Plutonium Pit Production

Resources & Documents

Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and an Existing Court Order

The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has formally announced that it is proceeding with aggressive plans to expand the production of plutonium pits without required nation-wide “programmatic” public review. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs assert this is in direct violation of the legal requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act and a 1998 court order that stipulates that DOE must prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS) when it plans to produce more than 80 pits per year. Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons.

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New study says LANL nuclear pit production could go higher

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said he doubted the lab has the “expertise and competence” to produce 80 plutonium pits, “but they’re going to eat up taxpayers’ money.” Coghlan said he’s also concerned about defense leaders refusing to use the thousands of pits stockpiled during the Cold War and instead favoring new, heavily modified pits. That raises the question of whether the Pentagon might resume nuclear testing on these untried cores instead of computer simulations.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory should be able to produce 80 plutonium pits to meet surges in demand, not just the official goal of 30 pits a year, according to a proposed update to the lab’s last sitewide analysis.

Defense plans call for the lab to produce 30 pits — the grapefruit-sized explosive centers in nuclear warheads — in 2026 and the Savannah River Site to manufacture 50 in 2030.

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Non-Proliferation Treaty turns 50 as US funds new nukes

“You can’t preach temperance from a bar stool, you can’t tell others not to have nuclear weapons when you’re busy ‘modernizing’ your own.”

ARTICLE BY: JAY COGHLAN / NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO | abqjournal.com

Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, whose central bargain was that non-nuclear weapons states forswore acquiring them in exchange for which nuclear weapons states promised to enter into serious negotiations leading to their elimination. Those negotiations have never happened.

The Trump Administration has marked the occasion by finally releasing the detailed fiscal year 2021 Congressional Budget Request for the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration. The NNSA’s program for new and upgraded nuclear weapons gets a $3 billion-plus mark-up to $15.6 billion, slated to jump to $17 billion annually by 2025.

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Trump Proposes 25 Percent Bump in Nuke Spending

“Taxpayers in 2020 should not be forced to pay for a ticket back to nuclear weapons policies of the 1980s,” John Tierney, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said in a statement. Pit production funding wasn’t included in the overview. Energy Department officials said a full budget proposal would become available in the coming weeks.

“Globally, Trump’s nuclear weapons budget is fueling a new nuclear arms weapons race, particularly with a new plan for a new nuclear warhead,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of New Mexico Nuclear Watch. “It solidifies Los Alamos lab’s future as a nuclear bomb plant, especially while nonproliferation, renewable energy and cleanup programs are held flat or cut.”

BY: SCOTT WYLAND |santafenewmexican.com

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. / Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump is proposing a 25 percent increase in nuclear weapons spending that will include developing a new warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to a preliminary 2021 budget overview released Monday.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous branch of the U.S. Energy Department, would see its budget increase by 18.4 percent to $19.8 billion next fiscal year, partly to ramp up production of plutonium pits at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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Trump will seek 20% budget boost for nukes, says Inhofe

This “boost” will surely be reflected in the FY 2021 budget to be released February 10. The nuclear weapons increase is believed to be for new warheads (so-called Life Extension Programs) and expanded plutonium pit production. To pay for it, nonproliferation, dismantlement and cleanup programs are likely at risk.

BY: JOE GOULD | defensenews.com

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks during a meeting with Republican members of Congress and Cabinet members in the White House on June 20, 2018. At left is Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Donald Trump has settled an internal battle over whether to seek $20 billion for the federal agency that maintains America’s weapons, or less money, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., confirmed Tuesday.

The president will ask for the $20 billion.

The decision came after the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, agitated internally in favor of boosting the budget for nuclear weapons modernization in fiscal 2021 ― a position later backed by Inhofe and other congressional Republicans.

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Experts Call for Firm Age Limit on Plutonium Weapons

What’s the lifespan of a nuke’s “pit” anyway?

