Nuclear News Archive

I Was a Nuclear Site Guard. My Colleagues Sexually Assaulted Me.

BY BY JENNIFER GLOVER | nytimes.com 

Ms. Glover was a security guard at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site.


The violence and lack of accountability I experienced at such a sensitive location put us all at risk.

The sexual harassment and violence I endured while working as a security guard at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site loops over and over through my mind. I have nightmares about it to this day.

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Watch – A Woman’s Chernobyl Story

Natalia Manzurova is one of few surviving ‘liquidators,’ or nuclear workers sent into deal with the Chernobyl aftermath by the Soviet government. She is now in need of financial help with medical expenses associated with treatment for a brain tumor — the result of her 4.5 years at Chernobyl in the cleanup of the most extensive and tragic nuclear power plant accident in human history.

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Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione)
2/7/19, 7:50 PM

This is an incredible interview. If you doubted that Bolton was behind the killing of the #INFTreaty , or that Trump has no plan for what to do next, or that we are in a new arms race, just watch ⁦‪@UnderSecT‬⁩ struggle under ⁦‪@nickschifrin‬⁩ honest questioning.

Nuke Waste Destined to Remain

BY COLIN DEMAREST | thetandd.com 

Aiken Standard: ‘I’m not confident at all’: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham casts real doubt on Energy Department

GREENVILLE — South Carolina’s senior senator, who often stumps for the Savannah River Site, has little faith in the U.S. Department of Energy’s abilities going forward.

“No, I’m not confident the DOE can do almost anything,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday during a question-and-answer session with reporters. “I’m not confident at all.”

That lack of trust casts a dark shadow over the prospective expansion of plutonium pit production, an enduring weapons mission of which SRS is an integral part, according to a joint recommendation from the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense.

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LANL’s New Director Discusses Changing Culture

BY REBECCA MOSS | santafenewmexican.com 

Three months into his tenure as the 12th director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Thomas Mason acknowledged that fixing the lab’s problems is going to take time, and setbacks could prevent Los Alamos from meeting key nuclear production goals.

But Mason said transforming the lab’s culture to one in which success is replicated — department to department, day after day — is the key to long-term success.

“The most important thing is to become more of a learning organization — where we can take practices [that work] and move them from one part of the organization to the next, and we can respond to stuff that happens … in a way that gets better over time,” Mason said in a recent interview.

“It is tricky,” he added. “There are 12,000 people who work at the lab every day.”

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The U.S. And Russia Are Stocking Up On Missiles And Nukes For A Different Kind Of War

Russian Troops Load a Missile

NPR, February 1, 2019, 6:07 AM ET By GEOFF BRUMFIEL

The true battle over these new weapons may end up in Congress. While Republicans seem ready to back the Trump administration’s request for more battlefield nukes, the newly elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives seems intent on blocking them.

“We do not view nuclear weapons as a tool in warfare,” Adam Smith, now the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a speech in November. “It makes no sense for us to build low-yield nuclear weapons.”

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MERKLEY, SENATORS INTRODUCE BILL TO PREVENT NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

merkley.senate.gov Thursday, January 31, 2019 WASHINGTON, D.C. 

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), today announced the introduction of the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019, legislation that would pull the United States and Russia back from the brink of a 21st Century nuclear arms race. Merkley and Markey are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Warren and Gillibrand serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“There’s a reason that kids today don’t do duck-and-cover drills in schools and that nobody has bomb shelters in their backyards anymore. That reason is because of key agreements like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” said Merkley. “This era of stability is put at great risk by President Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty. This decision ignores all the lessons from the Cold War. There is no doubt that Russia is violating the INF Treaty, but the right path forward is to work to bring them back into compliance, not free them to produce more nuclear weapons. Blowing up the Treaty risks the proliferation of nuclear-capable systems by Russia, threatening Europe and jeopardizing decades of bipartisan efforts to reduce nuclear dangers with Russia.”

“A nuclear arms race would endanger the entire world and threaten every single person in our country, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that President Trump does not start one. President Trump’s imminent unilateral withdrawal from a bipartisan weapons treaty with Russia, without consulting Congress, would mean the Prevention of Arms Race Act is more important than ever,” said Gillibrand. “A reckless withdrawal would further damage our relationships with our allies, Russia would not be legally constrained from deploying larger numbers of their previously prohibited missiles, and the world would be much less safe. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to prevent a new arms race, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep all Americans safe.”

“Pulling out of the INF Treaty plays squarely into Russia’s hands while undermining America’s security and betraying our NATO allies,” Markey said. “The Trump administration needs to work more closely with our NATO allies to force Russia back into compliance. And as the chance of a confrontation between American and Chinese forces rises the Indo-Pacific, it makes little sense to add further ambiguity over whether U.S. missiles stationed around the region are nuclear-armed. This legislation will help ensure that we don’t match two major adversaries missile-for-missile, trigger a new nuclear arms race, and incur unacceptable amounts of risk in an already tenuous security environment.”

“If Donald Trump walks out of the INF Treaty, he will risk a new destabilizing and costly arms race and antagonize important allies,” said Wyden. “The administration should instead be working with European allies to pressure Russia back into compliance.”

The Senators’ legislation comes in advance of the Trump Administration’s expected action this weekend to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)  treaty. The State Department set a February 2, 2019 deadline for Russia to return to compliance with the Treaty after a hasty and un-vetted declaration by President Trump in October that the United States intended to withdraw from the landmark treaty with Russia. The INF was originally signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

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Since there has been no public release by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of an outline of plans about activities to shutter the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, the public remains in the dark about MOX closure plans. A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed by Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch) for the “Statement of Work” that DOE has contracted with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for project closure.

FULL PDF ―  SRS Watch Challenges to Pit Production at SRS

Trump is Fixating on Another ‘Wall’ That Will Almost Certainly Fail to Live Up to his Promises

BY THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD | latimes.com

President Trump participates in a Missile Defense Review announcement at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. on Jan. 17. (Sipa USA / TNS)

In 1983, in what came to be known as his “Star Wars” speech, President Ronald Reagan unveiled an ambitious vision for a missile defense system that would render the need for traditional nuclear deterrence unnecessary. Reagan asked: “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?”

The “Star Wars” label proved prophetic, because Reagan’s vision of an impermeable shield that would deflect incoming nuclear missiles proved to be the stuff of science fiction. Missile defense has achieved modest successes, but it also has been marked by embarrassing failures.

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Comment by the Information and Press Department on Space-based Elements Outlined in the US Missile Defence Review

mid.ru | We have taken note that in the US Missile Defence Review (MDR) published on January 17, a serious emphasis is placed on the formation of a space-based missile defence group, including missile interceptors. Deployment of such systems in space is ostensibly designed to make it easier to destroy different types of missiles in the boost phase over enemy territory. To achieve this, the US Defence Department has been instructed to study the most advanced technology, as well as draw up a time schedule, costs and personnel requirements.

We consider this to be further evidence (on a par with the decision to create space-based armed forces and the allocation of funds for the development of space-based missile defence) of Washington’s real intention to use outer space for combat operations and ensuring US domination in space in the near future. We are deeply disappointed that instead of developing constructive dialogue on the issues of strategic stability and preventing an arms race in space the US preferred to return to the implementation of yet another version of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars programme.

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A new abnormal: It is still 2 minutes to midnight

Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.

There is nothing normal about the complex and frightening reality just described.

Watchdogs Fight WIPP Permit Change

By Rebecca Moss santafenewmexican.com | Jan 17, 2019 Updated Jan 18, 2019

Nuclear watchdog organizations filed an appeal Thursday of a state Environment Department-approved permit change they say could allow for 30 percent more nuclear waste to be held at a Southern New Mexico storage site.

The request for a New Mexico Court of Appeals review of the agency’s decision in December, which alters procedures for measuring the volume of waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, was filed on behalf of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Southwest Research and Information Center.

The groups allege the permit change violates federal law by allowing plant managers to recalculate the amount of nuclear waste buried underground at WIPP without going through Congress.

The move subtly sidesteps nuclear waste limits outlined under the 1992 Land Withdrawal Act, the groups say.

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‘Trump Could Hardly Have Chosen a Worse Moment’

In a DER SPIEGEL interview, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas laments America’s rejection of multilateralism and says that Donald Trump does not view the U.S. as the leading power among liberal democracies. He’s hoping to save the INF.

Interview by CHRISTIANE HOFFMAN and CHRISTOPH SCHULT | spiegel.de

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas – January 7, 2019 in Berlin.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Minister, United States President Donald Trump has turned against a global order based on international rules and agreements. In response, you called for the creation of an “Alliance of Multilateralists” last summer. How is that alliance coming along?

Maas: It’s growing. Many countries are seriously concerned that the principle of might makes right is once again being applied internationally.

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Donald Trump’s Space Missile Plan Is Too Expensive and Will Not Work, Just Like His Border Wall, Experts Say

President Donald Trump’s new global missile defense plan would be too expensive and technologically taxing to effectively implement, leading experts have said.

The president unveiled his 2019 Missile Defense Review, the first of its kind since 2010, during an address Thursday at the Pentagon. He pledged to virtually eliminate any external threat to the United States, vowing to “to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime.”

Commenting on this statement specifically, Ploughshares Fund think tank director Joseph Cirincione said during a press call that this “is simple to say, impossible to do.”

“If you liked the president’s border wall, wait until you see his space wall,” Cirincione, who also served as a professional staff member of House Armed Services Committee and Government Operations Committee responsible for congressional oversight of missile defense programs in the 1980s and early 1990s, added. “This is a complete fantasy.”

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Appeal Targets Permit Change for US Nuclear Repository

By Associated Press | Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 12:33pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Watchdog groups are appealing a recent permit change approval by New Mexico regulators that could ultimately allow for more waste to be placed at the U.S. government’s only underground nuclear waste repository.

The approval by the state Environment Department came in the final days of former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration. The change was requested earlier by the U.S. Energy Department and the contractor that operates the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The permit modification changes the way the volume of waste is calculated. Specifically, it excludes the empty space inside waste packaging containers.

The Southwest Research and Information Center and Nuclear Watch New Mexico argue the modification is unlawful.

Critics also are concerned the change could be a first step in expanding the repository’s mission to hold other kinds of waste.

Smith Statement on Trump Missile Defense Review

Washington, DC – Today, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement about the Trump administration’s Missile Defense Review:

“The missile defense policy of the United States must follow some key principles.”

“First, it is essential that we ensure we are spending money on programs that are reliable and rigorously tested before they are deployed. We need to know that we are putting scarce taxpayer dollars to good use, for example improving reliability of the current system, rather than rushing to buy and deploy unproven missile defense systems. It is common sense to insist on this principle when it comes to programs that protect the American people and our allies, particularly in the context of the growing North Korea threat.

“Second, we must avoid missile defense policies that will fuel a nuclear arms race. Strategic stability is an essential component of U.S. national security, and it does not serve our long-term interest to take steps that incentivize Russia and China to increase the number and capability of their nuclear weapons.

“While it is essential that we continue investing in proven missile defense efforts, I am concerned that this missile defense review could lead to greater investment in areas that do not follow these principles, such as a space-based interceptor layer that has been studied repeatedly and found to be technologically challenging and prohibitively expensive.

