Santa Fe, NM – Today the Trump Administration released more budget details for the Department of Energy and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons programs for fiscal year 2020. This same fiscal year will also mark the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising
More than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, all eight established nuclear weapons powers are “modernizing” their stockpiles. Talks have broken down with North Korea, the new nuclear weapons power. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan narrowly averted war last month. Russian President Vladmir Putin made new nuclear threats in response to Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This could lead to hair-trigger missile emplacements in the heart of Europe and block extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. If so, the world will be without any nuclear arms control at all for the first time since 1972. Continue reading
Santa Fe, NM – Today the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced its choice for the new management and operating contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
The new contractor, Triad National Security, LLC, is a limited liability company consisting of the Battelle Memorial Institute, the University of California and Texas A&M University. All three are non-profits, and it is unclear how this will affect New Mexico gross receipts taxes.
Battelle claims to be the world’s largest non-profit technology research and development organization, and manages a number of labs including the Lawrence Livermore and Idaho National Laboratories. Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as the state’s first public institution of higher learning and has the largest nuclear engineering program in the country. DOE Secretary Rick Perry is an avid A&M alumnus.
The new contract includes a five-year base time with five one-year options, for a total of 10 years if all options are exercised. The estimated value of the contract is $2.5 billion annually.
The University of California (UC) ran the Lab from its beginning in 1943 until June 2006, when Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), composed of the University of California (UC), Bechtel, AECOM and BWX Technologies, Inc., took over. That contract had a ten-year base period with ten one-year options, for a total of 20 years if all options were exercised. But LANS was terminated with nine years left of possible options. This was primarily due to LANS improperly preparing a barrel of radioactive wastes that ruptured, closing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for nearly three years. NNSA did not clarify why it is now issuing a shorter contract.
This change in contract follows a May 10, 2018 announcement by NNSA that production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores of nuclear weapons, will be expanded to at least 30 pits per year at LANL, and an additional 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site. The Los Alamos Lab is the birthplace of nuclear weapons, and it is tying its future to increased nuclear weapons production, with the active support of the New Mexico congressional delegation. The Lab proposed, but failed to convince NNSA, to produce all 80 plutonium pits per year. LANL’s core research, testing and production programs for nuclear weapons now comprise 70% of its ~$2.5 billion annual budget, while much of the Lab’s remaining budget indirectly supports those programs.
Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the new NNSA Administrator, testified during her confirmation hearing that expanded plutonium pit production is her number one priority. However, expanded production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, no pit production for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future. Up to 15,000 “excess” pits and another 5,000 in “strategic reserve” are already stored at DOE’s Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX. In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century (they currently average 40 years old). A 2012 follow-on study by the Livermore Lab found that the “graceful aging of plutonium also reduces the immediate need for a modern high-capacity manufacturing facility to replace pits in the stockpile.”
Future pit production is for speculative future new designs being pushed by the nuclear weapons labs, so-called Interoperable Warheads for both land- and sub-launched missiles that the Navy does not want. Moreover, future pits will NOT be exact replicas of existing pits. This could have serious potential consequences because heavily modified 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.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Regardless of who runs the Lab, LANL will decrease mission diversification and increase nuclear weapons production, while holding cleanup flat at a tenth of its weapons budget. New Mexico been a nuclear weapons colony since WWII, and adding Battelle, Texas A&M, and the University of California is just more of the same. There will be little if any added benefit for New Mexico’s citizens.”
Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move to avoid publicity, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) announced late Friday afternoon June 24 that it had finalized a new “Consent Order” to replace a 2005 Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Environment Department’s brief press release headlined “Agreement Focuses on Cleanup & Supporting Stronger Federal Funding Requests.” This is doublespeak, as the new Consent Order is a giveaway to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. The new Order is also clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup. In contrast, the new Consent Order allows them to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up.
The nuclear weaponeers are now openly talking about the “The Second Nuclear Age” before cleaning up form the first nuclear age. They are actively seeking to expand nuclear weapons production that caused the widespread contamination to begin with, particularly plutonium pit production at LANL.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs. But yet the Environment Department fails New Mexicans by failing to enforce cleanup at Los Alamos.”
When NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn announced a draft new Consent Order on March 30, he claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch agrees, but that’s because Secretary Flynn granted more than 150 compliance milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating the old Consent Order. While finalizing the new Consent Order NMED ignored the explicit public participation requirements of the old Order, which among other things requires a public hearing on major modifications. Instead, NMED rammed through the final Consent Order, largely brushing aside the formal comments of some 40 concerned citizens and the Santa Clara Pueblo.
LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup has been cut to $189 million for FY 2017 (down from $225 million in FY 2014), with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguard improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).
The original 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. Instead, the Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.
A few of the serious deficiencies of the new Consent Order are:
[Quotes are from the new Consent Order followed by page numbers]
• “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…” P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department.
• “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order will be held hostage to DOE’s budget, which recently cut LANL’s cleanup funding.
