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The Waste that Remains

Los Alamos Labs hit with $222,313 fine for safety violations. Meanwhile, clean-up of legacy sites may permanently seal waste in the ground.

BY LEAH CANTOR | sfreporter.com

The Waste that Remains - Workers excavating a waste disposal site | US Department of Energy
Workers excavating a waste disposal site | US Department of Energy

Even as Los Alamos National Labs takes on contracts for new weapons manufacturing, taxpayers are still shelling out for the clean-up costs of contamination dating back to atomic bomb testing. The latest clean-up proposals will likely leave hazardous waste in the ground. Meanwhile, recent hazardous waste safety violations add up to $222,313.

N3B, the company recently contracted by the US Department of Energy to complete a significant portion of remaining clean-up efforts, gave a presentation to the public at the Santa Fe Community College on Thursday as part of a series of community meetings leading up to the process to decide methods for cleaning up several contaminated legacy waste sites around LANL.

…The DOE reported that 1,168 of 2,123 contaminated sites have been cleaned and 10,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste removed, leaving 5,000 cubic meters of waste remaining identified for clean-up. Yet, according to watchdog group Nuke Watch New Mexico, that leaves 690,251 cubic meters of waste permanently buried on-sight in unlined pits and shafts above a regional aquifer that provides drinking water for San Ildefonso Pueblo, Española, Los Alamos and Santa Fe, among other communities. Nuke Watch Executive Director Jay Coghlan tells SFR this number is from analysis of publicly available LANL documents and data.

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More nuclear weapons — less cleanup

At recent public forums, the Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory claimed that cleanup is more than half complete.

Jay Coghlan, Director – Nuclear Watch New Mexico

BY JAY COGHLANsantafenewmexican.com

What these staged events fail to disclose, contradicting repeated claims of transparency, is that decisions already have been made behind closed doors to remove only approximately 6,500 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic waste, while leaving 30 times as much buried permanently above our groundwater aquifer.

LANL used to claim that groundwater contamination from lab operations was impossible. Today, we sadly know otherwise. Deep groundwater under LANL is contaminated with chromium, perchlorate and high explosives. Intermediate aquifers linked to deep groundwater are contaminated with tritium, industrial solvents, heavy metals and plutonium.

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The Ongoing Call for Nuclear Abolition at Los Alamos

The sick people who prevent gun control and support AK47s are the same people who support the building and maintenance of nuclear weapons, which put millions of people at risk from some unimaginable massacre to come.

AUGUST 9, 2019 | BY REV. JOHN DEAR | commondreams.org

The Ongoing Call for Nuclear Abolition at Los Alamos Remember Hiroshima no nukes
The sickness of our widespread gun violence epidemic is connected to the sickness of the nuclear weapons industry, and the numbness and despair among us allow these lethal epidemics to threaten us all. (Photo: John Dear)

REFLECTING ON THE 74th ANNIVERSARY OF HIROSHIMA

This week, we drove back up the remote New Mexico mountains to the “atomic city” for our annual peace vigil, sit in and rally. This was our 16th year in a row.

Jay Coghlan of NukeWatch New Mexico talked about the seriousness and stupidity of the Trump Administration’s decision last week to pull out of the Arms Control Treaty, a decision that has gotten lost in all the other bad news (see: www.nukewatch.org). Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety New Mexico spoke of the latest shenanigans by the Labs, to bypass the legal oversight of its water purification system so that plutonium contaminated water can continue to poison the land (see: www.nuclearactive.org). Alicia from NukeWatch explained the latest progress with the U.N. treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, organized by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (see: www.icanw.org).

VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

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Critics blast plutonium pit production pitch at Aiken forum

A coalition of nuclear watchers and environmental groups on Friday night hosted a public forum in Aiken, during which speakers unloaded on the proposed plutonium pit production expansion at both the Savannah River Site and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

JUNE 16, 2019 | BY COLIN DEMAREST | aikenstandard.com

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements speaks earlier this month at the plutonium pit production forum, flanked by a large photo of the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility/Staff photo by Colin Demarest

The get-together, held at the Aiken Municipal Building, was largely led by Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements. He was backed by Marylia Kelley, the executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, and Jay Coghlan, who leads Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Together, the three called into question the actual need for more pits, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s ability to successfully produce them, and discussed at length the environmental and health repercussions that could come with such a significant weapons-oriented mission.

The public “can be effective against bad Department of Energy ideas, like the pit production one,” Clements said early in his remarks.

At least 80 pits per year are needed by 2030, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a leading nuclear policy document. Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores.

“They keep coming up with this number, 80, and I don’t know where they get this from,” Clements said. “They haven’t justified it.”

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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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Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

Anti-nuclear activists fired away Friday at what they said is a dangerous and little known plan to produce deadly atomic weapons components at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

BY SAMMY FRETWELLthestate.com

The federal government has proposed a multibillion dollar plutonium pit factory that could create as many as 1,700 jobs as part of an effort to make fresh plutonium, a major ingredient in atomic bombs.

