers of new jobs. For example, the environmental impact statement for a planned $6.5 billion plutonium facility for expanded nuclear weapons production explicitly stated that not one new Lab job would be created because it would merely relocate existing jobs. In contrast, a LANL study of full cleanup of Area G assumed that around 40% of the total cost would go to labor. Thus, as a rough approximation, for every additional billion dollars put into cleanup, another 3,000 years of cleanup work could be created for one hypothetical worker (in other words, hundreds of high paying jobs for the regional economy).
Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department deal New Mexicans a bad hand by pushing a plan that blocks genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab. We need real cleanup that protects our precious water resources for future generations, not more nuclear bombs that cause the mess to begin with.”
# # #
DOE’s presentation on its cost estimate for future LANL cleanup is available at
Santa Fe, NM.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will cost $2.9 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year.
“That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump. Those wastes sit in unlined pits and trenches, 800 feet above groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande (plutonium contaminants have been detected 200 feet below Area G). During this same period of time the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with will cost ten times as much, even before expected funding increases for expanded production of plutonium bomb core “pits” and increasingly aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities…”
Nuclear Watch New Mexico has amended its federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) that alleges twelve violations of a 2005 Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Those violations could result in potential penalties of more than $300 million dollars that would go to the state, if only the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) were to enforce them.
Nuclear Watch now asks the court to declare the new 2016 Consent Order to be invalid because the requirement for the opportunity of a public hearing was not met.
NMED intervened in the case on June 23, 2016. The next day, NMED and DOE signed the 2016 Consent Order after a 60-day comment period, during which over 40 citizens, nonprofit organizations, public officials, and two Pueblos provided comments. Lack of enforceability and lack of concrete long-term schedules were common major foci of the comments. Despite that, “No change” without any further explanation was NMED’s overwhelming response to specific public comments as the two agencies moved from the draft to final Consent Order.
The finalized new Consent Order surrenders enforceability by creating a giant loophole where DOE and LANL can avoid cleanup by claiming that it is either too expensive or impractical. This is clearly the opposite of what is needed, when nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the mess to begin with are receiving increased taxpayer funding, while cleanup programs are being cut.
In addition, NMED’s new Consent Order explicitly absolves DOE and LANS of past violations. In response, Nuclear Watch has added to its lawsuit this request for declaratory judgment by the court that DOE and NMED violated the public’s right for the opportunity of a formal hearing, explicitly required by the 2005 Consent Order.
Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “We will not let the public’s right for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab be papered over by DOE and NMED. Both agencies agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, which included rigorous public participation requirements and a detailed the cleanup schedule, including a final compliance date. We will continue to push for the public to have a true voice in these important matters. ”
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Attorney John E. Stroud are representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce timely cleanup at LANL.
NMED’s Final Consent Order and the “response” to comments matrix are available here
Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s original lawsuit complaint is available here
Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here
Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here
Lawrence Livermore FY 2017 Budget Request
This is the unsung story of successful citizen activism against repeated government attempts to expand the production of plutonium pit cores, which has always been the choke point of resumed U.S. nuclear weapons production. This history is a critical part of the march toward a future world free of nuclear weapons.
Op-ed: B61 bomb is fuel for new arms race
By Jay Coghlan / Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Sunday, October 25th, 2015 at 12:02am
The article “‘New’ U.S. nukes are anything but” should be judged more by
its omissions than its contents.
While arguing that the soon-to-be rebuilt B61 bomb won’t be a “new”
nuclear weapon, the Heritage Foundation omits mentioning that it is
being retrofitted with a tail fin kit that will give it precision
guidance. In effect, once completed, the B61 bomb will be the world’s
first nuclear “smart” bomb, to be delivered by the new super-stealthy
(but problem-plagued) $1 trillion F-35.
If that’s not a new military capability – which the U.S. government
denies – then I don’t know what is.
The Heritage Foundation also bemoans Russia’s 2-to-1 advantage in
tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. It omits mentioning that the new B61
bomb modification will meld three tactical variants and one strategic
version of the same bomb, in effect wiping out the distinction between
tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.