BY: JOE GOULD | defensenews.com

  • Experts are pleading with Congress to get a firm age limit on plutonium cores of U.S. nuclear weapons.
  • A specific plutonium isotope powers nuclear weapons, but others power nuclear plants and space travel.
  • The Trump administration wants to begin replacing cores, but a more scientific time frame could save a lot of “rush” money.

The U.S. has nearly 4,000 stockpiled nuclear weapons, and Scientific American wonders what will happen to all of their aging plutonium cores. Experts have said the plutonium will last at least 100 years, but it’s probably still smart to make backup plans—and the Trump administration is doing just that, with aims to replace all the cores by 2080.

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No Plan to Consolidate Pit Mission at Single Site, But DoE Won’t Deny the Possibility

“…the pit issue has proved politically thorny since then, with Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) needling the agency over the last few budget cycles about the need to build a pit plant anywhere other than Los Alamos.”

BY: DAN LEONE | defensedaily.com

The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would not rule out the possibility here Thursday that one of the agency’s two planned plutonium pit factories could independently supply all the fissile nuclear weapon cores initially required for planned refurbishments of U.S. nuclear weapons.

“[W]e are not looking at [using] one exclusive of the other,” Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told sister publication Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor in a question-and-answer session during a breakfast hosted by area nonprofits the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and the Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance. “That is not our plan.”

In a 2020 budget bill signed before the holidays, Congress at last funded the first step in a plan the NNSA publicly announced in 2018: produce at least 80 plutonium pits a year starting in 2030 by upgrading an existing pit plant, the PF-4 Plutonium Facility at the Los Alamos National Lab, and converting the partially built Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site into a new pit plant called the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF).

SRPPF would get more than $400 million of the $710 million or so appropriated for the entire Plutonium Sustainment account. The NNSA is the semiautonomous Department of Energy agency in charge of U.S. nuclear weapons and materials.

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NNSA Moves to Expand Plutonium Pit Production

The National Nuclear Security Administration said last week that it will proceed with a plan to sharply expand production of plutonium “pits” — the explosive triggers for thermonuclear weapons — without performing a full “programmatic” environmental review.

BY: STEVEN AFTERGOOD | fas.org Secrecy News

NNSA envisions producing “no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030,” including a minimum of 30 pits per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a minimum of 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site. Currently, “less than 20 per year” are produced, all at Los Alamos.

It is “NNSA’s determination that no further NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] documentation at a programmatic level is required,” the agency said in a January 8 Federal Register notice. (Site-specific assessments will still be prepared for plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Lab and the Savannah River Site.)

Environmental and anti-nuclear groups cried foul. “NNSA’s refusal to complete programmatic environmental review before plunging ahead with plans to more than quadruple the production authorization for plutonium bomb cores flies in the face of our country’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a standing federal court order mandating that the government conduct such a review,” said Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs.

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DOE’s Nuclear Agency Moving to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of Environmental Law and Court Order

Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, SRS Watch, Tri-Valley CAREs Assert “Pit” Pursuit Violates National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

 EINPresswire.com

Production of new plutonium pits for unneeded nuclear weapons poses risk of new nuclear arms race.

COLUMBIA, SC, USA, January 9, 2020 /EINPresswire.com/ — The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it is proceeding with aggressive plans to expand the production of plutonium pits without required nation-wide “programmatic” public review. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs assert this is in violation of the legal requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and a 1998 court order that stipulates that DOE must prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS) when it plans to produce more than 80 pits per year. Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico concluded, “We need to find smart ways to face the world’s renewed nuclear arms race. Unnecessary expanded production of questionable plutonium bomb cores is not the way to do it. Instead of aggressively modifying nuclear weapons the U.S. should carefully preserve its existing, reliable, extensively tested nuclear weapons stockpile while working toward a future world free of them. It’s that kind of analysis and consideration of credible alternatives that the National Environmental Policy Act should give Americans instead of the nuclear weaponeers rubber stamping their self-interested agenda of nukes forever at the taxpayer’s expense.”

U.S. plutonium bomb core production ended in 1989 when the FBI raided the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver while investigating environmental crimes. In 1997, DOE relocated pit production to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico after completing the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Production was capped at 20 pits per year.