• “… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.
• “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.
• The new draft Consent Order explicitly states that public participation requirements do NOT apply to future modifications of the Order. P. 25. This is the opposite of what the original Consent Order required, which made a point of incorporating the public process requirements of federal environmental law. Nuclear Watch New Mexico maintains that full public participation requirements apply to the new Consent Order as well, including its very formulation as a major modification of the old Consent Order. That full public participation process requires a public hearing if there are unresolved issues, which NMED has rejected, a position that may be of questionable legality.
On May 12, 2016, Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a lawsuit against LANL and DOE for failing to meet compliance milestones in the old Consent Order. These violations incur around $300 million dollars in potential penalties, which NMED shows no sign of enforcing. To the contrary, NMED has filed a motion to intervene against Nuclear Watch New Mexico in its lawsuit, raising the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case a for-profit nuclear weapons lab)?
Moreover, when Nuclear Watch NM filed a notice of intent to sue on January 21, NMED Secretary Flynn sought to intimidate our lawyers by declaring “If a suit is filed, and the Environment Department becomes involved, we would insist on collecting any and all labor and legal costs from the (New Mexico Environmental Law Center) to reimburse New Mexico’s taxpayers for the costs resulting from this groundless and frivolous action.”
Far from being a frivolous action, Nuclear Watch and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center seek to compel full and genuine environmental restoration at the Los Alamos Lab, which the new Consent Order blocks by giving the nuclear weaponeers giant loopholes to avoid cleanup.
Our complaint alleged twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. At that time we calculated 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to$294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.
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 inRoom 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.”
Appeals court overturns sabotage convictions of Transform Now Plowshares activists, vacates sentences of Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed on all charges and remands for resentencing.
Court suggests decision may lead to release of Rice, Boertje-Obed and Walli
8 May 2015
for immediate release
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in favor of the Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed who were convicted in 2013 of sabotage for their July 28, 2012 Transform Now Plowshares protest of nuclear weapons production at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
“The purpose of the action of Michael, Megan and Greg was to call attention to the ongoing production of thermonuclear weapons components at the bomb plant in Oak Ridge and, more specifically, to oppose plans to build a new, multi-billion dollar bomb plant—the Uranium Processing Facility—at Y12,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “They were nonviolent protestors in the tradition of Gandhi, not saboteurs. We are pleased the Sixth Circuit appreciated the difference.”
The court ruled 2-1 in a decision handed down on May 8, 2015, that the government failed to prove the Transform Now Plowshares activists intended to “injure the national defense,” a requirement for conviction under the sabotage act. Disposing of the government’ arguments one by one, the court finally states simply: “The defendants’ convictions under §2155(a) must be reversed.”
The circuit court had the option of merely reversing the sabotage conviction but letting the defendants’ sentences stand on the other charge for which they were convicted—depredation of government property. Noting the lesser charge would have resulted in lesser sentences—the men received 62 month sentences and Megan Rice a sentence of 35 months—under federal sentencing guidelines (“it appears that the guidelines ranges for their § 1361 convictions on remand will be substantially less than their time already served in federal custody.“), the court chose to vacate all sentences and remand the their cases for resentencing on the remaining depredation count.
Michael Walli is currently serving his sentence at McKean federal prison in Bradford, PA; Greg Boertje-Obed is in Leavenworth, KS; Megan Rice is in federal prison in Brooklyn, NY. Her release date is currently in mid-November, 2015.
At this time, it is not clear when resentencing will take place.
for more information
Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050
Paul Magno 202 321 6650
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 2, 2015
Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342
DOE Nuclear Weapons Budget Up 10%, Equals Cold War Record
Huge Startup for Nuclear Cruise Missile Warhead
$4 Billion Slated for LANL Plutonium Pit Production Facilities
Cleanup and Dismantlement Funding Remain Flat
Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts October 1, 2015.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, and has perennially been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayers’ money. Despite that, the Obama Administration is giving NNSA nuclear weapons programs a 10.5% jump in funding to $8.85 billion. (1) This is statistically equal to the Cold War high point in 1985 under President Reagan’s military buildup. (2) Moreover, the NNSA’s nuclear weapons budget is slated to rise to $9.8 billion by 2020, nearly double that of the Cold War average. All of this is the beginning of the planned one trillion dollar modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons forces over the next 30 years.
The large increases in NNSA budgets are due to 1) aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that seek to indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities; and 2) new production plants for these rebuilt nuclear weapons, expected to be operational until ~2075. As an example of the former, the current $12 billion B61 Life Extension Program will create the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb, and will soon begin production at existing facilities.
