Forum on June 14 in Aiken, SC on Expanded Production of Plutonium “Pits” for Nuclear Weapons

Forum on June 14 in Aiken, SC on Expanded Production of Plutonium “Pits” – for Nuclear Weapons – to Give Voice to Concerns in Face of DOE’s Failure to Engage and Inform the Public about the Risky Proposal

Columbia, SC– The controversial proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy to expand production of plutonium “pits”- the core of all nuclear weapons – will be the subject of a public forum in Aiken, South Carolina on Friday, June 14, 2019.  The event is free and open to all members of the public.

In response to DOE’s lack of public engagement about the proposal and its potential environmental and health impacts, three public interest groups that work on DOE and nuclear weapons issues have taken the initiative on the matter. The questionable proposal by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration is to expand pit production at the Savannah River Site into the shuttered MOX plant – a totally new and unproven mission for SRS – and at the Los Alamos National Lab to 80 or more pits per year.  Such pit production for new and “refurbished” nuclear weapons may help stimulate a new nuclear arms race. The vague proposal is far from finalized and is unauthorized and unfunded by Congress.

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New Estimate ($377B) Raises Cost of Cold War Cleanup (Again)

EM site map GAO 2019
Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) Sites Where Cleanup Remains

At some point, DOE will have to admit that it has no idea what it will cost to cleanup the Cold War nuclear weapons complex sites. DOE should stop making more wastes until the existing wastes are remediated. The new estimate is more that twice the amount that has been spent in total since cleanup began in 1989, with the most difficult sites still to come.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Clean Up, Don’t Build Up!

The thing is that the new $377 billion estimate includes leaving much of the waste behind.

Program-Wide Strategy and Better Reporting Needed to Address Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability GAO-19-28: Published: Jan 29, 2019. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 2019.

The Department of Energy is tasked with cleaning up waste from Cold War nuclear weapons production, much of which is hazardous or radioactive. The department’s Office of Environmental Management estimates that future work could cost at least $377 billion—$109 billion more than last year’s estimate.

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What’s Not in NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Decision

 Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced:

To achieve DoD’s [the Defense Department] 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.  This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.

First, in Nuclear Watch’s view, this decision is in large part a political decision, designed to keep the congressional delegations of both New Mexico and South Carolina happy. New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are adamantly against relocating plutonium pit production to South Carolina. On the other hand, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was keeping the boondoggle Mixed Oxide (MOX) program on life support, and this pit production decision may help to mollify him. This could also perhaps help assuage the State of South Carolina, which is suing the Department of Energy for failing to remove plutonium from the Savannah River Site as promised.

But as important is what is NOT in NNSA’s plutonium pit production decision:

  There is no explanation why the Department of Defense requires at least 80 pits per year, and no justification to the American taxpayer why the enormous expense of expanded production is necessary.

•  NNSA avoided pointing out that expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, no production of plutonium pits for the existing stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future.

•  NNSA did not mention that in 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old. The independent expert study did not find any end date for reliable pit lifetimes, indicating that plutonium pits could last far beyond just a century.

• NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 “excess” pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in “strategic reserve.” The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits.

•  Related, NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes.

•  NNSA did not make clear that expanded plutonium pit production is for a series of speculative future “Interoperable Warheads.” The first IW is meant to replace nuclear warheads for both the Air Force’s land-based and the Navy’s sub-launched ballistic missiles. The Obama Administration delayed “IW-1” because the Navy does not support it. However, the Trump Administration is restarting it, with annual funding ballooning to $448 million by 2023, and “IW-2” starting in that same year. Altogether the three planned Interoperable Warheads will cost at least $40 billion, despite the fact that the Navy doesn’t support them.[1]

•  NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision did not mention that exact replicas of existing pits will NOT be produced. The agency has selected the W87 pit for the Interoperable Warhead, but its FY 2019 budget request repeatedly states that the pits will actually be “W87-like.” This could have serious potential consequences because any major modifications to plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested, or alternatively could prompt the U.S. to return to nuclear weapons testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.

•  The State of South Carolina is already suing the Department of Energy for its failure to begin removing the many tons of plutonium at the Savannah River Site (SRS). NNSA’s pit production decision will not solve that problem, even as it will likely bring more plutonium to SRS.

•  The independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has expressed strong concerns about the safety of plutonium operations at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) LANL and SRS, particularly regarding potential nuclear criticality incidents.[2] NNSA did not address those safety concerns in its plutonium pit production decision.

•  Politicians in both New Mexico and South Carolina trumpet how many jobs expanded plutonium pit production will create. Yet NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision does not have any solid data on jobs produced. One indicator that job creation will be limited is that the environmental impact statement for a canceled $6 billion plutonium facility at LANL stated that it would not produce a single new Lab job because it would merely relocate existing jobs. Concerning SRS, it is doubtful that pit production could fully replace the jobs lost as the MOX program dies a slow death. In any event, there certainly won’t be any data on the greater job creation that cleanup and renewable energy programs would create. Funding for those programs is being cut or held flat, in part to help pay for nuclear weapons programs.

•  Finally, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that major federal proposals be subject to public review and comment before a formal decision is made. NNSA’s decision does not mention its NEPA obligations at all. In 1996 plutonium pit production was capped at 20 pits per year in a nation-wide Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). NNSA failed to raise that production limit in any subsequent NEPA process, despite repeated attempts. Arguably a decision to produce 80 pits or more per year requires a new or supplemental nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement to raise the production limit, which the new dual-site decision would strongly augment. This then should be followed by whatever site-specific NEPA documents might be necessary.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence. But we realize that this fifth attempt is the most serious. However, we remain confident it too will fall apart, because of its enormous financial and environmental costs and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.”

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[1]     See 2012 Navy memo demonstrating its lack of support for the Interoperable Warhead at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.

[2]     For example, see Safety concerns plague key sites proposed for nuclear bomb production, Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity, May 2, 2108, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/02/safety-concerns-nuclear-bomb-manufacture-sites/572697002/

 

Some notes on the Congressional Budget Office study on nuclear weapons modernization costs

CBO quotes in italics.

First, some policy matters not addressed in the CBO study.

Driving the astronomical expense of modernization that the CBO reports on is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of “deterrence,” thousands of warheads are being refurbished and improved to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government. As a top-level 2013 Defense Department policy document put it, “The new guidance [in Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review] 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.” [1]

A new Nuclear Posture Review under President Trump is currently scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Among other things, it is expected to overturn the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review’s prohibition against new-design nuclear weapons, possibly promoting more usable “mini-nukes”, and to shorten the lead-time necessary to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing. Any changes implemented by Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review may well add to the CBO’s new cost estimate.

Nuclear weapons “modernization” is a Trojan horse for the indefinite preservation and improvement of the US nuclear weapons arsenal, contrary to the 1970 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty and the nuclear weapons ban treaty passed this last June by 122 nations at the United Nations (for which the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). Contrary to those treaties, all eight existing nuclear weapons powers are now modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, while the newest ninth power North Korea is engaged in heated, bellicose rhetoric with President Trump. But clearly the astronomical expense of US nuclear weapons modernization is not needed to deal with North Korea.

Ironically, “modernization” may actually undermine national security because the nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia) are pushing radically new weapons designs that can’t be full-scale tested, or, alternatively, if they were to be tested would have severe international proliferation consequences. See House Armed Services Committee Chairman Max Thornberry’s recent remarks that perhaps the US needs to return to testing at

http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2017/10/09/national-defense-nuclear-security-tennessee-oak-ridge-national-lab/740612001/

The most prudent way to maintain stockpile safety and reliability would be to hew to the extensively tested pedigree of the existing stockpile while performing rigorous surveillance and well proven methods of maintenance, including the routine exchange of limited life components. As a 1993 Stockpile Life Study by the Sandia Labs concluded:

It is clear that, although nuclear weapons age, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desires. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapons retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision. (https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Sandia_93_StockpileLife.pdf, parentheses in the original.)