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NNSA: No new programmatic environment study needed for plutonium pit production at LANL

“NNSA’s refusal to complete programmatic environmental review before plunging ahead with plans to more than quadruple the production authorization for plutonium bomb cores flies in the face of our country’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a standing federal court order mandating that the government conduct such a review,” – Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CARES

BY: KENDRA CHAMBERLAIN | nmpoliticalreport.com

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for Los Alamos National Lab to produce 30 plutonium pit cores annually by 2030.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will not complete a programmatic study for environmental impacts of increased plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) and one other lab located in South Carolina. The decision to not do so drew criticism from Nuclear Watch NM and other groups, who argue such assessments are required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and an existing court order.

Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear warheads where the chemical reactions occur that cause the warhead to detonate. The U.S. made thousands of cores during the Cold War, but pit production has all but stopped in the last thirty years.

Now, the federal government is getting ready to ramp up pit production in order to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and “assure the nation has a safe, secure and credible deterrent,” said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and the NNSA Administrator, in a statement. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for at least 80 plutonium pits to be produced per year by 2030, with a target of 30 pits produced annually at LANL and 50 pits produced annually at Savannah River Site.

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An evolving nuclear agenda spurs plutonium pit production at LANL

A ‘dirty, dirty process’

BY: KENDRA CHAMBERLAINE | nmpoliticalreport.com

A plutonium pit design from the 1940s. This photo was taken during a recreation of a criticality issue that occurred in 1946 at LANL. Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos has a starring role in a shift to U.S. nuclear policy that’s two presidential terms in the making. Nuclear watchdog groups in the state are concerned about the United States’ evolving nuclear agenda, which will see a sharp increase in plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

LANL recently released its $13 billion expansion proposal to accommodate increased pit production at the site. The expansion is part of a wider push across the country to ramp up the nuclear warhead manufacturing machine, according to Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group.

Plutonium pits are central to nuclear weaponry. They are the “radioactive cores of modern nuclear weapons,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. He added that the pits themselves are weapons. “It was essentially a plutonium pit that destroyed Nagasaki on August 9, 1945,”

The ramp-up is years in the making, as successive presidential administrations have struggled to address how to modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile. But nuclear watchdog groups worry an increase in pit production at LANL would have negative repercussions for the region. While LANL has touted the proposed economic benefits of its proposal for the area, activists argue the dangers outweigh the benefits. 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Sens. Warren, Sanders, Markey call on defense leaders to chill pit production push

Two Democratic presidential candidates believe there is no reason to produce 80 plutonium pits per year, as is planned, and have urged congressional defense leaders to step back and reconsider related legislation, according to a missive reviewed recently by the Aiken Standard.

September 23, 2019 | BY COLIN DEMAREST | aikenstandard.com

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for President, speaks to an overflow crowd at her USC Aiken Town Hall in August CC: COLIN DEMAREST//AIKEN STANDARD

In a Sept. 13 letter, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts described a significantly bolstered pit production mission as “unnecessary, unachievable and ill-advised,” citing an independent analysis that earlier this year cast serious skepticism on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s and U.S. Department of Defense’s recommended path forward.

That report, handled by the Institute for Defense Analyses, listed three cautionary findings in its publicly available summary: Reaching 80 pits per year is possible, but “extremely challenging”; no available option will likely satisfy the demand by deadline; and further risk assessment is needed.

A Congressional Budget Office study released earlier this year very roughly estimated pit production to cost $9 billion over the next decade.

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See NukeWatch’s 22-page formal comments on expanded plutonium pit production

(63 pages with attachments)

“Until NNSA fully complies with the National Environmental Policy Act through the preparation of a programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production, Nuclear Watch believes that any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources to either the expansion of pit production at the Los Alamos Lab or to the repurposing of the MOX Facility at the Savannah River Site is unlawful.

