According to media reports, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semiautonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), has persuaded President Trump to increase its weapons budget by more than 20% in one year. NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty has claimed that a failure to give her agency that huge increase would amount to “unilateral disarmament” despite the U.S. having thousands of nuclear warheads ready to launch on a moment’s notice.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a 33-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, strongly opposes this unnecessary and dangerous spending that promotes a new global nuclear arms race. In addition, Trump’s FY 2021 budget request is expected to cut or hold flat cleanup, nonproliferation, dismantlement and renewable energy programs that meet real national needs to pay for more unneeded nuclear weapons. To compound all this, DOE’s nuclear weapons and environmental management programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars for 27 consecutive years.
“There’s enough high-level nuclear waste awaiting disposal in the U.S. to fill a football field 65 feet (20 meters) deep. Few states want to house it within their borders.”
“The public defines ‘safe’ as zero risk…the technical community defines ‘safe’ as complying with regulatory standards.” – Robert Halstead, head of the Agency for Nuclear Projects, is currently fighting plutonium shipments to Nevada and spent nuclear fuel transfers to the proposed Yucca Mountain dump.
The plutonium core for the first atomic weapon detonated in 1945 was taken from Los Alamos National Laboratory to a test site in the New Mexico desert in the backseat of a U.S. Army sedan.
Officials put other bomb parts inside a metal container, packed it into a wooden crate and secured it in the steel bed of a truck under a tarp, the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration says in a historical account.
Grainy black-and-white photos show special agents and armed military police accompanying the shipment nearly 75 years ago.
“Nuclear materials transportation has evolved since then,” the department posted online last year.
Today, radioactive shipments are hauled in double-walled steel containers inside specialized trailers that undergo extensive testing and are tracked by GPS and real-time apps.
But whether shipping technology has evolved enough to be deemed safe depends on whom you ask.
At some point, DOE will have to admit that it has no idea what it will cost to cleanup the Cold War nuclear weapons complex sites. DOE should stop making more wastes until the existing wastes are remediated. The new estimate is more that twice the amount that has been spent in total since cleanup began in 1989, with the most difficult sites still to come.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Clean Up, Don’t Build Up!
The thing is that the new $377 billion estimate includes leaving much of the waste behind.
Program-Wide Strategy and Better Reporting Needed to Address Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability GAO-19-28: Published: Jan 29, 2019. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 2019.
The Department of Energy is tasked with cleaning up waste from Cold War nuclear weapons production, much of which is hazardous or radioactive. The department’s Office of Environmental Management estimates that future work could cost at least $377 billion—$109 billion more than last year’s estimate.
The public can comment on the U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed changes to Hanford nuclear waste cleanup rules until Jan. 9.
By Tom Carpenter
NukeWatch NM and Hanford Challenge are both members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
seattletimes.com | Originally published January 2, 2019 at 3:11 pm
After almost 30 years of a program to clean up dangerous defense waste at the Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington, the Department of Energy now wants to change the rules to make the job easier and save money. If approved, the proposal poses new dangers to the health and safety of people and the environment — not just in southeastern Washington, but at nuclear sites around the country.
In 1943, the U.S. government built the massive complex at Hanford to manufacture plutonium for nuclear weapons. When defense production ceased in 1986, its nine reactors had produced enough material for 60,000 atomic bombs. What remains is North America’s most contaminated site — more than half a billion gallons of nuclear waste and toxic chemicals stored in leaking tanks and dumped into the ground.
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