While the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study is obviously dated, it is still relevant because no new-design nuclear weapons have been manufactured since then (which may soon change). Further, the findings of that study have since been bolstered by subsequent expert independent studies (see, for example, https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/JASON_ReportPuAging.pdf and https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/lep.pdf).

CBO Costs

P.1 The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most recent detailed plans for nuclear forces, which were incorporated in the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request, would cost $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars over the 2017–2046 period: more than $800 billion to operate and sustain (that is, incrementally upgrade) nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them.

That planned nuclear modernization would boost the total costs of nuclear forces over 30 years by roughly 50 percent over what they would be to only operate and sustain fielded forces, CBO estimates. During the peak years of modernization, annual costs of nuclear forces would be roughly double the current amount. That increase would occur at a time when total defense spending may be constrained by long-term fiscal pressures, and nuclear forces would have to compete with other defense priorities for funding.

P. 2: Overall, CBO estimates that planned modernization would cost $399 billion through 2046…

P.3 : The rising costs of modernization would drive the total annual costs of nuclear forces, including operation and sustainment, from $29 billion in 2017 to about $50 billion through the early 2030s, CBO estimates. As most modernization programs reach completion, costs would gradually fall to around $30 billion a year in the 2040s.

First, these costs are not necessary, as implied in the policy section above, when well-known methods would prudently and faithfully maintain the stockpile. Moreover, these expenditures that the taxpayer is being compelled to bear could actually degrade national security. To further put the cost of “modernization” into perspective, the Congressional Research Service has estimated the total post-9.11 costs of the “Global War on Terrorism” at $1 trillion and all of World War II at $4 trillion. See https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22926.pdf

It is also roughly the same amount that the Trump Administration is beginning to push for in questionable missile defense technologies and tax cuts for the already rich, adding to uncertainties how the average American taxpayer can afford nuclear weapons “modernization”.

P. 20: Nuclear Weapons Laboratories and the Production Complex.

DOE operates a complex of design laboratories and production facilities that provide the engineering and scientific capabilities required to sustain the stockpile of nuclear weapons. Those capabilities include the following:

  • Facilities to produce and process the nuclear materials and other specialized components used in nuclear weapons and weapons research;
  • Basic scientific research and high-speed computer simulations to improve understanding of the dynamics of nuclear explosions and the aging of weapons;
  • Research to develop and certify the processes used in maintaining nuclear weapons; and
  • The infrastructure required to support those efforts.

In CBO’s estimation, the costs to DOE of those efforts would be $261 billion over the 2017–2046 period, or an average of about $9 billion per year, under the 2017 plan. Those costs do not include sustainment and LEP activities specific to particular weapon types; in CBO’s accounting, those costs have been included with the costs of their associated delivery systems. Projected costs also exclude DOE’s other nuclear-related activities, like nonproliferation efforts and environmental cleanup.

Unfortunately the CBO report gives little further detail on DOE costs. But do note that nonproliferation and cleanup programs will likely remain flat or be cut in order to help pay for “modernization”, and the pressure to do so will likely increase every year the deeper we get into modernization.

With respect to its reported DOE costs, CBO is essentially tracking the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) annual budget category “Total Weapons Activities” minus the Life Extension Programs (LEPs). Total Weapons Activities had a FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request (CBR) of $10.2 billion. Of that, LEPs) were $1.74 billion, a $441.56 increase above FY 2017 (see FY 2018 NNSA budget request, p. 64.), and which will likely increase yet more.

To project future labs’ and production complex budgets, we can take the CBO’s $9 billion annually and add annual Life Extension Programs costs of around $2 billion for a total cost of $11 billion. Thus the labs and production plants are obviously going to see budget increases for some period of time.

This won’t however necessarily translate into a lot of new jobs at the New Mexico labs, which is often promoted by the New Mexico congressional delegation. For more on this please see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Expanded-Pit-Production-lack-of-positive-impact-9-15-17.pdf

Of particular note is that the NNSA’s own environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project-Nuclear Facility said that despite its $6.5 billion cost it would not produce a single new Lab job because it would merely relocate existing jobs. Nuclear Watch argues that comprehensive cleanup would be the real job producer at LANL.

P. 12: At DOE, persistent managerial problems, particularly with security and with the execution of construction projects, have led to a debate about management structure for the weapons laboratories. Resolving those issues is likely to add to the costs of nuclear weapons.

Transformation of the Existing Stockpile

DoD and DOE are seeking to transform the existing nuclear weapons stockpile through its speculative “3+2” plan. “2” is for the air leg, with B61-12s and Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) warheads on new bombers. “3” is for the Interoperable Warheads for land and sub-launched ballistic missiles.

P. 2: Overall, CBO estimates that planned modernization would cost $399 billion through  2046 and include these programs:….

P. 3: A new air-launched nuclear cruise missile, the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon;

The LRSO is controversial and a number of Democrat senators are on record opposing it (especially Dianne Feinstein), in large part because it is viewed as a destabilizing nuclear weapon (the proverbial “bolt out of the blue”). Ex-DoD Secretary Bill Perry speaks very eloquently against it.

P.3: A life-extension program (LEP) for the B61 nuclear bomb that would combine several different varieties of that bomb into a single type, the B61-12; A LEP for the B61-12 bomb when it reaches the end of its service life, referred to as the Next B61.

My point here is that a perpetual cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs (LEPs) is being planned that goes beyond the CBO report’s end date of 2046. Moreover, the B61-12, melded from one strategic and 3 tactical variants, arguably has new military capabilities since its new tail kit gives it “smart” bomb capabilities.

P. 3: A series of LEPs that would produce three interoperable warheads (called IW-1 through IW-3), each of which would be compatible with both ICBMs and SLBMs. Comment below.

The lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile is already being tripled through a new “superfuze” for the sub-launched W76, the most prevalent warhead in the stockpile. See https://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578 This could have serious geopolitically destabilizing consequences. This superfuze or similar ones may be used in other Life Extension Programs (LEPs), creating yet more new military capabilities.

The Interoperable Warheads

P. 31: The three IWs (Interoperable Warheads), designated IW-1 through IW-3, are slated to enter development in 2022, 2026, and 2033, respectively. Collectively, the three IWs would replace a total of four types of warheads—two for ICBMs (the W78 and W87) and two for SLBMs (the W76 and W88).

  • Three speculative IW’s to replace just four warheads? That’s a lot of expense. The FY 17 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan shows estimated costs of ~$14 billion each (or ~$42 billion total), which is likely low.
  • We argue that the W78 should have a “simple” less expensive and less technically risky Life Extension Program instead of the IW (which reportedly elements within the Air Force are receptive to). The W87 has already gone through a Life Extension Program. It was initially downloaded from decommissioned MX Peacekeeper missiles, but about 200 W87 warheads have been reloaded onto Minuteman III missiles, leaving some 250 spares. The W76 is now half-way through a LEP, with arguably new military capabilities (see below). The W88 is about to go through a major “alteration.”
  • So why are Interoperable Warheads needed? One likely reason is that the IWs are primarily being pushed by the Livermore Lab as a means for it to stay relevant in the nuclear weapons game. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which has been dominated by Livermore leadership for the last decade, will produce new plutonium pits for the IWs.
  • The US Navy is on record as not wanting the IW-1. See the 2012 Navy memo leaked to us at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf More recently, Navy Strategic Missile Boss: Interoperable Warhead Not Yet Required http://seapowermagazine.org/stories/20170525-IW.html
  • The Navy will be even less inclined to want the IW-1 because there is a major $3 billion “alteration” scheduled for the W88 warhead which will “refresh” its conventional explosives and give it a new arming, fuzing and firing set that may give it new military capabilities.

Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL

Expanded plutonium pit production is not necessary. See our extended argument at https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/PitProductionFactSheet.pdf

But simply put, the clearest evidence that none is needed is that no pit production is scheduled for existing nuclear weapons. The 29 stockpile plutonium pits for the W88 sub-launched warhead that LANL finished in 2011 was to catch up on the production run that was abruptly stopped at the Rocky Flats Plant by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. No production of any type of pit for the existing stockpile has been scheduled since then.

Future expanded plutonium pit production is for the Interoperable Warhead (IW). The link between the Interoperable Warhead and expanded plutonium pit production is demonstrated at:

An NNSA official also stated that the IW-1 LEP budget estimates in the 2016 budget materials are predicated on NNSA successfully modernizing its plutonium pit production capacity. The official stated that if there are delays in the current plutonium infrastructure strategy, the IW-1 LEP will bear costs that are greater than currently estimated to produce the number of additional plutonium pits it needs to support the program. Modernizing The Nuclear Security Enterprise, Government Accountability Office, March 2016, p. 29, http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/675622.pdf

The Interoperable Warhead will use a W87-like pit.

Don COOK (then-NNSA Dep. Administrator for Defense Programs): We’re going through a down selection right now involving NNSA, DOD, StratCom, Joint Staff, Navy and Air Force. And we are looking particularly at the W-87 pit because it’s a pit that’s already based on IHE (insensitive high explosives)… we’ve begun the engineering and development of that kind of a pit at PF-4, at Los Alamos, and work is progressing very well. http://secure.afa.org/HBS/transcripts/2013/May 7 – Dr. Cook.pdf

LANL Director McMillan: “Also during the past year, we successfully completed production of three W87 development pits.” Congressional testimony, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/McMillan_04-09-14.pdf

NNSA FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request, p. 57: Increases are also included for Plutonium Sustainment to fabricate four to five development (DEV) W87 pits…

Ibid., p. 72: Plutonium Sustainment – Fabricate four to five development (DEV) W87 pits.

New pits for the Interoperable Warhead will not be exact replicas, and therefore could degrade national security because they cannot be full-scale tested, or perhaps worse push the US back into testing. This is indicated in # 4 below:

Plutonium Sustainment includes the following:

(1) Plutonium pit process engineering, process qualification, pit manufacturing, pit manufacturing equipment and personnel, pit fabrication tooling design and manufacturing, and non-nuclear pit component manufacturing.

(2) Design laboratory and production plant activities for plutonium stockpile product development.

(3) Engineering and physics-based evaluation and testing of development pits necessary for war reserve production.

(4) Fabrication of design definition development pits that explore new design features. NNSA FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request, P. 107

Two recent related Nuclear Watch press releases

Quote: Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The American public is being sold a bill of goods in so-called nuclear weapons modernization, which will fleece the taxpayer, enrich the usual giant defense contractors, and ultimately degrade national security. Inevitably this won’t be the last major price increase, when the taxpayer’s money could be better invested in universal health care, natural disaster recovery, and cleanup of Cold War legacy wastes. Nuclear weapons programs should be cut while relying on proven methods to maintain our stockpile as we work toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. That is what would bring us real security.”

Quote: Councilwoman Renee Villarreal, who led the effort, commented:

As emphasized through this resolution, prioritizing cleanup and safety will have a direct impact on the City of Santa Fe and northern NM communities by doing right for past and historic legacy contamination, as well as recent nuclear criticality safety incidents at LANL. Regional economic development would be stimulated through comprehensive cleanup of the Lab. That would be a real win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment and our water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

[1] The quote on top-level counterforce nuclear weapons doctrine is from 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

ICAN wins Nobel Peace Prize, NM politicians and Archbishop should support nuclear weapons abolition

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.”

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* 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

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to advocate for nuclear weaponeers?

From our colleague Don Hancock at the Southwest Research and Information Center:

Two members (Roberson and Santos) of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) have gone public over an internal dispute about a Memorandum of Agreement between DNFSB and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in which DNFSB staff would be detailed to NNSA so that, among other things, they would be “advocating for and defending NNSA’s FY 2018 budget request.” The internal memo is posted at: https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/12526/Memo%20from%20Roberson%20and%20Santos%2C%20Objection%20to%20Memorandum%20of%20Agreement%20with%20DOE.NNSA%20.pdf

The memo is dated last Friday (August 11) and the detail would start August 21. Not a good sign that DNFSB is, in part, going from overseeing DOE weapons sites to advocating for NNSA’s budget. – End –

Our comment:

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly objects to this attempt by the National Nuclear Security Administration to compromise the Safety Board. DNFSB has played a vital role in protecting the public from dangerous nuclear weapons activities that have been riddled with safety lapses, incompetence, cost overruns and mismanagement. The Safety Board is commissioned by Congress, not NNSA, and we fully expect the New Mexican congressional delegation to protect the Safety Board’s independence and objectivity.”

DOE Inspector General report on the B61-12 nuclear smart bomb

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.

Nuclear Weapons defects graph from 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study

Major Protests at U.S. Warhead Facilities Across the Nation Unite to Decry Trillion Dollar Plan for New U.S. Nuclear Weapons

For more information:
Ralph Hutchison, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, orep@earthlink.net
<mailto:orep@earthlink.net> , 865-776-5050
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, marylia@trivalleycares.org
<mailto:marylia@trivalleycares.org> , 925-443-7148
Other key national and regional contacts are listed at the end of this release

For immediate release, August 4, 2015

HISTORIC 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ATOMIC BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA, NAGASAKI:

Major Protests at U.S. Warhead Facilities Across the Nation Unite to Decry Trillion Dollar Plan for New U.S. Nuclear Weapons; Advocate Disarmament

A thousand or more peace advocates, Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors), religious leaders, scientists, economists, attorneys, doctors and nurses, nuclear analysts, former war planners and others across the country are coming together to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this August 6 through 9 at key sites in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Major commemorations, rallies, protests and/or nonviolent direct actions will place at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in CA, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in NM, the Kansas City Plant in MO, the Y-12 Plant in TN, the Rocky Flats Plant in CO, the Pantex Plant in TX, and in GA near the Savannah River Site. These events are united by their reflection on the past, and, uniquely, their focus on the present and future with a resolute determination to change U.S. nuclear weapons policy at the very locations that are linchpins in producing the new trillion dollar stockpile of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles.

“We stand on the brink of a new, global nuclear arms race,” noted Ralph Hutchison, the longstanding coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “This is epitomized by government plans for a new Uranium Processing Facility to produce H-bomb components at Y-12, including for new-design weapons.”

“U.S. plans to ‘modernize’ the arsenal are also underway at Livermore Lab,” stated Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs’ executive director. “A new Long-Range Stand Off warhead design and the start of plutonium shots in the Lab’s National Ignition Facility reveal two facets of this new arms race,” Kelley continued. “In contrast to the cold war, which was largely about sheer numbers, the new arms race and its dangers stem from novel military capabilities now being placed into nuclear weapons.”

