Nuclear News Archive

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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IPPNW warns of dire consequences of military escalation in Kashmir

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is calling on the Indian government to restore immediately all communications and freedom of movement in Kashmir and Jammu, and urging all states in the disputed border regions to initiate new diplomatic talks aimed at reducing tensions and negotiating a peaceful settlement to the long-standing conflict.

IPPNW is deeply concerned that deteriorating humanitarian and political conditions in Kashmir, after the Indian government put the area in lockdown earlier this month, are increasing significantly the risk of military escalation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Three of the four wars fought between India and Pakistan have started in Kashmir.

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The nuclear arms race is back … and ever more dangerous now

Donald Trump has increased spending on America’s arsenal while ripping up cold war treaties. Russia and China are following suit.

BY SIMON TISDALL | theguardian.com

A missile test launch by North Korea on 25 July this year. Photograph: AP

Imagine the uproar if the entire populations of York, Portsmouth or Swindon were suddenly exposed to three times the permissible level of penetrating gamma radiation, or what the nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford termed gamma rays. The outpouring of rage and fear would be heard across the world.

That’s what happened to the roughly 200,000 people who live in the similarly sized northern Russian city of Severodvinsk on 8 August, after an explosion at a nearby top-secret missile testing range. Russia’s weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded radiation levels up to 16 times higher than the usual ambient rate.

Yet the incident has been met with surly silence by Russia. It was five days before officials confirmed a blast at the Nyonoksa range had killed several people, including nuclear scientists. No apologies were offered to Severodvinsk residents. There is still little reliable information. “Accidents, unfortunately, happen,” a Kremlin spokesman said. That callous insouciance is not universally shared. According to western experts, the explosion was caused by the launch failure of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, one of many advanced weapons being developed by Russia, the US and China in an accelerating global nuclear arms race.

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RCLC Does Not Represent The Taos Constituency

La Jicarita

BY KAY MATTHEWSlosalamosreporter.com

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has ties to some of the same people and businesses as that of the Rocky Flats Coalition, and this connection may well influence on-going cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the transfer of contaminated lands from Department of Energy responsibility, some of which has already occurred.

David Abelson of Crescent Strategies, brought in to facilitate the LANL Coalition back in 2011, was the executive director of the Rocky Flats Coalition of Local Governments, and several Washington-based D.C. businesses that advised the Rocky Flats Coalition are working with the LANL Coalition. They all assisted in the effort to convert Rocky Flats to a wildlife refuge, an outcome which required much lower standards for clean-up than, for example, human residency. This created a credibility gap that the mission of the RCLC is to lobby for cleanup of LANL.

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Nuclear weapons are spreading. This plutonium scientist is trying to stop that

Siegfried Hecker serves as a scientific shuttle diplomat, building ties with rival nuclear researchers the world over.

BY STEPHEN SHANKLAND | cnet.com

CC: STEPHEN SHANKLAND/CNET

When you think of efforts to pare down the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles, maybe you imagine heads of state and uniformed generals sternly staring down their military rivals across a huge table.

Reality, though, looks very different.

Picture instead a white-haired, US weapons scientist sidestepping the summit meetings and heading directly to research labs in Russia, China, Pakistan and even North Korea to chat about physics and build the direct ties that may be more effective at establishing trust than edicts from the top brass.

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Native American tribe claims nuclear waste can’t be stored on its land

To the Western Shoshone, most of Nevada isn’t Nevada. At least not in the current sense.

BY JOHN SADLER | lasvegassun.com

Corbin Harney, an elder with the Western Shoshone Tribe, beats a drum during a May 2002 tribal protest near the planned Yucca Mountain national nuclear waste dump.

More than 150 years after the first treaty between the Western Shoshone and the federal government was signed, the two nations disagree on the outcome—the Shoshone say they never turned over their land.

The majority of the land in Nevada falls under the Shoshone’s historical claim. It includes the Nevada National Security Site (formerly Nevada Test Site), which has released hundreds of tons of fallout in its operational history. It also includes Yucca Mountain, which has been the center of a decades-long argument centered on the long-term storage of the nation’s nuclear waste.

The plan to turn the mountain into a nuclear waste facility drums up memories of past nuclear use of the land, and some members of the tribe are pushing back.

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Church Rock, America’s Forgotten Nuclear Disaster, Is Still Poisoning Navajo Lands 40 Years Later

Residents say they’ve been ignored even as they struggle with contaminated water and worry about having children.

BY SAMUEL GILBERT & RAMSAY DE GIVE | cnn.com

A BARBED-WIRE FENCE IN CHURCH ROCK, NEW MEXICO.

Early in the summer of 1979, Larry King, an underground surveyor at the United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock Uranium mine in New Mexico, began noticing something unusual when looking at the south side of the tailings dam. That massive earthen wall was responsible for holding back thousands of tons of toxic water and waste produced by the mine and the nearby mill that extracted uranium from raw ore. And as King saw, there were “fist-sized cracks” developing in that wall. He measured them, reported them to his supervisors, and didn’t think anything more of it.

A few weeks later, at 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1979, the dam failed, releasing 1,100 tons of uranium waste and 94 million gallons of radioactive water into the Rio Puerco and through Navajo lands, a toxic flood that had devastating consequences on the surrounding area.

“The water, filled with acids from the milling process, twisted a metal culvert in the Puerco,” according to Judy Pasternak’s book Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and the Betrayal of the Navajos. “

Sheep keeled over and died, and crops curdled along the banks. The surge of radiation was detected as far away as Sanders, Arizona, fifty miles downstream.” According to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report, radioactivity levels in the Puerco near the breached dam were 7,000 times that of what is allowed in drinking water.

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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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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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Say “No” to More Nuclear Weapons:

Comments are Needed on Proposed Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab and at The Savannah River Site.

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Radioactive pollution leaked through floor of South Carolina nuclear fuel plant

Westinghouse Nuclear fuel factory southeast of Columbia.
(Photo: Courtesy of High Flyer/The State)

BY SAMMY FRETWELL | greenvilleonline.com

Radioactive uranium has leaked through the floor at Westinghouse’s Bluff Road fuel factory, contaminating the soil in an area of Richland County with a nearly 35-year history of groundwater pollution from the plant.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the uranium, a toxic substance used to make nuclear fuel rods, seeped through a 3-inch hole in a concrete floor in part of the factory where an acid is used. The hole extends 6 feet into the ground, according to the NRC. The NRC learned of the leak July 12.

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Are We Headed for Another Expensive Nuclear Arms Race? Could Be.

United States soldiers after conducting military exercises in the West Philippine Sea in April.CreditCreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

BY STEVEN ERLANGER | nytimes.com

BRUSSELS — After the recent death of the treaty covering intermediate-range missiles, a new arms race appears to be taking shape, drawing in more players, more money and more weapons at a time of increased global instability and anxiety about nuclear proliferation.

The arms control architecture of the Cold War, involving tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, was laboriously designed over years of hard-fought negotiations between two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union. The elaborate treaties helped keep the world from nuclear annihilation.

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Pakistan downgrades diplomatic ties, suspends trade with India over Kashmir

Kashmir in lockdown as India plans to change state’s status

BY JESSIE YEUNG & SOPHIA SAIFI | cnn.com

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) Pakistan has announced it will downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India after New Delhi stripped the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. India’s High Commissioner will also be removed from the country, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday. It added that Islamabad will not send its own ambassador to New Delhi.

The series of announcements came after a National Security Committee meeting on Wednesday, where the office of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Islamabad would also review bilateral agreements with India and take the issue up with the United Nations and the UN Security Council.

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TPNW is now officially halfway towards entry into force!

On August 6th, 1945 at 8:16 am, a nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, killing over 140,000 people and wiping out most of the city. 74 years later, the bomb’s catastrophic consequences are still affecting people’s lives.

TPNW is now officially halfway towards entry into force! Bolivia’s ratification on Hiroshima Day brings Nuclear Ban Treaty halfway to entry into force
Bolivia’s ratification on Hiroshima Day brings ICAN’s Nuclear Ban Treaty halfway to entry into force.

