Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: December 2023

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: December 2023
RECA supporters face setback after House omits compensation from defense bill / KOB4

Nuclear weapons issues

Final conference by Senate and House Armed Services Committee deleted expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that would have covered Trinity Test Downwinders, among others. In contrast, it authorized tens of billions for expanding nuclear weapons programs. So, it’s nothing for those harmed by nuclear weapons testing and production in New Mexico, but radical expansion of those programs that did harm them.

The FY 2024 Defense Authorization Act added money above Biden’s request for pit production at the Savannah River Site and the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and its new nuclear warhead. The Biden Administration opposed the SLCM, but Congress authorized it anyway.


The 2020 Supplement Analysis that we had robustly critiqued with comprehensive formal comments, which DOE/NNSA have ignored, contains analysis of pit production based solely off the 2008 SWEIS pit analysis. Our single biggest point in the 2020 SA comments was the need for a programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production.

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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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