Around the world, pressure for the U.S. to show leadership toward the abolition of nuclear weapons is growing. Pope Francis has repeatedly pressed the moral argument against nuclear weapons, inveighing not only against their use but also against their possession. In the wake of the successful Iran agreement, many are suggesting that since it has been settled that it would never be legitimate for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, shouldn’t we also agree that the 16,000 nuclear weapons in existence have no legitimacy either. Moreover, 113 governments recently signed the “Humanitarian Pledge,” circulated by Austria, to press the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states to fulfill their disarmament obligations.
Actions this week at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities will highlight the mounting international calls for nuclear abolition, with U.S. organizers lending their deep and often unique “on the ground” knowledge from the gates and fence lines of the facilities involved in creating new and modified U.S. nuclear weapons. “This 70th anniversary should be a time to reflect on the absolute horror of a nuclear detonation,” mused Ann Suellentrop of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Kansas City, “yet the new Kansas City Plant is churning out components to extend U.S. nuclear weapons 70 years into the future. The imperative to change that future is what motivates me to organize a peace fast at the gates of the Plant.”

Key events at U.S. nuclear weapons complex sites include:
• Y-12
– pastoral letter, remembrance, rally and nonviolent direct action, peace fast and lanterns. (More at http://orepa.org/action/hiroshimanagasaki-70/ <http://orepa.org/action/hiroshimanagasaki-70/> )
• Livermore Lab – peace camp, August 6 rally and nonviolent direct action, peace fast at the gates. (More info at www.trivalleycares.org <http://www.trivalleycares.org> )
• Los Alamos Lab – film screening, panels, rally and conference (More at www.nuclearwatch.org <http://www.nuclearwatch.org> )
• Kansas City Plant – atomic photographers exhibit, speakers, film screening, and peace fast at the gates. (More info at www.psr.org/chapters/kansas/ <http://www.psr.org/chapters/kansas/> )
• Savannah River Site – film screening, vigil, and circle of hope. (More: www.nonukesyall.org <http://www.nonukesyall.org> )
• Rocky Flats Plant – peace quilt, concert, film screening, labyrinth mourning walk. (More from judithmohling76@gmail.com <mailto:judithmohling76@gmail.com> )
• Pantex Plant – Hiroshima exhibit, panel discussion. (More at: www.peacefarm.us <http://www.peacefarm.us> )

These and other Hiroshima events and actions at sites in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex are being led by organizations that are members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, which represents about three dozen groups. More about ANA can be found at www.ananuclear.org <http://www.ananuclear.org> .

ANA contacts available for interviews include:
Joni Arends
, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, jarends@nuclearactive.org <mailto:jarends@nuclearactive.org> ,  505 986-1973 (NM sites)
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, jay@nukewatch.org <mailto:jay@nukewatch.org> , 505-989-7342 (NM sites)
Ann Suellentrop, Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC, annsuellen@gmail.com <mailto:annsuellen@gmail.com> , 913-271-7925 (MO site)
Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, kevin@beyondnuclear.org <mailto:kevin@beyondnuclear.org> , 240-462-3216 (Ohio sites)
Jerry Stein, Peace Farm, Cletus@am.net <mailto:Cletus@am.net> , 806-351-2744 (TX site)
Judith Mohling, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, judithmohling76@gmail.com <mailto:judithmohling76@gmail.com> , 303-447-9635 (CO sites)
Glenn Carroll, Nuclear Watch South, atom.girl@nonukesyall.org <mailto:atom.girl@nonukesyall.org> , 404-378-4263 (SC, GA sites)
Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action, pmartin@peace-action.org <mailto:pmartin@peace-action.org> , 951-217-7285 (in Hiroshima)
Ralph Hutchison, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, orep@earthlink.net <mailto:orep@earthlink.net> , 865-776-5050 (TN sites)
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs. marylia@trivalleycares.org <mailto:marylia@trivalleycares.org> , 925-443-7148 (CA sites)
Jackie Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation, United for Peace & Justice, wslf@earthlink.net <mailto:wslf@earthlink.net> , 510-839-5877 (CA sites, calendar of national events)

Additional resources for media:
Physicians for Social Responsibility calendar and map of Hiroshima and Nagasaki actions at: www.psr.org/news-events/events/hiroshimadayevents-2015.html <http://www.psr.org/news-events/events/hiroshimadayevents-2015.html>
United for Peace and Justice, Nuclear Free Future Month calendar of events at: www.nuclearfreefuture.org <http://www.nuclearfreefuture.org>

###

 

WATCHDOG GROUPS HEAD TO D.C.TO URGE CONGRESS TO CONFRONT “THE GROWING U.S. NUCLEAR THREAT”

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

A national network of organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

May 14, 2015

 

WATCHDOG GROUPS HEAD TO D.C. TO URGE CONGRESS, OBAMA ADMIN.

TO CONFRONT “THE GROWING U.S. NUCLEAR THREAT;”

NEW REPORT SEEKS CUTS IN BOMB PLANTS, WARHEAD MODERNIZATION

DIVERTING SAVINGS TO CLEANUP AND WEAPONS DISMANTLEMENT

            Dozens of community leaders from around the country will travel to Washington, DC next week to oppose U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons projects, which they say will waste billions in taxpayer funds, damage the environment and undermine the nation’s non-proliferation goals. The group will meet with leading members of Congress, committee staffers, and top administration officials with responsibility for U. S. nuclear policies to press for new funding priorities.

Activists from nearly a dozen states are participating in the 27th annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) “DC Days.” They will deliver copies of ANA’s just-published report, The Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat (http://bit.ly/growing_nuclear_threat). The new 20-page analysis dissects the Obama Administration’s latest plans to spend hundreds of billions more on nuclear weapons programs without, the authors conclude, enhancing U.S. security.

Joining the Alliance will be four members of Nuclear Watch New Mexico: Dr. James Doyle, a nonproliferation expert fired by the Los Alamos Lab after writing a study arguing for nuclear weapons abolition; Chuck Montano, former LANL auditor and author of his just-released book Los Alamos: A Whistleblower’s Diary (http://losalamosdiary.com/index.html); Jay Coghlan, Executive Director; and Scott Kovac, Operations Director. “We will use this opportunity to represent New Mexicans who oppose the open checkbook policy for nuclear weapons by Congress to the National Labs,” Kovac stated.

Both Doyle and Coghlan have recently returned from the NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations in New York City where they witnessed U.S. officials claiming that one trillion dollar plans for nuclear weapons modernization “contribute to and do not detract from progress on our NPT nuclear disarmament obligations.” But as Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, the report’s editor, noted, “Massive spending on nuclear weapons ‘modernization’ increases the nuclear danger for the U.S. Lack of accountability at DOE wastes billions and puts the public at even greater risk. ANA members from across the country will urge policy-makers to cut programs that fund dangerous boondoggles. The money saved should be redirected to cleaning up the legacy of nuclear weapons research, testing and production.” Participants in DC Days include activists from groups that monitor such U.S. nuclear weapons facilities as Hanford, Lawrence Livermore, Rocky Flats, Los Alamos, Kansas City Plant, Pantex, Sandia, Oak Ridge, Savannah River and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a network of local, regional and national organizations representing the concerns of communities downwind and downstream from U.S. nuclear weapons production and radioactive waste disposal sites. As part of its DC Days, ANA will sponsor an Awards Reception honoring leaders of the movement for responsible nuclear policies on Monday evening, May 18. Honorees include U.S. Senator Harry Reid, U.S. Representative John Garamendi, Los Alamos whistleblower Dr. James Doyle, former FBI investigator of Rocky Flats Jon Lipsky, and nuclear campaigner Michael Keegan: The event will take place in Room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

After learning of his award, Dr. James Doyle replied, “It is an honor to be recognized by citizen organizations across the country who have been opposing nuclear weapons at the grassroots for decades.  The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is an important part of the fabric of our civil society and helps create an informed citizenry essential to our freedom and security.  My case shows that even in America you must be careful when you question nuclear weapons.  These groups have been trying to change that since before I knew what nuclear war would mean for humanity.  I am proud to be working with them to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

– – 3 0 – –

Questions for the DOE FY 2016 Nuclear Weapons and Cleanup Budget Request

The Administration releases its  Congressional Budget Request this Monday, February 2, 2015.

