Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: February 2024

FEDERAL BUDGET NEWS

Release of federal FY 2025 budget expected March 11 (it will initially be just topline numbers).

Meanwhile on the FY 2024 budget: House and Senate Armed Services Committee authorized funding exceeding Biden’s request, including money for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and nuclear warhead (reminder: that the President doesn’t want), plus adding $$ for plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site. But appropriations bills are still not happening because of ever increasing congressional dysfunction. This is now best exemplified by Republicans rejecting an immigration bill they initially drafted but that Trump denounced because he wanted immigration to remain a hot issue during the presidential election campaign.

The current second “laddered” Continuing Resolution that is keeping the government running expires March 1 and 8.

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As New Mexicans Struggle, Sen. Heinrich is Proud of Nuclear Weapons Money

Sen. Heinrich is so proud of all of the nuclear weapons money in New Mexico. He is one of the chief congressional architects of expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores and sits on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee from where he can direct $$billions to the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs.

But during the Department of Energy’s long presence in the Land of Enchantment, according to Census Bureau data New Mexico has slid in per capita income from 32nd in 1959 to 47th in 2022. New Mexico has the most children living in poverty (30%) and is rated dead last in well-being of children and quality of public education. Finally, in a report that the Los Alamos Lab tried to suppress, six county governments surrounding Los Alamos County suffer a net economic loss from LANL.

In fiscal year 2024 DOE will spend $10 billion in New Mexico, 75% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs and 5% for dumping related radioactive wastes in our state. DOE’s budget is 6% greater than the entire operating budget of the State of New Mexico ($9.4 billion).

Senator Heinrich, please explain what good all that nuclear weapons money does for average New Mexicans, and not just for the privileged nuclear weapons enclaves.

For much more, please see nukewatch.org/new-mexico-americas-nuclear-colony

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Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: January 2024

FEDERAL BUDGET NEWS

Half of the federal budget (including Energy and Water appropriations which funds DOE) shuts down January 19 and the other half February 2 if a Continuing Resolution (CR) is not reached. House Speaker Johnson agreed to a previous funding agreement with the Biden Administration but the so-called Freedom Caucus is now in revolt.

Update: On January 18, Congress passes third stopgap funding bill instead of full FY24 budget, keeping the government funded until March. 

Sen. Martin Heinrich aids and abets the new, more dangerous nuclear arms race. He is outspokenly proud of all of the nuclear weapons money in New Mexico, and he is one of the chief congressional architects of expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores. In congress, Heinrich sits on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee from where he can direct $$billions to the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs.

But during the Department of Energy’s long presence in the Land of Enchantment, according to Census Bureau data New Mexico has slid in per capita income from 32nd in 1959 to 47th in 2022. New Mexico has the most children living in poverty (30%) and is rated dead last in well-being of children and quality of public education. Finally, in a report that the Los Alamos Lab tried to suppress, six county governments surrounding Los Alamos County suffer a net economic loss from LANL.

In fiscal year 2024 DOE will spend $10 billion in New Mexico, 75% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs and 5% for dumping related radioactive wastes in our state. DOE’s budget is 6% greater than the entire operating budget of the State of New Mexico ($9.4 billion).

Senator Heinrich, please explain what good all that nuclear weapons money does for average New Mexicans, and not just for the privileged nuclear weapons enclaves.

For much more, please see https://nukewatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/New-Mexico-Americas-Nuclear-Colony.pdf

ACCELERATING NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

North Korea Issues Ominous Warning About Nuclear Strike This Year
North Korea has issued an ominous warning about “the highest risk of clashes this year” between the totalitarian state and its neighbor to the south, which could end in “a nuclear strike,” according to South Korean media. Yonhap News Agency, a major media outlet in Seoul, reported on Thursday that North Korea media condemned recent Army artillery exercises and naval firing drills and exercises. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, said the exercises are “self destructive” and called South Koreans “warmongers,” according to Yonhap.