Today, tens of thousands of people have gathered  in Hiroshima, and around the world, to commemorate the victims and echo the call of the Hibakusha – the survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that such a thing must never happen again. And at the UN in New York, one such commemoration took a very special form today:  Bolivia has just marked Hiroshima Day by depositing its ratification instrument for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). With this ratification, TPNW is now officially halfway towards entry into force!
Read more about this special moment

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The Human Cost of the Hiroshima Bombing

PODCAST: Listen to the story of Kathleen Burkinshaw, the daughter of a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. Kathleen reminds us that she and her mother are among the tens of thousands of people who view nuclear weapons in terms of the friends and family members they lost.

First Instagram post | First Facebook post

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“For this week’s Press the Button, we mark the 74th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing with a special edition episode.”
Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

August 6th —  Two interrelated issues are discussed: Should US policy today still reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first, and what happened when we did go first nearly three quarters of a century ago?
“To help answer these questions, we bring you the very best from a multitude of our earlier interviews. You’ll hear from nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein, former Obama deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, former RAND analyst and releaser of the Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg, founding director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights Carol Cohn, and Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Also featuring special guest Kingston Reif from the Arms Control Association, to discuss recent nuclear news on the Early Warning segment. Kingston talks about the INF Treaty withdrawal, no-first-use, and the latest from Iran..

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

The Democratic Debates Need More Questions About Nuclear War

There is a remarkable incongruity between the existential danger of nuclear war and the absence of public discussion about preventing it. This disconnect is all too apparent today, as arms control and disarmament treaties are scrapped, nations embark on vast nuclear weapons buildups, and governments threaten nuclear war against one another.

The Democratic Debates Need More Questions About Nuclear War, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker speaks while Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former housing secretary Julian Castro, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, former tech executive Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio listen during Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker speaks while Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former housing secretary Julian Castro, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, former tech executive Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio listen during Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan.
SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

BY LAWRENCE WITTNER |truthout.org

Meanwhile, the mass media routinely avoids these issues but, instead, focuses on movie stars, athletes, and President Donald Trump’s latest tweeted insults.

Do I exaggerate? Consider the following.

In May 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the laboriously constructed Iran nuclear agreement that had closed off the possibility of that nation developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. pullout was followed by the imposition of heavy U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, as well as by thinly veiled threats by Trump to use nuclear weapons to destroy that country. Irate at these moves, the Iranian government recently retaliated by exceeding the limits set by the shattered agreement on its uranium stockpile and uranium enrichment.

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Arms Control Association – Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

“The loss of the landmark INF Treaty, which helped end the Cold War nuclear arms race, is a blow to international peace and security.”

Statement from Daryl G. Kimball, executive director | armscontrol.org | Media ContactsDaryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104

“Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But President Trump’s decision to terminate the treaty will not eliminate Russia’s noncompliant 9M729 missiles — and is a mistake.

“Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute arms control plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

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The INF Treaty Officially Died Today

Six months after both the United States and Russia announced suspensions of their respective obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the treaty officially died today.

Federation of American Scientists | Posted on Aug.02, 2019 in Arms ControlNuclear WeaponsRussiaUnited States by 

The Federation of American Scientists strongly condemns the irresponsible acts by the Russian and US administrations that have resulted in the demise of this historic and important agreement.

In a they-did-it statement on the State Department’s web site, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo repeated the accusation that Russia has violated the treaty by testing and deploying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the treaty.

“The United States will not remain party [sic] to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” he said.

By withdrawing from the INF, the Trump administration has surrendered legal and political pressure on Russia to return to compliance. Instead of diplomacy, the administration appears intent on ramping up military pressure by developing its own INF missiles.

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INF Treaty Collapse

Today, 2 August 2019, the governments of the US and Russia have missed a troubling deadline: the end of the six-month notice period that began when both countries announced their withdrawal from the INF Treaty earlier this year. During this period, the decision could still be reversed if both parties went back to the negotiating table. Now that the deadline has passed, and both states can produce even more nuclear weapons, this time enabled to hit targets in the range of 500 and 5,500 kilometres. These weapons, optimised to destroy cities and wipe out civilian populations, put the whole world – and Europe in particular – at risk.

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A nuclear treaty is about to vanish. Its demise should teach a lesson.

On Friday, a pillar of global security will expire.

BY EDITORIAL BOARD | washingtonpost.com

Perhaps no one will notice when the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 slips into oblivion; the threat of nuclear attack in just minutes that seemed so unnerving during the late 20th century has now faded into a distant memory, lost to complacency at the Cold War’s end. But the demise of the INF Treaty should teach a lesson.

Arms control, creating verifiable treaties to limit and reduce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, had its mystique: obtuse concepts, exotic hardware and mind-bending negotiations. But at its core, arms control was about political willpower. In the case of the INF Treaty, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev summoned enough of it to eliminate an entire class of deployed weapons, the ground-based missiles with a range of between 300 and 3,400 miles, and their launchers. The treaty made the world safer not only by removing a nuclear threat to Europe but also by introducing novel measures such as intrusive verification and on-site inspections.

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If New START Dies, These Questions Will Need Answers

There’s little public indication that the Trump administration is thinking about several things that will happen if the last strategic arms agreement is allowed to expire.

BY VINCENT MANZO & MADISON ESTES | defenseone.com

U.S. AIR FORCE / SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER QUAIL  AA FONT SIZE + PRINT A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept 23, 2018.
U.S. AIR FORCE / SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER QUAIL
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept 23, 2018.

The Trump administration has articulated an ambitious new vision for nuclear arms control, one that includes China and seeks to limit more types of Russian systems. This vision appears to have little room for the New START agreement, which helped to cap U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and which is due to expire in 2021. And yet there is little in the public record to indicate how the administration would deal with various problems that would surface if New START is left to die.

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Did Trump Just Threaten to Attack Iran With Nukes?

He said he could destroy Afghanistan but was signaling elsewhere. The scary part is there’s already a plan.

Did Trump Just Threaten to Attack Iran With Nukes? He said he could destroy Afghanistan but was signaling elsewhere. The scary part is there's already a plan.
(By KREML/Shutterstock)

BY SCOTT RITTER | theamericanconservative.com July 25, 2019

On Monday during a press conference between Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump spoke rather casually of having reviewed plans to annihilate Afghanistan.

“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said. “I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth, it would be gone. It would be over in, literally, in 10 days. And I don’t want to go that route.”

Trump’s seemingly blasé reference to a hypothetical mass murder on a scope and scale never seen in the history of mankind (it took Nazi Germany more than four years to kill six million Jews) was stunning. We know, given the state of play in Afghanistan, that it will never happen. But it wasn’t offhand. Such a policy of total destruction could also be seen as applying to Iran, and the potential for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a U.S.-Iranian conflict is far from hypothetical. He knew exactly what he was doing.
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460,000 Premature Deaths: The Horror That Was Nuclear Weapons Testing -As we mark the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in a handful of days, we will rightly remember the horrors of nuclear war.

As we mark the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in a handful of days, we will rightly remember the horrors of nuclear war.

BY ZACK BROWN & ALEX SPIRE

For a brief fraction of a second on an early March morning in 1954, the United States summoned a second sun into existence above Bikini Atoll.

As the four-mile wide fireball bathed the Pacific seascape in its angry, white-red light, onlookers recognized something nearly divine—and unquestionably ominous. “It was a religious experience, a personal view of the apocalypse or transfiguration,” said one observer. Another remembered feeling “like you stepped into a blast furnace,” even though he was over thirty miles away.

This was the Castle Bravo thermonuclear test, one of several dozen nuclear detonations the United States carried out in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. At 15 million tons of TNT—one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima—it was the largest explosion ever set off by Americans. 

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Yukiya Amano, Head of the I.A.E.A. Nuclear Watchdog Group, Dies at 72

Yukiya Amano, Head of the I.A.E.A. Nuclear Watchdog Group Dies at 72 -Yukiya Amano in Vienna in November. Before his death, he was apparently preparing to step down as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.CreditCreditChristian Bruna/EPA, via Shutterstock
Yukiya Amano in Vienna in November. Before his death, he was apparently preparing to step down as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.CreditCreditChristian Bruna/EPA, via Shutterstock

BY MEGAN SPECIA & DAVID E. SANGER | nytimes.com July 22, 2019

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat who played a central role in inspecting Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, has died, the organization announced on Monday. He was 72.