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NRDC Comments on NNSA’s Draft SA of 2008 CT PEIS

These comments by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reiterate two fundamental points I have already made with co-counsel William N. Lawton of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP in our May 17, 2019 letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary James Richard Perry and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Lisa Gorden-Hagerty

1) Given NNSA’s May 10, 2018 decision to expand plutonium pit production, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearly requires the agency to prepare a new programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to supplement the 2008 Complex Transformation PEIS; and

2) Even if NNSA does not agree with the above, there is a 1998 court order that requires DOE to prepare a supplemental PEIS in the event NNSA’s proposed plans for future plutonium pit production extend beyond fabrication at LANL of 50 pits per year under “routine conditions,” or 80 pits per year under “multiple shift operations.”

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IDA Executive Summary – Plutonium Pit Production, May 2019

Forum addresses plutonium pit expansion at SRS

BY SARAH LEBLANC | augustachronicle.com

AIKEN — A forum regarding the Department of Energy’s proposed expanded production of plutonium pits at Savannah River Site was held Friday evening.

About 70 people gathered in the auditorium of the Aiken Municipal Building to hear speakers present information against the proposal and encourage the public to write to their representatives in opposition to the plan.

The Department of Energy has proposed to use the former Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility as the location to produce about 50 plutonium pits per year. The pits make up the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.

Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch, said the department should not rush into a new project at the MOX plant, which was shut down in October.

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Study questions whether LANL, DOE can meet ‘pits’ production goal

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the report “makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons. … They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely. Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.”

ARTICLE BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – A recent study casts serious doubts on the potential success of any of the options considered by the U.S. Department of Energy for meeting mandates on the manufacture of plutonium cores for nuclear weapons – most of them involving Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The congressionally funded study also says that it would be “very high risk” to try to meet the nation’s ambitious goals for making bomb “pits” by installing more equipment and adding an extra work shift for a production “surge” at LANL’s existing plutonium facility, an idea that has been discussed.

Some of the risks cited in the report include whether there is the ability to stage, store and ship waste, and “the transport/transfer complexity of radioactive material.”

The study goes further and questions the overall plan to ramp up U.S. pit production, which is estimated to cost $14 billion to $28 billion, saying that “eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.”
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DOD Official Ducks Question of Plutonium Pit Assurance if Congress Allows Only 1 Site

BY EXCHANGE MONITOR

WASHINGTON – A senior Pentagon official declined to say here Wednesday whether he believes the Department of Energy can deliver nuclear warheads for next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles on time if Congress does not fund both the plutonium-pit production plants the civilian agency wants to build.

“I’m aware of the issue, but I wouldn’t want to sort of step on my colleagues’ toes by addressing the details,” David Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said following a speech at the Brookings Institution. “I’ll defer on that one, for the time being, at least.”

In an email, a spokesperson with DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said the agency “is focused on the two-site approach for plutonium pit production that was endorsed by the Nuclear Weapons Council in May 2018.”

The Donald Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called on the NNSA to annually manufacture 80 pits — fissile nuclear-weapon cores — by 2030.

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Feds stand by splitting ‘pit’ production between LANL, S.C.

“NNSA’s plans for expanded plutonium pit production is a house of cards waiting to fall down. First, we have an agency with a long track record of cost overruns and schedule slippages. Added to this is the lack of true mission need.
“Plutonium pit production is not being expanded to maintain stockpile safety and reliability. Instead it’s all about provocative new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested, or alternatively will push the U.S. back into testing with serious proliferation consequences.” –
Nuclear Watch New Mexico director Jay Coghlan

BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty
Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty

SANTA FE – Key federal agencies are standing by their plan split the work of producing the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons between Los Alamos National Laboratory and another site, a move that New Mexico’s congressional delegation continues to oppose.
But the Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Safety Administration were not unequivocal in describing the potential success of a two-site plan for making plutonium “pits.”

“Indeed, no option is without risk,” said NNSA administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty in a news release Wednesday.

The NNSA, which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons labs, announced that a contractor has completed a study of options for pit production that was mandated by language added to a defense budget bill by New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.

The two senators want all pit production — and the federal dollars and jobs that come with it — to remain at LANL and say turning a facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina into a second pit-production post will make the undertaking much more expensive.