Los Alamos Lab’s Future at a Crossroads: Cleanup or More Nuclear Weapons? NukeWatch Applauds NM State Rejection of Fake Cleanup

Santa Fe, NM – In an important win for genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Lab’s plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and toxic wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. Area C is located in the heart of nuclear weapons production at LANL, contiguous to the Lab’s main plutonium facility which is expanding production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores.

In a September 7, 2023 “Public Notice of Statement of Basis,” the Environment Department ruled:

“For maximum protection of human health and the environment and to ensure that the drinking water resource can be conservatively protected, NMED has determined that the selected [cleanup] remedy for MDA C must consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste… Excavation will ensure that the source of contamination at MDA C is removed…”

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Photos from Japan Pilgrimage of Peace

Image Credit: The Archdiocese of Seattle Website (Daily Digests), Leslie M. Radigan & Archdiocese of Santa Fe Official Facebook Page, and Jay Coghlan of NukeWatch New Mexico.

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August 1 - First day of our Pilgrimage of Peace Novena in Japan
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August 2 - At Sophia, a Catholic University in Tokyo, attended by our leader, Hiro, where we toured the campus and met some of his teachers.
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August 2 - AB Wester and AB Etienne met with a reporter for The Asahi Shimbun paper to discuss the vision and purpose of this Pilgrimage of Peace, saying “Pope Francis has changed the moral needle with a seismic shift in the thinking on nuclear. He is saying even having nuclear weapons is immoral. He is laying the challenge before us…We want to start and sustain a thriving conversation on nuclear.” They shared the vision for verifiable multilateral nuclear disarmament as a pathway to peace and explained that many might think they are naive. “But we believe it’s far more naive to continue with what we’re doing now.”
“We are here to see what we can do to advocate for peace and share the gospel,” said AB Etienne. We are here “to invite people to realize that we can have peace by growing relationships with our neighbors and communities. We need to do that as people before we can do so as nations.”
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August 3 - A train ride to Kamakura, a 12th-century city on the coast.
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August 3 - Walking up to the Zen Engaku-ji Temple in Kamakura, founded in 1282 by Mugaku Sogen to honor those killed in wars against Mongolia. The quiet and peacefulness of the temple grounds, meditation rooms, and garden were palpable.
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August 3 - The Zen Engaku-ji Temple, founded in 1282 by Mugaku Sogen to honor those killed in wars against Mongolia. The quiet and peacefulness of the temple grounds, meditation rooms, and garden were palpable.
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August 3 - The Great Buddha of Kamakura. The national treasure began in 1252 and was completed approximately 10 years later.
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August 3 - Kamakura Daibutsu (The Great Buddha of Kamakura). The national treasure began in 1252 and was completed approximately 10 years later.
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August 3 - In Kamakura, a 12th-century city on the coast of Japan, visiting the Sisters of the Visitation.
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August 4 - Hiroshima Peace Memorial with Genbaku Dome in Background
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August 4 - New Mexico and Seattle Pilgrims of Peace at Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial
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August 4 - Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial
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August 4 - Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial
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August 6 - The Hiroshima Peace Park sign.
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August 6 - In Hiroshima, Japan
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August 6 - Hiroshima, Japan: Amidst this solemn atmosphere, the day elicited a mix of grief, reverence, and a call for peace, underscoring the importance of nuclear disarmament and the lasting effects of human conflict.
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August 7 - Nagasaki, Japan: Upon arrival, we met with the Mayor of Nagasaki, Mr. Shiro Suzuki, at City Hall. Our goal was to share our mission and express our interest in working collaboratively with the city and Japan's Catholic bishops. He shares our goals and is committed to working to abolish nuclear weapons. Archbishop Wester presented Mayor Suzuki with an Executive Order from the City of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller commemorating August 9, 2023, "In Honor of The Japanese Innocent Lives Lost."
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August 7 - Nagasaki, Japan: Photo from event, "Interfaith Dialogue and Exchange of Religious Leaders with a Common Desire for World Peace"
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August 7 - Nagasaki, Japan: Urikami Cathedral for Mass
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August 8 - Nagasaki, Japan: the Atomic Bomb Museum.
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August 8 - Nagasaki, Japan: the Atomic Bomb Museum.
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August 9 - Our Lady of Nagasaki, a wooden head of the Virgin Mary that survived the bombing. Her burnt face is both miraculous and haunting as she reminds us of the devastation and pain of that horrific day.
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August 9 - The Madonna of Nagasaki - burnt 78 years ago by the plutonium bomb.
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August 9 - The Madonna of Nagasaki - burnt 78 years ago by the plutonium bomb.
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Breakthrough Study Bolsters RECA Claims for New Mexicans Exposed to Trinity Test Site Radiation