The new B61 will be a precision-guided, selectable yield, multi-purpose
nuclear weapon with relatively less fallout and collateral damage. It
will lower the threshold for potential use of nuclear weapons because it
will be arguably more usable.
I am no Putin apologist – I personally know Russian activists persecuted
by his regime. But don’t be fooled by the Heritage Foundation’s
one-sided narrative that helps propel the new Cold War.
The Russians are paranoid, perhaps deservedly so, starting with Genghis
Khan and on through Napoleon and Hitler. Relentless expansion of NATO
fuels that paranoia.
While offering a laundry list of alleged treaty violations by Russia,
the Heritage Foundation fails to mention how George W. Bush unilaterally
tore up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty for “Star Wars” defenses that
still don’t work after hundreds of billions of dollars, and if they did
would create enhanced nuclear war-fighting capabilities.
The Heritage Foundation warns of Moscow’s “time-honored technique of
denial and deception,” but we as Americans must guard against our own
government’s use of the same that got us into disastrous wars like
Vietnam and Iraq.
Cool heads are needed to avoid a new nuclear arms race, not the
cherry-picked narrative of the Heritage Foundation.
That narrative will profit the war contractors who in turn support the
Heritage Foundation. Among them is Lockheed Martin, who illegally
lobbied to extend its for-profit Sandia Laboratories management contract
and is profiting on both ends with the B61 bomb.
Lockheed runs the program through Sandia to transform the B61 into the
world’s first nuclear smart bomb, and is building the way-over-budget
F-35 to deliver them.
As Pope Francis recently warned us, “Many powerful people don’t want
peace, because they feed off war. It is the industry of death!”
Concerning the B61 smart nuclear bomb, Lockheed Martin and the Sandia
Labs are in the business of megadeath, which the Heritage Foundation
seeks to aid and abet.
“Yesterday, the department’s inspector general released a revised special inquiry report with fewer redactions in response to an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act. The new document is still heavy with white out but does show more of who was helping Sandia as well as who they were trying to influence on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration…”
The open letter that kick-started the debate:
Former Secretary of Defense Perry and Former Ass’t Secretary of Defense Weber to Obama:
“Because they can be launched without warning and come in both nuclear and conventional variants, cruise missiles are a uniquely destabilizing type of weapon.
Two years ago, when Britain decided not to pursue a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile, Philip Hammond, then-British defense secretary and now-foreign secretary, explained the problem well: ‘A cruise-based deterrent would carry significant risk of miscalculation and unintended escalation. At the point of firing, other states could have no way of knowing whether we had launched a conventional cruise missile or one with a nuclear warhead. Such uncertainty could risk triggering a nuclear war at a time of tension.
One of us (William J. Perry) led the Defense Department’s development and procurement of the current air-launched cruise missile and the B-2 stealth bomber in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At that time, the United States needed the cruise missile to keep the aging B-52, which is quite vulnerable to enemy air defense systems, in the nuclear mission until the more effective B-2 replaced it. The B-52 could safely launch the long-range cruise missile far from Soviet air defenses. We needed large numbers of air-launched nuclear cruise missiles to be able to overwhelm Soviet air defenses and thus help offset NATO’s conventional-force inferiority in Europe, but such a posture no longer reflects the reality of today’s U.S. conventional military dominance.
With the updated B-2 and B61 expected to remain in service for many decades, and the planned deployment of new B-3 penetrating bombers with B61 bombs starting in 2025, there is scant justification for spending tens of billions of dollars on a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile and related warhead life-extension program.
We therefore urge President Obama to cancel the current plan to develop and buy 1,000 to 1,100 new nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles. Such strong U.S. leadership, coupled with a challenge to the other major nuclear powers to eliminate or, in the cases of China and India, forgo deployment of this extremely destabilizing class of weapons, would reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use and be a historic practical step in the direction of a world without nuclear weapons.”
– William J. Perry and Andy Weber from Mr. President, Kill the New Cruise Missile
William J. Perry was U.S. secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. Andy Weber was assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs from 2009 to 2014.