Questions for the U.S. Department of Energy FY 2016 Nuclear Weapons and Cleanup Budget Request

From

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

A national network of organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup

The US nuclear weapons budget continues to spiral out of control. Look for double-digit increases in Department of Energy (DOE) weapons activities. Core nonproliferation programs will be cut because of funding for mixed-oxide fuel. Cleanup of radioactive and toxic pollution from weapons research, testing, production and waste disposal will fall further behind. The DOE budget for FY 2016 will illuminate the Obama Administration’s misplaced nuclear priorities.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a 28-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear sites, will be looking at the following issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

— Does the budget request boost funding for “modernization” programs that indefinitely maintain nuclear warheads? Such funding is contrary to the Obama Administration’s previously declared goal of a future world free of nuclear weapons.

— Does the budget reflect the Administration’s commitment to reduce funding (currently $335 million) on the multi-billion dollar Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge by downsizing it to the capacity needed to support stockpile surveillance, maintenance and limited life extension?

— Does the budget increase funds for nuclear weapons dismantlement capacity? Will cooperative programs with Russia be maintained?

— Is there increased funding for expanded production of plutonium bomb cores? Why is expanded production needed when expert studies find that existing plutonium pits are durable?

— Is more than $300 million provided for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore Lab that has repeatedly failed to achieve “ignition”? What is the funding level for uncontained plutonium shots although they will taint the NIF target chamber and optics with alpha radiation?

— Does the budget seek an increase for the B61 Life Extension Program (currently $643 million)?

— As DOE affirms that the $30-billion plutonium fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site is financially unsustainable, is the MOX plant construction again proposed for “cold standby” (~$200 million) or a level to barely allow it to survive (~300+ million)? Does the budget include the current validated base-line cost of MOX plant, a validated construction and operation schedule and names of nuclear utilities willing to use experimental MOX fuel?

— Does the budget include $0 for Yucca Mountain? No funding is consistent with past requests that terminate this technically flawed site that is strongly opposed by Nevada state officials and the public.

— Does the budget provide additional Environmental Management (EM) funding (currently $5 billion) to meet all legally mandated cleanup milestones? States say cleanup agreements at a dozen major sites are underfunded by hundreds of million dollars.

– How will DOE and its contractors pay fines for missing milestones? In the past three months, the states of New Mexico, Idaho, and Washington have issued fines of tens of millions of dollars, and fines loom in South Carolina. In which other states does DOE face fines and lawsuits for missing milestones?

— What is the high range for total life-cycle cleanup costs (LCC) for EM sites? Because of funding shortfalls, High Range LCC costs have increased from $308.5 billion in the FY 2013 Budget Request, to $330.9 billion in the FY 2014 Request, and were $328.4 billion in the FY 2015 Request.

— How much does the budget include for the shut down of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)? How much is for recovery and how much for waste emplacement (previously $220 million a year) even though no waste is being emplaced? How much additional funding is requested for the Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge because of the shutdown?

— Does the budget for Hanford (more than $2 billion) protect workers from toxic chemical exposures, provide an Operational Readiness Review of the nuclear safety of the Waste Treatment Plant, and fund construction of new double-shell tanks to replace the leaking ones?

— Does the budget increase funding (currently $28.5 million) for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to provide independent oversight of DOE projects because of the many cost overruns, schedule delays, safety culture issues and technical problems?

— Is the funding for design and licensing of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) enough to make them viable? As private financing is lacking, will DOE reaffirm that it will not finance SMR construction?

 

For further information, contact:

Jay Coghlan jay(at)nukewatch.org

 

Download the pdf and more contact info here.

 

NNSA Governance Advisory Panel Condones Diminishing Federal Oversight Of Failing Contractors

Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise released its long awaited report, entitled “A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise.” According to enabling language in the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Act, “The purpose of the advisory panel is to examine options and make recommendations for revising the governance structure, mission, and management of the nuclear security enterprise.” This means the nuclear weapons complex owned by the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and run by its contractors. In an attempt to give increased prominence to nuclear weapons programs, the Panel goes so far as to recommend that the Department of Energy be renamed the Department of Energy and Nuclear Security.

The Panel itself is full of conflicts-of-interest. It is co-chaired by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, which is the sole manager of the Sandia Labs and runs the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons production plants in partnership with the Bechtel Corp. The other co-chair, Admiral Robert Mies, sits on the Board of Governors of both for-profit contractors that run the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Labs, as do former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and Michael Anastasio, former director of both labs. Yet another panel member, Franklin C. Miller, sits on the Sandia Corporation Board of Directors.

But the most questionable panel member is former Congresswoman Heather Wilson (ex.-R-NM). While still in office she signed a contract for “consulting” services with the Sandia National Laboratories that had no written work requirements. The day after she stepped down from office she started being paid $10,000 a month, and went on to secure a similar contract from the Los Alamos Lab for the same amount of money. The DOE Inspector General has recently found that the Sandia contractor (wholly owned by Lockheed Martin) had engaged in highly improper, if not illegal, lobbying of Congress for contract extensions, in which Heather Wilson was “deeply, deeply involved.” Both Sandia and LANL were forced to return to the government the $450,000 they had paid to Wilson, but she has not returned any money.

The Panel’s report laments the dysfunctional relationship between NNSA and its contractors, and deplores the loss of mutual trust. But while profits are rising, contractors are being held to fewer and fewer performance benchmarks, which the Panel does little if anything to fix. Performance benchmarks were previously codified in annual Performance Evaluation Plans (PEPs), but have been subsequently stripped. As a case in point, the FY 2012 Performance Evaluation Plan for the Los Alamos Lab contractor was 89 pages long, full of concrete performance benchmarks. The restructured FY 2013 Plan was nine pages long, with vague performance benchmarks.

This diminishing federal oversight flies in the face of a long history of project delays and immense cost increases for which contractors are responsible, but not held accountable. For example, the former contractor for the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant committed a half-billion dollar design mistake for the Uranium Processing Facility, but has not been publicly disciplined. Y-12’s new contractor just awarded Bechtel a no-bid UPF construction contract, which in effect awards itself since the contractor is principally composed of Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. This is despite the fact that under Bechtel management the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos exploded in costs from ~$600 million to ~$.6.5 billion, and the Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford from ~$3.5 billion to ~$13.5 billion.

Contractors have also committed very serious operational mistakes. The LANL contractor used unapproved waste handling methods to prepare plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). A waste drum subsequently ruptured, contaminating 21 workers and closing WIPP, causing estimated reopening costs of a half-billion dollars (which will no doubt increase) and $54 million in New Mexico state fines.

As another example, the former Y-12 contractor self-appraised its security management program as “excellent” and its physical security as “good,” which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) approved while awarding management fees. Both were shaken to their cores when an 82-year old nun and two elderly colleagues cut through three security fences to protest nuclear weapons in a very sensitive area previously thought impregnable.