“Moreover, we must consider missile defense and effective arms control policy as part of our deterrence capabilities. I am gravely concerned about President Trump’s broader strategy to withdraw us from international arms control agreements, dismiss allies, and expand the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense policy, which could further siphon funding from much-needed budget priorities and exacerbate a new nuclear arms race.”

armscontrol.org | January 17th, 2019

The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.

Of particular concern was President Donald Trump’s statement during his remarks at the Pentagon that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to “ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” This would be a costly, unachievable, and destabilizing departure from longstanding policy and contradicts the text of the review, which limits U.S. homeland missiles defense to their traditional role of defending against limited attacks from North Korea or Iran. Continue reading

US to Begin INF Treaty Pullout Next Month After Russia Missile Talks Fail

Officials reject Russian offer to inspect new missile; US says it will suspend observance of treaty on 2 February.

By JULIAN BORGER in Washington theguardian.com | Wed 16 Jan 2019 18.29 EST

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused the US of intransigence.
Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

The US has rejected Moscow’s offer to inspect a new Russian missile suspected of violating a key cold-war era treaty, and warned that it would suspend observance of the treaty on 2 February, giving six-month notice of a complete withdrawal.

The under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, Andrea Thompson, confirmed the US intention to withdraw from the treaty after a meeting with a Russian delegation in Geneva, which both sides described as a failure.

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INF, AFP, nuclear arms

Nuclear arms treaty faces collapse after failed US-Russia talks

By BEN SIMON/ AP channelnewsasia.com
Geneva (AFP) – The survival of a key nuclear arms control treaty was cast further in doubt Tuesday after the US and Russia blamed each other for pushing the agreement to the brink of collapse.

Senior diplomats from both countries met in Geneva amid widespread concern over the fate of the bilateral Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which successfully put an end to a mini-arms race after it was signed in 1987.

US President Donald Trump said in October that his country would pull out of the deal unless Russia stops violating it. Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under the treaty if it is scrapped.

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More Nuclear Waste Coming to New Mexico

An Inspector monitors radiations around containers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2003 prior to shipping nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. New Mexican file photo

Albuquerque Journal
By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer
Sunday, January 13th, 2019 at 12:01am

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is encouraging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new administration to reconsider a state government decision made just before she took office Jan. 1 that changes how radioactive waste volume is measured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in effect allowing more waste to placed in the underground repository near Carlsbad.

Udall said last week that limits on how much waste WIPP can hold were critical to federal-state negotiations that led to WIPP’s creation “and were a major reason New Mexico agreed to this mission in the first place.”

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Jon Kyl Voted for New Nukes After Taking Payments From Nuclear Company

The senator-turned-lobbyist-turned-senator-turned-lobbyist had a paid board seat at one nuclear company and lobbied for two others. Then he joined the Senate.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 05: U.S. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) awaits Vice President Mike Pence before a mock swear-in ceremony on September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. The former senator Kyl was tapped by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to replace the late Sen. John McCain. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

By

readsludge.com | JAN 10, 2019 4:10PM EST

After almost 30 years of a program to clean up dangerous defense waste at the Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington, the Department of Energy now wants to change the rules to make the job easier and save money. If approved, the proposal poses new dangers to the health and safety of people and the environment — not just in southeastern Washington, but at nuclear sites around the country.

After Sen. John McCain’s death in August 2018, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed former Republican Senator Jon Kyl to replace him—despite Kyl having spent years lobbying his former colleagues for an array of defense, utility, nuclear, tech, and social media companies that have business before the chamber. Government watchdogs warned of potential ethics issues, but Kyl was allowed to step aside from his K Street job and work on legislation without acknowledging conflicts of interest or recusing himself.

News broke on Monday that Kyl is rejoining his previous employer, lobbying firm Covington & Burling, after his four-month stint in the Senate.

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Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy It

By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs

Andrew Lichterman is Senior Research Analyst for Western States Legal Foundation, based in Oakland, California. John Burroughs is Executive Director of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, based in New York City.

A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile prior to its destruction pursuant to INF Treaty, October 18, 1988, at Davis-Monthan US Air Force Base in Arizona. Credit: US Department of Defense

ipsnews.net | NEW YORK, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

A hard-earned lesson of the Cold War is that arms control reduces the risk of nuclear war by limiting dangerous deployments and, even more important, by creating channels of communication and understanding. But President Donald Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton appear to have forgotten, or never learned, that lesson.

In late October, Trump announced an intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subsequently stated that the US will suspend implementation of the treaty in early February. While US signals have been mixed, initiation of withdrawal at that point or soon thereafter appears likely.

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Don’t let feds change the rules for cleaning up Hanford nuclear waste

The public can comment on the U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed changes to Hanford nuclear waste cleanup rules until Jan. 9.

A sign warns of high levels of radiation near a valve at the “C” tank farm of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren, 2014)

By Tom Carpenter

NukeWatch NM and Hanford Challenge are both members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

seattletimes.com | Originally published January 2, 2019 at 3:11 pm

After almost 30 years of a program to clean up dangerous defense waste at the Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington, the Department of Energy now wants to change the rules to make the job easier and save money. If approved, the proposal poses new dangers to the health and safety of people and the environment — not just in southeastern Washington, but at nuclear sites around the country.

In 1943, the U.S. government built the massive complex at Hanford to manufacture plutonium for nuclear weapons. When defense production ceased in 1986, its nine reactors had produced enough material for 60,000 atomic bombs. What remains is North America’s most contaminated site — more than half a billion gallons of nuclear waste and toxic chemicals stored in leaking tanks and dumped into the ground.

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New LANL director: Community relations is a priority

N3B Mason
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director and N3B CEO Thomas Mason

Albuquerque Journal

BY MARK OSWALD / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Sunday, January 6th, 2019 at 12:02am

The new director of Los Alamos National Laboratory says that, along with the lab’s nuclear weapons missions, its science and engineering efforts, and upgrading operational functions, community relations will be a key piece of LANL’s agenda under new operator Triad National Security, LLC.

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Vladimir Putin on nuclear war: U.S. is pushing world ‘closer to a very dangerous line

The U.S. is threatening to suspend a Cold War treaty limiting medium-range missiles because it says one of Russia’s weapons violates the agreement.

By Yuliya Talmazan and Alexander Smith

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Thursday that the world is underestimating the threat of nuclear war and blamed the U.S. for risking a collapse in global arms controls.

nbcnews.com | Dec. 20, 2018 / 1:16 AM PST / Updated Dec. 20, 2018 / 7:04 AM PST

The U.S. is threatening to suspend a Cold War treaty limiting medium-range missiles because it says one of Russia’s weapons violates the agreement.

During his annual marathon news conference Thursday, Putin insisted that Washington was to blame. Most experts agree Russia has been violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

However, many of those same analysts have criticized President Donald Trump for walking away from the INF Treaty. They argue that quitting it won’t bring Russia into line, and instead could trigger an arms race with ground-based nuclear missiles returning to Europe for the first time in decades.Continue reading

Don’t Tear Up This Treaty

Arms control isn’t perfect. But abandoning treaties without a plan for the future is dangerous.

ryan garcia

The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

nytimes.com | Dec. 15, 2018

Every American president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama has successfully negotiated an agreement with the Soviet Union, or the Russian federation, to reduce the threat from both countries’ vast nuclear arsenals. More than a dozen treaties limiting nuclear testing, nuclear weapons, activities in outer space and missile defense have been part of this mix.

The need for such restraint is irrefutable: No weapons are more lethal and potentially more destabilizing to the world than those that have earned the moniker “city killers.”Continue reading

Letter from 26 Senators Responding to Trump’s Nuclear Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 13, 2018

FOLLOWING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S ALARMING DECISION TO DEVELOP NEW NUCLEAR WEAPONS WHILE ALSO MOVING TO UNILATERALLY ABANDON THE BIPARTISAN NUCLEAR TREATIES THAT HAVE HELPED KEEP THE WORLD SAFE FROM NUCLEAR WAR FOR DECADES, SENATORS GILLIBRAND, MERKLEY, WARREN, MARKEY, FEINSTEIN, KLOBUCHAR LEAD GROUP OF 26 SENATORS IN CALLING ON PRESIDENT TRUMP TO WORK TO PRESERVE THESE VITALLY IMPORTANT TREATIES, AVOID DRAGGING OUR COUNTRY INTO A DANGEROUS NEW NUCLEAR ARMS RACE WITH RUSSIA

Senators: “Your Administration’s Efforts to Double Down on New, Unnecessary Nuclear Weapons While Scrapping Mutually Beneficial Treaties Risks the United States Sliding Into Another Arms Race with Russia and Erodes U.S. Nonproliferation Efforts Around the World”

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Russia Just Sent Two Nuclear-Capable Bombers to Venezuela

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV / AP time.com

(MOSCOW) — Two Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela on Monday, a deployment that comes amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said a pair Tu-160 bombers landed at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas on Monday following a 10,000-kilometer (6,200-mile) flight. It didn’t say if the bombers were carrying any weapons and didn’t say how long they will stay in Venezuela.

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ANA Press Release

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

immediate release: Tuesday, November 27, 2018 

Watchdog groups call for Congress to protect nuclear weapons communities—stop DOE limitations on Safety Board

Watchdog groups from across the country are insisting the Department of Energy withdraw DOE Order 140.1, a controversial order that would compromise safety at dozens of facilities in the US nuclear weapons complex, and are asking key Congressional committees to annul the revised order and preserve the critically important prerogatives of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).

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DOE MUST RESTORE DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD ACCESS TO INFORMATION, NUCLEAR SECURITY FACILITIES, AND PERSONNEL

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What’s Happened

On May 14, 2018, the Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Secretary approved DOE Order 140.1 Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which limits release of information, limits the DNFSB’s access to nuclear security sites, and personnel. The impacts are already being felt by Congress, the Board, DOE contractors and workers, and in communities located near some of the most dangerous nuclear facilities across the nation.

ANA’s Message

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability has reviewed DOE Order 140.1 and believes it imposes a level of constraint on DNFSB that jeopardizes the important mission of the Safety Board. In fact, it may well violate the legislation that established the Board. ANA groups and the public at major DOE sites have come to rely on the Safety Board’s expertise to identify and hold accountable the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration for worker and public safety related issues.

 

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ANA Letter to Congress

November 27, 2018

RE: DOE Order 140.1 should be annulled by Congress

Dear House/Senate Armed Services Committee Members:

We are writing to ask that you annul the May 2018 DOE Order 140.1, Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and reinstate the previous DOE Order 140.1.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (“DNFSB” or “Safety Board”) was established by Congress in September 1988 (Public Law 100-456) in response to growing concerns about health and safety protection that the Department of Energy (“DOE”) was providing the public and workers at defense nuclear facilities. In so doing, Congress sought to provide the general public with an independent source of critical oversight to add assurance that DOE’s defense nuclear facilities are safely designed, constructed, operated, and decommissioned. Over the past 30 years, the Safety Board’s authority and funding has been supported by Congress on a bi-partisan basis.

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Self-reported violations at LANL increase three-fold in a year

LANL Drums and tags
Nuclear waste drums stored at Area G at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2003. Cindy Mueller/ SF New Mexican file photo.