NNSA’s FY 2016 budget launches a whole new Life Extension Program for a nuclear warhead for a new air-launched cruise missile. (3) Requested FY 2016 funding is $195 million, a 20-fold increase from $9 million for conceptual studies in FY 2015. This program is slated to rise to $459 million in annual appropriations by FY 2020. This nuclear warhead has been scheduled before Pentagon development of the new air-launched cruise missile itself, in effect putting the cart before the horse. This costly program is arguably redundant as well, given that rebuilt B61 nuclear bombs will be delivered on future super-stealthy fighters advertised as capable of penetrating any adversary’s air defenses. Finally, a nuclear-armed cruise missile is destabilizing from an arms control perspective because they can fly below radar, delivering the proverbial bolt from the blue.
On the flip side of production, the Obama Administration’s funding request for dismantlements is $48 million, less than 4% of the funding for all Life Extension Programs to rebuild nuclear weapons. Obama’s request itself is an improvement from last year, when the Administration asked for only $30 million, a 45% cut compared to the year before. Congress refused to go along with that, earmarking $50 million for dismantlements in FY 2015. Besides providing a good example to the rest of the world, nuclear weapons dismantlements deliver real savings to the American taxpayer by eliminating otherwise permanent security costs.
Concerning new production facilities, NNSA is asking for a 28% increase to $430 million for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN. The UPF is to produce up to 80 “secondaries” each year, the components that give weapons thermonuclear capabilities capable of killing millions. The previous “big box” design for the UPF was canceled after out-of-control costs rose as high as $19 billion by one Pentagon estimate. UPF also had a half-billion dollar design mistake for which no one has been held accountable, in which all planned equipment could not fit within the building’s footprint. Because of all this, the UPF’s mission has been downscoped to production only, eliminating dismantlements, in order to help contain costs, currently capped at $6.5 billion. Again, dismantlements seem dispensable to the Obama Administration.
NNSA also plans to begin spending $2 billion to upgrade existing facilities for the expanded production of the plutonium pit cores of nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), beginning with $155.6 million in FY 2016. The controversial CMRR “Nuclear Facility” is formally canceled. In its place, up to $675 million is planned to be spent on additional equipment for the already built Radiological Laboratory to quadruple the amount of plutonium that can be handled there, and up to $1.4 billion to upgrade PF-4, LANL’s existing main plutonium facility.
In addition, “The third step of the plutonium strategy extends the lifetime of PF-4 and supports increases in pit production capacity beyond 30 pits per year by proposing to build new modular facilities and move selected processes into new space… The NNSA is planning to construct not less than two modular structures that will achieve full operating capability not later than 2027.” Although still far from final design, those modular facilities will likely cost a billion dollars each. Given the usual cost overruns, eventual costs may meet or exceed the CMRR’s estimated cost of $6.5 billion when it included the Nuclear Facility.
In New Mexico-related news, the DOE budget request for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is decreased by $76 million to $248 million. Of that, $87 million is for “base activities” while WIPP is shut down because of a radiation release in February 2104. The rest of funding is for “Recovery Activities” to resume underground disposal by March 2016 of radioactive wastes that were already stored above ground at WIPP when the accident happened. Meanwhile, plutonium-contaminated wastes across the country already prepared for shipment to WIPP will have to wait. Total costs to reopen WIPP remain unknown.
Inflation-adjusted funding for cleanup across the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex remains flat at $5.5 billion, even though estimated cleanup costs of the massive widespread contamination continue to climb. The funding request for cleanup at Los Alamos Lab is flat at $185 million. It includes repackaging radioactive waste drums stored at LANL that are similar to the one that ruptured and contaminated WIPP. It will also fund investigation and corrective measures for the large chromium plume in our groundwater aquifer, with an emphasis on preventing it from crossing the boundary of neighboring San Ildefonso Pueblo. Current contamination maps show the plume stopping at exactly the boundary, which is nearly impossible.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “Thousands of nuclear weapons rebuilt at enormous costs won’t protect us from ISIS, a dirty bomb in Manhattan, Ebola or climate change. NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs should be cut to help pay for the expansion of nonproliferation programs that actually enhance national security, cleanup programs that protect the environment while creating jobs, and dismantlement programs that get rid of nuclear weapons forever and save taxpayers money.”
(1) As topline numbers, NNSA’s budget category “Total Weapons Activities” increase from $8.23 billion in FY 2015 to $8.85 billion in FY 2016, or 7.5%. However, the true increase is masked by the fact that two counterproliferation programs formerly within NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are moved to Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Once that is factored in the real increase for NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs is 10.5%
(2) The FY 2016 DOE nuclear weapons request is calculated as statistically equal to the Cold War record using data from Atomic Audit, Brookings Institute, 1998, Stephen Schwartz editor, Table A-2. It gives 5.494 billion in 1996 dollars as the cost for DOE nuclear weapons research, production and testing programs in 1985, the height of the Cold War military build up under Ronald Reagan. Adjusted for inflation that is $8.99 billion in 2015 dollars.
(3) Called the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon in the budget because heavy bombers can launch the nuclear-armed cruise missiles at a great distance from their intended targets.
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
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?