Despite all this, the Panel makes no specific recommendations to put performance benchmarks back into management contracts. Instead, it proposes that the number of budget line items be reduced, which could further erode transparency, accountability, and congressional oversight, and increase the ability of NNSA and its contractors to move money around.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the Panel recommends that congressional oversight be strengthened by having the DOE Secretary report to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees, and to the House Energy and Commerce and Armed Services Committees. This would likely have the opposite effect, as it seems to preclude the traditional jurisdiction of the House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees, which have provided key oversight in the past, and have often cut certain nuclear weapons programs. Indeed, later in the report, the Panel suggests (short of a formal recommendation) that funding authority for NNSA nuclear weapons programs be invested in the Defense Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Again, this appears to exclude Energy and Water Appropriations, which could have profound implications by weakening congressional fiscal constraints on the nuclear weapons complex.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The Panel’s self-interested premise that the Nuclear Security Enterprise needs a new foundation is wrong. First, call it what it is, not some kind of innocuous sounding “enterprise,” but rather a massive research and production complex that is pushing an unaffordable trillion dollar modernization program for nuclear warheads, missiles, subs and bombers. This will divert taxpayers’ dollars from meeting the real national security threats of nuclear weapons proliferation and climate change. The Panel failed by not arguing for prudent maintenance of the stockpile, instead supporting a perpetual work program of risky life extension programs for existing nuclear weapons that will enrich contractors.”

# # #


“A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise” by the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise is available at
http://cdn.knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2014/12/Governance.pdf?_ga=1.136311025.1198700939.1418359009

The DOE Inspector General “Special Inquiry: Alleged Attempts by Sandia National Laboratories to Influence Congress and Federal Officials on a Contract Extension” is available at
http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/11/f19/IG-0927.pdf

The DOE’s Inspector General’s quote of Heather Wilson’s deep involvement in improper lobbying on behalf of the Sandia Labs is from
http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/mines-president-named-in-doe-inspector-general-s-probe/article_b984ab84-d593-5578-8007-e70e7c9e986f.html

LANL Heading Down Slippery Slope With Proposed Biosafety Lab

The DOE Inspector General released Audit Report on “Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories” that calls for a re-evaluation of the proposed needs for Biolabs at nuclear weapons facilities such as Los Alamos.

The report stated that Los Alamos National Laboratory was considering a $9.5 million expansion of bio-laboratory capabilities even though the Lab could not assess current usage or future needs. Apparently the Lab based facility-planning decisions on perceptions about future demand.

From the report –

[DOE] identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity.

Biological containment levels range from BSL-1, which handles only agents not known to cause illness in humans, to BSL-4, which houses agents for which there are no known cures, such as Ebola. A BSL-3 designation permits work with virulent pathogens used in both defensive and offensive biological warfare research.

Although the BSL-3 building has been constructed, the need is very questionable. From the report –

Specifically, we contacted two of the three Federal agencies that LANL told us were prospective [Work For Other] WFO customers and officials representing those potential customers stated that they did not have any specific plans to contract for BSL-3 research at LANL. Further, officials at both agencies indicated that other existing BSL-3 facilities could satisfactorily meet their needs. In fact, one official told us that generally other existing BSL-3 laboratories were less expensive than expected at the new LANL facility and that several had comparable security.

While the BSL-3 building has been constructed, there is no compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) currently being prepared for BSL-3 facility operations pursuant to NEPA has not even been released, much less a final EIS or Record of Decision (ROD).  The current schedule calls for the EIS to be released in August 2014, but if past schedule changes are indications, it is not going to happen.

The draft EIS has been in process for nine years and counting. We at NukeWatch demand that DOE start over and re-scope both the alternatives and need for the BSL-3 at LANL. LANL is working on a Biological Research Capability Assessment to assess bioscience needs, which must be completed before the BSL-3 is re-scoped.

We hope the current Assessment is more empirical than the 2011 Review, which proposed that the BSL-3 facility was essential to LANL’s mission without considering data such as available capacity at other locations and estimates of projected use from outside customers.

The LANL BSL-3 EIS was the result of a lawsuit. During 2001 and 2002 NukeWatch contested the arbitrary and capricious public process DOE was using to justify its decision to build the proposed BSL-3 facilities at LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). DOE failed to adequately address the many concerns raised by the public and proceeded to release final Environmental Assessments (EAs) for both laboratories, along with so-called Findings of No Significant Impact, which gives the Department the green light to begin the first steps leading to operations. Because DOE left so many legitimate questions and concerns unanswered, NukeWatch felt that a legal challenge was necessary.

In August 2003 NukeWatch and Tri-Valley CAREs, a citizens group based in Livermore, CA, jointly filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of northern California claiming that DOE had failed to fully analyze the environmental and health risks associated with the proposed operation of its BSL-3 facilities at LANL and LLNL. In effect, DOE wrote itself a blank check for a wide range of infectious disease research at the two labs. NukeWatch and Tri-Valley CAREs argued that DOE failed to consider the grave risks of introducing pathogens whose behavior may not be known or understood, and for which a cure may not exist.

In January 2004, DOE announced that it had revoked approval for its newly constructed, advanced bio-warfare agent research facility at Los Alamos. DOE went back to square one, and reviewed whether the agency needed to undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement – a key demand in the lawsuit. The BSL-3 at LLNL was built and is operating.

DOE released a notice for the LANL EIS on November 29, 2005. The Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the BSL-3 stated that one reason requiring preparation of an EIS was that “it was necessary to conduct additional seismic analysis of the location of the building on fill material on the sloping side of a canyon.” This calls into question not just whether BSL-3 activities can be safely conducted before these issues are resolved through the EIS, but whether any operations can be safely conducted at all.

The drawing below shows the LANL BSL-3 built in a seismic zone, on fill, and on a steep slope.

Review of the Stability Analysis for the LANL BSL-3 Building Foundation, UCRL-TR-226737, November 2, 2006


The DOE-IG report stated that LANL would need to spend about $437,000 in upgrades to attempt to mitigate this seismic concern.  DOE also is spending about $478,000 to complete the now required Environmental Impact Statement

Another $595,000 is needed to open the facility, which includes $368,000 of operating costs for maintenance, utilities, etc.

Can the Laboratory be the best place for bioscience? If the Lab is looking for more funding streams, shouldn’t it be directing its attention to non-proliferation programs and cleanup?

 

Nukes Will Cost One Trillion over 30 Years; Cleanup, Job Creation Imperiled

Nuclear Weapons “Modernization” Will Cost One Trillion Dollars Over Thirty Years;

Locally, Los Alamos Lab Cleanup and Job Creation Are Imperiled

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released its study Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023. Its stunning conclusion is that estimated costs for maintenance and “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile, delivery systems, and research and production complex will total $355 billion over the next decade. This is 70% higher than the figure the Obama Administration reported to Congress in May 2012.

As if this were not bad enough, the CBO also reports that costs after 2023 will increase yet more rapidly since “modernization” is only now beginning. The report does not attempt to project costs for maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces over the planned period of the next thirty years, but given current trends it will easily exceed one trillion dollars.

Approximately two-thirds of the modernization costs will be for new submarines, bombers and missiles that could be operational for the rest of this century, contrary to the Obama Administration’s rhetoric of a future world free of nuclear weapons. The remaining third will be for the Department of Energy’s research and production complex, which includes the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia nuclear weapons labs.