By Sarah Halasz Graham

An 85-gallon drum of radioactive waste leaked into its secondary container. Nearly two dozen waste containers were either mislabeled or not labeled at all. Officials failed to conduct mandated hazardous waste inspections.

During Los Alamos National Laboratory’s most recent fiscal year, officials logged 69 instances of noncompliance with the federal permit that allows the facility to store, manage and treat hazardous waste, according to a newly released annual report that details the violations.

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European diplomats mount last-ditch effort to stop US scrapping INF treaty

BY JULIAN BORGER in Washington |
theguardian.com
Sun 18 Nov 2018 03.00 EST Last modified on Sun 18 Nov 2018 10.52 EST

– 1987 treaty has kept nuclear weapons out of Europe
– Trump announced withdrawal from deal with Russia in October

European officials are seeking to act as intermediaries between Russia and the US in the hope of salvaging a cold war-era arms control treaty that Donald Trump has threatened to scrap.

However, the diplomats involved are not confident of success in the effort to save the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Although they have the support of senior officials in the US defence and state departments, they face opposition from the White House, particularly from the national security adviser, John Bolton.

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Incoming HASC Chair: Scale Back Plans for New Nukes

trump
The ballistic-missile submarine USS Nevada (SSBN 733) transits the Puget Sound on its way to its homeport, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Poulsbo, Wash. Jan. 14, 2015. U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ahron Arendes

BY MARCUS WEISGERBER  defenseone.com
NOVEMBER 14, 2018

Rep. Adam Smith laid out new terms for a debate over the Pentagon’s plans to expand the military’s nuclear arsenal.

The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is taking aim at the Trump administration’s plans to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.

While Democrats will only control one chamber of Congress for the next two years, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., called for lawmakers to “totally redo the Nuclear Posture Review,” the administration’s blueprint for replacing Cold War-era nuclear weapons with newer ones envisioned to be aroundContinue reading

Trump’s Defense Spending Is Out of Control, and Poised to Get Worse

trump
U.S. President Donald Trump puts on a military jacket as he meets the US troops at the U.S. Yokota Air Base, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Nov. 5, 2017. AP/Shutterstock

BY MATT TAIBBI  rollingstone.com
Using a time-honored trick, a bipartisan congressional panel argues we should boost the president’s record defense bill even more

A bipartisan commission has determined that President Trump’s recent record defense bill is insufficiently massive to keep America safe, and we should spend more, while cutting “entitlements.”

The National Defense Strategy Commission concluded the Department of Defense was too focused on “efficiency” and needed to accept “greater cost and risk” to search for “leap-ahead technologies” to help the U.S. maintain superiority.

Nuclear fallout: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

lanl
Gilbert Mondragon, 38, pulls the cap off a plastic water bottle that had been twisted open by his young daughters. He hasn’t the strength for those simple tasks anymore and blames his 20-year career at the Los Alamos National Lab. He quit this year because of his serious lung issues, which he suspects were caused by exposures at the nuclear facility. InvestigateTV/Andy Miller

BY JAMIE GREY & LEE ZURIK mysuncoast.com
November 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM EST – Updated November 12 at 10:54 AM

LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO (InvestigateTV) – Clear, plastic water bottles, with the caps all slightly twisted open, fill a small refrigerator under Gilbert Mondragon’s kitchen counter. The lids all loosened by his 4- and 6-year old daughters because, at just 38, Mondragon suffers from limited mobility and strength. He blames his conditions on years of exposure to chemicals and radiation at the facility that produced the world’s first atomic bomb: Los Alamos National Laboratory. Mondragon is hardly alone in his thinking…
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New Mexico Environment Department Conducts Hearing On LANL Groundwater Discharge Permit In Los Alamos

DP-1793 Hearing Courtroom

BY MAIRE O’NEILL thelosalamosreporter.com

A public hearing being conducted by the New Mexico Environment to consider the ground water discharge permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory headed into its second day Thursday in the Los Alamos Magistrate Courtroom.

On Wednesday, public comment was heard throughout the day from members of the public, tribal representatives, public officials and watchdog groups such as Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

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Colorado Wildlife Refuge Opens at Former Nuclear Weapons Plant Amid Controversy

BY  PAM WRIGHT weather.com


FORMER COLORADO THERMONUCLEAR PARTS PLANT NOW A WILDLIFE REFUGE
The former Rocky Flats plutonium plant that encountered fires and radioactive spills is now open as a wildlife refuge in Colorado.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the gates of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 15 near a former Environmental Protection Agency superfund site which used to house a plant that manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs for nearly four decades, the Associated Press reports.

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Mikhail Gorbachev: A New Nuclear Arms Race Has Begun

gorbachev
Illustration by Delcan & Company; Photograph by Dennis Cook, via Associated Press

BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV  nytimes.com
Mr. Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union.

Over 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan and I signed in Washington the United States-Soviet Treaty on the elimination of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. For the first time in history, two classes of nuclear weapons were to be eliminated and destroyed.

This was a first step. It was followed in 1991 by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which the Soviet Union signed with President George H.W. Bush, our agreement on radical cuts in tactical nuclear arms, and the New Start Treaty, signed by the presidents of Russia and the United States in 2010.

There’s no such thing as a perfect nuclear arms deal. Trump doesn’t get that.

We have them to reduce the chances of catastrophe.

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signing ceremony in the White House on Dec. 8, 1987. (Bob Daugherty/AP)

BY ALEXANDRA BELL  The Washington Post

When President Trump walked away from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA — he called it “disastrous,” saying that at “the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program.”

He had long complained the agreement was “the worst deal ever negotiated,” and that he could get a better one. This week, the president found a new target in the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Force Treaty or INF, an agreement that helped diffuse Cold War nuclear tensions on the European continent by obligating the United States and Russia to eliminate all land-based missiles with ranges between a few hundred and a few thousand miles. On the sidelines of a political rally, Trump said “Russia has violated the agreement,” and added “I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.”

If his point is that these agreements are less than ideal, he’s right. What he doesn’t seem to get is that there’s no such thing as a perfect nuclear deal. Continue reading

Terminating the INF Treaty Could Be Disastrous

BY DEREK JOHNSON  cnn.com
Derek Johnson is the executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for a world without nuclear weapons.

INF
(CNN) President Donald Trump announced during a campaign stop in Nevada that he would terminate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was used to eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons.

This was probably the first time most folks had ever heard of this Reagan-era arms control agreement that helped end the Cold War and kept Europe stable for a generation. Which may explain why the American public is not yet reacting to this disaster with the level of panic it deserves.

It’s tempting to think of treaties as little scraps of paper collecting dust on a historian’s bookshelf. Interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing, but largely irrelevant. The INF Treaty is something else entirely: This scrap of paper is a powerful leash, one of the few things restraining Russia and the United States (which together hold around 92% of the world’s nuclear weapons) from arms-racing us all into oblivion.

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George Shultz: We Must Preserve This Nuclear Treaty

BY GEORGE P. SHULTZ nytimes.com
Mr. Shultz was a secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty at the White House in 1987. Universal History Archive/UIG, via Getty Images

Nuclear weapons are a threat to the world. Any large-scale nuclear exchange would have globally catastrophic consequences. Conscious of this reality, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, worked in the 1980s to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of them.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, was a major step toward this goal, eliminating a large class of nuclear weapons that were viewed as particularly destabilizing. The treaty is still in force, although both the Obama and Trump administrations have said that Russia is in violation. Whatever the case, we need to preserve the agreement rather than abandon it, as President Trump has threatened to do.

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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

WIPP: Waste Calculation Change Discussed

BY ADRIAN C. HEDDEN, Carlsbad  currentargus.com

WIPP:
“Calculation change will not impact facility’s capacity”

[We at NukeWatch do believe that this proposed change WILL expand WIPP’s capacity and are working hard to stop it.]

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant said a proposed modification to facility’s permit to dispose of nuclear waste will have little impact on WIPP operations or its maximum capacity for emplacement. The modification regards how the facility tracks the volume of transuranic (TRU) waste permanently stored in the underground repository.

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Hibakusha Against Withdrawal From INF

Atomic Bomb Survivors Urge Trump Not To ‘Turn Clock Back’

BY AI TANABE, Staff Writer The Asahi Shimbun

Hibakusha atomic bomb survivors admonished U.S. President Donald Trump for threatening to walk away from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in a protest letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Oct. 22. The note, addressed in Japanese to the commander-in-chief, was compiled by five hibakusha groups in Nagasaki expressing their concerns over the proposed withdrawal from the 1987 treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union.

The groups stated that if the United States pulls out of the treaty, “global momentum for nuclear disarmament will fade away while the likelihood of a nuclear war crisis will rise.”

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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

United States Files False Claims Act Lawsuit in Connection With MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility Contract

Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ― Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Department of Justice announced today that the United States has filed suit against CB&I AREVA MOX Services LLC (MOX Services) and Wise Services Inc. under the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act in connection with a contract between MOX Services and the National Nuclear Security Administration relating to the design and operation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the NNSA Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina.  MOX Services is a South Carolina Limited Liability Corporation with headquarters in Aiken, South Carolina.  Wise Services, which subcontracted with MOX Services, is an Ohio corporation with headquarters in Dayton, Ohio.

Under the MOX Contract, MOX Services agreed to design, build, operate (and ultimately decommission) the MFFF. The MFFF is designed to transform weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel rods that may be irradiated in commercial nuclear power plants.  In performing the MOX Contract, MOX Services entered into a series of subcontracts with Wise Services between 2008 and 2016. Each of these subcontracts provided for Wise Services to supply labor, materials, equipment, and supervision for unplanned construction activities (e.g. general labor, plumbing, electrical, carpentry) deemed necessary to support MOX Services’ efforts at the MFFF.

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Talking Points: DOE Order 140.1 Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

– The Department of Energy’s Order 140.1 Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is misguided and likely illegal because it acts contrary to the Board’s 1988 enabling legislation. See https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/page/Enabling%20Legislation%20-%202016.pdf

– The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s (DNFSB’s) two decades of reporting and recommendations reflect the chronic safety problems endemic to the nuclear weapons complex. DOE Order 140.1 seeks to kill the messenger and muzzle the message that nuclear weapons research and production is inherently dangerous, requiring independent safety oversight to help keep workers and the public protected.

– DOE Order 140.1 is the nuclear weaponeers’ latest attempts to cripple the DNFSB, previously attempted through legislation passed by the House Armed Services Committee. Those pieces of legislation sought to either cut the Board’s budget or hogtie it with onerous reporting requirements but were rejected by Congress as a whole. This could possibly explain the genesis of DOE Order 140.1 as an attempt to do an end run around Congress.

– The Safety Board’s observations and formal recommendations have slowed down the nuclear weaponeers agenda for exorbitant new production facilities and increased nuclear weapons production for a new arms race. What is DOE’s completely misguided answer? It is to cripple DNFSB oversight, thereby increasing the chances for serious nuclear safety mishaps.

– DOE Order 140.1 “Formulate[s] consolidated DOE positions on policy… so that DOE speaks with one voice.” (emphasis added). This smacks of political control by DOE Washington DC headquarters that again seeks to kill the messenger rather than resolve nuclear safety issues. DOE’s track record demonstrates that critical safety problems often get fixed only when they become locally disclosed and publicly known. In contrast, Order 140.1 will likely suppress local disclosure of potential dangers and discourage whistleblowers, possibly exposing them to added retaliation.

