Arms Control & Non-Proliferation


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Fired LANL Expert, Lab Watchdogs Team Up; Launch Project to Increase Nonproliferation Programs, Cut Exorbitant Nuclear Weapons “Modernization” Programs

Santa Fe, NM

Today, Dr. James (Jim) E. Doyle and Nuclear Watch New Mexico begin a collaborative project to assess and augment the nonproliferation programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Our ultimate goal is to redirect the focus of three national security labs from wasteful nuclear weapons research and production programs to expanded research and development of the monitoring and verification technologies needed for global abolition.

This project is a direct follow-on to Dr. Doyle’s February 2013 study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? Doyle had clarified that he was stating his own personal views, and not those of his employer, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where he was a senior nonproliferation expert. Nevertheless, out of caution, Doyle had successfully submitted his study to the Lab’s classification review process. But as his study became more widely known, LANL retroactively classified it without credible justification, despite the fact that it has been continuously available on the internet. Moreover, a common sense reading makes clear that nothing in Doyle’s study deserves restriction.

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Doyle Entangled in Anti-Nuclear Classification

On July 23, 2014, Los Alamos National Laboratory approved for public release an article titled Rethinking the Unthinkable, written by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Houston T. Hawkins, with the intention of being used for public presentations.

This article argues for an increase in nuclear weapons production and expanding stockpiles. Hawkins stresses the importance nuclear weapons has for the stability of U.S. foreign policy, arguing “the march toward disarmament would take us backwards into an even more unstable and dangerous world.” This stability, therefore, is generated by nuclear stockpiles.

In addition, nuclear deterrence according to the article is an important cornerstone of national security in that it serves as “strategic parity” between states. It also yields confidence not only in the functioning of domestic stockpiles, but in the intelligence capability of U.S. decision makers in assessing foreign nuclear advancements and curtailing surprises.

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LANL Fires Nonproliferation Specialist; Lab Abuses Classification Procedures to Restrict Nuclear Weapons Abolition Message

Santa Fe, NM

Today, the Center for Public Integrity broke a story on how Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) fired its nonproliferation specialist James Doyle. That firing followed an inquiry by the Center to senior Lab management about a study Doyle completed in his personal capacity arguing for the abolition of nuclear weapons. LANL retroactively classified his report, which Nuclear Watch believes is a clear abuse of proper classification procedures.

Doyle’s study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? has long been available at our website and an independent online publisher. Any quick reading shows it has no information whatsoever about nuclear weapons designs and materials that would merit classification. The study is instead a 28-page narrative argument by a nationally recognized nonproliferation expert for eliminating the stockpile, while citing the aspirations of both Presidents Reagan and Obama to abolish nuclear weapons. But Los Alamos Lab didn’t like Doyle’s message and sought to kill it through classification. Not coincidentally, LANL’s 2.2 billion dollar annual budget is just under two-thirds nuclear weapons research, testing, and production.

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Regarding NNSA’s Defense Nonproliferation Programs and MOX

I think it would be a big mistake to give unqualified support to restoring funds for NNSA’s Defense Nonproliferation Programs. In my view the best thing that could be done for those programs would be to kill the Mixed Oxide reactor fuel (MOX) program and revive immobilization for ultimate plutonium disposition.

I endorse the strategy of cutting MOX so that the other nonproliferation programs could be spared cuts. I suspect that may be more politically feasible rather than trying to persuade Congress to transfer money from nuclear weapons programs to nonproliferation. [Having said that, I will be trying to cut weapons $$$ regardless.]

I am actually somewhat impressed by the House proposed cuts, after they did propose a 12.8% cut to the requested FY11 NNSA Total Weapons Activities, so apparently there are no sacred cows. I think a cost benefit argument could be made in that the other nonproliferation programs save us money in the long run by discouraging/suppressing nuclear weapons proliferation, whereas there is no economic benefit that I am aware coming from the MOX program (which will probably become a heavy economic liability anyway).

The FY 2011 request for total Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation was $2,687,167,000. In the on-deck continuing resolution to fund the remainder of FY 2011 the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee wants to cut it to $2,085,200,000.  A full 27% of the FY11 Nonproliferation request is dedicated to the MOX program under Fissile Materials Disposition. MOX is arguably a proliferating program instead of a nonproliferation program (never mind potential safety problem and taxpayer giveaways to the nuclear industry).

FY 2011 Request for Fissile Materials Disposition:
Irradiation, Feedstock, and Transportation = 107,787,000
MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site = 475,788,000
Waste Solidification Building (SRS) = 57,000,000
Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility Construction  (SRS) = 80,000,000
Total = 720,575,000

There is nearly 3/4 billion dollars for MOX in the FY11 request. In contrast there is only $29,985,000 in the FY11 request for Uranium Disposition, which is mostly  down blending of the immense stores of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium at

Y-12 (the Project on Government Oversight estimates 200-300 metric tons). As far as Fissile Materials Disposition goes that should really be prioritized.

Maybe MOX could be low hanging fruit now, but beware that the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) is now something like more than 50% constructed. Further, the Advanced Recovery and Integrated Extraction System (ARIES) at LANL’s Plutonium Facility-4 is lined up to provide the first two metric tons of feedstock. If something is to be done about MOX it should be done in the near term.

Despite Non-Proliferation Pledge – $7B for Nuclear Arsenal

February 2, 2010 – Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman interviews Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch

AMY GOODMAN: All forty Republican senators, as well as Joseph Lieberman, implied in a letter to Obama last month that they would block ratification of the new treaty with Russia unless he funds a, quote, “modern” warhead and new facilities at the Los Alamos National Lab, where you’re near right now in New Mexico, and the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Jay?

JAY COGHLAN: You’re absolutely right. They’re playing muscle, and they’re rolling Obama and Biden. The Democrats are now surrendering. The executive administration is now surrendering to that demand.

…how is the US now going to walk in with a straight face, walk into the UN, and claim that it’s leading towards a world free of nuclear weapons, when in fact we are starting up a plutonium facility in Los Alamos, a uranium facility in Tennessee, but also a major new production plant in Kansas City for all of the non-nuclear components that go into a weapon?

So, basically, the US is revitalizing its nuclear weapons production base. And again, the laboratories, mark my words, and as the Republicans already wrote, they’re calling for or attempting to demand a, quote, “modern” warhead, that means new designs.