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Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at LANL Will Not Result in Significant Positive Effect On Job Creation and the Regional Economy

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s own documents have explicitly stated that expanded pit production would have no significant positive effect on job creation and the regional economy of northern New Mexico. Nuclear Watch argues that expanded plutonium pit production could actually have negative effect if it blocks other economic alternatives such as comprehensive cleanup, which could be the real job producer.Continue reading

How to Build A Nuke

Plutonium Pit Production at LANL

Summary

Plutonium pit production is a chokepoint of resumed U.S. nuclear weapons production. Citizens have defeated four past government attempts to expand pit production. Now Trump promises to increase military spending, and Congress has already required expanded pit production at the Los Alamos Lab regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile. This will enable the continuing evolution of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile with new military capabilities. Trump’s pending federal budget will likely fund new and upgraded plutonium facilities expected to be operational for at least the next half-century. Continue reading

IDA Executive Summary on Pit Production

Updates

Public invited to comment on LANL impact statement

“NNSA [is] shutting the public out, while steamrolling exorbitantly expensive expanded pit production…There is a clear need for a nationwide programmatic environmental impact statement to justify or not expanded plutonium pit production, followed by a new site-wide environmental impact statement for Los Alamos,” — Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico

BY T.S. LAST | abqjournal.com Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday released its draft Supplement Analysis to the 2008 Site-wide Environmental Impact Statement for Los Alamos National Laboratory, concluding that it doesn’t have to complete an environmental impact statement.

The study examines whether environmental analysis for expanded plutonium pit production at LANL should be required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Based on analysis in this SA, NNSA preliminarily concludes that no further National Environmental Policy Act documentation for LANL at a site-specific level is required,” the document says. “However, NNSA will consider comments on this draft SA prior to publishing a final SA.”

Demand the Need for Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Expanded Pit Production

Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and an Existing Court Order

The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has formally announced that it is proceeding with aggressive plans to expand the production of plutonium pits without required nation-wide “programmatic” public review. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs assert this is in direct violation of the legal requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act and a 1998 court order that stipulates that DOE must prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS) when it plans to produce more than 80 pits per year. Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons.

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Pope Frances Calls for Nuclear Weapons Abolition – – Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese Likely Has Largest Presence of Nuclear Weapons in the World

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 24, 2019

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons while paying homage to the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two cities were both destroyed by atomic weapons designed and produced by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located in northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese.

The Holy Father declared:

“With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home. The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.  How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”

Two of the U.S.’ three nuclear weapons laboratories, the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, are located within the Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese. Together the two labs spend $4 billion per year on core nuclear weapons design, testing and production programs. In addition, up to 2,500 nuclear weapons are estimated to be held in strategic reserve at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex, less than two miles south of the Albuquerque International Airport. That complex is probably the largest repository of intact nuclear weapons in the country and perhaps the world.Continue reading

Help Stop Plans to “Modernize” WIPP

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), located outside Carlsbad, NM. is the nation’s only geologic repository for defense-generated transuranic waste. The Department of Energy (DOE) is accepting comments on its 2019-2024 “Strategic Plan”, which should be focused on closing WIPP. But the Plan focuses on extending WIPP’s lifetime to 2050 and beyond. WIPP’s disposal phase was extended until 2024 (in 2010), and the last expected year of final closure of the WIPP facility (i.e., date of final closure certification) was to be 2034. There was always a 10-year period for final closure after the disposal operations ceased.

But, instead, the WIPP Strategic Plan is stocked full of new projects that will extend WIPP’s life another 25 years at least. Yet, WIPP officials don’t mention how or when they plan to modify the State Permit with the new proposed date. DOE’s own waste-handling inefficiencies and mistakes have caused this delay that the people of New Mexico are now paying for by having WIPP open longer than planned. We are asking everyone to oppose DOE’s “WIPP Forever” plans by sending in comments. See below.