Nonproliferation Expert Highlights Need for New Tools for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Verification
January 12,2015, nonproliferation expert Dr. James Doyle is releasing a report making the case for expansion of the nation’s nonproliferation programs, and will brief key congressional staff on his findings. While in Washington DC, Dr. Doyle is also meeting with the Department of Energy on his contractor employee protection (AKA whistleblower) program complaint regarding his termination from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Lab claims he was merely laid off, after he wrote his study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? arguing for abolition. LANL initially cleared his study for release, but then retroactively classified it, despite the fact that it was already available on the Internet.
Dr. Doyle’s new study, Essential Capabilities Needed for Nuclear Security: A National Program for Nonproliferation and Verification Technology Development, builds upon his earlier study. In this new study, written in collaboration with Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Doyle seeks to encourage development and/or deployment of new and existing verification and monitoring technologies that would help make a future world free of nuclear weapons more technically and politically feasible.
Doyle observed, “Nonproliferation and arms verification have for too long been considered “soft power” tools of the diplomatic and arms control communities. Real nuclear security requires that we now consider these capabilities as vital elements of our national security infrastructure. They are potent “smart power” tools offering unique advantages in a rapidly evolving nuclear security environment, which unfortunately includes the threat of nuclear terrorism. Aggressive verification and monitoring technologies will produce a far greater national security return on the taxpayer dollar than will exorbitant “modernization” programs for an unnecessarily oversized nuclear arsenal.”
He continued, “As America allegedly reduces its reliance on nuclear weapons and hopefully further reduces the size of its stockpile, it needs new tools and new capabilities to keep weapons and materials secure and verify that other nations are complying with similar obligations. To meet these needs a new, integrated multiagency program to develop nonproliferation, verification and monitoring technologies for nuclear security should be initiated without delay.”
Some key findings of Doyle’s new report are:
• The program to develop new nonproliferation, verification and monitoring technologies should be funded as a core aspect of the nation’s nuclear infrastructure modernization plan, and thus implemented jointly by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Defense, with guidance from the State Department, intelligence community and National Academy of Sciences.
• Responsibility for this interagency mission should be assigned to high-level officials who have budget and program authority across the nuclear weapons and nonproliferation programs within the Departments of Defense and NNSA. The State Department should assign a senior task force leader to coordinate with the DoD and NNSA program directors.
• The program should maximize international collaboration, including Russia. Program plans and activities should be a central element of the P-5 dialogue on verification. Other non-nuclear weapons states that support verification and monitoring R&D should also be involved.
· The need for this program was formally codified as an explicit objective in the Obama Administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, and has been repeatedly articulated by both the U.S. government and independent assessments. That need should be met now. Failure in the form of a nuclear detonation on American soil (or anywhere) is not an option
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The nuclear weapons establishment is planning to spend more than a trillion dollars to “modernize” existing weapons, and build new missiles, subs and bombers. Meanwhile, the NNSA is cutting nonproliferation and dismantlement programs to help pay this colossal bill. This is exactly upside down. We should be making smart investments into new nonproliferation, verification and monitoring technologies that will help make a world free of nuclear weapons feasible, eliminating the threat for all time.”
Dr. James Doyle’s report is made possible by the support of the Ploughshares Fund.
His full report, Essential Capabilities Needed for Nuclear Security:
On December 6, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declared multiple violations at both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). NMED plans to fine WIPP $17.7 million and LANL $36.6 million due to major procedural problems related to the handling of radioactive transuranic (TRU) wastes that contributed to two significant incidents at WIPP earlier this year.
In addition to “failure to adequately characterize waste” and other violations, LANL was cited for the processing of nitrate-bearing wastes and adding neutralizing agents to that waste stream. LANL treated this procedure as if it was outside the state hazardous waste permit, but NMED determined that these operations were not exempt. LANL treated 100s of waste drums without a permit, and one of these was apparently the cause of the February 14, 2014 radioactive release at WIPP that contaminated 21 workers.
WIPP was cited for, among other violations, not notifying NMED in a timely fashion of the February 14 radioactive release.
The $36.6 million fine at LANL is based on up to $10,000 per day per non-compliance, but still represents less than 2% of the Lab’s $2.1 billion annual budget. The contractor that runs the Lab, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, is eligible to earn $57 million in bonus award fees for the fiscal year that ended last September 30th. The fines should be taken out of the bonuses.
NMED stipulated that the penalties couldn’t be paid for out of designated funding for environmental cleanup or operational needs at LANL and WIPP.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauds these efforts to hold the Department of Energy accountable in New Mexico and we urge NMED to not negotiate these relatively modest fines down, as is typically the case. These fines should be paid out of the contractor’s profits. The Lab had this waste for over 20 years and still could not get it right. We hope these NMED fines are a wake up call for safe, comprehensive cleanup of all the wastes left from the Cold War at the Los Alamos Lab.”