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Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Public Hearing

Defense Nuclear Facilities Board at August 28, 2018 Pubic Hearing
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

Thursday February 21, 2019, 5:30 – 9:00 PM,

Albuquerque Convention Center,
401 2ndSt NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

What: The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) will hold a public hearing at the Albuquerque Convention Center on February 21, 2019. In the Safety Board’s own words, the goal of the hearing is “to gather information from DOE Field Offices regarding DNFSB interfaces and access to information, facilities, and personnel.” Concerned citizens interested in speaking during the public comment period are encouraged to pre-register by submitting an emailed request to hearing@dnfsb.govor call 800.788.4016 by February 19. Citizens may also submit written comments both prior to and at the hearing.

On February 21, the DNFSB will provide a live web stream link to the hearing Here

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For Decades, the United States and Russia Stepped Back From the Brink. Until Now.

Kelsey Wroten
Will there be a dangerous new era of unchecked nuclear weapons development?

BY The Editorial Board | nytimes.com February 10, 2019


Before the fear of being blown up on a plane, or a train, or a sidewalk gave millions of people sleepless nights, before the threat of global climate disaster stirred dread, nuclear annihilation was the stuff of nightmares.

By the mid-1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union had amassed 63,000 nuclear weapons, with the promise of mutually assured destruction if even one were ever used, even accidentally.

Then, after years of global protests and skyrocketing budgets, American and Soviet leaders stepped back from the brink and began a process of arms control diplomacy, accelerated by the fall of the Soviet Union, that shrank those arsenals by nearly 90 percent. For decades, that process and that diplomacy continued … until now.

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Red Cross warns of ‘growing’ risk of nuclear weapons, urges ban

straitstimes.com February 8, 2019

The International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Dec 4, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) – The Red Cross called on Friday (Feb 8) for a total ban on nuclear weapons, warning of the growing risk that such arms could again be used with devastating effect.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched a global campaign to raise awareness about the rising nuclear threat facing the world.

In a joint statement, they said some nuclear-armed states were straying from their “longstanding nuclear disarmament obligations” and were “upgrading their arsenals, developing new kinds of nuclear weapons and making them easier to use”. The notonukes.org campaign comes after the United States and Russia ripped up a key arms control treaty, with US President Donald Trump announcing last week that Washington was beginning a process to withdraw from the Cold War-era agreement in six months.

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The Cost to Clean Up America’s Cold War Nuclear Waste Jumps to $377 Billion

The bill for a half century of nuclear weapons production is growing fast.

“The GAO [Government Accountability Office] estimates the EM’s “environmental liability grew by almost $105 billion, from $163 billion to $268 billion.”That’s the equivalent of taking one step forward and then being pushed seven steps back.”

BY popularmechanics.com February 5, 2019

The United States developed and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. A new report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred by developing and producing these weapons at a staggering $377 billion, a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.

Most people think of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and think of oil rigs, coal mines, solar energy panels, and wind farms. While the DoE does handle energy production—including nuclear power—it also handles the destructive side of nuclear energy. A large part of the DoE’s portfolio over the past several decades has been the handling of nuclear weapons research, development, and production. The DoE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities.

Mock-ups of Poseidon Missiles
Polaris and Poseidon missiles. GETTY IMAGES//HULTON DEUTSCH

In 1967 at the height of the U.S.–Soviet nuclear arms race, the U.S. nuclear stockpile totaled 31,255 weapons of all types. Today, that number stands at just 6,550. Although the U.S. has deactivated and destroyed 25,000 nuclear weapons, their legacy is still very much alive. Nuclear weapons were developed and produced at more than one hundred sites during the Cold War. Cleanup began in 1989, and the Office of Environmental Management has completed cleanup at 91 of 107 nuclear sites, Still, according to the GAO, “but 16 remain, some of which are the most challenging to address.” Those sites include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the Hanford site in Washington, and the Nevada National Security Site.

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Near site of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a shattered town and scattered lives

 Noboru Honda lost 12 members of his extended family when a tsunami struck the Fukushima prefecture in northern Japan nearly eight years ago. Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer and initially given a few months to live.

Today, he is facing a third sorrow: watching what may be the last gasps of his hometown.

For six years, Namie was deemed unsafe after a multiple-reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie. But hardly anyone has ventured back. Its people are scattered and divided. Families are split. The sense of community is coming apart.

Russia Pulls Out of I.N.F. Treaty in ‘Symmetrical’ Response to U.S. Move

BY ANDREW E. KRAMERnytimes.com February 2, 2019

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a decision that was widely expected, suspended his country’s observance of a key nuclear arms control pact on Saturday in response to a similar move by the United States a day before.

But adding to a sense that the broader architecture of nuclear disarmament has started to unravel, Mr. Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.

The Trump administration withdrew from the treaty, a keystone of the late Cold War disarmament pacts known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying that Russia had been violating it for years. The decision holds the potential to initiate a new arms race, not only with Russia, but also China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 treaty.

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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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Trump makes it official: The US is pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty with Russia

The world’s two greatest nuclear powers are set to pull out of a crucial nuclear weapons treaty beginning this weekend. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Trump says the U.S. will withdraw from the INF Treaty on Saturday.

BY  | cnbc.com February 1, 2019

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin listens while U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States is ready to withdraw from a crucial nuclear weapons treaty with Russia on Saturday, a move that has sparked concerns of a budding arms race between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.

The announcement comes a day after Russia and the United States said that discussions to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had failed.

“Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing … which will be completed in six months unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment,” Trump said in a statement.

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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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NV Governor and AG speak against DOE plutonium shipment

kolotv.com | RENO January 30th, 2019

See video of news conference by governor & attorney general of Nevada, angry about DOE’s secret shipment of plutonium from SRS to NV, with SRS Watch comments: https://www.kolotv.com/content/news/505096611.html

Filings by State of Nevada in Nevada district court, in plutonium shipment docket (3:18-cv-00569), January 31, 2019:
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY
RESTRAINING ORDER
(REQUEST FOR RULING BY JANUARY 31, 2019)

PLAINTIFF’S STATUS REPORT

PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A STATUS HEARING

energy.gov | WASHINGTON D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) is committed to protecting the health, safety, and security of the public at all of our sites as we conduct our important national security missions.  The recent plutonium shipments to the Nevada National Security Site were undertaken to comply with an order issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina.

It is inaccurate to state that the Members of the Nevada delegation were not informed of this movement. The Department of Energy was as transparent as operational security would permit. Efforts were made to ensure that Members of Congress representing the states involved were notified of the planned movement ahead of time, as early as August 2018 when NNSA publicly released the plan in a Supplement Analysis. Since then, NNSA confirmed that it was “actively engaged” in removing one metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico.**

It is also inaccurate to characterize this material as “waste”. This material is essential for maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile, and is handled with the highest standards for safety and security. NNSA routinely ships this type of material between its sites as part of our national security missions and has done so safely and securely for decades.

###

**Aiken Standard, “NNSA: Weapons-grade plutonium will be moved out of SC this year, next year” www.aikenstandard.com

Russia & China Will Join Forces on Nuclear Weapons Strategy as U.S. Threatens to Leave Arms Deal

Russia and China are boosting bilateral cooperation on nuclear weapons strategies as they accused the United States of disrupting non-proliferation measures during a high-level meeting of the top five nuclear powers.

BY TOM O’CONNOR | newsweek.com January 30th, 2019

U.S. Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson (center) and the U.S. delegation are seen in front of the Russian delegation as they attend a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference consisting of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members (P5)—China, France, Russia, Britain and the U.S.—in Beijing, on January 30. THOMAS PETER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Representatives of the so-called “Nuclear Five” met Wednesday in Beijing, at a time of heightened tensions between the Eastern and Western permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The grouping included China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a landmark document that sought to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction during a decades-long arms race between Washington and Moscow.

As the White House threatened to scrap another Cold War-era weapons treaty, China and Russia have sought to align their approach in the face of what they considered to be a destabilizing U.S. position.

“Issues of our cooperation and Chinese-Russian and Russian-Chinese coordination will surely be the focus of our attention,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency. “It is very productive work. In 2016, we approved the statement on strategic stability at the level of the leaders. It is just an example of how Russia and China are registering joint common positions more precisely.”

The U.S. has accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which established a mutual ban on ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles within the ranges of around 310 and 3,420 miles. Washington argues that Russia’s new Novator 9M729 missile violates the treaty, while Moscow claims that the extensive U.S. missile shield in Europe could be used offensively as well, effectively breaching the deal.

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Chairman Smith, Senator Warren Introduce Bill Establishing “NO FIRST USE” Policy for Nuclear Weapons

armedservices.house.gov | WASHINGTON DC January 30th, 2019

Today, Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the bicameral No First Use Act, to establish in law that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first.

Today the United States explicitly retains the option to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, even in response to a non-nuclear attack. The No First Use Act would codify what most Americans already believe—that the United States should never initiate a nuclear war.

“Our current nuclear strategy is not just outdated—it is dangerous,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “By making clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal, this bill would reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation and help us maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world.”

The No First Use Act would strengthen U.S. national security by:
– Reducing the risk of a nuclear miscalculation by an adversary during a crisis
– Strengthening our deterrence and increasing strategic stability by clarifying our declaratory policy
– Preserving the U.S. second-strike capability to retaliate against any nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies

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

Doomsday Clock Stays at Two Minutes to Midnight as Crisis Now ‘New Abnormal’

Warning that ‘We are like passengers on the Titanic, ignoring the iceberg ahead’ in face of nuclear arms and climate change threats

The former California governor Jerry Brown, left, and former US secretary of defence William Perry unveil the Doomsday Clock in Washington DC on Thursday. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

BY  in Washington |  theguardian.com |


The risk to global civilisation from nuclear weapons and climate change remains at an all-time high, according to a group of prominent US scientists and former officials, who said the world’s predicament had become the “new abnormal”.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that its symbolic “doomsday clock”, unveiled every year, was stuck at two minutes to midnight, the same as last January. The only other time the Bulletin has judged the world as being this close to catastrophe was 1953, in the early volatile stages of the cold war.

The reasons given by the Bulletin’s panel of experts included the collapse of arms control treaties, and the emphasis in Washington and Moscow on modernising nuclear arsenals rather than dismantling them, and the lack of political will to reverse climate change.

“We are like passengers on the Titanic, ignoring the iceberg ahead, enjoying the fine food and music,” said Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, said. Since leaving office this month, Brown has become the Bulletin’s executive chairman, citing the imminent threats to humanity. “It’s late and it’s getting later. We have to wake people up. And that’s what I intend to do!”

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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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Permit Changes at WIPP Face Challenges

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico wants Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new administration to take a fresh look at a state decision to change how the volume of radioactive waste stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is measured. (Courtesy of Judiciary.Senate.Gov)

By Mark Oswald | Journal Staff Writer

abqjournal.com | Sunday, January 13th, 2019 at 12:01am

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is encouraging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new administration to reconsider a state government decision made just before she took office Jan. 1 that changes how radioactive waste volume is measured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in effect allowing more waste to placed in the underground repository near Carlsbad.