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Watchdogs Issue Second Demand for Nation-Wide Environmental Review of Expanded Plutonium Pit Production

Today, lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment sent a second letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The letter demands a nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement for the agencies’ proposed expanded production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. Invoking the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the letter concludes:

“…we advise the agencies that timely compliance with NEPA is the best means for the agencies to keep these [expanded plutonium pit production] projects on track, as a failure to rigorously comply with NEPA may necessitate litigation, including if necessary motions for injunctive relief, all of which would likely increase the expense of DOE’s and NNSA’s proposed actions and extend their timelines further. Accordingly, we strongly encourage DOE and NNSA to come into compliance with NEPA by preparing a new or supplemental PEIS for its proposals regarding plutonium pit production, and to do so immediately. If the agencies continue on their current trajectory, we will have no choice but to evaluate all our options to enforce compliance with federal environmental laws.”

As background, on May 10, 2018, the Departments of Defense and Energy jointly announced that plutonium pit production would be expanded from the currently sanctioned level of 20 pits per year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico to at least 30 pits per year, plus redundant production of at least 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, which would be a completely new mission there.

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Lack Of Safety And Health Priorities Continue To Plague Los Alamos Beryllium Program

A new assessment finds that Department of Energy (DOE) is not conducting effective oversight of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) beryllium program, or of safety and health programs in general. In addition, DOE is not maintaining sufficient technical capability and knowledge of site and contractor activities to make informed decisions about hazards and risks. DOE indicated the lack of sufficient safety and health resources has presented a challenge to achieving effective oversight in this area.

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NukeWatch Work Product

2019


June 10, 2019 Press Release

Federal Government Meets Watchdogs’ Demand for Environmental Review of Expanded Plutonium Pit Production

In a victory for transparency and legal compliance by the government, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today published a “Notice of Intent” in the Federal Register to complete environmental reviews on its controversial proposal to expand plutonium “pit” production for new and refurbished nuclear weapons.

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


June 4, 2019 Press Release

Noted Environmental Lawyers Warn Government Not to Expand Production of Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Policy Act and Public Review

On behalf of three public interest organizations - Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment and Savannah River Site Watch – attorneys for the law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently sent a 16-page letter to Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The detailed letter warns the nuclear agency to not proceed with aggressive plans to expand plutonium pit production without first meeting its legal requirements for timely public review and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


May 31, 2019 Press Release

Faulty Radioactive Liquid Waste Valves Raise Crucial Plutonium Pit Production and Safety Board Issues

Last Wednesday, facility operations personnel entered a service room and noticed a leak emanating from a valve on the radioactive liquid waste (RLW) system. Upon subsequent visual inspection by a radiological control technician, RLUOB engineers believe that this valve, and 6 similar valves, may be constructed of carbon steel. The RLW system handles radioactive liquid waste streams from chemistry operations that include nitric and hydrochloric acids—carbon steel valves would be incompatible with these solutions. The suspect valves are also in contact with stainless steel piping, which would create another corrosion mechanism. RLUOB management plans to drain the affected piping sections and develop a work package to replace all of the suspect valves. They will also confirm the valve materials and if shown to be incorrect, investigate the cause of this failure in the design, procurement, and installation processes. The valves were installed in 2013 as part of a modification to add straining and sampling capabilities that were not in the included in the original design. [Please note that DNFSB reports are posted a few weeks later than dated.]

This immediately raises two crucial issues: 1) the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) plans for expanded plutonium pit production; and 2) the current attempt by the Department of Energy to restrict Safety Board access to its nuclear weapons facilities.

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


2018


November 16, 2018 Fact Sheet

Expanded Plutonium Pit Production for U.S. Nuclear Weapons

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


Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and Public Review

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch, and Tri-Valley CAREs sent a letter of demand to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to inform the government that its plan to quadruple the production rate of plutonium bomb cores is out of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NNSA’s premature plan to quadruple the production rate of plutonium bomb cores (“pits”), the heart of all US nuclear weapons, is out of compliance with requisite environmental law, the groups argue, as NNSA has failed to undertake a legally-mandated programmatic review and hold required public hearings.

View/Download the entire press release HERE