The U.S. Department of Energy in 2016 drafted a list of 17 projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory and in the surrounding town to clean up soil and groundwater that remained contaminated decades after the Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear weapons work.
At the time, more than $2 billion had been spent in a decade on environmental cleanup projects. The Department of Energy estimated it would cost another $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion to finish the job — and up to 25 more years.
The work is far from complete.
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Multiple concerns were raised by panel members Wednesday June 21, 2019 during a forum on nuclear waste in the state of New Mexico hosted by the Santa Fe Democratic Party Platform and Resolutions Committee at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe.
Land Commissioner Garcia Richard said her office has direct oversight of mineral leasing at the proposed Holtec site. She made public a letter she sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expressing her concerns about representations made by Holtec to the NRC and New Mexicans about its control of the proposed site as well as agreements it claims to have secured from the state Land Office. She said while the Eddy-Leah County Energy Alliance LLC privately owns the surface of the proposed site, the State Land Office owns the mineral estate and that has not been disclosed by Holtec.
SANTA FE – A building at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a price pegged at more than $1 billion apparently has some bad plumbing.
A federal safety oversight board recently reported that the operations staff at the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building found a leak in the building’s radioactive liquid waste system.
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a frequent LANL critic who called attention to the recent safety board report, said the plumbing problem is symptomatic of the lab’s history of safety issues, which has included using the wrong kind of cat litter as a desiccant when packing a radioactive waste drum. A reaction in the drum caused it to breach in 2014 and contaminate the nation’s nuclear waste storage facility near Carlsbad.
A federal board that oversees commercial nuclear materials and licenses said Tuesday it has rejected a request by a group of opponents over a proposed nuclear waste storage site in Southern New Mexico.
Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company specializing in nuclear reactor technology, is waiting on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve its license for an expansive facility that could be used to hold all of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel — radioactive uranium left over from power production.
On March 1, 2005, after arduous negotiations and threats of litigation, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Department of Energy (DOE), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) entered into a Consent Order specifying the schedule for investigation and cleanup of the Lab’s hundreds of contaminated sites.
In June 2016, NMED and LANL signed a new Consent Order that solved many of LANL’s problems by removing fines and enforceable schedules.
Read/Download the full fact sheet pdf HERE
At stake are real accountability for Laboratory management and, potentially, over $272 million for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
“The case here is very clear,” said Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM). “LANL management agreed to the terms of the Consent Order in 2005, then proceeded to ate the terms of that agreement repeatedly. When we finally said enough is enough and announced in 2016 that we would sue the Lab, the Martinez administration and LANL management came up with a new Consent Order that they claimed wiped the slate clean on all the previous violations. It doesn’t.”
NPR, February 1, 2019, 6:07 AM ET By GEOFF BRUMFIEL
The true battle over these new weapons may end up in Congress. While Republicans seem ready to back the Trump administration’s request for more battlefield nukes, the newly elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives seems intent on blocking them.
“We do not view nuclear weapons as a tool in warfare,” Adam Smith, now the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a speech in November. “It makes no sense for us to build low-yield nuclear weapons.”
BY MARK OSWALD / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Friday, January 4th, 2019 at 11:02pm
SANTA FE – The nuclear security wing of U.S. Department of Energy has issued preliminary notice of a “serious” safety violation for a 2017 mishap at Los Alamos National Laboratory that the DOE previously described as a “near miss to a fatality.”
Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. Their production has always been a chokepoint of resumed industrial-scale U.S. nuclear weapons production ever since a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver.Continue reading
Nuclear fallout: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting
They built our atomic bombs; now they’re dying of cancer
By Jamie Grey and Lee Zurik | November 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM EST – Updated November 12 at 10:54 AM
LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO (InvestigateTV) – Clear, plastic water bottles, with the caps all slightly twisted open, fill a small refrigerator under Gilbert Mondragon’s kitchen counter. The lids all loosened by his 4- and 6-year old daughters because, at just 38, Mondragon suffers from limited mobility and strength. He blames his conditions on years of exposure to chemicals and radiation at the facility that produced the world’s first atomic bomb: Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Gilbert Mondragon, 38, pulls the cap off a plastic water bottle that had been twisted open by his young daughters. He hasn’t the strength for those simple tasks anymore and blames his 20-year career at the Los Alamos National Lab. He quit this year because of his serious lung issues, which he suspects were caused by exposures at the nuclear facility.
Mondragon is hardly alone in his thinking; there are thousands more nuclear weapons workers who are sick or dead. The government too recognizes that workers have been harmed; the Department of Labor administers programs to compensate “the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country’s national security.”
But InvestigateTV found workers with medical issues struggling to get compensated from a program that has ballooned ten times original cost estimates. More than 6,000 workers from Los Alamos alone have filed to get money for their medical problems, with around 53 percent of claims approved.