But the proposed factory is raising concerns about its risk to the environment and the public, in addition to how it would be viewed by world leaders. Critics say the government may use the pits in a new type of nuclear weapon, instead of only replenishing the existing stockpile with fresh plutonium.

Savannah River Site Watch, a nuclear watchdog organization that tracks SRS, held a public meeting Friday night in Aiken County to brief people on the government’s plan at SRS, a 310-square-mile complex in western South Carolina.

“We don’t think people are really aware of what is going on: that this new mission is fraught with risk that could come to SRS,’’ Savannah River Site Watch director Tom Clements told The State.

Nuclear watchdog groups from New Mexico and California joined SRS Watch for the forum in Aiken County, where many SRS workers live. Before the Friday meeting, the groups held a news conference to voice concerns. The U.S. Department of Energy plans its own forum on the proposal June 27 in North Augusta.

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Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

Anti-nuclear activists fired away Friday at what they said is a dangerous and little known plan to produce deadly atomic weapons components at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

JUNE 14, 2019 | BY SAMMY FRETWELL | thestate.com

A mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years. But the project has been scrapped and the federal government is looking to convert the site into a plutonium pit factory COURTESY HIGH FLYER

The federal government has proposed a multibillion dollar plutonium pit factory that could create as many as 1,700 jobs as part of an effort to make fresh plutonium, a major ingredient in atomic bombs.

Pro-nuclear groups say the pit plant is a good replacement for the mixed oxide fuel facility, commonly known as MOX. Not only will it provide jobs, but it will help keep the United States safe, they say.

Clements and Jay Coghlan, who directs Nuclear Watch New Mexico, don’t see it that way.

“It will be a great waste of taxpayer’s money,’’ Coghlan said. “There also is a long history of chronic safety problems and environmental or waste problems associated with pit production.’’

The proposed factory is raising concerns about its risk to the environment and the public, in addition to how it would be viewed by world leaders. Critics say the government may use the pits in a new type of nuclear weapon, instead of only replenishing the existing stockpile with fresh plutonium.

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Billion-dollar LANL building has plumbing problem

JUNE 1, 2019 | BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

FILE This undated file aerial view shows the Los Alamos National laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a seven-year, $213 million upgrade to the security system that protects the lab's most sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn't work. Virtually every major project under the National Nuclear Security Administration's oversight is behind schedule and over budget. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal)
A $1B building at Los Alamos National Laboratory was found to have a carbon steel valves that can’t handle liquid radioactive waste, according to a report by inspectors for the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (Associated Press)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

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.

Lab watchdogs have labeled RLUOB, which got the green light for construction in 2011, as the most expensive building in New Mexico. The lab’s website says it’s part of a capital project to replace aging Cold War-era facilities.

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.

“Remember, this is the gang that couldn’t get it straight between organic and inorganic cat litter, sending a radioactive waste drum that ruptured and closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for three years, costing the American taxpayer three billion dollars to reopen,” Coghlan said in a statement. “Now we learn that they don’t know elementary plumbing for liquid radioactive wastes lines, and we’re supposed to trust them while they unjustifiably expand plutonium pit production?”

LANL is in the process of ramping up for a congressional mandate to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s weapons complex, for production of “pits,” the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons as part of a huge plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

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Parties Prepare to Start Mediation Over WIPP Waste Volume

 The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located in the massive salt of the Salado Formation. b. Contact Handled transuranic nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in New Mexico in TRUPac II containers. c. Remote Handled nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in a 72B cask. d. Over 10,000 nuclear waste drums and standard waste boxes filling 1 of 56 rooms to be filled at WIPP. Note the higher activity remote handled waste plunged into boreholes in the wall to the right (like SNF could be) and plugged with a 4-foot metal-wrapped cement plug. The Valentine’s Day leak of 2014 occurred from a single drum in Panel 7 Room 7. Source: DOE CBFO
Source: DOE CBFO

Face-to-face mediation is expected in June between public interest groups and the New Mexico Environment Department over changes to the way waste volume is calculated underground at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

exchangemonitor.com | May 23, 2019

The New Mexico Court of Appeals often encourages mediation in cases involving state agencies in hopes parties can bridge their differences outside the courtroom, officials say.

A lawsuit filed in January by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), which challenged a change to the state hazardous waste permit for WIPP, has been stayed pending the talks.

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi issued the stay May 2 and called for the parties to file a status report on the mediation by July 31.

The mediation itself should occur in late June, SRIC Administrator Don Hancock said by email.

Then-state Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate in December authorized a permit modification allowing DOE to stop counting empty spaces between container drums as transuranic waste. The order adopted the findings of state hearing officer, who recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual waste inside containers.

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NMED And EM-LA Present FY2019 Legacy Cleanup Priorities In Community Meeting

Los Alamos Reporter, Dec 1, 2018, By Marie O'Neill

Under public comment, Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico confronted the two DOE officials about DOE’s overall plans for clean-up...