Udall said last week that limits on how much waste WIPP can hold were critical to federal-state negotiations that led to WIPP’s creation “and were a major reason New Mexico agreed to this mission in the first place.”

“I am encouraging the new administration to take a hard look at this action, and hopeful that it will pause and reconsider this last-minute change that has major ramifications for our state,” the senator said in an email statement.

The controversial state permit modification for WIPP, approved by then-New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate on Dec. 21, changes the way waste volume is calculated to exclude empty space inside waste packaging. With the alteration, WIPP becomes only about a third full instead of 50 percent full.
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An inspector monitors radiations around containers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2003 prior to shipping nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. New Mexican file photo; Drums of transuranic waste are stored inside a salt cavern at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad in 2006. Los Angeles Times file photo

By Rebecca Moss rmoss@sfnewmexican.com

santafenewmexican.com | Jan 5, 2019 Updated Jan 6, 2019

In the final days of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration, the state Environment Department approved a controversial change to how federal officials measure the amount of nuclear waste buried some 2,000 feet underground in Southern New Mexico salt beds.

Proponents of the change say it merely clarifies that the storage site will measure the actual volume of transuranic waste deposited there rather than the volume of the massive exterior waste drums, called overpack containers — and the air inside. But critics say the result will be an increase in the quantity of material stored at the U.S. Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

Several nuclear watchdog groups, which say they intend to appeal the decision, also fear the change in WIPP's hazardous waste permit from the state could open the door to allowing high-level nuclear waste to be brought into New Mexico.

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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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LANL Groundwater Discharge Permit Hearing Underway

BY  TRIS DEROMA   lamonitor.com |

In opening testimony at a groundwater discharge permit hearing Wednesday, attorneys for a Los Alamos National Laboratory contractor said spraying the ground with water with remediated levels of chromium and RDX is environmentally safe. Chromium and RDX are known carcinogens. The chemicals are from contamination plumes found on the grounds of the laboratory in the 2000s.
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Donald Trump Welcomes In the Age of “Usable” Nuclear Weapons

BY James CarrollTomDispatch  truthout.org |


Of the failure of Reykjavik, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze would then comment: “When future generations read the transcripts of this meeting, they will not forgive us.” [While meeting in 1989 in Reykjavik, Iceland, U.S. President Ronald Raegan and Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev came close to agreeing to abolish nuclear weapons. Raegan held out for the Livermore Lab’s false programs of working ballistic missile defenses (AKA “Star Wars”), which blocked the historic deal.]

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Fihn ICAN Talks of Ban Treaty Coming to Force in 2019

Nuclear Ban Treaty Could Come Into Force in 2019, Campaigners Say

OCTOBER 28, 2018 / 5:12 PM
Tom Miles
REUTERS WORLD NEWS

GENEVA (Reuters) – A treaty banning nuclear weapons could come into force by the end of 2019, backers of a campaign that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize said in an annual progress report on Monday.

The treaty aims to stigmatize nuclear weapons as previous treaties marginalized landmines and cluster munitions. Signatories promise to reject nuclear strategies and encourage others to follow suit.

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, published by Norwegian People’s Aid, said 19 states had already adhered to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, putting it well on the way to the 50 ratifications it needs to come into force.

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George Shultz: We Must Preserve This Nuclear Treaty

BY GEORGE P. SHULTZ nytimes.com

Mr. Shultz was a secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty at the White House in 1987. Universal History Archive/UIG, via Getty Images

Nuclear weapons are a threat to the world. Any large-scale nuclear exchange would have globally catastrophic consequences. Conscious of this reality, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, worked in the 1980s to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of them.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, was a major step toward this goal, eliminating a large class of nuclear weapons that were viewed as particularly destabilizing. The treaty is still in force, although both the Obama and Trump administrations have said that Russia is in violation. Whatever the case, we need to preserve the agreement rather than abandon it, as President Trump has threatened to do.

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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.”

Groups Release Key DOE Documents on Expanded Plutonium Pit Production, DOE Nuclear Weapons Plan Not Supported by Recent Congressional Actions

Santa Fe, NM & Columbia, SCTwo key U.S. Department of Energy documents on future production of plutonium “pits” for nuclear weapons, not previously released to the public, fail to justify new and upgraded production facilities at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

The report reveals that the initial cost estimate for these new and upgraded facilities at both sites is $10 billion by 2030, and around $46 billion in total life cycle costs. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons. Cost overruns are the rule for major projects undertaken by the National Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within DOE, so the costs are likely to rise yet more, according to Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Savannah River Site Watch.

NNSA’s Pu Pit Production Engineering Assessment, originally marked Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information, was finalized on April 20, 2018. The 293-page document was obtained by Nuclear Watch and is being released so that the public may be fully informed about the agency’s misguided pursuit of new plutonium pit production facilities for future new-design nuclear weapons. The new NNSA Administrator has called future plutonium pit production her highest priority. But the Engineering Assessment fails to answer the most crucial question: why are at least 80 plutonium pits per year needed to begin with?

As background, on May 10, 2018, NNSA announced in a one-page statement:

To achieve DoD’s [Department of Defense] 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.

Nuclear Watch also obtained NNSA’s 14-page Plutonium Pit Production Engineering Assessment (EA) Results. That summary document, dated May 2018, relied on the Trump Administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review for claiming the need for expanded plutonium pit production. However, that high-level review failed to state any concrete justification for the alleged pit need. Moreover, Congress is balking at funding any new pit production facilities at SRS, primarily because Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vociferously opposes repurposing the MOX facility, now undergoing termination, and the New Mexico congressional delegation opposes any pit production outside of the Los Alamos Lab.

The Engineering Assessment details that NNSA analyzed four pit production options, one in the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at SRS and three options at Los Alamos. NNSA chose the most expensive combination, repurposing the MOX facility and increasing pit production at LANL to 30 pits per year. Los Alamos is currently authorized to produce 20 pits per year, but has failed to achieve even that because of ongoing nuclear criticality safety issues (moreover, LANL proposed to produce all 80 pits per year, which NNSA rejected). SRS has never produced pits, raising new nuclear risks at that site and concern about new waste streams.

The Engineering Assessment makes clear that “moderate risks” in the option of repurposing the MOX plant at SRS includes any failure to quickly terminate the MOX project, due to subsequent delays in closing out the project and terminating contracts. Likewise, the report affirms a long-held concern that there is a “very high probability for incomplete construction records/as-built drawings” for the MOX project. On May 10, DOE began congressionally sanctioned termination of the bungled MOX project, but it is being opposed in last-ditch, desperate attempts by Senator Lindsey Graham and the State of South Carolina. The Engineering Assessment makes explicitly clear that terminating the MOX program is the crucial prerequisite for plutonium pit production at SRS and that “some work [on repurposing the MOX plant] can be completed during MOX closeout,” contrary to both the wishes of Congress and requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, according to Nuclear Watch. 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[i] (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.” [ii]

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 support.[iii] Moreover, as the Engineering Assessment makes clear, 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.

The Engineering Assessment also explicitly links raising the administrative limit on plutonium at LANL’s “Rad Lab” to expanded pit production. This contradicts a recent draft environmental assessment in which NNSA claimed that re-categorizing the Rad Lab as a Hazard Category-3 nuclear facility was necessary only to maintain basic analytical chemistry capabilities, while omitting any reference whatsoever to expanded plutonium pit production.

The Engineering Assessment briefly outlines what could be a major vulnerability to NNSA’s pit production plans, that is the agency’s future compliance (or not) with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Assessment states that if “compliance is delayed, [this] extends the schedule, increases costs, and/or delays production.” Both Nuclear Watch and SRS Watch assert that the law requires that major federal proposals be subject to public review and comment before a formal decision is made. Arguably, a formal decision to raise production to 80 pits or more per year necessitates a new or supplemental nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), which the new dual-site decision strongly buttresses. Follow-on site-specific NEPA documents will then be necessary, with full public participation and hearings. All of this could introduce substantial delays to NNSA’s plutonium pit production plans.

“While it’s clear that the bungled MOX project is unworkable from technical and cost perspectives and must rapidly be terminated, there is no justification to convert the abandoned facility to a nuclear bomb production plant,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch. “We agree that money must now be spent closing and securing the MOX building, but not on the new, unauthorized pit mission. Spending taxpayer funds to now begin conversion of the MOX plant to pit production, as is indicated in the pit report, is premature and can’t even be considered until Congress approves the NNSA approach for new facilities and an environmental impact review with public participation takes place,” added Clements.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence. We realize that this fifth attempt at a new pit plant is the most serious yet, but we remain confident it too will fall apart. The enormous financial and environmental costs of new nuclear bomb factories and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile will doom this effort. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.”

Notes:

NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Engineering Assessment (EA) Results (14 slides) is available at

https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/FINAL-Pu-Pit-Production-EA-Results-05.14.18_Unclassified.pdf

NNSA’s 293-page Pu Pit Production Engineering Assessment is available at

https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Pu-Pit-Engineering-Assessment-Report-Rev-2_20-April-2018.pdf

NNSA’s Joint Statement from Ellen M. Lord and Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty on Recapitalization of Plutonium Pit Production, May 10, 2018, is available at

https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/articles/joint-statement-ellen-m-lord-and-lisa-e-gordon-hagerty-recapitalization-plutonium-pit

[i]     Pit Lifetime (JSR-06-335), the MITRE Corporation, JASON, January 27, 2007, p. 19, http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/pit.pdf

This pivotal study came about because at Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s request then-Senator Jeff Bingaman (D.-NM) successfully offered an amendment to the FY 2004 Defense Authorization Act requiring it.

[ii]     Plutonium at 150 years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, December 2012,

https://www.llnl.gov/news/plutonium-150-years

[iii]    See 2012 Navy memo demonstrating its lack of support for the Interoperable Warhead at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf

 

What’s Not in NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Decision

 Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced:

To achieve DoD’s [the Defense Department] 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.  This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.

First, in Nuclear Watch’s view, this decision is in large part a political decision, designed to keep the congressional delegations of both New Mexico and South Carolina happy. New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are adamantly against relocating plutonium pit production to South Carolina. On the other hand, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was keeping the boondoggle Mixed Oxide (MOX) program on life support, and this pit production decision may help to mollify him. This could also perhaps help assuage the State of South Carolina, which is suing the Department of Energy for failing to remove plutonium from the Savannah River Site as promised.

But as important is what is NOT in NNSA’s plutonium pit production decision:

  There is no explanation why the Department of Defense requires at least 80 pits per year, and no justification to the American taxpayer why the enormous expense of expanded production is necessary.

•  NNSA avoided pointing out that expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, no production of plutonium pits for the existing stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future.

•  NNSA did not mention that in 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old. The independent expert study did not find any end date for reliable pit lifetimes, indicating that plutonium pits could last far beyond just a century.

• NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 “excess” pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in “strategic reserve.” The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits.

•  Related, NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes.

