Nuclear News Archive

Dangerous chromium plume closer to Los Alamos County well

Chemical contamination more than four times the state limit was detected late last month at the edge of a plume in the aquifer roughly 1,000 feet below Los Alamos National Laboratory.

BY REBECCA MOSS | santafenewmexican.com June 21, 2019

It is the closest high-level measurement of hexavalent chromium detected near the well used to pump drinking water to Los Alamos County, roughly a third of a mile away.

“Our drinking water supply is safe, and we are vigilantly working to keep it that way,” said Tim Glasco, utilities manager for Los Alamos County.

Hexavelent chromium, an industrial chemical tied to lung and other cancers, was found pooled below Sandia and Mortandad canyons in 2005, and environmental managers have since been working to define the full scope of the contamination. It spans at least a mile long and half-mile wide, and abuts San Ildefonso Pueblo.

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"If a nuclear weapon were to explode right now, what would you choose? Live or die?"  Over the course of a brutally honest conversation between two friends, the International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC) powerful short film  shows the catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the psychological trauma which would inevitably result from their use - and why we need to ban them.  So powerful, in fact, that it just won a Bronze Lion at the Cannes Lions Festival, one of the highest recognitions in the creative and advertising industry!

At ICAN works closely with the ICRC and celebrates their work to raise awareness about the unacceptable humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the need for all countries to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons.

Powerful storytelling like this will help open eyes all over the world. Help us spread this message further:

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Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, anti-war activist and former US military analyst famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, joins Joe Cirincione for a rare in-depth interview. Daniel discusses what he learned about US nuclear strategy during his time working at the RAND Corporation and the Pentagon, the use of deterrence theory to justify current nuclear arsenals, and the morality of threatening nuclear war.

Also: Early Warning nuclear news analysis with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Roger L. Hale Fellow Catherine Killough https://www.ploughshares.org/pressthebutton
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Executed for being an anti-nuclear activist

The incredible unknown story of “nuclear martyr” Nikos Nikiforidis
Credit: beyondnuclearinternational.org

The incredible unknown story of “nuclear martyr” Nikos Nikiforidis

On March 5, 1951, 22-year-old Nikos Nikiforidis was executed in Greece because he was promoting the Stockholm Antinuclear Appeal (1950). Honoring his death, Greek IPPNW and PADOP organized an event this March in Athens to commemorate him and his courage. Below is an amalgamation of two presentations given about Nikiforidis at that event.

BY MARIA ARVANITI SOTIROPOULOU & PANOS TRIGAZIS | beyondnuclearinternational.org

Under present conditions, it seems inconceivable that a 22-year-old fighter for the anti-nuclear movement was arrested, sentenced to death by court martial and executed in Thessaloniki, on a charge of collecting signatures under the Stockholm Appeal for the abolition and prohibition of all nuclear weapons. But Nikos Nikiforidis was the first person (and perhaps also the only one) in the world to suffer such a fate.

At that time, the cold war was at its height on the international stage, and Greece was geographically on the border of the two worlds, the prevailing doctrine of its foreign policy being the “threat from the north”.

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New Mexico land boss concerned with nuclear waste proposal

BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says southeastern New Mexico, which is home to one of the world’s most prolific oil and gas basins, is not the right place for storing spent nuclear fuel.

In a letter to Holtec International, she outlined her concerns about plans to build a multibillion-dollar facility that would be capable of temporarily storing tons of high-level radioactive waste from commercial reactors around the U.S.

Nearly 2,500 oil and gas wells and other mineral developments operated by dozens of different businesses are located within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius of the proposed site. Garcia Richard contends that storing the waste above active oil, gas and mining operations raises serious safety concerns.

She accused the company of not addressing the potential safety issues and suggested that it hasn’t been forthcoming in its filings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is considering whether to issue a 40-year license for the facility.