Watchdogs Urge Reduced Contractor Fees at the Los Alamos Lab
Washington, DC and Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Project On Government Oversight and Nuclear Watch New Mexico sent the Secretary of the Department of Energy a letter urging that the contractor award fee for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) be slashed. The total possible fee that can be earned for FY 2014, which ended September 30, is $17.1 million in fixed fee and up to $40 million in incentive fee. The watchdog organizations argue that the incentive fee award should be cut at least in half because of grossly substandard contractor performance.
The Los Alamos Lab is run by Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), whose two main partners are the University of California (UC) and the privately held Bechtel Corporation. UC ran the Lab as a nonprofit until June 2006, and received approximately $8 million in annual compensation. In contrast, the for-profit LANS was awarded $51.9 million in FY 2013, or more than six times the old nonprofit fee, for no apparent improvement in contract management. As recently reported by The Albuquerque Journal, LANL Director Charlie McMillan makes $1.5 million annually while also acting as president of LANS, which is a possible conflict of interest.
LANS’ contract performance in FY 2014 was demonstrably worse than other years. The best, well-publicized evidence is that the Lab 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, with estimated reopening costs of a half-billion dollars (which will no doubt increase). Moreover, the New Mexico Environment Department now threatens to levy substantial fines against LANL because of its missed deadline to send transuranic wastes to WIPP.
Less well known, the Lab is the nation’s only so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence,” but has been unable to conduct major operations at its plutonium facility since the end of June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety issues. The two watchdog organizations do not support plutonium operations at LANL, much of which is geared towards the unnecessary production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores of nuclear weapons. However, at the same time, contractors should not be paid for work they don’t do.
Peter Stockton, POGO’s senior investigator, commented, “It’s time for some tough love! LANS screws up the WIPP facility, costing the government at least $500 million, and had to stop operations at its plutonium facility for over a year because of nuclear safety concerns. In the face of these debacles, DOE should be seeking restitution, not providing a performance bonus.”
Bechtel has had a particularly troubling contracting history with DOE. Under its management estimated costs for the Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation soared from $3.5 billion to $13 billion, with numerous whistleblower complaints. Similarly, under LANS’ management of the Los Alamos Lab, estimated costs for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project mushroomed from around $600 million to $6.5 billion, leading to cancellation of the proposed “Nuclear Facility.” Now, in effect, Bechtel has awarded itself the construction contract to build the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 production plant in Oak Ridge, TN. Under a previous contractor estimated costs for the UPF exploded from around $600 million to as high as $19 billion. To help fix that, the UPF’s mission has been recently narrowed to nuclear weapons components production only (eliminating dismantlements) in order to hold to a budget cap of $6.5 billion. That means the American taxpayer is paying more for less, and arguably for the wrong priorities. Lockheed Martin and Bechtel run the new Y-12 management contract.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The Department of Energy’s cozy relationships with its contractors must end, given their repeated failures and massive cost overruns. Substandard performance by the Los Alamos Lab contractor is costing the taxpayer dearly, and therefore DOE should slash its incentive performance fee award at least in half. From there, DOE should consider booting Los Alamos National Security, LLC for another contractor entirely.”
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The POGO/Nuclear Watch NM letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz urging reduced award fees for the Los Alamos Lab contractor is available at
Despite the fact that no one has come up with a good reason to increase plutonium pit production for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, officials want to study the possibility of radically increasing the amount of plutonium allowed in a recently completed laboratory at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The Deputy Administrator for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Programs, Don Cook, has requested an analysis to increase the radioactive materials inventory in the recently completed Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB) to up to 400 grams of plutonium-239, the isotope used in nuclear weapons. The RLUOB, which originally was limited to 8.4 grams of Pu 239, was built as Phase 1 of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at LANL that would have expanded plutonium pit production to 50 – 80 pits per year (pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons). LANL’s current capacity is 20 pits per year. Phase 2 of the CMRR project, the “Nuclear Facility,” was canceled because of lack of clear need and a bulging ten-fold increase in costs.
This RLUOB, along with some floor space in the existing Plutonium Facility (PF-4), will replace the old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building, which is slated for closure in 2019. The Laboratory was working on a plutonium strategy to move out of CMR and maintain the current plutonium capability.
But NNSA recently increased the maximum amount of radiological materials allowed in the RLOUB, and all “radiological” facilities, from 8.4 grams to 38.6 grams. Internal Lab documents floated plans that could have increased the limit again by two or three times by treating each little laboratory in the RLUOB as its own radiological facility. This could have increased the limit to 115.8 grams of Pu239.
But NNSA apparently wants to go big. The new analysis is to consider the RLUOB as a Hazard Category 3 nuclear facility, which is a huge step up from its current designation as a radiological facility.
Scott Kovac, Research and Operations Director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “This turkey of a plan is stuffed with bad ideas – The RLUOB is not seismically qualified for that amount of plutonium. A new supplemental environmental impact statement will be needed. There is no need for more plutonium pits, except for new nuclear weapons, because they last for around 100 years and nuclear weapons stockpiles are decreasing. And apparently LANL can’t safely handle plutonium anyway, as major operations with plutonium have been paused since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety issues. Finally, it was LANL’s improper handling of plutonium waste that contaminated 21 workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, causing it to close with at least a half billion dollars in costs to reopen. We say no to more plutonium at Los Alamos!”