•  NNSA did not make clear that expanded plutonium pit production is for a series of speculative future “Interoperable Warheads.” The first IW is meant to replace nuclear warheads for both the Air Force’s land-based and the Navy’s sub-launched ballistic missiles. The Obama Administration delayed “IW-1” because the Navy does not support it. However, the Trump Administration is restarting it, with annual funding ballooning to $448 million by 2023, and “IW-2” starting in that same year. Altogether the three planned Interoperable Warheads will cost at least $40 billion, despite the fact that the Navy doesn’t support them.[1]

•  NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision did not mention that exact replicas of existing pits will NOT be produced. The agency has selected the W87 pit for the Interoperable Warhead, but its FY 2019 budget request repeatedly states that the pits will actually be “W87-like.” This could have serious potential consequences because any major modifications to 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.

•  The State of South Carolina is already suing the Department of Energy for its failure to begin removing the many tons of plutonium at the Savannah River Site (SRS). NNSA’s pit production decision will not solve that problem, even as it will likely bring more plutonium to SRS.

•  The independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has expressed strong concerns about the safety of plutonium operations at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) LANL and SRS, particularly regarding potential nuclear criticality incidents.[2] NNSA did not address those safety concerns in its plutonium pit production decision.

•  Politicians in both New Mexico and South Carolina trumpet how many jobs expanded plutonium pit production will create. Yet NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision does not have any solid data on jobs produced. One indicator that job creation will be limited is that the environmental impact statement for a canceled $6 billion plutonium facility at LANL stated that it would not produce a single new Lab job because it would merely relocate existing jobs. Concerning SRS, it is doubtful that pit production could fully replace the jobs lost as the MOX program dies a slow death. In any event, there certainly won’t be any data on the greater job creation that cleanup and renewable energy programs would create. Funding for those programs is being cut or held flat, in part to help pay for nuclear weapons programs.

•  Finally, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that major federal proposals be subject to public review and comment before a formal decision is made. NNSA’s decision does not mention its NEPA obligations at all. In 1996 plutonium pit production was capped at 20 pits per year in a nation-wide Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). NNSA failed to raise that production limit in any subsequent NEPA process, despite repeated attempts. Arguably a decision to produce 80 pits or more per year requires a new or supplemental nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement to raise the production limit, which the new dual-site decision would strongly augment. This then should be followed by whatever site-specific NEPA documents might be necessary.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence. But we realize that this fifth attempt is the most serious. However, we remain confident it too will fall apart, because of its enormous financial and environmental costs and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.”

# # #

[1]     See 2012 Navy memo demonstrating its lack of support for the Interoperable Warhead at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.

[2]     For example, see Safety concerns plague key sites proposed for nuclear bomb production, Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity, May 2, 2108, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/02/safety-concerns-nuclear-bomb-manufacture-sites/572697002/

 

NNSA Albuquerque Complex gets new $202 million facility, nuclear weapons money near doubles

See the National Nuclear Security Administration’s brief press release below on a new facility for its Albuquerque Complex.

Nuclear weapons spending for NNSA’s Albuquerque Complex nearly doubled from $312 million in FY 2018 to $604.4 million in FY 2019. Within that, Directed Stockpile Work nearly tripled from $133.4 million in FY 2018 to $338.9 million in FY 2019. Directed Stockpile Work is the hands-on nuclear weapons work, the biggest single element of which is “Life Extension Programs” that extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons by up to 60 years, while also endowing them with new military capabilities.

The NNSA’s FY 2019 budget request justifies the new 333,000 square feet, $202 million Albuquerque Complex Project as follows:

Justification
The NNSA Albuquerque Complex provides vital services to the agency. The Albuquerque Complex houses multiple organizations that fulfill unique and essential roles within the nuclear weapons enterprise by providing programmatic, technical support, legal, security, procurement, human resources, business and administrative functions that directly support the NNSA national security mission. The proximity of the Albuquerque Complex to two NNSA national laboratories and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center on Kirtland Air Force Base makes it an ideal location for an NNSA field installation. The Albuquerque Complex has supported the DOE/NNSA from this location for over 50 years, and there are no plans to eliminate or reduce the size or function of this office in the near future. NNSA has a long-term commitment at this installation, and it will remain the primary field support office for NNSA.

In the old days the DOE Albuquerque Office pretty much ran the DOE nuclear weapons complex, until it screwed up the Rocky Flats Plant so bad that DOE HQ in Washington, DC pulled most of its power away. DOE Albuquerque Office officials were likely one of the targets of the Rocky Flats grand jury, but in 1992 those indictments were quashed and sealed by the federal judge in Colorado.

It looks like power is flowing back to NNSA’s Albuquerque Complex. As the FY 2019 budget justification states, it is ideally located near two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos and Sandia) and next door to the Air Force’s Nuclear Weapons Center (which, for example, handles many billions of dollars in contracts for the Air Force’s new nuclear weapons-related acquisitions, such as the Long Range Standoff cruise missile and future ICBMs).

* * *

National Nuclear Security Administration
U.S Department of Energy
For Immediate Release
April 24, 2018
Contact:  NNSA Public Affairs, (202) 586-7371

Albuquerque Complex Project authorized to begin construction

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) authorized the start of construction of the Albuquerque Complex Project on April 20.

The project will provide a modern, safe, and reliable workspace for approximately 1,200 employees in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who support NNSA’s vital national security missions.

“Our dedicated employees at sites across the country deserve high-quality workspace,” said Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator.  “The Albuquerque Complex Project demonstrates NNSA’s commitment to achieving this goal and modernizing our infrastructure.”

Roughly 98 percent of NNSA’s combined federal and contractor workforce is located outside of the Washington, D.C. area.

The project will allow disposition of the current Albuquerque Complex, reducing NNSA’s total deferred maintenance by approximately $40 million.  It will also replace the existing complex of 25 buildings with a single, state-of-the-art facility.

###

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit www.energy.gov/nnsa for more information.

Call to action! Comments Against WIPP Expansion Needed By April 3rd

Call to action!

Comments on WIPP Expansion Needed By April 3rd

Informational Meeting Is March 8th

 

New Mexico is under growing nuclear attack.

·      Plutonium pit production increases are planned for Los Alamos.

·      There are serious plans for all of the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel to head to NM.

·      WIPP has a major expansion in the works to allow even more radioactive waste into NM.

Today we ask you to join with others to stop a proposed major Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) expansion. Officials at the WIPP are proceeding with a deluge of permit modifications to try to get as much weakening of the Hazardous Waste Permit as they can before 2019.

Because DOE is so far behind emplacing waste at WIPP, including because of the three-year shutdown from the 2014 radiation release, and they are running out of underground space, they want to change the way waste volume is measured. Since the 1970s, DOE has agreed that the amount of waste is the volume of the outer-most container. Now, DOE wants to estimate the amount of waste inside each container and use that lesser amount.

By April 3, we need You to submit written comments opposing DOE’s request. If possible, you can find out more at a public meeting (which isn’t for public comments):

“Clarification” of TRU Mixed Waste Disposal Volume Reporting

Thursday, March 8, 2018 3 – 5 p.m.
Courtyard by Marriott, 3347 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico

DOE’s request is at: http://wipp.energy.gov/rcradox/rfc/Volume_of_Record.pdf

 

What to expect at this March 8 meeting:

·      Interested people, including NM Environment Department officials, gathered to discuss this issue in one of the smaller conference rooms

·      Optional sign-in sheet, and DOE handouts of their presentation

·      A presentation of the proposed plan by DOE

·      Question and answer period – Make sure you get all your questions answered

·      No opportunity for formal public comments

 

WIPP is now filling Panel 7 (of 10 originally proposed), which is about 70% of the space. But WIPP has only emplaced ~92,700 m3 of waste (about 53% of the 175,564 m3 allowed). DOE has “lost” more than 30,000 m3 of space by its inefficiency and contractor incompetence. Measuring the waste the proposed new way decreases the ‘amount of waste’ emplaced to date by ~26,000 m3.

The proposed modification is controversial and is part of a larger plan to expand WIPP, but is submitted as a Class 2 Permit Modification Request (PMR), which has lesser public input opportunities.  The public has opposed WIPP expansion for years and decades.  There is significant public concern and interest in the WIPP facility. This PMR should be a Class 3, which includes much more public input, a formal public hearing — a process that could take up to a year.

We will provide sample comments by April 3rd, but your comments are just as important.

The complete Permit Modification Request is here –

http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcra-com-menu.asp

Class 2 Permit Modification Request Clarification of TRU Mixed Waste Disposal Volume Reporting Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Permit, Number NM4890139088-TSDF dated January 31, 2018

http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcradox/rfc/18-0308_Redacted_enclosure.pdf

 

By April 3, please mail or fax or e-mail comments to:

Mr. Ricardo Maestas

New Mexico Environment Department

2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Fax: 505-476-6030

E-mail: ricardo.maestas@state.nm.us

New Radiation Symbol

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities: Benefits for the Select Few

 According to media reports, Andrea Romero, Executive Director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, is accused of charging some $2,200 dollars of unallowable travel costs, such as alcohol and baseball tickets, while lobbying in Washington, DC for additional funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). She in turn accused the nonprofit group Northern New Mexico Protects of political motivations in revealing these questionable expenses. Romero is running in the Democrat Party primary against incumbent state Rep. Carl Trujillo for Santa Fe County’s 46th district in the state House of Representatives.

Perhaps more serious is the fact that Romero was awarded an undisclosed amount of money by the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) for her private business Tall Foods, Tall Goods, a commercial ostrich farm in Ribera, NM. According to a May 8, 2017 Los Alamos Lab news release announcing the award to Tall Foods, Tall Goods, “The VAF was established in 2006 by Los Alamos National Security [LANS], LLC to stimulate the economy by supporting growth-oriented companies.”[1] LANS, primarily composed of the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California, has held the annual ~$2.4 billion Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) management contract since June 2006.

The Regional Development Corporation administers the Venture Acceleration Fund.[2] It states that the median VAF award in 2017 was $41,000, and that preference is given to companies that “Have an association with LANL Technology or Expertise.” [3]

It is, at a minimum, unseemly for the Executive Director of the Regional Coalition, which lobbies for increased LANL funding, to receive funding for her private business from LANS, who runs LANL.[4] Ultimately that funding for her private business comes from the American taxpayer.

Romero’s employer, the Regional Coalition, is overwhelmingly funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Los Alamos County government, which receives more than $30 million dollars annually from the Lab through state gross receipts taxes. The Regional Coalition has been lobbying the New Mexico legislature to pass a state law requiring that LANL continue to pay gross receipts tax in the event that its management contract is taken over by a nonprofit university.[5] If successful, that would help to ensure the Regional Coalition’s funding stream.

Concerning the “adequate funding for LANL” that the Regional Coalition lobbies for, LANL’s annual ~$2.4 billion budget is now 70% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs, while much of its remaining funding either directly or indirectly supports those programs. In partial contradiction, the Cities and Counties of Santa Fe and Taos, which belong to the RCLC, have at various times passed resolutions against expanded plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons and/or called for genuine comprehensive cleanup at the Lab.