 

Nuclear groups challenge pit program expansion

Los Alamos Monitor-Nov 5, 2018

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs wrote a letter to NNSA Undersecretary and Administrator Lisa ...

 

Groups call for environmental review of more 'pit' production

Albuquerque Journal-Nov 2, 2018

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, SRS Watch in South Carolina and Tri-Valley CAREs Livermore, Calif. — home of another weapons lab — say an ...

 

Watchdog groups seek review of plutonium plan

Santa Fe New Mexican-Nov 1, 2018

Three nuclear watchdog groups across the U.S., including Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are accusing the National Nuclear ...

 

WIPP: Calculation change will not impact facility's capacity

Carlsbad Current-Argus-Oct 24, 2018

Scott Kovac with Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the change could make WIPP's volume tracking needlessly complicated. "This modification ...

 

Studies renew worry about contamination from US arms testing

SaukValley.com-Oct 4, 2018

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, cited a long history of denial about the claims of “down winders,” the residents ...

 

Hidden danger: Radioactive dust is found in communities around ...

Los Angeles Times-Sep 28, 2018

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, cited a long history of denial about the claims of “down winders,” the residents of ...

 

End of Public Comment Period on Nuke Site Draws Criticism

U.S. News & World Report-Sep 21, 2018

... four organizations — Southwest Research and Information Center, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and ...

 

Embattled coalition says it's a 'powerful voice'

Albuquerque Journal-Sep 20, 2018

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico also said that the RCLC actually “colludes” with the U.S. Department of Energy – which happens to ...

 

Press Release: Watchdog groups oppose DOE attempt to limit oversight, endanger safety at nuclear facilities

Watchdog groups from across the nuclear weapons complex are pushing back against a new Department of Energy order that severely constrains the oversight capacity of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board [DNFSB] at an August 28 hearing in Washington, DC.

 

Suit seeking fines against Los Alamos lab goes forward

Albuquerque Journal-Jul 13, 2018

The 2016 suit by Nuclear Watch New Mexico alleges DOE and the contractor — Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) — owe hundreds of ...

 

Read more media articles below -

NukeWatch Media through July 1, 2018

 

Updates

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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The U.S. should carefully and prudently maintain its nuclear weapons stockpile

Defense News reports that “Nuclear gravity bomb and warhead upgrades face new delays” because of new components used in so-called Life Extension Programs (LEPs) to prolong the service lives of existing nuclear weapons. These programs also give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities. For example, see How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze

The point of this blog is to raise the question of whether these Life Extension Programs really enhance U.S. national security while maintaining the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, perhaps the crux issue is prudent and conservative maintenance of the stockpile versus increasingly aggressive LEPs.

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Say “No” to the New Plutonium Bomb Plant at the Savannah River Site!

Public “Scoping” Comments Needed by Thursday July 25:

Say “No” to the New Plutonium Bomb Plant at the Savannah River Site!

What:                          “Scoping” comments needed on plutonium bomb core production at SRS.

When:                         Due by Thursday July 25 or as soon as practical.

Where:                        Email to NEPA-SRS@srs.gov

Sample comments:     Please see http://www.srswatch.org/uploads

This new bomb plant will be for the production of plutonium pits, the radioactive cores or “triggers” of modern nuclear weapons. NNSA plan to produce at least 30 pits per year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and at least 50 pits per year at SRS, which will be a completely new mission there. Expanded pit production is a key part of the U.S.’ $1.7 trillion “modernization” plan to completely rebuild the nuclear weapons stockpile, its supporting research and production complex, and the missiles, subs and bombers to deliver nuclear weapons. All of this is fueling a new global nuclear arms race that is more dangerous than any time since the height of the Cold War.

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IDA Executive Summary – Plutonium Pit Production, May 2019

Billion-dollar LANL building has plumbing problem

BY MARK OSWALD / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Saturday, June 1st, 2019 at 12:05am Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

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.

Read the complete article here

Forum on June 14 in Aiken, SC on Expanded Production of Plutonium “Pits” for Nuclear Weapons

Forum on June 14 in Aiken, SC on Expanded Production of Plutonium “Pits” – for Nuclear Weapons – to Give Voice to Concerns in Face of DOE’s Failure to Engage and Inform the Public about the Risky Proposal

Columbia, SC– The controversial proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy to expand production of plutonium “pits”- the core of all nuclear weapons – will be the subject of a public forum in Aiken, South Carolina on Friday, June 14, 2019.  The event is free and open to all members of the public.

In response to DOE’s lack of public engagement about the proposal and its potential environmental and health impacts, three public interest groups that work on DOE and nuclear weapons issues have taken the initiative on the matter. The questionable proposal by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration is to expand pit production at the Savannah River Site into the shuttered MOX plant – a totally new and unproven mission for SRS – and at the Los Alamos National Lab to 80 or more pits per year.  Such pit production for new and “refurbished” nuclear weapons may help stimulate a new nuclear arms race. The vague proposal is far from finalized and is unauthorized and unfunded by Congress.

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