On Tuesday, May 6th, you have the opportunity to support local nonprofits and generate significant funds for causes in New Mexico. Large and small gifts will combine for big impact that will support local efforts!
Just log onto www.givegrandenm.org and give to the nonprofits of your choice. Make a tax-deductible contribution online, and your gifts will be added to those of others as the whole state comes together to support the causes we all care about.
Also, come celebrate with us on Tuesday in Santa Fe! Join us to celebrate New Mexico’s first “Day of Giving” from 3:00-6:00 pm at San Isidro Plaza on the South Side! Print out and bring your Give ¡Grande! receipt to get 10 % off your meal at the Plaza Cafe Southside, the Capitol Bar & Grill, and Pizza Centro.
At 5 p.m. Plaza Cafe Southside will cut a giant cake shaped like the state of New Mexico. We also have invited TV stations to stop by about 5:00 pm to do broadcasts for their evening news.
98.1 Radio Free Santa Fe and 107.5 Outlaw Country will be broadcasting live throughout the celebration, and computers will be available for you to make donations on-site.
The Community Foundation Coalition of New Mexico (Coalition), comprised of the Albuquerque, Taos, Southern New Mexico, New Mexico and Santa Fe Community Foundations, is proud to host Give Grande NM, the biggest online philanthropic event in New Mexico history! Community members will come together to raise as much money as possible for local nonprofits in 24 hours. Every dollar will go directly to nonprofits! It’s a great way to recognize and support the positive work of these local organizations.
Donations will begin being accepted on May 06, 2014 12:00 AM MDT.
Enabled by your contribution Nuclear Watch will continue to work diligently to:
• Oppose so-called “modernization” of the nuclear weapons complex and directly related expanded capabilities for increased nuclear weapons production.
• Oppose modernization of the nuclear weapons stockpile itself, which we believe is substantially about creating new military capabilities through planned “Life Extension Programs.”
• Stop expansion of WIPP.
• Promote comprehensive cleanup at Los Alamos and all DOE sites.
• Promote mission change at LANL. We will continue to redirect the Lab from core nuclear weapons research, testing and production programs to today’s critical national security challenges, such as preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, promoting clean national energy independence, and studying global climate changes.
• Strive to be your worthy representative locally and in Washington, DC, on nuclear weapons issues that affect our communities, New Mexico, the nation, and the world.
New Report: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Agency Claims Phony Budget Savings;
Misleads Congress and Taxpayers About Real Costs of New Warheads; Nonproliferation and Dismantlement Programs Cut
Santa Fe, NM – The House Armed Services Committee is currently pushing a defense bill that pushes back against the Obama Administration’s plans to delay production of a new air launched cruise missile warhead and new nuclear warheads that would be “interoperable” between land-based ICBMs and sub-launched missiles. Related, the bill also calls for speeding up expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The House Armed Services Committee is objecting to delays, but not the substance, of plans by the Department of Energy (DOE) to heavily modify existing nuclear weapons during “Life Extension Programs” to create the new nuclear warheads. DOE’s FY 2014 “Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan” (SSMP), which first introduced these new warheads, caused considerable sticker shock in Congress. Now DOE has released a new FY 2015 SSMP that it claims is “generally affordable and more executable than the program proposed in the FY 2014 SSMP.” However, an analysis by Nuclear Watch New Mexico concludes that DOE’s new sales pitch is based on overly optimistic claims and outright omissions that should alarm Congressional budget hawks.
DOE’s nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), is notorious for cost overruns. Its FY 2015 plan misrepresents reduced costs by:
• Delaying projects and their costs – which almost always results in higher total costs.
• Lowering budget estimates while claiming undocumented improved cost modeling – when NNSA has an abysmal record in cost estimates.
• Claiming $7.5 to $9.5 billion in savings for NOT doing a Life Extension Program – which in fact was never planned.
• Omitting costs of directly related programs – which may exceed the costs of the Life Extension Programs themselves.
• Depicting costs as gradually tapering off – while failing to disclose that even more expensive follow-on programs are planned 20 years after the first round of Life Extension Programs.
• Perhaps most significantly, assuming the armed services will help pay for heavily modified nuclear weapons – when in fact the U.S. Navy does not want them (see internal memo below).