“There is no guarantee that high-level nuclear waste can be safely transported to and through New Mexico. There is no guarantee that there won’t be a hazardous interaction between the storage site and nearby oil, gas and mining activities. There is no guarantee that this site will truly be ‘interim’ and won’t become the permanent dumping ground for our nation’s nuclear waste,” she said in a statement.

Holtec International has argued that the federal government has unmet obligations to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of waste building up at nuclear power plants and the proposed facility is needed.

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LANL cleanup costs continue piling up

The U.S. Department of Energy in 2016 drafted a list of 17 projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory and in the surrounding town to clean up soil and groundwater that remained contaminated decades after the Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear weapons work.

At the time, more than $2 billion had been spent in a decade on environmental cleanup projects. The Department of Energy estimated it would cost another $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion to finish the job — and up to 25 more years.

The work is far from complete.

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said cleanup costs have been “woefully underestimated,” and that an updated cost analysis is overdue.

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New Mexico Is Divided Over The ‘Perfect Site’ To Store Nation’s Nuclear Waste


“Why should we be the ones to take this negative project on and put up with the consequences?”
says Rose Gardner, a florist who lives 35 miles from the proposed site. “We know it’s supposed to be consent-based. They’re not getting consent. The actual people aren’t for it. And without community support, it won’t go.”

BY NATHAN ROTT | npr.org (originally published April 11, 2019)

Thirty-five miles out of Carlsbad, in the pancake-flat desert of southeast New Mexico, there’s a patch of scrub-covered dirt that may offer a fix — albeit temporarily — to one of the nation’s most vexing and expensive environmental problems: What to do with our nuclear waste?

Despite more than 50 years of searching and billions of dollars spent, the federal government still hasn’t been able to identify a permanent repository for nuclear material. No state seems to want it.

So instead, dozens of states are stuck with it. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, a still-radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, is spread across the country at power plants and sites in 35 states.

The issue has dogged politicians for decades. Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently described the situation as a “logjam.” But some hope that this remote, rural corner of New Mexico may present a breakthrough.

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Public Hearing on Safety Management of Waste Storage and Processing in the Defense Nuclear Facilities Complex

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) held a public hearing on June 20th at its Washington, DC Headquarters. The DNFSB’s goals for the hearing were (1) to discuss Department of Energy (DOE) actions to strengthen the safety posture of solid waste operations and (2) gather information on safety controls to address the vulnerabilities associated with handling and processing solid nuclear wastes.

The Live Stream of the Hearing can be seen here: http://stream.sparkstreetdigital.com/20190620-dnfsb.html?id=20190620-dnfsb

The Board will hold the hearing record open until the close of business on July 20, 2019.

Members of the public can submit written comments to hearing@dnfsb.gov until July 20.

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Nuclear Waste Storage Concerns Raised By Panel Members During Santa Fe Forum

Participating in a panel on nucelar waste in New Mexico Wednesday in Santa Fe
Participating in a panel on nucelar waste in New Mexico Wednesday June 19, 2019 in Santa Fe were, from left, Don Hancock, Sally Rodgers, Rep. Christine Chandler and State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

BY MAIRE O’NEILL
maire@losalamosreporter.com

Multiple concerns were raised by panel members Wednesday June 21, 2019 during a forum on nuclear waste in the state of New Mexico hosted by the Santa Fe Democratic Party Platform and Resolutions Committee at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe.

Land Commissioner Garcia Richard said her office has direct oversight of mineral leasing at the proposed Holtec site. She made public a letter she sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expressing her concerns about representations made by Holtec to the NRC and New Mexicans about its control of the proposed site as well as agreements it claims to have secured from the state Land Office. She said while the Eddy-Leah County Energy Alliance LLC privately owns the surface of the proposed site, the State Land Office owns the mineral estate and that has not been disclosed by Holtec.

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Hypersonic Missiles Are Unstoppable. And They’re Starting a New Global Arms Race.