Plutonium Detections From Trinity Test Discovered 78 years After Test – Confirm RECA Must Be Expanded

Located in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico, the Trinity Test Site marks the location of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” would have you believe this area is desolate, inhospitable and uninhabited. Contrary to this narrative and popular opinion, The area where the Trinity test occurred was not  uninhabited. There were more than 13,000 New Mexicans living within a 50-mile radius. Many of those children, women and men were not warned before or after the test. The event marking the dawn of the nuclear age in July 1945 ushered in decades of health issues for residents living downwind due to exposure to radioactive fallout. The long-lasting impact of radiation exposure is a painful legacy that the New Mexican communities have had to bear.


New preliminary information strongly supports Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) status for New Mexicans downwind of the Trinity Test Site. In the past weeks, Michael E. Ketterer, (Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ) has completed a short “proof of principle” study that directly investigates where plutonium in soils originates by analyzing isotopic ratios, in a known portion of the Trinity Test plume.

Dr. Ketterer sampled soils along highways NM 42, US 54, NM 55, US 60, and US 380. The isotopes show that there is definitely plutonium from the Trinity Test in the northeast plume, and distinguishes it from global (stratospheric) background and New Mexico regional background from Nevada Test Site fallout. Soils along all five of these highways contain plutonium that reflects mixtures of Trinity Test debris and global/Nevada regional background fallout; in some cases, nearly 100% of the Pu originates from the Trinity Test.

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Does New Mexico Deserve Downwinder Status: Definitely Yes, as Evident Via Plutonium Isotopes in 2023 Soil Samples

Michael E. Ketterer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Northern Arizona University , Flagstaff AZ

Introduction/objective: to investigate whether plutonium from the July 16, 1945 Trinity Test can be identified in contemporary soils and dusts near the Trinity Site. A proof-of concept study was conducted via a small-scale July 2023 collection of soil samples along five public highways transecting the areas reported to be most affected (refer to 239+240Pu deposition inventory map from Beck et al., 2020). More-distant soil samples were obtained from the Carson National Forest near Truchas, New Mexico.

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New Mexico: America’s Nuclear Colony

Money doesn’t talk, it swears. (Bob Dylan)

Quick Facts

Nuclear New Mexico

• DOE FY 2024 budget in NM is $10 billion (double next state).
– 75% core nuclear weapons research and production programs
– 28% life extended and new-design nuclear warheads ($2.65B)
– 20% expanded nuclear weapons production ($2 billion)
– $1.75B expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production
– 5% for dumping radioactive bomb wastes (WIPP $484 million)
• Expanding nuclear weapons programs sold as jobs, jobs, jobs
• Los Alamos County (LAC) 70.6% non-Hispanic Caucasian
• LAC is 11th richest county in USA, most millionaires per capita
• Los Alamos County median household income $123,677
• Los Alamos County per capita income $64,521
• Los Alamos County persons in poverty 3.7%
• Los Alamos County has least children living in poverty in USA
• Los Alamos County rated best county to live in in USA
• Historically LAC schools subsidized added $8 million/yr from DOE
• LAC receives >$50 million in annual state gross receipts taxes
• Dept of Energy renewable spending in NM is 0.5% of $10B budget
• Indigenous and Hispanic lands unjustly seized for LANL
• World’s first atomic bomb detonated at Trinity Test
• 75 years still no govt tally of sick Navajo/Laguna uranium miners
• At least 8,280 sick Los Alamos and Sandia Labs workers
• Major hexavalent chromium groundwater contamination at LANL
• LANL plans to “cap and cover” and leave >200,000 yd3 of waste
• USA’s largest repository of warheads 2 miles south of ABQ airport
• Nation’s only plutonium “pit” bomb core production site at LANL
• Nation’s only dump for bomb wastes at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
• NM targeted for all of nation’s lethal radioactive high-level wastes