OCTOBER 18, 2018
NNSA Review of UPF Compounds Legal Violations, Environmental Groups Say
BY EXCHANGE MONITOR
A September review by the Department of Energy compounded the agency’s alleged transgressions of federal environmental law stemming from a 2016 design change to a next-generation uranium plant under construction at the Oak Ridge Site in Tennessee, a band of environmental groups said this week in an amended federal lawsuit.
The supplemental analysis DOE’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published last month on the Uranium Processing Facility “not only failed to correct the NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] violations identified in Plaintiffs’ original Complaint, but also revealed additional ways in which the NNSA was continuing to violate NEPA,” the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in an amended complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Tennessee.
On July 5, 2018, OREPA and Nuclear Watch New Mexico—along with many of you!—submitted formal comments on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s plan for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN. The gist of our comments is that NNSA is required to prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement, or at least a thorough Supplemental EIS, and can’t move forward with the UPF bomb plant until they have done so.
The comments, which you can read or download here, now become part of the Administrative Record which the judge hearing our legal challenge will use to decide the case.
We believe the government’s attempt to rectify their past errors is way too little and way too late, and the Supplement Analysis has effectively strengthened our argument. In addition to the comments, we also submitted attachments, including expert declarations on the NNSA’s plans, the seismic risks they are overlooking, and the unsuitability of a piecemeal approach to planning at Y12. You can read or download the attachments here.
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“Nuclear disarmament is not just an ardent desire of the people, as expressed in many resolutions of the United Nations. It is a legal commitment by the five official nuclear states, entered into when they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
-Nobel Laureate Joseph Rotblat
There are two problems for our species’ survival – nuclear war and environmental catastrophe – and we’re hurtling towards them. Knowingly.
– Noam Chomsky
“Today I can declare my hope, and declare it from the bottom of my heart, that we will eventually see the time when the number of nuclear weapons is down to zero and the world is a much better place.”
“What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons.
How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can’t get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves.”
– Martin Amis, Einstein’s Monsters
“The creation of a National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to pay for an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement could significantly alter the typically underfunded Navy shipbuilding account, while also establishing a precedent that other military services may attempt to leverage in years to come.”
“Both Russia and the United States are now officially and publicly using the other side as a justification for nuclear weapons modernization programs”
– Hans Kristensen, from The Intercept, 2/23/16
“What few Americans realize is that the U.S. is completely rebuilding the production side of its nuclear weapons complex, with new multi-billion dollar factories expected to operate until ~2075. The aim of the for-profit nuclear weapons establishment is a never-ending cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons. These programs will not only extend their service lives for up to six decades but also endow them with new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government…”
-Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM comment on NY Times Article U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms
“The United States can deter any country from using nuclear weapons against America and its treaty allies with a nuclear force that is far smaller, less destabilizing, and less expensive than the one the Pentagon is planning to build.
This White House has caved to the nuclear priesthood in the bureaucracy. Instead of staying on nuclear autopilot, the next administration needs to fundamentally rethink the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy, the costs of implementing the current strategic force modernization program, and the alternatives that could provide greater stability and less risk of nuclear conflict at a much lower cost.”
-Richard Sokolsky, Gordon Adams, Carnegie Endowment, January 18, 2016
For more click here.
“Let me be crystal clear: There is no such thing as ‘limited use’ nuclear weapons, and for a Pentagon advisory board to promote their development is absolutely unacceptable. This is even more problematic given President Trump’s comments in support of a nuclear arms race.
As Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work testified in 2015, ‘Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire. Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation.’
Nuclear weapons present us with a paradox: We spend billions of dollars building and maintaining them in the hope that we never have to use them. The sole purpose of nuclear weapons must be to deter their use by others. Designing new low-yield nuclear weapons for limited strikes dangerously lowers the threshold for their use. Such a recommendation undermines the stability created by deterrence, thereby increasing the likelihood of sparking an unwinnable nuclear war.”
-Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D.CA) Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chair
“As long as we have ICBMs, there will be the possibility of the President launching them in response to a false alarm. Since the ICBMs are known in fixed locations, they can be attacked and we presume that any nuclear attack on the United States would include attacks against those ICBMs. And therefore, we have a policy called launch-on-warning which means if we have a warning of an attack, then the President would be notified and he has the option of launching those ICBMs before the attack actually reaches its targets.
Now the danger with that, of course, is that if the warning of attack is wrong, if it’s a false alarm, and the President actually launches the ICBMs, he will have no way of calling them back or destroying them in-flight if, in fact, the alarm is a false alarm.
So the problem with the ICBMs fundamentally is that if we get a false alarm and the President launches the ICBMs, we will have started a nuclear war capable of ending civilization based on a mistake, based on an accident, based on a false reading. That is not very likely to happen- it’s a low probability- but a low probability with a very, very high consequence. So that’s my concern with the ICBM program and it’s a fundamental concern; as long as we have ICBMs, there will be the possibility of the President launching them in response to a false alarm.”