A Mach 14 Waverider glide vehicle, which takes its name from its ability to generate high lift and ride on its own shock waves. This shape is representative of the type of systems the United States is developing today. Credit: Dan Winters for The New York Times
A Mach 14 Waverider glide vehicle, which takes its name from its ability to generate high lift and ride on its own shock waves. This shape is representative of the type of systems the United States is developing today. Credit: Dan Winters for The New York Times

How hypersonic missiles — which travel at more than 15 times the speed of sound — are touching off a new global arms race that threatens to change the nature of warfare.

[T]he new document “is very much conceived as a war-fighting doctrine – not simply a deterrence doctrine, and that’s unsettling”. – Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who downloaded and publicized the new policy document before the Pentagon pulled it from the internet.

BY R. JEFFREY SMITH | publicintegrity.org (This story was published in partnership with The New York Times Magazine.)

On March 6, 2018, the grand ballroom at the Sphinx Club in Washington was packed with aerospace-industry executives waiting to hear from Michael D. Griffin. Weeks earlier, Secretary of Defense James Mattis named the 69-year-old Maryland native as the Pentagon’s under secretary for research and engineering, a job that comes with an annual budget of more than $17 billion. So the dark-suited attendees at the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Programs Conference were eager to learn what type of work he would favor.

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Nuclear weapons: experts alarmed by new Pentagon ‘war-fighting’ doctrine

North Korean ballistic missiles. The document said nuclear weapons could ‘create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability’. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images
North Korean ballistic missiles. The document said nuclear weapons could ‘create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability’. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

US joint chiefs of staff posted then removed paper that suggests nuclear weapons could ‘create conditions for decisive results’

[T]he new document “is very much conceived as a war-fighting doctrine – not simply a deterrence doctrine, and that’s unsettling”. – Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who downloaded and publicized the new policy document before the Pentagon pulled it from the internet.

theguardian.com | The Pentagon believes using nuclear weapons could “create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability”, according to a new nuclear doctrine adopted by the US joint chiefs of staff last week.

The document, entitled Nuclear Operations, was published on 11 June, and was the first such doctrine paper for 14 years. Arms control experts say it marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war – which they believe is a highly dangerous mindset.

“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” the joint chiefs’ document says. “Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

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Government watchdog finds 3 issues disrupting US nuclear modernization efforts

Sandia National Laboratories researchers perform series of tests to study fragmenting explosives. The lab is part of the NNSA. (Courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)
Sandia National Laboratories researchers perform series of tests to study fragmenting explosives. The lab is part of the NNSA. (Courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)

BY KELSEY REICHMANN | defensenews.com June 20, 2019

WASHINGTON — The U.S. agency responsible for making explosive materials used in nuclear weapons is facing challenges that could impact the country’s planned modernization of its nuclear arsenal, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department, is facing three main challenges, according to the report: a dwindling supply of explosive materials, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and difficulty in recruiting and training qualified staff.

This report comes amid congressional debate over the cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, an effort driven by President Donald Trump.

NNSA’s supply of materials, which are “highly specialized” with specific chemical and physical characteristics, are in low supply, the report says. Furthermore, the NNSA is lacking the knowledge base to produce the materials, as the recipes to make them were not well-documented, or the processes themselves infrequently practiced, the report notes.

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Center for International Policy Calls for Realistic Defense Spending — $1.2 Trillion in Savings Over 10 Years — Eliminate Space Force, New ICBM, New Nuclear Warheads

Center for International Policy
Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending – REPORT

Washington, D.C.—Today, during a briefing on Capitol Hill, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, which was established by the Washington-based Center for International Policy and includes ex-military officers, former Pentagon officials, and former White House and Congressional budget analysts, released a new report on how the Pentagon can save taxpayer dollars while at the same time improving security for our nation.  The report, A Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending, details how the U.S. can cut over $1.2 trillion in projected Pentagon spending over the next decade while at the same time improving national security. (A link to the full report is above, and a summary can be found here and a two-page fact sheet is here).

“There needs to be a fresh approach to defense strategy that makes America more secure while consuming fewer resources,” stated William Hartung, co-editor of the report.  He continued, “A new strategy must be more restrained than the military-led approach adopted in this century, replacing a policy of perpetual war with one that uses military force only as a last resort when vital security interests are at stake.”