New Mexico

• NM’s entire FY24 state operating budget is 6% less ($9.4 billion).
– 54% public education K-12 and higher
– 34% public health and safety

• NM per capita income falls from 32nd (1959) to 47th (2022)
• New Mexico 50% Hispanic, 11.2% Native American
• New Mexico 4th poorest state
• Median household income $54,020
• Average per capita income $29,624
• New Mexicans in poverty 18.4% (3rd highest in USA)
• 30% of New Mexican children live in poverty (highest rate in USA).
• New Mexico rated worst in well-being of children
• New Mexico is dead last in quality of public education
• Six surrounding county govts suffer net economic loss from LANL
• New Mexico has very abundant renewable energy resources
• DOE transfers excess land to white, wealthy Los Alamos County
• Generational cancers, Downwinders never compensated
• Chronically delayed remediation of 260 uranium mines and 7 mills

• NM facing decreasing water resources and increasing wildfires
• Lab commonly hires away senior NM Environment Dept officials
• >$5B for plutonium facilities, more than all NM schools & hospitals
• DOE threatens to sue NM over new WIPP state permit conditions
• Federal Nuclear Reg. Comm. grants license despite state opposition

New Mexico: America’s Nuclear Colony

New Mexico is the birthplace place of nuclear weapons. The “Land of Enchantment” has always been the single most important state within the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The Department of Energy (DOE) will spend $10 billion in NM in FY 2024, 6% more than the operating budget of the entire state government.

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THE FUTURE OF WIPP: PLUTONIUM BOMB WASTE

THE FUTURE OF WIPP: PLUTONIUM BOMB WASTE

NNSA’s mission is plutonium pit production…for the next 30 years and beyond.

NNSA HAS STATED CLEARLY: “WIPP IS ESSENTIAL FOR PIT PRODUCTION UNTIL 2080.”

As you can see clearly in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s chart above, NNSA is getting ready to dump radioactive wastes from plutonium pit production at WIPP for the next 30 years.

Waste from expanded pit production will soon far outweigh cleanup wastes.

Despite being located in New Mexico, out-of-state sites have been given priority over radioactive wastes from Los Alamos Lab.







ALL FUTURE PIT PRODUCTION is for speculative new designs that can’t be tested because of the international testing moratorium, thereby perhaps eroding confifidence in the stockpile. Or, alternatively, these new designs could push the U.S. into resuming testing, which would have severe proliferation consequences.

Pit production will add an estimated 57,550 cubic meters of radioactive plutonium wastes over 50 years, more than half of WIPP’s projected future capacity. The National Academy of Sciences has already concluded that WIPP doesn’t have sufficient capacity for all of DOE’s planned radioactive wastes.

State Environment Department Begins to Rein in Work On LANL’s Chromium Plume Given Major Differences With DOE

At a February 9, 2023 public community forum hosted by the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Office, there were strong indications that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is convinced that DOE’s plans to remediate the chromium groundwater contamination plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is not working. Kimberly Lebak, program manager for N3B, the LANL cleanup contractor, described how it is finalizing the 2023 milestones under the Consent Order that governs cleanup, despite the fact that the NMED Groundwater Bureau has requested that DOE stop injecting treated water by April 1, 2023. DOE and NMED are not seeing eye-to-eye concerning the “Interim Measure” that N3B is using to contain the chromium plume.

The two agencies disagree on the Interim Measure, originally designed to prevent chromium from migrating across the San Ildefonso Pueblo border while DOE tries to figure out a final remedy.