Despite its rhetoric on producing jobs through cleanup, the Regional Coalition has yet to take a position advocating for genuine comprehensive cleanup at LANL. Instead, the Coalition seems to condone DOE and LANL plans to “cap and cover” and leave ~150,000 cubic meters of radioactive and toxic wastes permanently buried in unlined pits and trenches at the Lab’s largest waste dump, Area G.[6] This will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above the regional groundwater aquifer, three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Radioactive and toxic wastes are buried directly in the ground without liners, and migration of plutonium has been detected 200 feet below Area G’s surface.[7]

In September 2016 the Department of Energy released a 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary[8] of proposed future cleanup at LANL, which RCLC Executive Director Romero hailed as:

The Lifecycle Baseline documentation provides our communities the necessary foundation to properly advocate on behalf of the best possible scenarios for cleaning up legacy nuclear waste at the Laboratory in the most time and cost-efficient manner. After years of requests for this document, we now have the tool that can get us to additional cleanup dollars to get the job done.[9]

However, at the beginning of the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary DOE declares that “An estimated 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste remains, of which approximately 2,400 cm [cubic meters] is retrievably stored below ground”, a claim which was widely reported in New Mexican media. From there DOE estimated that it would cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion to complete so-called cleanup around 2040, which is woefully low. The DOE report omits any mention of the ~150,000 cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, an amount 30 times larger than DOE acknowledges. As a partial result, DOE funding for cleanup at LANL remains flat at around $190 million per year, when the New Mexico Environment Department is on record that $250 million per year is needed.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented,

New Mexicans often hear from the Department of Energy and our congressional delegation how nuclear weapons programs economically benefit us. If that’s the case, why is it that New Mexico has fallen from 37th in per capita income in 1957 to 48th in 2017? [10] Why is it that while Los Alamos County is the second richest county in the USA, Main Street Española hasn’t significantly changed for the better in the last 40 years? It’s clear that the economic benefits of the nuclear weapons industry go only to the select few, while to its shame New Mexico as a whole continues to be ranked as the second worst state for children.

# # #

[Copying URLs into browsers is recommended.]

[1]     LANL’ s May 8, 2017 news release Six northern New Mexico businesses awarded funds to boost growth is available at http://www.lanl.gov/discover/news-release-archive/2017/May/0518-6-nnm-business-awarded-funds.php

[2]     “The RDC [Regional Development Corporation] was incorporated in 1996 to serve as the Department of Energy (DOE) Los Alamos Site “Community Reuse Organization” (CRO). As a CRO, the RDC’s mission is to diversify the economy within the north central New Mexico region. As a result, the RDC maintains a special working relationship with both the DOE and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).” https://rdcnm.org/about/

[3]     See https://rdcnm.org/vaf/

[4]     The mission statement of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is

… the Regional Coalition works in partnership to create one voice to ensure national decisions incorporate local needs and concerns. The organization’s focus is community and economic development, site employment, environmental remediation, and adequate funding for LANL. The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is comprised of nine cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). https://regionalcoalition.org/about

[5]     Four universities are currently vying for the LANL management contract: Purdue (with corporate partner Bechtel), the University of California, the University of Texas, and Texas A&M (DOE Secretary Rick Perry’s alma mater). Corporate partners for the last three have not been disclosed.

[6]     Estimated quantities of waste at Area G (in cubic yards) are from Table G3.41, MDA G Corrective Measures Evaluation, 2011, LANS, p. G-13. See excerpts at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Area_G_Pit_Totals_from_CME_rev3_Sept-2011.pdf

[7]     Documentation of the plutonium detection 200 feet below the surface of Area G is at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/AGCME Plate_B-3_radionuclides_subsurface.pdf

[8]     The Department of Energy’s 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary for LANL cleanup is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/LBC-Summary-Aug-2016.pdf

[9]     https://www.santafenm.gov/news/detail/department_of_energy_release_important_baseline_study

[10]   NM per capita income at https://www.bea.gov/regional/bearfacts/pdf.cfm

Major LANL Cleanup Subcontractor Implicated in Fraud; Entire Los Alamos Cleanup Should Be Re-evaluated

 On December 17, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a separate $1.4 billion contract for cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos, LLC (also known as “N3B”).[1] This award followed a DOE decision to pull cleanup from LANL’s prime contractor, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), after it sent an improperly prepared radioactive waste drum that ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). That incident contaminated 21 workers and closed WIPP for nearly three years, costing taxpayers at least $1.5 billion to reopen.

Tetra Tech Inc is a major subcontractor for N3B in the LANL cleanup contract. Tetra Tech is part of Tech2 Solutions, and will be responsible for the groundwater and storm water programs at LANL that are of intense interest to the New Mexico Environment Department and citizen environmentalists.[2] To date, these programs have been supported by several New Mexico small businesses that will be displaced by Tetra Tech.

Serious allegations of fraud by Tetra Tech were raised long before the LANL cleanup contract was awarded. The US Navy found that the company had committed wide spread radiological data falsification, doctored records and supporting documentation, and covered-up fraud at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard cleanup project in San Francisco, CA. See media links and excerpts below.

The award of the LANL cleanup contract that includes Tetra Tech raises serious questions about the DOE’s contract evaluation and award process, and the Department’s due diligence in reviewing the performance histories of companies bidding for DOE work. To put this in broad perspective, the DOE’s nuclear weapons and cleanup programs have the singular distinction of being on the congressional Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for fraud, waste and abuse since 1990.

Potential groundwater contamination is of intense interest to New Mexicans. As late as 1996 the Los Alamos Lab was officially declaring that groundwater contamination was impossible because the overlying volcanic tuff was “impermeable.” LANL even went so far as to request a waiver from NMED to not have to monitor groundwater contamination at all (which fortunately NMED denied). What the Lab, which advertises its “scientific excellence,” omitted to say is that the Parajito Plateau’s geology is highly complex and deeply fractured, providing ready pathways for contaminants to reach groundwater. Indeed, in just the last few months Nuclear Watch forced LANL to admit that its chromium hexavalent-6 groundwater contamination plume is much bigger than previously thought.[3]

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch Research Director, commented, “It took years for the DOE Environmental Management Office in Los Alamos to put a cleanup contract in place. We are seriously disappointed that there are major problems before the contract even starts. This situation shines a light on the cozy DOE contractor system, where every cleanup site has different combinations of the same contractors. Call it different trees, but the same old monkeys, where the real priority is to profit off of taxpayers dollars before a shovel turns over any waste.”

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, added, “The entire LANL cleanup program needs to be rethought.” In September 2016 DOE released a 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary[4] of proposed future cleanup at LANL. At the beginning of that document the Department declared, “An estimated 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste remains, of which approximately 2,400 cm [cubic meters] is retrievably stored below ground”, which was widely reported in New Mexican media. From there DOE estimated that it will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion to complete so-called cleanup around 2040, which is woefully low.

However, the DOE report was far from honest. It intentionally omitted any mention of approximately 150,000 cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes just at Area G (LANL’s largest waste dump) alone, an amount of wastes 30 times larger than DOE admits in the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate.

In reality, DOE and LANL plan to not clean up Area G, instead installing an “engineered cover” and leaving the wastes permanently buried. This will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above the regional groundwater aquifer, three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Radioactive and toxic wastes are buried directly in the ground without liners, and migration of plutonium has been detected 200 feet below Area G’s surface.[5]

“In sum,” Coghlan concluded, “DOE should take a cue from the president and tell TetraTech “you’re fired!” Beyond that, after the current governor gets out of the way, the New Mexico Environment Department should completely reevaluate cleanup at LANL and force the Lab to genuinely clean up, which it is failing to do now.”

# # #

Media excerpts (copying URLs into browser is recommended):

June 29, 2017, well before the LANL cleanup contract was awarded- https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Ex-SF-Navy-shipyard-workers-allege-fraud-in-11257774.php

Ex-SF Navy shipyard workers allege fraud in radiation cleanup By J.K. Dineen Published 9:06 pm, Thursday, June 29, 2017 “The cleanup of radioactive contamination at the Hunters Point Shipyard was marred by widespread fraud, faked soil samples, and a high-pressure culture where speed was valued over accuracy and safety, according to four former site workers…” “Questions over the accuracy of the soil tests emerged in October 2012, when the Navy discovered that some results were inconsistent with results from previous samples collected in the same areas.” “In a statement, Tetra Tech spokesman Charlie MacPherson said the company “emphatically denies the allegations made by individuals at today’s news conference that Tetra Tech engaged in a cover-up of fraud on the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.”

Jan 31, 2018: https://sf.curbed.com/2018/1/31/16956458/hunters-point-toxic-cleanup-navy-responds-san-francisco

Navy: Do-over of $250 million cleanup at Hunters Point necessary Unknown delay for city’s biggest redevelopment project By Chris Roberts@cbloggy “…According to a review of Tetra Tech’s data, triggered by allegations of fraud first made in 2011 and 2012, as much as half of Tetra tech’s work contains problems. That’s enough for the Navy to lose trust in all of the company’s data, Derek Robinson, the Navy’s coordinator for cleanup at the shipyard, said in an interview on Tuesday. “We’ve lost confidence” in Tetra Tech’s work, said Robinson. “All areas” at the shipyard where Tetra Tech did work will be re-tested, beginning as early as this summer… Problems with Tetra Tech’s data first surfaced in 2011 and 2012, when contractors and workers at the shipyard stepped forward with allegations of fraud…”

Jan 26, 2018 https://sf.curbed.com/2018/1/26/16916742/hunters-point-shipyard-toxic-cleanup Almost half of toxic cleanup at Hunters Point Shipyard is questionable or faked, according to initial review City’s goals for housing, affordable housing in doubt after fraud at city’s biggest redevelopment project “much worse” than thought By Chris Roberts@cbloggy,

[1]     See https://energy.gov/em/articles/doe-awards-new-los-alamos-legacy-cleanup-contract

[2]     See http://tech2.solutions/projects/lanl/

[3]     The dangers of chromium-hexavalent 6 were made famous in the film Erin Brocovitch.

[4]     The Department of Energy’s 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary for LANL cleanup is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/LBC-Summary-Aug-2016.pdf

[5]     Documentation of the plutonium detection 200 feet below the surface of Area G is at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/AGCME Plate_B-3_radionuclides_subsurface.pdf

Detailed NNSA Budget Documents Accelerates Nuclear Weapons Arms Race

Late Friday February 23 the Trump Administration released the detailed FY 2019 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the federal Department of Energy. Overall, NNSA is receiving a $2.2 billion boost to $15.1 billion, a 17% increase above the FY 2018 enacted level. Of that, a full $11 billion is for the budget category [Nuclear] “Weapons Activities”, 18% above the FY 2018 level. Of concern to the American taxpayer, DOE and NNSA nuclear weapons programs have been on the congressional Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse since its inception in 1990.

Under Trump’s budget, funding for nuclear warhead dismantlements stay flat at $56 million, (point).5% of NNSA’s total nuclear weapons budget, despite the fact that dismantlements save taxpayers by eliminating constant security costs.[1] NNSA’s Nonproliferation Programs are budgeted at $1.86 billion, only 16% the size of the nuclear weapons budget. Funding for DOE cleanup of Cold War legacy wastes remains flat, in a number of cases insufficient to meet legal milestones. Meanwhile, the Department of Energy cuts sustainable transportation, renewable energy and energy efficiency by 33%.