The Sustainable Defense Task Force produced the report to counter the January 2018 National Defense Strategy and the 2019 National Defense Strategy Commission.  “The National Defense Strategy Commission report is an exercise in threat inflation that exaggerates the military threats posed by Russia and China while ignoring urgent, non-military challenges to our security,” said report co-editor Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy.

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Forum addresses plutonium pit expansion at SRS

BY SARAH LEBLANC | augustachronicle.com

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

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

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

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

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Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

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

BY SAMMY FRETWELLthestate.com

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

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

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

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

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

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LETTER: New Mexico governor says no to high-level nuclear waste


FILE – In this Jan 7, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Lujan Grisham is opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States. Gov. Grisham sent a letter Friday, June 7, 2019, to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, saying the interim storage of high-level waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

mynorthwest.com June 7, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor said Friday she’s opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S.

In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy.

She cited the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, as well as million-dollar agricultural interests that help drive the state’s economy.

Any disruption of agricultural or oil and gas activities as a result of a perceived or actual incident would be catastrophic, she said, adding that such a project could discourage future investment in the area.

“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” she wrote.

Holtec International has defended its plans, citing unmet obligations by the federal government to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of waste building up at nuclear power plants.

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The latest episode of Ploughshares Fund’s new podcast, Press the Button, features Donté Stallworth — former NFL wide receiver and now national security wonk.

Hear his remarkable analysis of rising tensions with Iran, Trump’s flaws, and his ideas for a saner nuclear policy: https://www.ploughshares.org/pressthebutton
Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

Halting Holtec – A Challenge for Nuclear Safety Advocates

The loading of 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel has been indefinitely halted at the San Onofre independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), operated by Southern California Edison and designed by Holtec International.

BY JAMES HEDDLEcounterpunch.org

Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fined Southern California Edison an unprecedented $116,000 for failing to report the near drop of an 54 ton canister of radioactive waste, and is delaying giving the go-ahead to further loading operations until serious questions raised by the incident have been resolved.

Critics have long been pointing out that locating a dump for tons of waste, lethal for millions of years, in a densely populated area, adjacent to I-5 and the LA-to-San Diego rail corridor, just above a popular surfing beach, in an earthquake and tsunami zone, inches above the water table, and yards from the rising sea doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense from a public safety standpoint.

The near drop incident last August, revealed by a whistleblower, has drawn further attention to the many defects in the Holtec-designed and manufactured facility.  It has been discovered that the stainless steel canisters, only five-eights inches thick, are being damaged as they are lowered into the site’s concrete silos.  Experts have warned that the scratching or gouging that is occurring makes the thin-walled canisters even more susceptible to corrosion-induced cracking in the salty sea air, risking release of their deadly contents into the environment and even of hydrogen explosions.

Furthermore, critics point out, these thin-walled canisters are welded shut and cannot be inspected, maintained, monitored or repaired.

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How Trump Could Restart the Nuclear Arms Race

Some key arms control agreements could be on the chopping block.

BY FRED KAPLANslate.com

Donald Trump Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by CUTWORLD/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Jack Hill—WPA Pool/Getty Images.

If President Donald Trump doesn’t act quickly, the nuclear arms race, which has been fairly dormant for decades, might break into a gallop.

Trump is famously hostile toward international treaties, especially those that constrain America’s actions, even if they’re actions that no one is particularly keen to take. The Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are all commitments that Trump has ripped up for no good reason.

The scuttling of that last accord, often abbreviated as the INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev (and eliminated all U.S. and Soviet missiles having a range between 500 and 5,000 kilometers), marked the first time Trump abrogated a nuclear arms agreement between the United States and Russia, the two major nuclear powers.