The agency, part of the United Nations, did not cite a cause of death or say when and where he died, but word had begun to spread last week that Mr. Amano had planned to step down from his position as director-general after nearly a decade because of an unspecified illness. He was two years into a third term as the agency’s leader.

His death left the agency leaderless at a critical moment: just as Iran is edging away from the nuclear agreement and beginning carefully calibrated violations of the limits on how much nuclear material it can produce, and at what level of purity.

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Inside the Secret Campaign to Export U.S. Nuclear Tech to Saudi Arabia

Industry coalition’s push to win over the Trump administration is concerning officials on Capitol Hill who are fearful that it could threaten U.S. national security.

Inside the Secret Campaign to Export U.S. Nuclear Tech to Saudi Arabia - Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

ERIN BANCO | thedailybeast.com

When President Donald Trump took the stage in the East Room of the White House earlier this month to give his first speech on the environment, nuclear energy executives and industry leaders held their breath. They exchanged text messages with fellow colleagues during the speech’s broadcast, wondering aloud to one another if Trump had taken the bait.

Since the fall of 2016, the executives have built an underground coalition along with academics, technology experts and well-connected politicos, including some lobbyists, to get the president and his administration to support—even promote—an American nuclear energy comeback. The industry has declined in recent years due mostly to the closing of critical nuclear infrastructure and plants. Between 2010 and 2018, only one new nuclear power plant came online in the United States.

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Thank you to those who submitted comments in the NNSA’s EIS “scoping” for the proposed Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at the Savannah River Site.  The PBP remains unauthorized and unfunded.

“Despite requests by many, NNSA denied extending the comment period.  Though the comment period ended on July 25, there is still time to submit late comments. (See Federal Register notice of June 10.)

Special thanks are due to the experts at Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley CAREs and the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) for submitting extensive comments pertaining to the question of “need” for new pits for new nuclear weapons.

It is of note that we enlisted groups that don’t traditionally work on nuclear weapons or DOE issues to engage the scoping process, including the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.  Plus, there were a flurry of individual comments in the last few days.

Comments included the lack of need for new pits for the W87-1-style warhead, the issue of pit reuse and the need for a “nuclear non-proliferation risk assessment” on the production of new pits for new nuclear weapons.

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Sheep Fire Burns on Idaho National Laboratory Land

The Sheep Fire was sparked by a lightning strike around 6:30 p.m. Monday near Idaho Falls, in the southeastern part of the state, and grew quickly, said the Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) emergency Joint Information Center.

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Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

July 22 — This episode features Alex Wellerstein, historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology and creator of NUKEMAP – a website that allows you to  simulate the effects of a nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. He talks in depth about the decision to drop the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence, on the debate about the Bomb’s use after Trinity and much more.
Also featuring a guest appearance by WAND’s Caroline Dorminey.

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

In Budget Deal, White House And Congress Overpay For The Pentagon

The newly proposed two-year budget deal between the White House and Congress has one major flaw.  It vastly overpays for the Pentagon.

WILLIAM HARTUNG. | forbes.com

At $738 billion for Fiscal Year 2020 and $740 billion for Fiscal Year 2021, the agreement sets the table for two of the highest budgets for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy since World War II. The proposed figures are higher than spending at the height of the Vietnam and Korean Wars, and substantially more than the high point of the Reagan buildup of the 1980s. And the Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021 numbers are only slightly less than spending in 2010, when the United States had 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly nine times the number currently deployed.

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A Path Toward Renewing Arms Control

A path toward renewing arms control
Rocket models are stuck in a bucket during a February protest action in Berlin against the imminent withdrawal of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the USA. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa

LAWRENCE J. KORB | thebulletin.org

At the late June G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, US President Trump and Russian President Putin met to discuss a number of issues, including Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, and arms control. While all of these are important, none is more urgent at the current time than arms control because we are on the brink of a new arms race that could be an existential threat not only to these two nuclear super powers but to humanity.

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Fewer Inspections for Aging Nuclear Plants, Regulators Propose

Steam escapes a nuclear plant in Byron, Ill., one of 59 such plants nationwide. Many of them are reaching the end of their licensed operating lives.CreditCreditRobert Ray/Associated Press
Steam escapes a nuclear plant in Byron, Ill., one of 59 such plants nationwide. Many of them are reaching the end of their licensed operating lives.CreditCreditRobert Ray/Associated Press

BY CORAL DAVENPORT | nytimes.com

WASHINGTON — A new report by staff members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the safety of the nation’s 59 aging nuclear power plants, recommends that the commissioners significantly weaken or reduce safety inspections of the plants.

Edwin Lyman, the acting director of nuclear safety programs for the Union of Concerned Scientists, was highly critical of the proposal. “That’s bad because it could impair the ability of the N.R.C. to see larger patterns of violations at a plant,” he said, and called the proposal “a PR stunt. They’re doing it to make these things sound better.”

The report, published Tuesday, comes after a yearlong consultation and public meeting process, including views from the Nuclear Energy Institute, which lobbies on behalf of the nuclear power plant industry and has long sought weaker safety rules. It also comes amid a broader push by the Trump administration for reduced regulations on industry.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation technicians test drums of hazardous and radioactive waste for signs of leakage Oct. 16, 2003, on the reservation near Richland, Wash., in preparation for transport of the material to a storage facility in New Mexico. The waste had been buried during decades of producing nuclear material for the nation's atomic arsenal. The technicians are not identified. (AP Photo/Fluor Handford, Ho) --- Files/The Associated Press A sign warns of radiation on the Hanford nuclear reservation, which houses Washington’s only operating nuclear power plant. ---

When Radioactive Wastes Aren’t Radioactive Wastes

With Congress Limiting What Can Be Dumped at Nuke Sites, the Energy Department May Just Redefine What It’s Dumping

JILLIAN S. AMBROZ. | dcreport.org

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to redefine what constitutes high-level radioactive waste, cutting corners on the disposal of some of the most dangerous and long-lasting waste byproduct on earth—reprocessed spent fuel from the nuclear defense program.

The agency announced in October 2018 plans for its reinterpretation of high-level radioactive waste (HLW), as defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, with plans to classify waste by its hazard level and not its origin.  By using the idea of a reinterpretation of a definition, the DOE may be able to circumvent Congressional oversight. And in its regulatory filing, the DOE, citing the NWPA and Atomic Energy Act of 1954, said it has the authority to “interpret” what materials are classified as high-level waste based on their radiological characteristics. That is not quite true, as Congress specifically defined high-level radioactive waste in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and any reinterpretation of that definition should trigger a Congressional response.

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Lawmaker: Expand compensation from nuclear weapons testing

Original Article: apnews.com | BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A compensation program for those exposed to radiation from years of nuclear weapons testing and uranium mining would be expanded under legislation that seeks to address fallout across the western United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan rolled out the measure Tuesday on the 74th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

As part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, government scientists and the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945. Nearly 200 atmospheric tests followed. Uranium mining persisted even after the tests ceased.

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The Pentagon has more money than it can spend. Both Democrats and the GOP are to blame.

“To save taxpayer money and increase U.S. national security, the first step must be to reconceptualize U.S. strategy. That means abandoning the military-first approach that has governed U.S. security policy during this century.”

ARTICLE BY BEN FREEMANWILLIAM D. HARTUNG | newsweek.com 

The bid from the Republican controlled Senate is $750 billion. The just passed bid from the Democratic controlled House is $733 billion. Both have radically overbid on the price of the Pentagon.

The real cost of the prize that is America’s security is significantly lower than what either party is currently bidding. As the Sustainable Defense Task Force—a group of ex-military officers, former White House and Congressional budget experts, and non-governmental analysts convened by the Center for International Policy which we co-chair—has found, America can be made more secure through less, not more, Pentagon spending. This is possible by rethinking U.S. defense strategy, taking a sober and fact-based assessment of the enormous amount of money already flowing to the Pentagon, and rigorously cutting waste and inefficiencies from the Pentagon bureaucracy.

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Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

July 15 — In this episode, Michelle Dover, Abigail Stowe-Thurston and Tom Collina deliver a wonderful, incisive news segment summarizing the major gains and debates in the NDAA (and how the Kardashians are getting involved in nuclear issues!).