NukeWatch Pushes Environment Department for More Public Input in Los Alamos Cleanup
An in-depth article, Consent order facing changes, by Mark Oswald in the Albuquerque Journal (October 9, 2015) lays out how legacy waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is being negotiated between DOE and the NM Environment Department (NMED) without the fully required public participation. The 2005 Consent Order (CO), which addresses the fence-to-fence cleanup of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of Cold War legacy radioactive and hazardous waste in the ground at the Lab, was due to reach it’s final milestone this December. For many reasons, including the closure of WIPP due to improper radioactive waste drum packing practices at LANL, the December 2015 deadline will not be meet.
Please don’t think that, just because deadlines were not reached that it was a failure. Much progress on cleanup at LANL was made under the 2005 Consent Order. About 2,100 cleanup sites were originally identified, ranging from small spills to large landfills. Cleanup of about half of the sites has been completed. Initial investigation of about 90 percent of the remaining sites has been completed. Many cleanup alternatives were also investigated at the remaining sites and options have been presented. A groundwater monitoring well infrastructure was installed, with more monitoring wells on the way.
In Oswald’s article, NMED’s Kathryn Roberts stated that, “The 2005 deal was focused on investigative work and characterization of LANL’s legacy waste.” We at NukeWatch, feel that the goal of the 2005 Consent Order was always the cleanup of LANL and that the investigations and characterization of the many waste sites were just the first steps. There are milestones in the CO, with dates, for the actual cleanup of all the legacy waste sites at Los Alamos. The lab’s final “milestone” from the 2005 Consent Order was supposed to be a “remedy completion report,” due on Dec. 6, on how Area G, the Lab’s largest waste site, had been cleaned up.
NMED and DOE/LANL are negotiating the new CO now and have publically stated plans to rollout the draft for the new CO this November for a 60-day public comment period. Nuclear Watch NM believes that these negotiations must have public input.
This gets us to one of our main reasons why we feel the need for more public input. We are concerned that the new CO will not have enforceable milestones for all cleanup projects from the beginning. Deciding every 1 to 3 years which sites will be addressed for a cleanup ‘campaign’ and then what that schedule should be will insure that Los Alamos never addresses all the sites. This would revert cleanup back to the way it was done before the 2005 Consent Order with budget driving cleanup. But the purpose of the CO is to have cleanup drive the budget. A schedule for all cleanups must be set from the beginning and the Lab must be held accountable every step along the way by getting the money and doing the work on time.
We will insist on a new final compliance date for the last milestone of the last legacy cleanup project. Cleanup at Los Alamos cannot be open-ended.
NukeWatch’s September 21 letter to NMED that explains our position that a “Class 3 Permit Modification” is required is here.
The 2005 Consent Order, as modified, is here.
Public Meeting to Discuss Chromium From Los Alamos That Has Reached Our Aquifer
DOE/LANL sponsored Public open house and poster session
Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Time: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Cities of Gold Conference Center
10-A Cities of Gold Rd. Pojoaque, NM 87506
Sampling from monitoring wells at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) indicate the presence of chromium contamination in our regional aquifer resulting from historical use of a corrosion inhibitor that was discharged to an outfall as part of operational activities. Concentrations of chromium within the groundwater plume beneath Mortandad Canyon exceed the New Mexico groundwater standard of 50 parts per billion (ppb) near the property boundary between LANL and the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and are as high as 1,000 ppb in the plume center. Recent groundwater monitoring well sampling data show increasing chromium concentrations on the plume edges, which is indicative of plume migration. The LANL management and operating contractor is required to assess, identify, clean up, and otherwise address contamination at LANL.
Chronic human exposure to high levels of chromium (VI) by inhalation or oral exposure may produce effects on the liver, kidney, gastrointestinal and immune systems, and possibly the blood.
DOE’s proposed action is to control plume migration and maintain the 50 ppb and greater chromium contamination level within the LANL boundary while long-term corrective action remedies are evaluated and implemented. In other words, LANL will first focus on trying to keep the chromium from reaching our aquifer under San Ildefonso Pueblo.