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Top Environment Official Takes Inside Info to Nuclear Weapons Agency, Gets Puny Slap-on-Wrist for Ethical Violation; Governor Should Enforce State Code of Conduct

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) will spend $9.4 billion dollars in New Mexico during this fiscal year 2023, 10% more than the State’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. To help enable its agenda of expanding nuclear weapons production that will cause more radioactive wastes and contamination, the DOE’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) or its contractors often go head hunting for top State officials.

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has sued DOE over the slow pace of cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Stephanie Stringer, former Deputy Cabinet Director (the number two position at NMED), applied to work for NNSA in August 2022, and resigned to take that job in November. During that time, she was privy to NMED litigation strategy against DOE and chaired the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission that denied a citizens’ motion against one of LANL’s most crucial facilities for expanding plutonium pit production, the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility. As a result, the New Mexico Ethics commission fined Stringer a paltry $250. Assuming that Stringer is earning at least $100,000 base salary in her new position, that fine would have cost her approximately five hours of her time.

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New Mexico’s Revolving Nuclear Door: Top Environment Officials Sell Out to Nuclear Weapons Labs

As part of a long, ingrained history, senior officials at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have repeatedly resigned to go to work for the nuclear weapons labs, the Department of Energy, or DOE contractors. In a number of cases that is where they came from to begin with.

The hierarchy of leadership at NMED starts with the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries and then Division Directors. The position of Resource Protection Division Director is particularly critical because it oversees the two NMED bureaus most directly involved with DOE facilities in New Mexico, the Hazardous Waste Bureau and the DOE Oversight Bureau.

FULL PRESS RELEASE [PDF]

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“LAZY format”: A Failed WIPP Community Engagement Meeting in Santa Fe

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Environmental Management held a Presentation and “Community Forum” for Santa Fe on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), formatted as a hybrid in-person and Zoom meeting on Thursday, July 7, 2022. Nuclear Watch New Mexico is extremely unsatisfied with the outcome of this meeting, and is not alone in criticizing both the substance of the meeting and the format.

We have recorded this public forum with the chat included because there was an overwhelming amount of participation within the chat, and we feel the chat is a valuable resource in and of itself, as well as a testament to the large amount of community concern present around the subject of WIPP. View that recording HERE (and below).

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President Biden Should Let His Faith Guide Him Toward Nuclear Disarmament

Did you see what the Santa Fe Archbishop wrote in the very heart of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex?

With this pending Nuclear Posture Review, President Biden has the opportunity to show his moral leadership. I know he is capable. After all, much of what is needed is only to turn his own past words into new policy—and to reject today’s fearful status quo, embracing a new path that we can all live with.

Read the entire article here and see the picture.

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Happy Are Peacemakers Who Wake Up the Rest of Us

Happy Are Peacemakers Who Wake Up the Rest of Us

A powerful op-ed by Sister Joan Chittister:
Quote:
“The difference is that [Santa Fe Archbishop] Wester is alone and standing in what came to be the center of the “American Nuclear Soul” in Santa Fe calling us again to examine our American consciences. As Pope Francis said at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima on Nov. 24, 2019, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral. … How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”
Given the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs and the country’s largest repository of nuclear weapons in our state, we at NukeWatch believe that New Mexicans have a special responsibility and privilege to help lead the world toward a future without nuclear weapons.
Read the entire article here and see the pictures.

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Signs Calling for a Future of Peace Through a Reminder of the Past

Less than a week before the Christmas holiday, over 125 people came together at the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the afternoon of Sunday, December 19th to listen to Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe give a blessing to two “signs of peace” he unveiled on-site during a short ceremony. The signs were revealed to show an image of Pope Francis and a quote uttered by the pope in Hiroshima in 2020: “The possession of nuclear arms is immoral.” During the blessing, the Archbishop spoke on his memories of “those days during the Cuban missile crisis when I would walk home from school having been instructed what to do in the event of a nuclear attack within a few thousand yards of a nuke missile site in San Francisco,” before issuing a call for the world to rid itself its nuclear weapons.

“We need to be instruments of peace,” he said, especially as we head into the Christmas season, a “season of peace.”