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Bob Peurifoy worked at the Sandia Labs for 39 years, serving as director of nuclear weapon development and retiring as a vice president.  He was the driving force behind many safety improvements to U.S. nuclear weapons and a strong believer in conservative maintenance of the stockpile. Bob was also a strong critic of aggressive Life Extension Programs that further diverged the stockpile from its tested pedigree and wasted taxpayers’ money. As Bob’s friend and colleague Gordon Moe puts it, “Bob’s family and I hope that Bob’s wisdom and reason as reflected in the Tribute will continue to benefit humanity for many more years through its use as a reference by researchers in the field of nuclear weaponry.”
VIEW FULL TRIBUTE – PDF

Nation’s most ambitious project to clean up nuclear weapons waste has stalled at Hanford

The Energy Department’s most environmentally important and technically ambitious project to clean up Cold War nuclear weapons waste has stalled, putting at jeopardy an already long-delayed effort to protect the Columbia River in central Washington.

BY RALPH VARTABEDIAN | latimes.com

Entry sign at Hanford Site, Washington. Photograph taken by Tobin Fricke - January 2005.
Entry sign at Hanford Site, Washington.
Photograph taken by Tobin Fricke – January 2005.

In a terse letter last week, state officials said the environmental project is at risk of violating key federal court orders that established deadlines after past ones were repeatedly missed.

Two multibillion-dollar industrial facilities intended to turn highly radioactive sludge into solid glass at the Hanford nuclear site have been essentially mothballed. Construction was halted in 2012 because of design flaws and Energy Department managers have foundered in finding alternatives, according to the letter that threatens new litigation.

The department has stored 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge left over from the production of plutonium in 177 leaky underground tanks on a desert plateau a few miles from the Columbia River, raising concerns that the material has migrated into groundwater and eventually will reach the largest river in the West.

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Listen to the latest episode of Ploughshares Fund’s new podcast, Press the Button, featuring Eric Schlosser, filmmaker and author of several publications, including Command and Control. This is a particularly powerful episode to share. Eric is clear and compelling about the inherent risks of our deterrence strategy, the fallibility of the US nuclear command and control and the horrors from the use of just one nuclear weapon. He is one of the most compelling advocates on our issues in the country today. It’s worth a listen!

You can listen here: https://www.ploughshares.org/pressthebutton
Or – Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

HASC Panel’s Bill Could Slow-Roll NNSA’s Planned S.C. Pit Plant

The Department of Energy would no longer have to make 80 plutonium pits a year by the end of the next decade, if legislation unveiled Monday in the Democrat-controlled House becomes law.

EXCHANGE MONITOR | June 4, 2019

The legislation, due for a vote Tuesday by House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee “would repeal the requirement for the Secretary of Energy to demonstrate the capability to produce war reserve plutonium pits at a rate sufficient to produce 80 pits per year by 2027,” according to the subcommittee’s portion of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The NDAA is the annual policy bill that sets funding limits for defense programs including those managed by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The full House Armed Services Committee is set to vote on the entire House NDAA on June 12.

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New, More Usable Nukes for Trump? No.

Congress should use the new defense authorization bill to bar the deployment of new, dangerous, and redundant nuclear weapons.

REP. TED W. LIEU D-CALIFORNIA &  SEN. EDWARD J. MARKEY D-MASSACHUSETTS | defenseone.com

U.S. NAVY / MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS JAMES KIMBER | The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
U.S. NAVY / MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS JAMES KIMBER |
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

The United States has the world’s most powerful military ever. It spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined and has developed many of the most destructive conventional weapons ever created to ensure that America can address any threat. Congress consistently authorizes investments in innovative technology and weaponry to protect our country and our allies. We also possess a strong nuclear deterrent.

These are insanely destructive weapons with an unparalleled ability to kill and destroy, both instantly and for years afterward from the nuclear fallout. Nuclear weapons should never, ever be used first and new nuclear weapons must not be designed to be more usable.

Yet last year, the Trump Administration came to Congress with just such a request to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear warhead for our submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Trident D5. Congress foolishly authorized the development of this warhead on a party-line vote, but there is still time to correct course.