Groundwater extraction would occur at up to three extraction wells, in addition to small volumes periodically extracted at monitoring wells. The total groundwater extraction volume would be up to 230 million gallons (707 acre-feet) annually over the approximately 8-year duration of the project. That’s a proposed total of 1.8 billion gallons.
DOE also proposes to conduct field-scale studies to further characterize the plume center to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing a final remedy for the chromium plume.
Public Comment Opportunities
The 30-day public comment period for the Draft EA begins September 23, 2015, and ends on October 23, 2015. Comments on the Draft EA can be submitted via the following methods:
By mail: Department of Energy, Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, 3747 West Jemez Road MS-A316, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544
By fax: (505) 606-2132
By phone: (800) 342-5363
The DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, in conjunction with the Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board, is hosting a public meeting for comment on the Chromium Project. Join us to learn more about the Chromium Project and to comment on the Laboratory’s proposed actions.
All interested parties are encouraged to attend
EA-2005: DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
September 25, 2015
Pope Francis Calls for the Complete Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Santa Fe, NM – In his speech today at the United Nations Pope Francis stated:
The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust.” There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.
Separately, the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement in advance of tomorrow’s (September 26) International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons tomorrow. He said:
The norm against the use of nuclear weapons – the most destructive weapons ever created, with potentially unparalleled human costs – has stood strong for seven decades. But the only absolute guarantee that they are never used again is through their total elimination.
The Pope’s words builds upon a December 2014 paper entitled “Nuclear Weapons: Time for Abolition” that the Vatican presented at an international conference on the “Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons” held by the Austrian government in Vienna. In it, the Catholic Church declared that the provisional justification it once gave for possession of nuclear weapons for the sake of “deterrence” during the Cold War is no longer valid. The Vatican further stated in no uncertain terms, “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.”
Contrary to the Catholic Church’s growing push to ban nuclear weapons, the recent May 2015 NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ended in failure. The immediate reason was that the United States, United Kingdom and Canada blocked the adoption of a “Final Document” seeking to implement a previously agreed-to conference on a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone, at the behest of Israel, a non-signatory to the NPT and a non-declared nuclear weapons power. A broader, deeper reason is that the majority of non-weapons states are growing increasingly frustrated by the nuclear weapons powers’ failure to honor their NPT Article VI obligation “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…”, first promised in 1970. This is now exacerbated by accelerating nuclear weapons “modernization” programs, led by the United States which plans to spend a trillion dollars over thirty years completely rebuilding its nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure.
New Mexico plays a key role in these modernization programs, with two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, Sandia and Los Alamos. Currently the labs’ main focus is “Life Extension Programs” that prolong the service lives of existing U.S. nuclear weapons for up to 60 years and give them new military capabilities despite U.S. government denials. These programs are clearly contrary to the Vatican’s push for nuclear weapons abolition.
New Mexico also has one of the highest percentages of Catholic citizens, at around 40% of the total population. The full name of its capitol Santa Fe (English: “Holy Faith”) is “The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi,” the saint from whom Pope Francis took his papal name. St. Francis and the Pope are both known for their focus on the poor. Ironically, Los Alamos County, next to Santa Fe, is the second richest county in the USA because of nuclear weapons programs, while some of the poorest communities in the country (the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblos) are contiguous to it.
One of New Mexico’s two Catholic Archbishops, Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, is chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, and is playing a leading role in the Catholic Church’s accelerating push for nuclear weapons abolition. He delivered a homily at the Nagasaki Cathedral in Japan on August 9, 2015 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the city’s destruction by a plutonium bomb designed and produced in New Mexico. He described it as a life-changing experience, and declared:
The bishops of the United States join in solidarity with the Church in Japan in advocating for global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in the face of the tragedies that occurred here when atomic bombs struck… the U.S. bishops committed themselves to shaping “the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945. Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons….”