Suzanne DiMaggio is featured delving deep into the dynamics of the crises with Iran and North Korea. Suzanne also presents her powerful rationale for the new Quincy Institute, where she is chair of the board.

“Looking at the catastrophic failures in foreign policy over the past decades, it is clearly time for something new,” Suzanne says, “The times demand it…We have to change the narrative in this town.”

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

Zakaria: The cancerous consensus in today’s politicized Washington

The United States’ defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding… “We never expected to pass [a financial audit],” admitted then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

BY FAREED ZAKARAIA | trib.com

You often hear that in these polarized times, Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked on almost everything. But the real scandal is what both sides agree on. The best example of this might be the defense budget. Last week, the Democratic House, which Republicans say is filled with radicals, voted to appropriate $733 billion for 2020 defense spending. The Republicans are outraged because they — along with President Trump — want that number to be $750 billion. In other words, on the largest item of discretionary spending in the federal budget, accounting for more than half of the total, Democrats and Republicans are divided by 2.3 percent. That is the cancerous consensus in Washington today.

America’s defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding.

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Lindsey Graham joins legal fight to restart SC nuclear fuel plant (MOX)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is urging the nation’s highest court to take up what appears to be South Carolina’s final push to resuscitate a shuttered nuclear facility at the Savannah River Site and bolster federal rules tied to plutonium processing and long-term storage.

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in April 2018. High Flyer/Provided
The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in April 2018. High Flyer/Provided

BY COLIN DEMAREST | postandcourier.com 

Graham, a South Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, argues that the federal government walked away from its obligation to address the plutonium stored in the Palmetto State. He addressed these concerns in a brief filed July 11 with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The federal government previously made legally binding commitments to the state of South Carolina in recognition of its sovereign status and its proprietary interests,” Graham argued in the brief. “It has now breached those commitments, causing injury to the state that a court may redress.”

The brief describes Graham as “personally familiar” with the matters at hand and profoundly interested in the federal government’s promises to the state, which he was involved in negotiating.

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Class Action Suit Draws Big Crowd – Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant

“DOE is simply not to be trusted. Period.”

— Carlos Williams speaking about local cancer concerns.
He has lived for thirty years five miles from the Portsmouth, Ohio uranium enrichment plant.

BY TOM CORRIGAN | PORTSMOUTH DAILY TIMES © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Their stories were extremely varied. But many had one unfortunate commonality: cancer.

A small portion of the crowd which lined up and waited hours Tuesday in the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon.
A small portion of the crowd which lined up and waited hours Tuesday in the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon.

Larry and Janie Williams describe themselves as being fence line neighbors of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant since 1972. When she began to fall ill somewhat over four years ago, Larry said his wife’s doctor asked how she had come to be exposed to radiation. Janie never worked at the Portsmouth plant but spoke of daily hearing the ongoing construction of the decommissioned plant’s controversial on-site waste disposal facility. Janie said she developed a type of cancer that attacked her blood. Treatment included extremely expensive stem cell transplants. The transplants did buy her some time, though she added doctors gave her three to five years of life.

“I’m in year four,” said Janie, who clearly is accepting of her situation and spoke of her story unabashedly. She is 63.

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Why SC is likely stuck with a stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear materials

POST & COURIER SPECIAL REPORT: LETHAL LEGACY

BY THAD MOORE & COLIN DEMAREST | postandcourier.com

South Carolina could be stuck with a massive stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear material for decades, despite a federal mandate and years of promises that the state wouldn’t become America’s plutonium dumping ground.

A restricted internal report obtained by the Aiken Standard and The Post and Courier suggests that the state is likely to become a long-term repository for enough plutonium to build the bomb dropped on Nagasaki nearly 2,000 times over.

South Carolina faces this prospect despite a federal law that gives the U.S. Department of Energy just 2½ more years to remove its plutonium from the Savannah River Site, a huge swath of federal land along the Georgia border.

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Hundreds gather in Piketon for town hall on alleged radioactive contamination

“[I] wanted to see what information is available,” Brandon Moore said. “What are we doing to help all these folks that are impacted or that may be impacted in the future?”

BY BRYANT SOMERVILLE. | 10tv.com

PIKETON, Ohio – People stood in line for hours, Tuesday, wanting to make sure they and their families were safe.

“I just want to make sure what’s going on if there was any contamination there or where we’re at,” Steve Copper said. “I want to make sure we got everything taken care of.”

“These materials are ounce-for-ounce the most dangerous materials known to man,” Stuart Smith said.

Smith is with Cooper Law Firm out of New Orleans. It was his firm that filed the lawsuit in May alleging Ohio residents near a former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon were exposed to radioactive contaminants that spread to other properties but were never informed.
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Congress Introduces Legislation to Expand Compensation for Radiation Exposure

Luján, Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Expand Compensation for Individuals Impacted by Radiation Exposure

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, introduced legislation to expand compensation for individuals exposed to radiation while working in and living near uranium mines or downwind from nuclear weapon test sites.
Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.

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Trinity: “The most significant hazard of the entire Manhattan Project”

“New Mexico residents were neither warned before the 1945 Trinity blast, informed of health hazards afterward, nor evacuated before, during, or after the test. Exposure rates in public areas from the world’s first nuclear explosion were measured at levels 10,000- times higher than currently allowed.”

Final Report of the Los Alamos Historical Document and Retrieval and Assessment Project, Prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 2010, pp. ES-34-35. VIEW HERE

Victims of the Trinity Test remain uncompensated, yet the Los Alamos Lab continues to expand plutonium pit production.

BY KATHLEEN M. TUCKER & ROBERT ALVAREZ | thebulletin.org

For the past several years, the controversy over radioactive fallout from the world’s first atomic bomb explosion in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945—code-named Trinity—has intensified. Evidence collected by the New Mexico health department but ignored for some 70 years shows an unusually high rate of infant mortality in New Mexico counties downwind from the explosion and raises a serious question whether or not the first victims of the first atomic explosion might have been American children. Even though the first scientifically credible warnings about the hazards of radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion had been made by 1940, historical records indicate a fallout team was not established until less than a month before the Trinity test, a hasty effort motivated primarily by concern over legal liability.

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Peace Activists Cut into Nuclear Weapons Base, Foiling Increased Security

International peace activists cut through new “security” fencing meant to keep nuclear weapons under control.
International peace activists cut through new “security” fencing meant to keep nuclear weapons under control.
BÜCHEL, Germany — Calling themselves “Treaty Enforcement Action,” four peace activists (from the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands) cut through two perimeter fences and quickly entered the Büchel Air Base here around 4 p.m. July 10, 2019, carrying banners declaring the US and German Air Force’s planned use of nuclear weapons here makes the base a “crime scene.” While posing for photographs, the four were detained by air base security personnel, and later taken to jail in Koblenz and held overnight. All eight were released early Thursday.

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Selected Press Items

Koreas agree to work toward peace and 'complete denuclearization'

Trump's strike on Syria is exactly why North Korea wants nuclear weapons

The Trump-Kim Summit and North Korean Denuclearization: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Pence's Anti-North Korea PR Campaign Bombs

US Vice-President Mike Pence rains on Olympic parade with Korea team snub

S. Korea, U.S. agree to work toward opening denuclearization talks with N. Korea

Could a false alarm like Hawaii trigger a war?

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

Hawaii's Nuclear Wakeup Call (and Why We Should Take MLK's Advice)

What the Hell Happened in Hawaii?

Hawaii Panics After Alert About Incoming Missile Is Sent in Error

University of Hawaii emailed students tips on how to prepare for a nuclear attack

The New Hwasong-15 ICBM: A Significant Improvement That May be Ready as Early as 2018

North Korea signals intent to 'complete' its nuclear force

How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea

Preemptive or preventative strikes: The Dangerous Misunderstanding at the Core of the North Korea Debate

North Korea: Hawaii residents told to prepare for nuclear attack as tensions reach new high

California's plans for North Korean nuclear attack revealed

The Memo: Fears escalate over North Korea

Trump at UN threatens to 'totally destroy' North Korea

North Korea's Threat Pushes Japan to Reassess Its Might and Rights

North Korea responds to latest U.N. sanctions with second missile over Japan

North Korea's nuclear plans are actually very clear. It's far less obvious what Donald Trump will do

Hwasong 14: Not an ICBM? Still an open question

Analysis: North Korea's "not quite" ICBM can't hit the lower 48 states

UCS: North Korean ICBM Appears Able to Reach Major US Cities, incl. New York

North Korea Finally Tests an ICBM

How to Deal With North Korea: There are no good options

Detailed report on Nth Korea missile and nuclear weapons programs

Thinking the Unthinkable With North Korea

A Quick Technical Analysis of the Hwasong-12

North Korea's Latest Missile Test: Advancing towards an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) While Avoiding US Military Action

North Korea Missile Test Appears to Tiptoe Over a U.S. Tripwire

Editorial: LANL leaders must make safety the lab’s top mission

Falling short of the bare minimum in the eyes of the DOE is a far cry from where the public expects or needs LANL to be.

The Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board has a great editorial except for this part – 

Because LANL is home to some of the best and brightest in the nuclear industry. It is the home of the Manhattan Project. And its future is important not only to the prosperity of our state, but also to our national security.

Trump’s 2020 Nuclear Weapons Budget Escalates New Arms Race

DOE logo
DOE logo

Posted By Scott Kovac

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Trump Administration released more budget details for the Department of Energy and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons programs for fiscal year 2020. This same fiscal year will also mark the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising

More than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, all eight established nuclear weapons powers are “modernizing” their stockpiles. Talks have broken down with North Korea, the new nuclear weapons power. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan narrowly averted war last month. Russian President Vladmir Putin made new nuclear threats in response to Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This could lead to hair-trigger missile emplacements in the heart of Europe and block extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. If so, the world will be without any nuclear arms control at all for the first time since 1972.
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Bolivia’s ratification on Hiroshima Day brings Nuclear Ban Treaty halfway to entry into force

Bolivia became the 25th nation to ratify The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Bolivia became the 25th nation to ratify The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

ICAN August 6, 2019

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in 2017, is now halfway towards entering into force. This important milestone was reached on 6 August, the anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima, when Bolivia became the 25th nation to ratify the treaty.

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Hiroshima Unlearned: Time to Tell the Truth About US-Russia Relations and Finally Ban the Bomb

atomic bomb mushroom clouds
Two aerial photos of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, over Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 (left) and Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 (right). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Viewpoint by Alice Slater

NEW YORK (IDN) – August 6 and 9 mark 74 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where only one nuclear bomb dropped on each city caused the deaths of up to 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 people in Nagasaki. Today, with the U.S. decision to walk away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) negotiated with the Soviet Union, we are once again staring into the abyss of one of the most perilous nuclear challenges since the height of the Cold War.

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Lab Claims of Tremendous Progress Need Second Look

Chromium Plume under LANL
Representation of the Chromium Plume in the regional aquifer under Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Comments to the Northern NM Citizens’ Advisory Board

By Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch NM, July 24, 2019

Tremendous progress requires overall improvement, not just at one spot. A recent Environmental Management Los Alamos (EMLA) press release claimed “tremendous progress” with regards to the chromium (Cr) plume. Media stories then did their job and generalized that everything about the plume was getting better. This is the kind of public relations’ language that does not help to further the discussion on these complex issues.

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As of today, the INF Treaty is officially dead.

The system built to keep us safe from nuclear weapons is being destroyed.

Today the INF Treaty is officially dead, INF treaty, death of INF Treaty, new START, John Bolton, Trump, Putin, Russia, Arms Control

John Bolton is a serial arms control killer, and today President Trump solidified a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin by walking out of Reagan’s treaty. In 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and this landmark agreement effectively eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.

“In all likelihood, the death of the INF Treaty will jumpstart missile production on both sides.”
Matt Korda

Moscow blamed Washington. “The denunciation of the INF Treaty confirms that the US is set on destroying all international agreements that do not suit them for one reason or another,” the statement said. “This will lead to the dismantling of the existing arms control regime.” (1)

The INF Treaty will be missed; it helped keep us safe from nuclear war for 32 years. The death of the INF treaty means that the US will now have just one arms control agreement with Russia left.

The New Start Treaty limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads Russia and the US can have to 1,550, but this treaty is also on Bolton’s hit list. The US National Security Adviser declared in June that Washington was unlikely to extend New Start past its 2021 expiration deadline. If Trump allows New START to wither away as the INF Treaty did, the world will enter a new era without any limitations on the two largest nuclear arsenals on the planet.

Read a full obituary of the INF Treaty by Matt Korda:
In Memoriam: The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Dies at 32

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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Los Alamos Lab Cleanup to Stay Far Behind Funding for Nuclear Weapons Research and Production

Over the last decade funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) nuclear weapons programs has increased 20%. However, funding for needed cleanup has remained flat at one-tenth of the almost $2 billion requested for nuclear weapons programs in FY 2020. Nuclear weapons funding is slated to keep climbing under the $1.7 trillion 30-year nuclear weapons “modernization” program begun under Obama. Trump is adding yet more money, and is accelerating the new arms race with Russia by adding two new types of nuclear weapons. Cleanup funding, on the other hand, is doomed to stay flat for the next two decades because the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) under Gov. Martinez gutted a 2005 “Consent Order” that would have forced the Department of Energy (DOE) and LANL to get more money for cleanup.

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The Road to Genuine Los Alamos Lab Cleanup Backgrounder

The Road to Genuine Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Summary

Funding for nuclear weapons is still the priority at the Lab

  • $1.7 trillion 30-year “modernization” program total current estimate across the nation
  • LANL receives $2 billion annually for nuclear weapons work

Legacy Cleanup Program at LANL is getting started with new contractor

  • Current cleanup estimate is $4.1 billion remaining to finish by 2036
  • LANL cleanup has been receiving $195 to $220 million per year

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Congress needs to start over on nuclear waste

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Photo by D Ramey Logan via Creative Commons
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Photo by D Ramey Logan via Creative Commons

Guest Commentary | June 23, 2019

By Geoffrey Fettus, Special to CALmatters

Marooned along the Pacific Ocean are thousands of tons of radioactive waste, awaiting a resting place that would take it far from the threat of tsunami, and far from millions of Californians.

We need a solution for the waste stuck at San Onofre and the other California reactors. But in their desperation to move the threat away from the Golden State, some California lawmakers are making two grave errors.

First, they continue to push a long-doomed final storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. That location is scientifically and legally unsound and destined never to pass legal muster or gain acceptance from Nevadans.

Second, while Yucca sputters, some people have decided that an “interim” storage site could be an answer. That approach was discussed – and criticized – at a House panel field hearing in Laguna Niguel this month to discuss options for moving this waste.

These proposals are distractions, ones that will leave our nation stumbling about while ignoring what could be a permanent answer.

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THE U.S. RAISES RED FLAGS ON RUSSIA’S PLUTONIUM EXPERIMENTS — WHILE RAMPING UP ITS OWN

NNSS Subcritical Experiment Preparation
Workers at the Nevada National Security Site prepare for an experiment to assess how plutonium responds to chemical high explosives.

Read the June 18, 2019 Center for Public Integrity article by Patrick Malone

Experiments at Russian and US underground sites are used by both nations to help ensure their nuclear arsenals remain viable but are conducted under a blanket of secrecy. And so they’ve given rise to suspicions, and accusations, that they violate a 1996 global treaty designed to stymie nuclear weapons innovations by barring any nuclear explosions.

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Nuclear Weapons Explosives Program Lacks Adequate Future Planning to Address Dwindling Supply

Key Explosive-Containing Components in a Generic Nuclear Weapon

Five National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) contractor-operated sites conduct activities to design and produce explosive materials. NNSA officials and contractor representatives identified several challenges related to explosives activities, such as the agency’s dwindling supply of explosive materials, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and difficulty recruiting and training qualified staff. NNSA issued a plan to address these challenges. But it didn’t follow strategic planning practices that ensure accountability over progress. For example, it generally didn’t include measurable performance goals that identify timeframes and responsible parties.

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Brave Political Leadership on Disarmament?