Some selected NNSA FY 2019 nuclear weapons budget highlights are:

  • Funding is tripled from $218.76 million to $654.77 million for the W80-4 Life Extension Program for a Long Range Standoff nuclear warhead,[2] (slated for $804 million in FY 2022). This is for a new dual-use air launched cruise missile (ALCM), which is particularly destabilizing because ALCMs can evade radar by hugging topography. In addition, the targeted adversary has no way of knowing until it is hit whether the payload is conventional or nuclear. The LRSO nuclear weapon is arguably redundant to the new B61-12 nuclear bomb, to be delivered by the new super-stealthy new B21 Raider heavy bomber (whose astronomical costs are kept classified by the Air Force).
  • Funding for the world’s first nuclear smart bomb, the B61-12, is increased from $611.9 million to $794 million, with a First Production Unit scheduled for March 2020. As part of the escalating Cold War II arms race, its main mission is to be forward deployed in NATO countries against Russia.
  • The Obama Administration had delayed the Interoperable Warhead (IW) for five years. The IW-1 is very much back as a $53 million FY 2019 budget line item, up from $0 in FY 2018. The NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs are proposing three different types of interoperable warheads, which all together could cost more than $40 billion.

The IW-1 is supposed to be interoperable between the Air Force’s W78 intercontinental ballistic missile warhead and the Navy’s W88 sub-launched warhead. However, a 2012 memo leaked to Nuclear Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs shows that the Navy never supported it.[3] In addition, NNSA is beginning a $3 billion “alteration” to the W88 that will refresh its high explosives and give it a new fuze, making the Navy even less inclined to support the IW. The Interoperable Warhead is a huge make work project for the labs, particularly the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Nevertheless, the IW is the programmatic drive for expanded production of plutonium pits at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which will incur many more billions in costs.

  • Trump’s recently released Nuclear Posture Review proposed quick development of a low-yield sub-launched Trident missile warhead. While not yet a separate budget line item, NNSA’s FY 2019 hints at dedicated funding next year:

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review states that the United States will modify a small quantity of existing SLBM [submarine launched ballistic missiles] warheads to provide a low-yield option in the near-term. As the Nuclear Weapons Council translates policy into military requirements, the Administration will work with Congress for appropriate authorizations and appropriations to develop options that support the modification. (P. 80)

  • Plutonium Sustainment” is nearly doubled from $184 million to $361 million. NNSA’s FY 2019 budget says this will:

[S]upport fabrication of four to five development (DEV) W87 pits… and the selection of a single preferred alternative for plutonium pit production beyond 30 war reserve pits per year… (P. 57)

The increase represents the following:

Supports additional personnel, equipment, and certification activities needed to ramp pit production to meet mandated pit production requirements.

Supports additional infrastructure investments to meet requirements by the Nuclear Weapons Council to produce no fewer than 80 war reserve pits per year. (P. 117)

  This is significant for a number of reasons. First, as mentioned above, “plutonium pit production beyond 30 war reserve pits per year” is driven by the Interoperable Warhead, which the Navy doesn’t want and is a radically different design that could prompt a return to full-scale nuclear weapons testing. The existing stockpile does not need pit production. Future production is all about future new nuclear weapons designs.

The W87 pits mentioned above are for the Interoperable Warhead. Inside sources indicate that they will not be exact replicas, but instead may have additional built-in “surety” mechanisms to prevent unauthorized use. A serious concern is that any changes to the pit design could perturb the symmetrical implosion process of the plutonium pit, thereby potentially degrading confidence in weapons reliability.

Finally, there are serious doubts that the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the current site of plutonium pit production, is capable of more producing more than 30 pits per year.[4] This may lead to the relocation of the plutonium pit production mission to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, or more likely in Nuclear Watch’s view production at both places.[5]

Despite the uncertainty of where future expanded plutonium pit production is going to be located, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at LANL is slated to be increased from $181 million in FY 2018 to $235 million in FY 2019. Increasing the plutonium limit 10-fold to 400 grams in the CMRR “Rad Lab” is the main priority, for which NNSA has just issued notice of an environmental assessment.[6] The purpose of the increase is to dramatically expand the Rad Lab’s capabilities for materials characterization[7] and analytical chemistry,[8] all in direct support of expanded plutonium pit production.[9]

  • The Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, TN, is increased to $703 million from $663 million, and is projected to go to $750 million in FY 2021, with construction to start soon. The UPF will produce future thermonuclear components that put the “H” in H-bomb. It was halted after a half-billion design mistake for which no one was held responsible, and a Defense Department estimate that it would cost $19 billion.

NNSA’s FY 2019 budget repeats the original claim that the UPF will cost only $6.5 billion. However, after downscoping the original UPF because of costs, NNSA now omits the costs of continued operations at two dangerous old facilities previously slated for decontamination and decommissioning.[10] Moreover, after a team of Lockheed Martin and Bechtel won the Y-12 management contract, it awarded UPF construction to Bechtel without competition. Bechtel is responsible for some of the biggest cost overruns in the DOE complex, for example the Waste Treatment Facility at Hanford (originally $3.5 billion, now $13.5 billion and may never work).

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “This rapid arms race build up is not going to make us safer. We don’t need thousands of nuclear weapons to deter North Korea. A new arms race with Russia is a giant step backwards. Further enriching the usual nuclear weapons contractors is the wrong priority when instead taxpayers’ money should be making our schools safe and rebuilding our country.”

# # #

NNSA’s FY 2019 detailed Congressional Budget Request is available at https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2018/02/f49/DOE-FY2019-Budget-Volume-1.pdf

[1]     Some 2,500 retired nuclear weapons are estimated to be in the dismantlement queue.

[2]     “Standoff” means that a B52 carrying the LRSO nuclear weapon can position itself some 1,500 miles from the intended target.

[3]     See 2012 Navy memo leaked to Nuclear Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs at  https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf

[4]     It should also be noted that major proposed federal actions are required to have public review and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), followed by an agency’s formal Record of Decision (ROD). After completing a 1996 a Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to relocate pit production to LANL from the Rocky Flats Plant, DOE issued a ROD limiting production to 20 pits per year. Nuclear Watch believes that NNSA plans to expand production beyond 20 pits per year require a new programmatic environmental impact statement.

[5]     An engineering study, reportedly based on an assumed production rate of 50 pits per year, is reportedly due this week, which may soon clarify this situation (however, it may be classified).

[6]     The 30-day public comment period ends March 26, 2018. Comments should be sent to emailed to RLUOBEA@hq.doe.gov or mailed to NNSA Los Alamos Field Office, ATTN: CMRR Project Management Office, 3747 West Jemez Road, Los Alamos, NM 87544. Nuclear Watch will post sample comments at www.nukewatch.org by March 16.

[7]     Materials characterization ensures that the plutonium and/or highly enriched uranium are of sufficient “weapons-grade” to begin pit production to begin with.

[8]     Analytical chemistry performs up to a hundred quality control samples per pit as it is being produced.

[9]     For more, please see https://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/PR-2-22-18-CMRR_Rad_Lab_draft_EA.pdf

[10]     In addition, the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says these two old facilities can never be brought up to modern seismic standards, while a few years ago the US Geologic Survey dramatically raised projected potential seismic risks in eastern Tennessee.

Trump’s Budget Dramatically Increases Nuclear Weapons Work

In keeping with the Trump Administration’s recent controversial Nuclear Posture Review, today’s just released FY 2019 federal budget dramatically ramps up nuclear weapons research and production.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, is receiving a $2.2 billion overall boost to $15.1 billion, a 17% increase above the FY 2018 enacted level. Of that, a full $11 billion is for the budget category (Nuclear) “Weapons Activities”, 18% above the FY 2018 level.

Digging deeper under Weapons Activities, “Directed Stockpile Work” is increased from $3.3 billion to $4.7 billion, or 41%. Directed Stockpile Work is the hands on, nut and bolts operations that include extending the service lives of existing nuclear weapons for up to 60 years, while also endowing them with new military capabilities.

In addition, NNSA budget documents show “Weapons Activities (Reimbursable)” (parentheses in the original), adding another $1.76 billion to NNSA’s Nuclear Weapons Activities, for a total of $12.78 billion. It is not made clear where that additional money comes from, but most likely is from the Defense Department, as it has been in the past.

Of concern to the American taxpayer, DOE and NNSA nuclear weapons programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project mismanagement and fraud, waste and abuse since its inception in 1990.

Meanwhile, NNSA Nonproliferation Programs are budgeted at $1.86 billion, only 16% the size of the nuclear weapons budget. Further, the State Department is being cut by $10.4 billion to $28.3 billion (a 29% cut), while many senior diplomatic positions are left unfilled (such as the U.S. ambassador to South Korea), even as the possibility of peace on the Korean peninsula is breaking out.

The NNSA budget also reiterates the executive branch’s intent to terminate the Mixed Oxide (MOX) program, designed to “burn” military plutonium in commercial reactors. That program would introduce plutonium to the global market, contrary to its stated intent as a nonproliferation program. It has also been a debacle in terms of cost overruns, blown schedules and lack of contractor accountability, kept alive only by South Carolina congressional political pork interests.

However, the MOX program’s slow demise puts yet more pressure on New Mexico to become the nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground, with up to 35 tons of military plutonium potentially headed for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (which already lacks capacity for currently scheduled wastes). In addition, the Trump budget increases funding for so-called interim storage of spent nuclear fuel rods, the nation’s deadliest high-level radioactive wastes. There are two separate proposals for “interim” storage of 100 tons of spent nuclear fuel in either southern New Mexico or just on the other side of the border with Texas.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) received an increase to $397 million, $106 million above the FY 2018 level. This starts the expansion of WIPP with a new ventilation shaft that has silently morphed from replacing the old contaminated exhaust shaft into being an additional intake shaft. Plans are underway for a new filter building, which will replace the capabilities lost due to the 2014 radiological release caused by an improperly prepared radioactive waste drum from the Los Alamos Lab. That closed WIPP for nearly three years, costing the American taxpayer at least $1.5 billion to reopen. The planned new intake shaft will greatly increase WIPP”s capabilities, allowing for expansion to take more of the nation’s radioactive wastes.

The cleanup request for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) stays flat at $192 million. The basis for this is DOE’s woefully low lifecycle cost estimate for LANL cleanup, which in turned is predicated upon the New Mexico Environment Department’s revised cleanup Consent Order. Under Governor Susana Martinez, the revised Consent Order allows DOE and LANL to fund so-called cleanup at levels they choose, rather than needed cleanup driving the funding.

The Los Alamos Lab explicitly plans to leave permanently buried 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and hazardous wastes in unlined pits and trenches, above our groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Once those wastes are “capped and covered”, LANL plans to claim that “cleanup” is completed.

Finally, under Trump’s budget, the Department of Energy cuts sustainable transportation, renewable energy and energy efficiency by 33% and zeroes out weatherization programs.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch commented,

The Trump budget prepares for nuclear war, in which even Ronald Reagan said there can’t be any winners. It finances a new Cold War arms race with Russia and indirectly increases the chances of a nuclear war with North Korea. It sets back nonproliferation and cleanup programs, and further hollows out our country by diverting yet more huge sums of money to the usual fat cat nuclear weapons contractors. Come November, voters should vote their conscience over how the federal government under Trump prioritizes their tax dollars for good or ill.

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Nuclear Watch New Mexico will provide more budget information on our web site www.nukewatch and blog www.nukewatch.org/watchblog as it becomes available. The available budget documents are still not detailed enough for new issues and programs that we are keenly interested in, such as new, more usable mininukes and expanded plutonium pit production at LANL.

 

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