Missing is justification of why an extensively tested, reliable stockpile needs to be heavily modified during Life Extension Programs. According to a recent DOE Inspector General audit report, NNSA failed to diligently keep original “as-built” designs, when that information “is the foundation upon which the NNSA surveillance program assesses the current stockpile. Without it, NNSA loses confidence in its nuclear weapons stockpile assessments.” Changes could possibly erode confidence in nuclear weapons reliability, especially if original design information is lacking as a baseline.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently reported that NNSA and the Pentagon plan to spend $355 billion over the next decade on nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request cuts funding for nonproliferation, dismantlement and nuclear safety programs, and keeps cleanup funding flat.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Congress should demand that NNSA rigorously justify any proposed changes to existing reliable nuclear weapons. The antidote to exorbitantly expensive, potentially harmful modifications to the reliable stockpile is genuine stewardship that would preserve original weapons designs. This is far less risky and provocative, and would free up money for critically needed nonproliferation, dismantlement, nuclear safety and cleanup programs.”
The NNSA FYs 2014 and 2015 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plans are available at http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/ourmission/managingthestockpile/ssmp
The Congressional Budget Office report Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023 is available athttp://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/12-19-2013-NuclearForces.pdf
For U.S. Navy lack of support for heavily modified nuclear warheads see “Navy Perspective of W78/88 LEP Phase 6.2,” September 27, 2012, http://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf
DOE Nuclear Weapons Budget Surpasses Cold War Record
Bomb with New Military Capabilities up 20%
Dismantlements Cut By Nearly Half
Nonproliferation Programs Down 21%
Cleanup Funding Flat
Santa Fe, NM – The Obama Administration has finally released its detailed budget for fiscal year 2015, which starts October 1. By law the president’s proposed budget is required to be released not later than the first Monday of February.
Contrary to President Obama’s rhetoric about a future world free of nuclear weapons, most famously expressed in his April 2009 speech in Prague, the President asks for a 7% increase for nuclear weapons research and production programs under the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are slated to rise to $8.3 billion in FY 2015, and to an astounding $9.7 billion by FY 2019, 24% above this current fiscal year 2014. Obama FY 2015 budget request sets a new record for DOE nuclear weapons spending, even exceeding the Cold War high point in 1985 under President Reagan’s military buildup.
Of particular interest is the hands-on nuclear weapons work in the budget category “Directed Stockpile Work,” increased by $305 million (or 12.5% above FY 2014), whose overwhelming focus is Life Extension Programs (LEPs). President Obama wants $634 million (+20%) for the B61 nuclear bomb LEP, which has already exploded in costs from an originally estimated $4 billion to more than $10 billion. Each bomb will end up costing more than twice its weight in gold.
In addition to extending the service life of the bomb by decades, this Life Extension Program will combine three tactical or “battlefield” variants and one strategic variant together into one all-purpose nuclear bomb. The LEP will also transform the B61 from a simple analogue bomb into a digital bomb that interfaces with future super-stealthy fighter aircraft, which themselves will cost an astronomical $1 trillion (although not all will be assigned to a nuclear mission). A separate $1.8 billion Defense Department program for a new tail fin guidance kit will transform the B61 into the world’s first nuclear smart bomb. Despite all this, the U.S. government denies that it would ever endow existing nuclear weapons with new military capabilities.
While rebuilding nuclear weapons at exorbitant expense, the Obama Administration proposes to slash dismantlements by nearly half (45%), from an already paltry $54.2 million to $30 million. Dismantlement work at the Pantex Plant will be cut by 40%. Ironically, much of the dismantlement work that remains is “to provide parts for the life extension programs (B61 and W80-1).” Dismantlements will continue at the same rate at the Y-12 Plant, but its primary aim is to produce “feedstock [highly enriched uranium] for internal and external customers (e.g. Naval Reactors).” Dismantlements are described as a “a workload leveler across all programs,” indicating that instead of being a prioritized step toward a future world free of nuclear weapons, it is merely filler work in between rebuilding nuclear weapons during Life Extension Programs. NNSA FY15 budget, PDF page 109. [All following page numbers are in the same format.]
The construction of the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 plant is capped at $6.5 billion. A recent study by the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Project Evaluation predicted that this exorbitant facility, originally estimated by NNSA at ~$600 million, would cost between $12 to 19 billion. To bring it in at $6.5 billion NNSA has cut out all dismantlement and HEU downblending operations, making it a production-only nuclear weapons plant (pp. 319-323).
NNSA’s budget “Defer[s] the W78/88-1 LEP to some date beyond FY 2019” (p. 84), effectively meaning its cancellation. The W78/88-1 LEP was to produce a proposed “interoperable warhead,” using the plutonium pit from a third warhead, the W87. Nevertheless, the Los Alamos National Laboratory plans to “Build W87-design developmental pits each year to sustaining [sic] fabrication capability” (p. 117). The controversial Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project for expanded plutonium pit production remains abandoned, but NNSA plans to raise the amount of plutonium used in the already constructed Rad Lab and pursue “pre-conceptual design efforts for the modular acquisition concept” to substitute for the CMRR (p. 219). NNSA still plans to “Execute a plutonium strategy [at LANL] that achieves a 30 pit per year capacity by 2026,” (p. 70) for which it gives no clear requirement or reason.