While the American public at large is experiencing growing income inequality and limited economic opportunity, nuclear weapons contractors are experiencing increasing profits and decreasing federal oversight. The for-profit corporations running the labs, comprised of Lockheed Martin (the world’s biggest defense contractor), Bechtel, and the University of California, plan a never-ending cycle of exorbitantly expensive “Life Extension Programs.” These programs will not only extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons for decades, but also give them new military capabilities, contrary to declared U.S. international policy. Ironically, the contractors’ drive for profits may undermine national security, as confidence in our nuclear weapons could be eroded by planned massive changes to an extensively tested stockpile that has been proven to be reliable.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) had planned to “modernize” with a new facility to support expanded production of plutonium pit cores (or “primaries”) for nuclear weapons. Because of budget constraints, the Obama Administration decided to defer it in favor of the Uranium Processing Facility near Oak Ridge, TN, for production of nuclear weapons “secondaries.” The LANL plutonium project, known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR)-Nuclear Facility, had grown from an original estimate of $600 million to around $6 billion, for which it would not have created a single new permanent job (it would have merely relocating existing Lab jobs). But the Uranium Processing Facility has now grown from a similarly estimated $600 million to an astounding worse case $19 billion, in part due to a simple design error that cost a half-billion dollars just to correct on paper.

So-called nuclear weapons modernization at these costs is clearly not sustainable, especially when they create few if any new permanent jobs. Moreover, they exist for a product that must never be used (i.e. nuclear weapons). Therefore, they are of little economic benefit to society outside of the privileged enclaves that benefit from nuclear weapons research and production (for example, Los Alamos County is the second richest county out of 3,077 counties in the USA).

Funding for nuclear weapons modernization programs will rob taxpayers’ dollars for programs that local citizens really need. For example, the Los Alamos Lab plans to “cap and cover” its largest waste dump (called “Area G”), leaving up to one million cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes and backfill permanently buried in unlined pits and shafts. This will create a de facto permanent nuclear waste dump above the Rio Grande, and most importantly above a sole source groundwater aquifer that supplies 270,000 people in the arid Southwest.

The Cities of Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, oppose LANL’s plans to create a permanent nuclear waste dump, passing resolutions demanding full characterization of the wastes and offsite disposal. The resolutions note that, “full cleanup of Area G would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our precious groundwater and the Rio Grande while creating 100’s of high paying jobs for twenty years or more.” The costs for full cleanup of Area G would be about the same as four to five years’ worth of the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM Director, commented, “We simply can’t afford to squander precious taxpayers’ money on programs that enrich contractors while introducing radical changes to fully tested nuclear weapons. This may harm national security by undermining confidence in stockpile reliability. Instead, New Mexicans should demand that their elected officials invest taxpayers’ money in programs that create real security for citizens, such as creating jobs that protect diminishing water resources, rather than their habitual support for unneeded, mismanaged and exorbitantly expensive nuclear weapons programs.”

# # #

 The Congressional Budget Office report Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023 is available at http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/12-19-2013-NuclearForces.pdf

The Santa Fe City press release announcing passage of its resolution opposing “cap and cover’ of Los Alamos Lab’s largest radioactive and toxic waste dump is available at http://www.santafenm.gov/news/detail/santa_fe_city_council_unanimously_passed_resolution

For a comparative estimate of cleaning up LANL’s Area G radioactive and toxic waste dump see http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Area_G_Comparison_Costs-11-14-12.pdf

For a history of successful citizen activism against expanded plutonium pit production see http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Pit-Production-History.pdf

Abolish NNSA, but increase federal oversight and independent review

The Albuquerque Journal ran a really good editorial on Tuesday, September 17:

 

Editorial: Time past for coddling bloated nuclear agency

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board |

 It’s big government on steroids.

 The National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, is tasked with securing and maintaining the nation’s nuclear arsenal. It oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

For years the agency’s MO has included expectations of nearly automatic budget increases, bloated projects that are never finished, duplicative red tape and a bureaucracy that resists efforts to rein it in.

Critics say it has become a massive jobs program.

Ten of its major projects are collectively over budget to the tune of $16 billion and behind schedule by 38 years, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. For instance, at LANL a new $213 million security system to protect sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn’t work. So, taxpayers are being asked to lay out an additional $41 million to fix it.

The chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee that oversees finances and contracts largely blames the agency’s reliance on private contractors – more than 92,000. LANL and Sandia are operated by private contractors, LANL by a consortium led by Bechtel, and Sandia by Lockheed Martin.

Former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine told Congress this spring that accountability and internal structure problems pose a national security risk. And there’s no doubt NNSA’s work is critical to U.S. national security, but taxpayers also are tired of watching their money being thrown at an insatiable beast that too often fails to deliver results.

As long as the NNSA remains impervious to calls for improving its culture and tightening up its accountability, the inefficiencies and waste will keep coming.

A congressionally appointed panel recently began studying whether to overhaul the agency. (Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman had said he was open to just getting rid of it.) Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the review is a chance to “have this dialogue and reach a conclusion.”

It’s way past time for that talk. The panel should come up with a well-thought-out plan to either overhaul NNSA from top to bottom or outright kill it and let the DOE take on its oversight duties.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

 

My response:

Abolish NNSA, but increase federal oversight and independent review

Kudos for the editorial “Time past for coddling bloated nuclear agency.” The money the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has wasted on out-of-control nuclear weapons projects is appalling. Some examples are the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos (estimated costs exploded from $660 million to $5.8 billion), the failed National Ignition Facility at the Livermore Lab in California ($1 billion to $5 billion), the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina ($1 billion to $7 billion), and now the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant in Tennessee ($1 billion to $10 billion).

Despite all this chronic mismanagement NNSA’s proposed budget was increased 17% above FY 2013 sequester levels. That’s right, the guilty were rewarded, while schools, firefighting, environmental protection, etc. were cut.

But while NNSA is truly dysfunctional, its contractors deserve more scrutiny as well. After all, the agency is simply out manned, with some 2,600 (and declining) employees trying to oversee more than 50,000 contractor employees nation-wide. Moreover, these contractors have inherent conflicts-of-interest. For instance, the lab directors wear two hats, first as those responsible for annual certification of the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile, which gives them enormous leverage. Their second hat is as presidents of the executive boards of the for-profit corporations running the labs. How can we be sure they are always acting in the best interests of the country while they are pushing a never-ending cycle of extremely costly “Life Extension Programs” for existing nuclear weapons? Ironically, these programs may actually erode confidence in stockpile reliability by intentionally introducing major changes that can’t be full-scale tested.

As your editorial noted a congressionally appointed panel is beginning to study the NNSA’s future. I make some recommendations for that panel:

•     The NNSA is a failed experiment and should be abolished. Its nuclear weapons programs should revert back to “Defense Programs” within the Department of Energy, as it was pre-2000.

•     As guarantors of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the lab directors should be just lab directors, their jobs institutionally insulated from the for-profit motivations of the private corporations running the labs.

•     Duplicative bureaucratic red tape should be eliminated, but federal oversight should be increased, not decreased (witness a protesting 82-year-old nun infiltrating an extremely sensitive area at Y-12 despite contractor security assurances). Concrete benchmarks need to be put back into now toothless annual Performance Evaluation Plans so that contractors are held truly accountable. NNSA’s past practice of granting waivers for poor performance while handing out contract extensions (as was done for the Los Alamos and Livermore Labs) must end.

•     DOE should be required to seek concurrence from the congressionally chartered Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board early in the design of nuclear facilities. Past NNSA delays in meeting safety concerns have been a prime driver of exploding project costs.

•     Congress should establish a stringent change control process for nuclear weapons, including a requirement for outside review of all proposed major changes. Because the labs lack conservatism in maintaining the pedigree of tested, reliable designs, independent expert review could save 100’s of billion of dollars over the next few decades and help maintain confidence in stockpile reliability. As a past example, a group of eminent independent scientists called the JASONs found that the cores of nuclear weapons, the plutonium pits, have reliable life times of around a century, in contrast to NNSA’s previous claims of 45 years. This helped to convince Congress to delete funding for NNSA’s proposed, enormously expensive new-design nuclear weapons and related expanded plutonium pit production.