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Could Trump Trash The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

Think of what the world would be like if Russia, the United States, China, India and Pakistan were testing nuclear weapons.

BY MICHAEL KREPONforbes.com

They are not because of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is responsible for shutting down nuclear testing by major and regional powers for more than two decades. Walking away from the CTBT would be extraordinarily dumb and dangerous, but the Trump administration has taken a step in this direction.

The CTBT was negotiated in 1996, but it isn’t solidly in place. While Russia has signed and ratified it, Senate Republicans rejected it in 1999. China, like the United States, has signed but not ratified. There are other holdouts, including India and Pakistan. And yet none of these states has tested nuclear weapons since 1998. When a treaty is negotiated, it’s common diplomatic practice not to undercut its objectives while awaiting its entry into force. Hence the two-decades-long moratorium on testing by every nuclear-armed state except North Korea.

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Billion-dollar LANL building has plumbing problem

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

SANTA FE – A building at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a price pegged at more than $1 billion apparently has some bad plumbing.

A federal safety oversight board recently reported that the operations staff at the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building found a leak in the building’s radioactive liquid waste system.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a frequent LANL critic who called attention to the recent safety board report, said the plumbing problem is symptomatic of the lab’s history of safety issues, which has included using the wrong kind of cat litter as a desiccant when packing a radioactive waste drum. A reaction in the drum caused it to breach in 2014 and contaminate the nation’s nuclear waste storage facility near Carlsbad.

Read the complete article here

30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China’s Communist rulers.

In the 1980s, China was going through huge changes. The ruling Communist Party began to allow some private companies and foreign investment. Leader Deng Xiaoping hoped to boost the economy and raise living standards. However, the move brought with it corruption, while at the same time raising hopes for greater political openness. The Communist Party was divided between those urging more rapid change and hardliners wanting to maintain strict state control. In the mid-1980s, student-led protests started, and in spring 1989, the protests grew, with demands for greater political freedom. On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops were sent to crush pro-democracy student protests in the famous square in central Beijing, leaving at least hundreds—and possibly thousands—of people dead.

The casualties included soldiers, but were overwhelmingly unarmed demonstrators who had been protesting in the square for six weeks, turning the site into the hub for protests in 400 other cities nationwide. Millions of people took part in the demonstrations, with more than 1 million people descending on Tiananmen Square.

As part of an ongoing brutal crackdown of internal dissent, Chinese authorities have carried out a harsh policy of history suppression, forbidding on-line or other discussions of the events at Tiananmen Square. In light of that it is worth recalling what U.S.  government officials learned at the time and how they assessed Beijing’s response to internal dissent.

To mark an event that decisively shaped contemporary China, the National Security Archive is republishing three documentary E-books that appeared on previous anniversaries, in 1999, 2001, and 2015.  The declassified documents demonstrate that U.S. embassy officials realized very quickly that the Chinese military had carried out a massacre ordered by top officials who feared the public expression of dissent could threaten Communist Party rule. VIEW HERE

Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They’re Talking.

Nearly everyone who’s seen it and lived to tell the tale describes it the same way: a horrifying, otherworldly thing of ghastly beauty that has haunted their life ever since.

VIDEO BY MORGAN KNIBBE | theatlantic.com

“The colors were beautiful,” remembers a man in Morgan Knibbe’s short documentary The Atomic Soldiers. “I hate to say that.”

“It was completely daylight at midnight—brighter than the brightest day you ever saw,” says another.

Many tales of the atomic bomb, however, weren’t told at all. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an estimated 400,000 American soldiers and sailors also observed nuclear explosions—many just a mile or two from ground zero. From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

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New START Must Be Extended, Without or Without China

The baffling non-answers from the senior administration officials strongly suggest that the president’s impulse for a grand U.S.-Chinese-Russian arms control bargain is not backed up with a realistic plan.

BY DARYL KIMBALLnationalinterest.org

On May 14, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Sochi, Russia to discuss what the State Department called a “new era” in “arms control to address new and emerging threats” with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin.