New Mexico’s other archbishop, Santa Fe’s newly installed John Wester, has not yet stated his position on nuclear weapons. His diocese includes the Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs.
Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Northern New Mexico has been a Catholic stronghold for centuries, and the birthplace of nuclear weapons seventy years ago. Catholics and non-Catholics alike must examine their consciences and the Pope’s calling for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, and how that squares with the nuclear weapons industry that is so deeply embedded in our culture and economy. The choice is not easy, but clearly we must follow faith and good will toward elimination of these worst of weapons of mass destruction. I hope that Santa Fe’s new Archbishop John Wester will help guide us in following Pope Francis’ call for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.”
# # #
Pope Francis’ quote is from http://time.com/4049905/pope-francis-us-visit-united-nations-speech-transcript/ Note: the original transcript erroneously said “weapons of mass distraction” instead of “weapons of mass destruction.”
The Vatican’s December 2014 paper “Nuclear Weapons: Time for Abolition” is available at http://www.paxchristi.net/sites/default/files/nuclearweaponstimeforabolitionfinal.pdf
See Archbishop Oscar Cantú’s essays on the need to abolish nuclear weapons at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/
In particular, see Homily on Peace and a World without Nuclear Weapons for a Mass at Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan Bishop Oscar Cantú, August 9, 2015
“There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”
– Pope Francis at the UN Sept 25, 2015.
On Thursday morning, 9:30 EST/7:30 MT, Sept. 24 Pope Francis will address both houses of the U.S. Congress, viewable by webcast on C-SPAN. The next morning at 8:30 am EST/6:30 MT he addresses at the United Nations in New York City, viewable on the UN web site http://webtv.un.org/
There is good reason to think that the Pope might address the need for nuclear weapons abolition. In December 2014 the Vatican presented a paper entitled “Nuclear Weapons: Time for Abolition” at the conference on “Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons” held by the Austrian government in Vienna. In it, the Vatican declared that while the possession of nuclear weapons could be justified for the sake of “deterrence” during the Cold War that is no longer true. It further stated, “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.”
I met with the Holy See’s permanent delegation to the United Nations during the first week of the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference this last May 2015. To my surprise I was told that Archbishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, NM, chair of the Vatican’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, is playing a prominent role in the Catholic Church’s accelerating push for nuclear weapons abolition. You can see a number of papers that he has written on nuclear weapons at
For example, in anticipation of the Pope’s speech to Congress, Archbishop Cantú wrote The Pope and the Bomb: New Nuclear Dangers and Moral Dilemmas
September 17, 2015 http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/presentation-the-pope-and-the-bomb-2015-09-17.cfm
In a background paper on nuclear weapons Pope Francis is quoted as saying:
““A world without nuclear weapons” is a goal shared by all nations and echoed by world leaders, as well as the aspiration of millions of men and women. The future and the survival of the human family hinges on moving beyond this ideal and ensuring that it becomes a reality. — Pope Francis, December 7, 2014″
Archbishop Cantú was at a mass at the Nagasaki Cathedral in Japan this August, 9, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing. See his
Homily on Peace and a World without Nuclear Weapons for a Mass at Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan
August 9, 2015
In his homily Archbishop Cantú declares:
“Pope Francis, when asked in November 2014 about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said, “… humanity has not learnt its lesson … Humans did this and discovered nuclear energy which has many positive uses, but they also used it to destroy creation, humanity.”
The bishops of the United States join in solidarity with the Church in Japan in advocating for global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in the face of the tragedies that occurred here when atomic bombs struck. In our 1983 pastoral letter on The Challenge of Peace, the U.S. bishops committed themselves to shaping “the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945. Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons….” – End of quote –
Also, see Letter to Secretary of State Kerry on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Bishop Oscar Cantú, May 12, 2015
In it he writes:
The United States and other nuclear weapons possessing states bear a particular responsibility for nuclear disarmament and despite the success of the New START Treaty in further reducing the numbers of weapons, there has not been enough progress. We urge bold and concrete commitments to accelerate verifiable nuclear disarmament, including taking weapons off “launch on warning” status to prevent a catastrophic accident, deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to bring it into force, serious negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and other prudent measures.