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Foreign ministers and high-level representatives from 15 non-nuclear-armed countries gathered in Stockholm on Tuesday to discuss advancing disarmament, amidst an ever-deteriorating arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation landscape. The resulting joint statement falls far short of the creative thinking and urgency required to rebut current nuclear threats, including an impetuous U.S. President with the launch codes and an effort to dramatically increase the production of radioactive nuclear bomb cores at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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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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Federal nuclear regulatory panel rejects all objections to proposed New Mexico nuclear dump

The Holtec U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) nuclear regulatory panel has spoken. None of the contentions by any of the intervenors was admitted.  Not even a pretense of allowing public participation. No one — Sierra Club, Beyond Nuclear, Fasken, AFES, transportation intervenors — was allowed any contentions.

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A Tale of Two Consent Orders and What Is Needed

On March 1, 2005, after arduous negotiations and threats of litigation, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Department of Energy (DOE), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) entered into a Consent Order specifying the schedule for investigation and cleanup of the Lab’s hundreds of contaminated sites. This Consent Order (CO) was LANL’s agreement to fence-to-fence cleanup of Cold War legacy wastes, which NMED began to enforce.

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LANL Regional Coalition Faces More Opposition

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) is facing scrutiny from several directions lately. The Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General is conducting an investigation. Two members of the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners abstained from a vote on new RCLC financial controls because the commissioners opposed blindly supporting LANL’s mission, which is 70% nuclear weapons work. And  SF New Mexican columnist 

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GAO – Environmental Liability Continues to Grow, and Significant Management Challenges Remain for Cleanup Efforts

Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management’s Fiscal Year 2017 Estimated Environmental Liability, by Cleanup Site

DOE Environmental Management’s (EM’s) environmental liability grew by $214 billion in fiscal years 2011 through 2018, even though EM spent over $48 billion on cleanup.

GAO found that this liability may continue to grow for several reasons:

•EM’s environmental liability does not include the costs of all future cleanup responsibilities. For example, as of April 2018, DOE and its contractor had not negotiated a cost for completing a large waste treatment facility, called the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, at the Hanford site.

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Sandia National Laboratories Annual Budget is 81% Military Work

Posted by Scott Kovac – Sandia National Laboratories, has one of the Department Of Energy’s (DOE’s) largest annual budgets and the fiscal year 2020 (FY20) Congressional Budget Request shows continued military priorities for the Lab. There are two components of Sandia’s annual budget – work for DOE (with a $2.4 billion request for FY20) and ‘Work For Others’ (with an annual request of $1.2 billion). Sandia’s work for DOE centers around nuclear weapons engineering. ‘Work for Others’ (WFO) is work done for federal agencies other than the DOE and for non-federal entities. An annual total budget of $3.6 billion puts Sandia’s budget second only behind Washington Headquarters among DOE sites.

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Nuclear Weapons Spending at Los Alamos Is 71% of Annual Budget

By Scott Kovac  Los Alamos National Laboratory is first and foremost a nuclear weapons laboratory. The Department of Energy’s annual Congressional Budget Request for fiscal year 2020 shows that 71% of the Lab’s budget will go to nuclear weapons work if Mr. Trump has his way. While cleanup of Cold War wastes would be 7%. And electrical transmission research along with renewable energy and energy efficiency research were slashed to a mere 0.36% of the request for the Lab. As the country goes deeper in debt, we must let go of the old Cold War mentality and invest in our future.

The full Budget Laboratory Tables are Here
Or see our condensed version Here

 

New Momentum for Saner Nuclear Policy: Event Highlights

On-stage from left to right: Kate Folb, Liz Warner, Michael Douglas, Joe Cirincione, Kennette Benedict, Ted Lieu, Yasmeen Silva, Ben Rhodes

BY SOPHIA STROUD | – NukeWatch NM Web Designer

Monday 3/18 Ploughshares Fund hosted an in-depth discussion about the momentum building for a new, saner nuclear policy and how California can lead the way to a safer, more secure world.

“The more that I dug into the history of nuclear weapons and the legacy that system has today, the more I realized that all the issues I cared about, from gender-based violence, to environmental justice, to climate change, to human rights, to money in politics, is so influenced by the nuclear system. I realized that taking up this mantle now…not only would I be working on issues I’m passionate about and clearing those hurdles that the nuclear system have put up across the board for socialized institutions we care about, but also working on preventing nuclear Armageddon.”

– Yasmeen Silva, Lead organizer for Beyond the Bomb’s #NoFirstUse and other campaigns

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Fukushima: Eighth Anniversary of a Crippling Nuclear Disaster

fukushima

A man prays in front of the former Okawa elementary school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture on the eighth anniversary of the 2011 tsunami disaster. (Credit 2019 AFP)

BY SOPHIA STROUD | – NukeWatch NM Web Designer

On Friday, March 11, 2011, a 9.0 M earthquake occurred off the East coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami in the region of Tohoku. In the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures of this region, the wave was over 10 meters tall upon landfall. During the 1970s and 80s, coastal residents of Japan welcomed nuclear power, and two plants were built to supply electricity to Tokyo. When the tsunami hit in 2011, many districts of Fukushima lost power, which caused the cooling system in TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to fail.

This power failure led to a series of nuclear meltdowns and hydrogen-air chemical reactions within the plant, which caused a release of highly radioactive material into the surrounding environment. The radioactive plume released from the Fukushima nuclear power plant was large enough to carry radioactive material for miles in every direction, and nearby residents were immediately evacuated. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown and ensuing leakage of radioactive materials was a disaster on the scale of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

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Trump Budget Would Continue Nuclear Weapons Buildup and Bring More Nuclear Waste to NM

Otherwords national-security-cartoon1
Otherwords – A missile in every pot

By Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director

The White House released the top line numbers of its fiscal year 2020 Congressional budget request and, although there are some increases heading to New Mexico, they are not the increases that we’d like to see. It’s called – A Budget For a Better America,  Promises Kept. Taxpayers First. but only Defense and Department of Energy (DOE) weapons contractors are going to think that anything is better. Meanwhile the rest of us taxpayers will, first and foremost, be looking at cuts to programs that affect us daily.

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WIPP Receives Notice of Upcoming Investigation for Chemical Overexposures to Workers

On January 29, 2019, DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments notified Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC (NWP), the managing and operating contractor for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plan (WIPP), of its intent to investigate heat stress-related events and chemical exposures at WIPP. The events, occurring from July through October 2018, include multiple overexposures to hazardous chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, as well as a series of heat-stress incidents.

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NNSA’s pet ‘Interoperable Warhead’ is DEAD

W78 warheads
U.S. W78 warheads inside MK12A re-entry vehicles on a LGM-30 Minuteman III bus next to the shroud.

The study in question came about because Marylia Kelley, of Tri-Valley CARES, and NukeWatch’s Director, Jay Coghlan, suggested to congressional staff that it be done. But they wanted to ask independent scientists (the JASONs) to do it – instead just NNSA did it. And NNSA dodged the central congressional requirement to compare the benefits and costs of the Interoperable Warhead  vs a “conventional” life extension program for the Air Force’s W78 ICBM warhead. NNSA simply said a conventional life extension program would not meet military requirements and therefore summarily dismissed it (no further explanation). Marylia and Jay had the opportunity to discuss this with the relevant congressional staffer who said this ain’t over.

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New Estimate ($377B) Raises Cost of Cold War Cleanup (Again)

EM site map GAO 2019
Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) Sites Where Cleanup Remains

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.

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Plutonium Pit Production NEPA Talking Points

LANL Molten Plutonium for Pit
Molten plutonium in a crucible. 

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the landmark environmental law which requires executive agencies to give the public the opportunity to formally review and comment on major federal proposals. These talking points outline the history of the Department of Energy’s NEPA compliance on its various proposals concerning the production of plutonium pits (the fissile cores of nuclear weapons). The conclusion is that DOE’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is legally required to prepare a supplemental programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on its current plan to expand plutonium pit production.

There are at least three reasons why NNSA must complete a supplemental programmatic environmental impact statement for expanded plutonium pit production:
1)    Implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act stipulate that “DOE shall prepare a supplemental EIS if there are substantial changes to the proposal or significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns…” 10. C.F.R. § 1021.314
2)    As precedence, since 1996 there have been five programmatic environmental impact statements related to pit production and its expansion. It is legally unlikely that NNSA could implement its current plan to expand plutonium pit production without a new supplemental PEIS.
3)    Now that NNSA is planning to produce more than 50 pits per year (or more than 80 pits under multiple shift operations), it is obliged by the 1998 court order to prepare a new PEIS.
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LANL 2018-salary by county

“Preliminary” Research Pushes Economic Impact Boundaries for LANL

While Sandia, LANL, and Journal Statements Leave Many Questions

A January 15 Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) press release reviewed preliminary research from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). The research claimed that the “average annual total impact on economic output across New Mexico from 2015 to 2017 was $3.1 billion.” This implies that BBER estimates that LANL contributes an average of  $3.1 billion a year to the state’s economy annually.

