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. In 1997 the mission of plutonium pit production was officially transferred to its birthplace, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico, but officially capped at not more than 20 pits per year. However, in 2015 Congress required expanded pit production by 2030 whether or not the existing nuclear weapons stockpile actually needs it. This will support new military capabilities for nuclear weapons and their potential use.
Read/Download the full fact sheet pdf HERE
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board is asking Department of Energy (DOE) Environment Management and New Mexico Environment Department to address the potential impacts of the possible redefinition of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) for the board.
BY MAIRE O’NEILL thelosalamosreporter.com
A public hearing being conducted by the New Mexico Environment to consider the ground water discharge permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory headed into its second day Thursday in the Los Alamos Magistrate Courtroom.
On Wednesday, public comment was heard throughout the day from members of the public, tribal representatives, public officials and watchdog groups such as Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
Andy Stiny | The Santa Fe New Mexican
Three nuclear watchdog groups across the U.S., including Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are accusing the National Nuclear Security Administration of creating a plan to increase production of plutonium bomb cores in violation of an environmental law.
BY ADRIAN C. HEDDEN, Carlsbad currentargus.com
“Calculation change will not impact facility’s capacity”
[We at NukeWatch do believe that this proposed change WILL expand WIPP’s capacity and are working hard to stop it.]
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant said a proposed modification to facility’s permit to dispose of nuclear waste will have little impact on WIPP operations or its maximum capacity for emplacement. The modification regards how the facility tracks the volume of transuranic (TRU) waste permanently stored in the underground repository.
BY AI TANABE, Staff Writer The Asahi Shimbun
Hibakusha atomic bomb survivors admonished U.S. President Donald Trump for threatening to walk away from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in a protest letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Oct. 22. The note, addressed in Japanese to the commander-in-chief, was compiled by five hibakusha groups in Nagasaki expressing their concerns over the proposed withdrawal from the 1987 treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union.
The groups stated that if the United States pulls out of the treaty, “global momentum for nuclear disarmament will fade away while the likelihood of a nuclear war crisis will rise.”
THE LOS ALAMOS MONITOR ONLINE
Feds Test Regional Aquifer for More LANL Contamination of High Explosives
Monday, October 22, 2018
Chemicals used to make high explosives have reached the regional water supply, the Los Alamos federal environmental manager discovered two years ago.
The contractor for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management field office is drilling a second well to find out just how much contamination has occurred.
Critics: WIPP proposal would allow more nuclear waste storage
By Rebecca Moss | sfnewmexican.com
Sep 19, 2018 Updated Sep 19, 2018
As the public comment period closes Thursday on modifications to a state permit allowing the federal government to store nuclear waste at a southeastern New Mexico repository, critics are decrying the changes as an effort to increase storage capacity at the site and are accusing the state Environment Department of rushing the approval process.
The U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, a private contractor that manages the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, submitted a request early this year to change the way radioactive waste at the site is measured.
They want to measure the waste by the volume inside each waste drum rather than by the total number of containers at the site. WIPP can store a maximum of 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic waste — discarded tools, soil and equipment contaminated by plutonium and other radioactive materials — in its underground salt-bed caverns. But its capacity has been measured so far by the total volume of the waste drums, not the materials held inside them.
Mini-nukes: Still a horrible and dangerous idea
By John Mecklin, September 19, 2018
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Perhaps the most dangerous weapons program the US government has recently pursued involves a low-yield nuclear warhead for submarine-launched nuclear missiles. The arguments against development of such “small nukes” are legion and overwhelmingly compelling. In fact, almost exactly one year ago, I laid out some of those arguments in an article headlined, “Mini-nukes: The attempted resurrection of a terrible idea.” And, I said then, don’t just take my word for it; read the analysis of Jim Doyle, a former longtime technical staffer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Simply put, the availability of “small” nuclear warheads increases the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used, and any use of nuclear weapons easily could (some experts might say “inevitably would”) lead to general nuclear war and the end of civilization.
In the last year, however, the Trump administration released a Nuclear Posture Review calling for development of a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Congress subsequently passed a defense authorization act that includes money for the program, and another bill allocates millions in the Energy Department budget specifically for pursuit of the new warhead.
New Mexico Senators Speak Out Over Order They Say Would Hamper Nuclear Safety Board
They want Congress to suspend a move that would limit access to information about facilities and could hinder the panel’s ability to oversee worker health and safety.
by Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican,
Aug. 31, 5 a.m. EDT
This article was produced in partnership with The Santa Fe New Mexican, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.
New Mexico’s senators are asking Congress to block a Department of Energy order that would limit a federal board’s access to information about nuclear facilities and could hinder its ability to oversee worker health and safety.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the leaders of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall also asked their colleagues to block impending staff cuts and a broad reorganization at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. New Mexico is home to three of the 14 nuclear facilities under the board’s jurisdiction: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
“We feel strongly that these two matters facing the [safety board] and its future must be suspended while Congress and the public have time to review and offer constructive feedback” on how to maintain and improve the board, the senators wrote to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking member of the energy and water development subcommittee.
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.”