As the Holy See recently said: “Lack of concrete and effective nuclear disarmament will lead sooner or later to real risks of nuclear proliferation.” We share the view that ‘[t]he erosion of the credibility of the NPT could have catastrophic consequences for all countries and for the future of humanity as a whole.” Please be assured of our prayers as you work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú
Bishop of Las Cruces
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace
– End of quote –
Nuclear Watch New Mexico finds it very gratifying to see a New Mexico archbishop helping to lead the Vatican’s charge for nuclear weapons abolition. We will take an intense interest in seeing what position the other New Mexico archbishop, Santa Fe’s newly installed John Wester, might take on nuclear weapons. His diocese includes two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Sandia. The labs’ main business nowadays is Life Extension Programs that prolong the lives of existing U.S. nuclear weapons for up to 60 years while giving them new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government. In keeping with New Mexico demographics, the work force at the labs is around 25% Catholic, some of whom may be receptive to the Pope’s call for nuclear weapons abolition.
Bishop Oscar Cantú, Chairman, Committee on International Justice & Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at “The Pope and the Bomb: New Nuclear Dangers and Moral Dilemmas” event on September 17, 2015, with moderator E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post columnist, former Sen. Sam Nunn, NTI Co-Chairman and CEO, and Prof. Maryann Cusimano Love, Associate Professor of International Relations, The Catholic University of America.
From Tom Clements of SRS Watch, our colleague and fellow member of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability:
DOE Sites Partially or Fully Closed: the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Pantex & now the Savannah River Site (SRS)
The main contractor at SRS, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), has halted non-essential operations. See SRS shutdown email below…sent out late on Friday afternoon.
Today’s shutdown stems from operational and procedural problems while preparing plutonium oxide “feedstock” (for fuel pellets) for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) program back in February.
The plutonium oxide for MOX (or perhaps for another disposition option if MOX goes down) has been prepared in the HB-Line, which sits atop the decrepit H-Canyon reprocessing plant. The National Nuclear Security Administration has been paying the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management division, which manages the H-Canyon, for this job. Problems developed when a plutonium solution tank was not properly monitored by SRNS staff. After being shut for six months, H-Canyon operations resumed a few weeks ago but problems have persisted.
Just like for the MOX program at SRS, there is absolutely no accountability for EM contractors at SRS, and every year they just collect a bonus, few questions asked. How long will DOE Secretary Moniz and Congress allow the lack of accountability for MOX, the Uranium Processing Facility, the Waste Treatment Plant, etc,, to go on?
As per the DOE’s Public Relations “Conduct of Operations” textbook [sarcastic], they sent out the public notice below at 5:25 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Go DOE! [A classic maneuver to avoid media attention.]
[Note: The Pantex Plant, the nation’s site for nuclear weapons assembly and dismantlements (lots of the former, not so much of the latter], is effectively shut down because of a serious labor dispute. The multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has been closed since February 2014 following contamination by a ruptured barrel of radioactive wastes sent by the Los Alamos Lab.]
|Subject:||DOE-SR UPDATE … Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Pauses All Non-essential Operations at SRS|
|Date:||Fri, Sep 11, 2015 5:25 pm|
Based on recent Conduct of Operations issues identified with HB-Line activities, effective today Savannah River Nuclear Solutions has implemented an operational safety pause for all non-essential and discretionary Office of Environmental Management activities site-wide. All work activities are on hold for those facilities under the SRNS management and operations contract.
SRNS is developing a recovery plan for resuming non-essential and discretionary operations and the plan will be submitted to the Department for review and concurrence. The plan will include corrective actions that will be implemented to assure workers adhere to management expectations for safe work performance, to reinforce accountability, and to re-initiate work in a controlled, phased manner.
SRNS will notify the DOE-SR management of any non-essential or discretionary work that SRNS believes needs to be performed before executing the work.
James R. Giusti
DOE-SR Office Of External Affairs
W: (803) 952-7684
M: (803) 645-1350