This $3.1B conclusion is based on unreleased data and pushes the boundaries of accepted economic theory. The authors or the title of the research are not given. No estimate of when the final report of this will be released is given. Is the research even complete? Will the results change? Has it been reviewed?

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Costs of Nuclear Weapons Jump Dramatically

CBO is out with its every two year update on the cost of nuclear weapons over the next 10 years: https://www.cbo.gov/
[Credit: Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association]

New CBO report: Nuclear weapons to cost half a trillion over the next decade

CBO projects $494 billion (in then-year dollars) in spending to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear forces between FY 2019 – FY 2028 ($559 billion if you attribute 100% of the costs of strategic bombers to the nuclear mission). This is a major increase of $94 billion (or about 23%) above the projection of $400 billion in the last ten-year report covering FY 2017 and FY 2026.

The report also includes an estimate of the projected cost of some of the additions in the Trump NPR (the LYD5, a new SLCM, and increased pit production), which CBO puts at $17 billion through FY 2028.

The increase from the 2017 to the 2019 reports is due to several factors, including the report captures two additional years in the late-2020s when modernization is in full swing, the costs of some of the additions from the Trump NPR, and increases in the projected costs of some programs.

Overall the report highlights the growing cost of nuclear weapons, even relative to earlier projections, and reinforces the message that the Trump plans are unnecessary and unsustainable and that less expensive alternatives are available to sustain a credible arsenal.

View Reif’s Twitter thread on the report here: https://twitter.com/KingstonAReif/

Key Messages from the 2019 Doomsday Clock Announcement – ICAN

ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) believes that the success of people-powered change and the leadership of the majority of nations supporting the TPNW is a positive development these last years. ICAN’s success and the TPNW is a turning point for the world, and we will be working to turn it backwards from now.

Topline

– The success of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear shows that the vast majority of nations are taking action to solve the problem of nuclear weapons.
– A global movement against nuclear weapons is starting to turn the tide against nuclear weapons.
– Nuclear weapons are inhumane weapons of mass destruction that targets civilian populations and their use will violate international laws. The threat of Doomsday will exist until we eliminate these weapons. It is the only sane thing to do.

Supporting message
– We have many reasons to be hopeful, 70 countries have signed the Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is on its way to enter into force within a year
– Nine states are continuing to threaten the world with their weapons of mass destruction. We can’t simply wait for them to reverse course, all governments, cities, parliamentarians and people must contribute to nuclear disarmament efforts by supporting the TPNW
– We need to continue bringing democracy to disarmament in the face of unilateral threats to the security of humanity
– Trump has proven that when it comes to nuclear weapons agreements he is a wrecking ball not a builder. By undermining the INF treaty, the United States and Russia must stop celebrate their ‘Doomsday’ capabilities and return to the negotiating table to stop the new nuclear arms race.

Europe specific
– A new nuclear arms race between the US and Russia threatens the cities of Europe. This is the moment for Europe to show leadership by ending their obstruction to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and make it clear they will not participate in a new arms race.

“Away from the media spotlight, massive progress is being made by a broad coalition of people dedicated to prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons. Stopping the slide towards midnight in the past year has been a Herculean task but we are slowly but surely turning the corner on a new more secure future. While the US and Russia embark on a new nuclear arms race, 70 countries have signed the Treaty to ban nuclear weapons, cities and regional governments are committing to the Treaty, and banks and pension funds are divesting from nuclear weapons production. Yes, there is so much work still to be done to save us from these reckless nuclear armed states, but today is a day to recognise the progress we are making for sanity in the face of irrational threats.”

Beatrice Fihn – Executive Director
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

WIPP standard waste box
The SWB was qualified by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) in 1988.

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

On January 17, 2019, Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) and Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM) filed an appeal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals to overturn the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) approval of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Disposal Volume permit modification, which was issued on December 21, 2018.

The modification would allow expansion of WIPP’s capacity by approximately 30 percent and was issued over the repeated opposition of many New Mexico organizations.

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Columbia, SC – New aerial photos by pilot High Flyer of the nation’s costly and bungled nuclear construction projects are being released by Savannah River Site Watch.

Of primary importance, the photos – linked in “notes” below – reveal details at the Department of Energy’s terminated plutonium fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, SC and the canceled SCE&G/Dominion V.C. Summer AP100 reactor construction project near Jenkinsville, SC. The photos, taken on December 16, 2018, are being released in the public interest and can be used for free with proper credit (©High Flyer – see copyright statement at each photo section).

Also released are photos of Georgia Power’s bungled Vogtle nuclear reactor construction near Waynesboro, GA (and just across the Savannah River from SRS), the leaking Westinghouse uranium fuel fabrication facility near Columbia, SC and a large solar facility near Pelion, SC.

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– DEPT. OF ENERGY HAD COMMITTED TO CLEANING UP ALL CONTAMINATION, NOW SAYS IT WILL LEAVE 98% OF CONTAMINATED SOIL NOT CLEANED UP – JUST WEEKS AFTER WOOLSEY FIRE BURNS SITE

– NEW REPORT DEVASTATES TOXIC AGENCY ASSURANCES THAT FIRE CAUSED NO TOXIC RELEASES

The Trump Administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it intends to leave almost all of the contaminated soil in its area of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) not cleaned up, despite admitting that would violate the legally binding agreement it entered into with California in 2010. The breach of long-standing promises is included in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the SSFL cleanup, released by the Department of Energy on December 18, 2018.

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NNSA Plans to Replace the W78 Warhead

W78 Silo GAO-19-84

NUCLEAR WEAPONS:
NNSA Has Taken Steps to Prepare to Restart a Program to Replace the W78 Warhead Capability
GAO-19-84: Published: Nov 30, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2018.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is preparing to restart a program to replace the W78 nuclear warhead, which is used in Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles. The goal is to produce the first W78 replacement warhead in fiscal year 2030. Pending further study, this replacement warhead may also be used in Navy submarine launched ballistic missiles.

Read the report

Please Help Support NukeWatch

Dear Friends of Nuclear Watch New Mexico:

The Los Alamos and Sandia Labs are the tip of the spear for a one-trillion dollar “modernization” program that will completely rebuild every type of warhead in the nuclear stockpile while giving them new military capabilities. This so-called modernization program will also rebuild the production side of the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex, including the proposal to quadruple production of plutonium pit bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). This so-called modernization will be at enormous cost to the taxpayer and our disappearing middle class, robbing citizens of better schools, highways, hospitals, etc.

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Join In Giving Tuesday

Join In Giving Tuesday

We have two days for getting deals – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On #GivingTuesday, we have a day for giving back. Together, people are creating a new ritual for our annual calendar. #GivingTuesday is the opening day of the giving season.

Founded by the team in the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92nd Street Y, #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. This year, #GivingTuesday falls on November 27. #GivingTuesday harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners 
to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season. It can inspire people to take collective action to improve their communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they believe in, and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday demonstrates how every act of generosity counts, and that they mean even more when we give together.

Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation

Watch Dog

Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation

NISG (Nuclear Issues Study Group) worked to get a resolution opposing the transportation of High Level Radioactive Waste in front of the City of Belen. The Belen City Council passed the resolution on Nov. 19th! It was 3 votes yes and 1 abstention. Belen is the 18th City or county or chapter house to pass it in New Mexico and Texas.

Read more about it here

Santa Fe County passed a similar resolution – A Resolution in the Interest of Protecting Our Lives, Land and Water From Radioactive Waste Risks.