Key nonproliferation programs designed to halt the spread of nuclear weapons have been slashed by $300 million (-21%), even though nuclear weapons are recognized as the greatest existential threat to the United States. “Defense Environmental Cleanup”, the nation-wide program to clean up the Cold War legacy of radioactive and toxic contamination, is being cut from $5.8 billion to $5.6 billion, despite the fact that estimated costs keep climbing.
All of this is evidence of a pattern where the U.S. will spend massive amounts on nuclear weapons “modernization,” while nonmilitary domestic services are cut or flat lined. In December 2013 the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its study Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023. Its stunning conclusion was that estimated costs for maintenance and “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile, delivery systems, and research and production complex would total $355 billion over the next decade. The CBO also reported that costs after 2023 would increase yet more rapidly since “modernization” is only now beginning. The report did 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.
In one piece of good news the NNSA is finally putting the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in “cold standby.” The MOX program is a failed attempt in the laudable goal of disposing of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The MOX Program’s life cycle costs have exploded to an estimated $30 billion, and NNSA is now studying cheaper alternatives. This has major positive impacts on the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which was slated to process 2.5 metric tons of plutonium every year as feedstock for the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility. It also further undermines the need to build massive new plutonium facilities at LANL.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “Increased budgets for nuclear weapons are being paid off the back of dismantlements, nonproliferation and cleanup programs, which is just plain wrong. It’s common knowledge that NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs have a staggering track record of cost overruns, schedule delays and security breaches. It’s less well known that these programs may undermine stockpile reliability by introducing unneeded, incredibly expensive changes to existing nuclear weapons that have been extensively tested and are known to be even more reliable than originally thought. Clearly, NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs should be cut to help pay for the expansion of nonproliferation programs that actually enhance national security, cleanup programs that protect the environment while creating jobs, and dismantlement programs that get of nuclear weapons forever.”
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For budget release requirement not later than the first Monday of February see U.S. Code, Title 31, Subtitle II, Chapter 11, § 1105, “Budget contents and submission to Congress.”
The FY 2015 DOE nuclear weapons request is calculated as the highest ever using data from Atomic Audit, Brookings Institute, 1998, Stephen Schwartz editor, Table A-2. It gives 5.494 billion in 1996 dollars as the cost for DOE nuclear weapons research, production and testing programs in 1985. Adjusted for inflation that is $8.259 billion in 2014 dollars.
The NNSA’s FY 2015 budget is available at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/03/f12/Volume_1_NNSA.pdf
The Congressional Budget Office report Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023 is available athttp://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/12-19-2013-NuclearForces.pdf
In a March 9th press release, the Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operations contractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), stated their plans to reenter the ailing salt mine/nuclear waste repository after a radiological release shut down operations over three weeks ago.
The press release tells us that, on March 7 and 8, radiological and air quality instruments were lowered down the Salt Handling and the Air Intake Shafts. The preliminary findings indicated that no “detectable radioactive contamination” in the air or on the equipment. The press release claims that these results were expected because the shafts that were sampled were not in the air flow path coming from the area where the radiation release originated.
But, there are 4 shafts to underground – the Salt Handling, the Air Intake, the Waste Handling, and the Exhaust Shafts. After the detection on a radiologic release, filters move into the Exhaust Shaft and air is drawn to the outside by fans blowing to the outside here. The other three shafts, mainly the Air Intake Shaft because it has no elevator in it, provide intake for the air flow path to the Exhaust Shaft. Strangely missing from the press release is any mention of the Waste Handling Shaft, which contains an elevator to take the waste down into the mine and should also have been out of the air flow path. DOE and NWP must explain why the Waste Handling Shaft was not sampled and, if it was, what are the results. The Waste Handling Shaft provides the normal entry to the underground, so why use the Salt Shaft? Also, the press release did not mention that any “soil” samples were taken from the walls of any of the shafts. Is the Waste Handling Shaft contaminated or presumed contaminated?
As far as the air flow path goes, it’s an elaborate game to get the air to flow where it is needed in the underground of WIPP. Getting the desired path requires blocking off numerous openings in the underground. Bob Martin from KRQE gave a hint of what is involved in his recent report. We have not been given the diagram for the air flow path at the time of the release or even if the path was in place. We don’t have the location of all the monitors in the underground and if they were working. What was the presumed path of the contaminated air to the Exhaust Shaft? Why are so many details left out out of the information released to the public?
Unfortunately, the press release also mentioned that four more WIPP workers had been contaminated. But it was not stated where or when these employees received the dose. Was it Friday night or Saturday? Why was this important information not in the press release?
We also have some new sample findings released. Some of the interesting information here is that the WIPP Laboratory Analyses are so much lower than the Screening Analyses. I will get back to you on that. But don’t forget that it is unlikely that the main release actually hit any of the air monitors dead-on. Also, notice the lack of samplers to the northeast.
We will have to wait for soil samples to come in before we can begin to estimate the main path of the release.
WIPP is not a secret facility. (They even let me down there last year.) Press releases that raise more questions than they answer must stop now.