•     Finally, the congressionally appointed panel deliberating on NNSA’s future should itself be above reproach. One member, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, pocketed $450,000 in no-bid “consulting” contracts with the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, in between her terms representing New Mexico’s First District and her Senate campaign that largely championed the labs. She should resign from the panel so that its future recommendations are not tainted by her clear conflict-of-interest.

Jay Coghlan

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Obama Announces Up to One-Third Cut in Nuclear Arms; In Contrast U.S. Nuclear Agency Plans ~$60 Billion In Weapons Upgrades and Improvements

Santa Fe, NM  – Today, standing in front of the historic Brandenburg gate in Berlin, President Barack Obama declared that he will seek to cut the arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear arms by up to one-third in concert with Russia. He also said he will pursue significant bilateral cuts in tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe. In contrast, just two days ago, Obama’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released it plans for over 60 billion dollars in upgrades and improvements to existing nuclear weapons, beginning with a $10 billion upgrade to the B61 tactical bomb based in Europe.

In its just released “FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan,” the NNSA proposes perpetual Life Extension Programs that will result in three types of ballistic missile warheads, two types of nuclear bombs (including the refurbished B61), and one redeployed cruise missile warhead (which is not currently active). Much of the drive for this comes from the Directors of the nuclear weapons labs, who simultaneously act as the presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs. According to the Directors and the NNSA, the three modified ballistic missile warheads would be “interoperable” between delivery platforms. However, these warheads can never be truly interoperable between land and sub-based missiles, but at most will have some interchangeable components.

Further, although it’s still vague, the three so-called interoperable warheads would replace only four types of existing warheads, which other than profits for the labs makes little sense given their staggering estimated costs. Moreover, these proposals will also require untold sums of taxpayers money for facility upgrades and new construction and then production by 2030 of 80 new plutonium pits at Los Alamos, NM and uranium secondaries at Oak Ridge, TN. Finally, these radical modifications, if implemented, cannot be full-scale tested, therefore perhaps undermining confidence in reliability. In contrast, our existing nuclear weapons designs have been extensively tested, and subsequent studies have found them to be even more reliable and long-lived than originally thought.

NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan also claims that new military capabilities for existing nuclear weapons will never be pursued through improvements, echoing previous claims made internationally at the highest levels of government (for example by the Secretary of State at the United Nations’ 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review conference). But past and planned modifications and Life Extension Programs contradict that claim. In 1997 the U.S. rushed a B61 bomb modified as an earth-penetrator to the stockpile. This significantly changed weapon, with an estimated yield of 350 kilotons, assumed the mission of the 9 megaton surface-burst B53 bomb to destroy hardened, deeply buried targets.

The U.S. is currently conducting a Life Extension Program for the sub-launched W76 warhead. This is extending its service life by three decades or more, and giving it a new fuze that is likely capable of more precise heights of burst. As far back as 1997 the head of the Navy’s Strategic Systems pointed out that the combination of increased accuracy and a changed fuze could transform the 100 kiloton W76 from a weapon of deterrence targeting soft targets such as cities into a hard target killer of missile silos and command centers.

NNSA now proposes an overly ambitious Life Extension Program for the existing battlefield variants of the B61 gravity bomb, an estimated 180 of which are forward deployed in NATO countries as a relic of the Cold War. This, of course, seems to contradict Obama’s newly declared goal of reducing the presence of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. While future numbers may be lowered, the government’s plans will radically improve the B61, which the Russians will be keenly aware of.

NNSA’s proposed B61 Life Extension Program has exploded in costs from an estimated $4 billion to more than $10 billion. Among other things it will mate the bomb to the future F35 Joint Strike Fighter (which itself is estimated to have life cycle costs of more than $1 trillion). Separately, a ~$1.2 billion Pentagon program will upgrade the B61 with a new tailfin guidance kit. This combination of an improved nuclear “smart” bomb delivered by highly stealthy supersonic aircraft will create a lower yield nuclear weapon that can assume the mission of existing higher yield B61’s.

Together, these three examples firmly establish that the U.S. creates new military capabilities through modifications and improvements of existing nuclear weapons. In Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s opinion, an arguably more usable lower-yield nuclear weapon substituting for a higher-yield weapon is clearly and inherently a new military capability.

In contrast to his rhetoric today, in April President Obama requested an unprecedented $537 million for the B61 Life Extension Program in FY 2014. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NNSA programs, has expressed increasing concern over exploding costs. She has indicated in media reports that a reasonable alternative would be to fund a significantly reduced program that replaces limited life components. In our view, this would also have the benefit of not creating new military capabilities.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “We naturally welcome President Obama’s declared goal to reduce deployed strategic nuclear weapons and battlefield weapons in Europe. However, as a real disarmament step, he should take a time out on the full B61 Life Extension Program. He should instead adopt the more fiscally prudent and technically sound alternative of replacing limited life components while the ultimate future of B61 forward deployment in Europe is being determined. This unending cycle of proposed Life Extension Program will waste huge sums of taxpayers money and is  in direct conflict with the President’s own long-term goal of a future world free of nuclear weapons.”

# # #

 The full text of President’s Obama’s speech is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obam

NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/SSMP-FY2014.pdf

For more on the W76 and B61 Life Extension Programs, in particular their new military capabilities, see the Federation of American Scientists blogs at http://blogs.fas.org/security/2007/08/us_tripples_submarine_warhead/ and

http://blogs.fas.org/security/2011/06/b61-12/

 

NukeWatch NM’s compilation of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2014 budget request

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2014 budget request includes a 13% increase for nuclear weapons programs above FY 2013 sequester levels.

NukeWatch NM’s compilation of the NNSA FY 2014 budget request is available at
http://nukewatch.org/economics/FY2014_NNSA_Budget_4-10-13_Print.pdf

Further analysis by us will follow.

Jay

Why the appointment of ex-NM Rep. Heather Wilson to security panel is not a good thing

Reportedly House Speaker Boehner has appointed former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) to the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Other appointments have not been yet announced.

That is not good. Wilson (a former protégé of Sen. Pete Domenici) is a self-interested advocate for the Labs. According to an October 16, 2012 Santa Fe Reporter article she has had numerous consulting contracts with defense contractors, including Sandia Labs beginning in 2009 and up to her Senate campaign in 2012 (see .http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-7028-this-is-heather-wils.htm). Moreover, in the past her congressional staff has included Sandia Labs personnel.

She also incorrectly and repeatedly argued in her Senate campaign against Martin Heinrich that the deferral of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility would cost 1,000 jobs at the Los Alamos Lab (my repeated attempts to contact her campaign and correct her had no apparent effect).

The provision in the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Act that enabled the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise was largely written by a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee who is a former Sandia Labs employee. Its purpose is to create greater autonomy for the nuclear weapons labs with less federal oversight. (See “Governance, Management, and Oversight of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, ” House Report 112–479, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, H.R. 4310, page 329).

Given the long string of chronic cost overruns and security infractions, diminished federal oversight and greater autonomy for privatized corporate nuclear weapons contractors is not the way to go. Don’t expect Heather Wilson to help the American taxpayer correct that wrong direction.

On a final note, this Panel should be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.  A 2008 Government Accountability Office report on the Act states “Because advisory committees provide input to federal decision makers on significant national issues, it is essential that their membership be, and be perceived as being, free from conflicts of interest and balanced as a whole.” http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-611T

This should apply to Wilson if she still has consulting jobs with the nuclear weapons labs.

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