Wester said that the current arms race “is more ominous” than any that came before. He touched on the growing tension around the Russia-Ukraine border in mentioning that there are at least “40 active conflicts in the world,” and said “our archdiocese needs to be facilitating, encouraging an ongoing conversation” about nuclear disarmament. This is especially true in light of the fact that two of the US’s three nuclear weapons laboratories are to be found in the dioceses of Sandia and Los Alamos, and on top of that there are more nuclear warheads in his dioceses from the 2,500-some count stored in reserve at the Kirtland Air Force Base at Albuquerque. All of this means that more money is spent in his dioceses than any other dioceses in the country and perhaps the world.

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LANL Plans to Address Possibly Exploding Drums Shipped to Texas in 2014

Waste Control Specialists near Andrews TX
Aerial View of Waste Control Specialists (WCS) on the TX/NM state line

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has given itself a Categorical Exclusion (CX) under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the removal, relocation, and examination of transuranic (TRU) waste drums at Waste Control Specialists (WCS). These drums are similar to the ones that forced WIPP to close in 2014. LANL officials decided that formal environmental assessments, with public input, of the movement of the possibly exploding waste drums are not needed.

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Current U.S. Nuclear Weapons Issues Updates — November 15, 2021

The current Continuing Resolution keeping the government running expires 12/3. Another Continuing Resolution is likely.

The Pentagon has released a major threat assessment of China at https://media.defense.gov/2021/Nov/03/2002885874/-1/-1/0/2021-CMPR-FINAL.PDF.

Under “Nuclear Capabilities” it concludes:

► Over the next decade, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] aims to modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.
► The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.
► The PRC has possibly already established a nascent “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.
► New developments in 2020 further suggest that the PRC intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force.

This is bound to have a major influence on Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review, to be released in early 2022. China’s expansion of its nuclear weapons capabilities, along with U.S. and Russian “modernization” programs, may also be big issues at the January 2022 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference.

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This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

This is OUR Neighborhood: Expanding the Capacity of New Mexico’s Nuclear Waste Repository Affects Communities across the Country.

The original mission of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico had two specific stipulations: it was to be the FIRST and only operating underground nuclear waste repository in U.S; and it is ONLY authorized to take a certain kind of nuclear weapons waste – legacy transuranic (TRU) waste. In December of last year, the U.S. Department of Energy published a notice of intent to expand WIPP. The notice details expansion of the plant in two ways: capacities and types of waste permissible, as well as extended storage/operation timelines. The federal government’s plans would expand the size of the nuclear weapons dump to more than twice its current size and more than is allowed: Federal law and legal agreements with New Mexico clearly limit the amount of waste at WIPP, but the expansion would allow more than that capacity (as described in the April 2020 National Academy of Sciences Report “Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.”) This means an increased volume of waste, as well as an increased number of shipments travelling to WIPP over the entire rest of the century.

The original complete set of legal permits, contracts and laws governing WIPP includes the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which 1) gives the New Mexico Environment Department regulation over the permit for DOE operation of WIPP and 2) limits amount of waste and how long WIPP operates (2024);

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76 Years After the First Nuclear Bomb Test, the U.S. is Still Dead Set on Building Weapons of Mass Destruction

76 Years After the First Nuclear Bomb Test, the U.S. is Still Dead Set on Building New Weapons of Mass Destruction

Last week, July 16 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb explosion. Within another month, memorials and commemorations will be held for the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the U.S. bombed on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. Although it was unknown to most residents of New Mexico until after the United States’ atomic bombing of Japan, the citizens and communities in the southern region of the state were in fact the first nuclear victims.

When the U.S. Army detonated an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., “its thunderous roar during the rainy season knocked people from breakfast tables in Tularosa and sent others on the Mescalero Apache reservation into hiding.” (axios.com) Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in New Mexico are working to pressure lawmakers to compensate those who have suffered extremely because of the experiment. Rare forms of cancer and other health problems have been discovered in those living near the site of the Trinity Test, and the vast, noxious consequences of this experiment have had lasting impact on now multiple, entire generations.

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