Read more about it here

LANL Ships Waste Offsite Illegally, Again and Again

LANL Ships Waste Offsite Illegally, Again and Again

Posted by Scott Kovac Nov 14, 2018

New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to LANL for several problems. The first problem was that the Lab sent a drum to a disposal company offsite that was improperly labeled. It should have been labeled “flammable liquid, corrosive.” The Lab also mislabeled two containers by failing to note that they had lead inside. LANL also sent a container with flammable and toxic liquids with the incorrect container number and label on it. These violations occurred in 2015. The NOV reports several other shipping manifest discrepancies in 2016 and 2017. NMED is happy with the Lab just correcting the manifests. These were mistakes by the old contractor, Los Alamos National Security (LANS).

Possibly more serious violations occurred under DOE’s watch in 2017 and 2018 when LANS failed to characterize waste before shipping it to local landfills, including the Santa Fe landfill.

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Citizens Oppose Plans For New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump

Citizens Oppose New Mexico Nuke Dump

Halt Holtec
Local citizens lay out their views to Halt Holtec.
“We Don’t Want It!”

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 2018, HR 3053, known as the Shimkus Bill, has passed the House on its way to the Senate.

It calls for restarting the failed Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada, and establishing a system of Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) sites for radioactive waste around the country until Yucca is operational.

First on the list of possible ‘temporary’ CIS dumps is a site proposed by Holtec International and the local Eddy-Lea Alliance just outside Hobbs, New Mexico. Its just over the border from Andrews, Co., Texas – where another high level nuke waste dump is also proposed.

Proponents tout it as an economic boon. Opponents see as it a public health and environmental disaster.

Planned to eventually hold more metric tons of waste than Yucca itself will be designed for, the Hobbs site could well become America’s de facto national dump site, if Yucca never gets built.

At a recent series of Nuclear Regulatory Commission community meetings on the proposed site, opposition was strong from many of New Mexico and Texas public sectors.

A press conference by local citizens laid out their views.
“We Don’t Want It!” Halt Holtec campaign continues. Opposition to proposed nuke dump is strong and growing.

Several Videos Are Here

Principles for Safe Management and Geological Isolation of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel

Summary: The environmental risks posed by irradiated fuel are extreme: As observed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, it has “the capacity to outlast human civilization as we know it and the potential to devastate public health and the environment.” Nuclear Energy Inst., Inc. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 373 F.3d 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2004).If irradiated fuel is dispersed into the environment, its radionuclides are sufficiently toxic to cause irreparable contamination of large areas of land and entire river and lake systems and coastal ecosystems.

The risk of nuclear weapons proliferation posed by irradiated fuel is also significant. Each metric ton of spent fuel typically contains more than one Nagasaki-bomb equivalent of plutonium and, as of 2016, well over 70,000 metric tons had already be been created in the United States by the commercial nuclear power reactors. Spent fuel, storage and/or disposal may pose a risk of theft if it is stored or disposed of in a manner that would allow access in a few hundred years when the fission product radiation barrier would have declined to low levels.

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Federal District Court Allows Lawsuit to Proceed Against DOE/LANS Potential Penalties Exceed $300,000,000

For Immediate Release


New Mexico Environmental Law Center
Nuclear Watch New Mexico – Santa Fe, NM

A United States District Court judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NukeWatch) can move forward. The lawsuit is based on thirteen (13) violations of corrective actions Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) failed to complete under a 2005 Consent Order governing cleanup that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) fought for under former Governor Bill Richardson.

Fines for failure to complete the corrective tasks are $37,000 per violation per day. Violations for failing to complete the tasks started as early as June 2014 and now total well over $300 million.

The judge in allowing the lawsuit on civil penalties to move forward stated that DOE/LANS had failed to show in their legal and factual analysis that violations were unlikely to recur.

Jon Block, representing NukeWatch as a staff attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said “We are gratified that the Court is allowing the lawsuit on civil penalties to move forward.”

In 2002, the NMED determined that decades of contamination at Los Alamos National Laboratory constituted an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment” and sought to compel cleanup at the Lab.  DOE/LANS counter-sued, and in 2005 the parties agreed to a Consent Order specifying that DOE/LANS would characterize the extent and nature of the contamination, assess alternatives for effective cleanup of the contamination, and implement cleanup. Gov. Martinez came into office in 2011, after which DOE/LANS compliance with the Consent Order effectively stopped.

NukeWatch filed its original complaint in May 2016, followed by an amended complaint in July 2016. That was in response to a June 2016 announcement by NMED and DOE/LANS that they had entered into a new Consent Order that rendered the 2005 Consent Order invalid.

The judge did grant DOE/LANS and NMED’s motions to dismiss that part of NukeWatch’s complaint asking for declaratory and injunctive relief (in general seeking to have the 2016 Consent Order declared invalid). However, the judge specifically noted that the revised 2016 Consent Order replaced enforceable goals in the 2005 Order with unenforceable goals.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch director, commented “Susana Martinez’ administration shamefully gave away the store to the Los Alamos Lab, forgiving hundreds of millions of dollars in potential penalties for clear violations of an enforceable cleanup order, at the very time when New Mexico was facing a serious budget crisis. We are very pleased that the issue of penalties can now go forward in court, which should bring some accountability toward achieving comprehensive Lab cleanup that would produce hundreds of high-paying jobs.”

See NukeWatch’s Amended Complaint here

See Judge Judith Herrera’s decision here

Contacts:
Jay Coghlan: Nuclear Watch New Mexico
989.7342

Jon Block, Staff Attorney: New Mexico Environmental Law Center
505.989.9022

New Contractors Selected For Expanded Nuclear Weapons Production at Los Alamos

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced its choice for the new management and operating contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

The new contractor, Triad National Security, LLC, is a limited liability company consisting of the Battelle Memorial Institute, the University of California and Texas A&M University. All three are non-profits, and it is unclear how this will affect New Mexico gross receipts taxes.

Battelle claims to be the world’s largest non-profit technology research and development organization, and manages a number of labs including the Lawrence Livermore and Idaho National Laboratories. Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as the state’s first public institution of higher learning and has the largest nuclear engineering program in the country. DOE Secretary Rick Perry is an avid A&M alumnus.

The new contract includes a five-year base time with five one-year options, for a total of 10 years if all options are exercised. The estimated value of the contract is $2.5 billion annually.

The University of California (UC) ran the Lab from its beginning in 1943 until June 2006, when Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), composed of the University of California (UC), Bechtel, AECOM and BWX Technologies, Inc., took over. That contract had a ten-year base period with ten one-year options, for a total of 20 years if all options were exercised. But LANS was terminated with nine years left of possible options. This was primarily due to LANS improperly preparing a barrel of radioactive wastes that ruptured, closing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for nearly three years. NNSA did not clarify why it is now issuing a shorter contract.

This change in contract follows a May 10, 2018 announcement by NNSA that production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores of nuclear weapons, will be expanded to at least 30 pits per year at LANL, and an additional 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site. The Los Alamos Lab is the birthplace of nuclear weapons, and it is tying its future to increased nuclear weapons production, with the active support of the New Mexico congressional delegation. The Lab proposed, but failed to convince NNSA, to produce all 80 plutonium pits per year. LANL’s core research, testing and production programs for nuclear weapons now comprise 70% of its ~$2.5 billion annual budget, while much of the Lab’s remaining budget indirectly supports those programs.

Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the new NNSA Administrator, testified during her confirmation hearing that expanded plutonium pit production is her number one priority.  However, expanded production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, no pit production for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future. Up to 15,000 “excess” pits and another 5,000 in “strategic reserve” are already stored at DOE’s Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX. In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century (they currently average 40 years old). A 2012 follow-on study by the Livermore Lab found that the “graceful aging of plutonium also reduces the immediate need for a modern high-capacity manufacturing facility to replace pits in the stockpile.”

Future pit production is for speculative future new designs being pushed by the nuclear weapons labs, so-called Interoperable Warheads for both land- and sub-launched missiles that the Navy does not want. Moreover, future pits will NOT be exact replicas of existing pits. This could have serious potential consequences because heavily modified plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested, or alternatively could prompt the U.S. to return to nuclear weapons testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Regardless of who runs the Lab, LANL will decrease mission diversification and increase nuclear weapons production, while holding cleanup flat at a tenth of its weapons budget. New Mexico been a nuclear weapons colony since WWII, and adding Battelle, Texas A&M, and the University of California is just more of the same. There will be little if any added benefit for New Mexico’s citizens.”

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