The trip follows reports that Donald Trump has directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China that should include: “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.”

U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, have criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because it only limits U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons and does not cover Russia’s stockpile of sub-strategic warheads in central storage inside Russia.

New START, which caps each side’s enormous and devastating long-range nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers, will expire in February 2021 if Trump and Putin don’t agree to an extension.
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Trump Prepared to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sale: Senators

Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Democrats warn Trump may use ’emergency’ loophole to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.

WILLIAM ROBERTS | aljazeera.com

Washington, DC – Democrats in the United States Senate have warned that the Trump administration is preparing to approve a major new arms sale to Saudi Arabia, using an “emergency” loophole to bypass Congress.

“I am expecting that the administration is going to notice a major arms sale through emergency powers,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, told Al Jazeera on Thursday, after he said an administration official gave the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “informal notice” of the forthcoming announcement.

US arms control law allows Congress to reject weapons sales to foreign countries but an exemption in the law allows the president to waive the need for congressional approval by declaring a national security emergency.

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Last week, Nuclear Watch New Mexico was in Washington participating in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 31st annual DC Days. As a recent addition to the NukeWatch NM staff, this was my first time attending DC Days. The week consisted of a Sunday training day followed by three days straight of lobbying meetings with congress and other government departments that have a huge say in new nuclear weapons or energy developments. When the meeting days concluded, I also attended ANA’s Spring Meeting, which is a two-day debriefing and planning session to discuss thoughts on the week and new plans for the year ahead. This week was not only informative but enlightening, in terms of how I learned the ins-and outs of congress and the true functioning (or lack thereof, occasionally) of government. A large part of why I learned as much as I did and why I did feel so engaged, was due to being surrounded by the most genuine and helpful set of people. I would not have felt as comfortable in this world of politics (which is completely foreign to me) if it was not for the other members of ANA organizations that treated me as an equal contributor, despite my lack of knowledge in certain areas. This is a brief introduction to my time in DC, but there are more technical issues to discuss! A following post will contain the specific details of the issues ANA, and NukeWatch specifically, tackled during the week, including: Lobbying for No New Bomb Plants, Reducing proposed plutonium pit production, fighting Yucca mountain & consolidated interim storage – proposing alternatives to these, supporting a No First Use Policy, and much, much more.

Parties Prepare to Start Mediation Over WIPP Waste Volume

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

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

exchangemonitor.com | May 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARTICLE BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

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

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

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

The study goes further and questions the overall plan to ramp up U.S. pit production, which is estimated to cost $14 billion to $28 billion, saying that “eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.”
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Federal workers struggle for years to prove they got sick on the job

Part 2 of NCR’s look at the toxic legacy of one nuclear weapons plant

BY CLAIRE SCHAEFFER-DUFFY | ncronline.org

The Kansas City Plant, pictured May 16, 2019, is under demolition by a private developer. The white bags in the foreground are designed to handle up to 3,000 pounds, or the equivalent of four 55-gallon drums, each of household hazardous waste. (NCR photo/Toni-Ann Ortiz)

Editor’s note: As the government invests in the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while weakening environmental regulations and federal laws protecting worker safety, National Catholic Reporter looks at the toxic legacy of one shuttered weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri.
In a three-part series about the Kansas City Plant on Bannister Road and its successor eight miles south, NCR reviews hundreds of pages of government reports and environmental summaries, and interviews more than two dozen sources, including five plant workers and their families, three former federal employees who worked nearby, nuclear industry and government officials, health experts, business sources, state environmental regulators and a former city councilman.
This is Part 2. Read Part 1 here.

If the Kansas City Plant was not a “dirty” site, then why were its workers getting sick and dying prematurely? The question haunted television reporter Russ Ptacek. In November 2009, he began investigating the Bannister Federal Complex, a 300-acre property that housed the post-war nuclear components plant as well as various federal offices leased by the General Services Administration (GSA). Ptacek began his inquiry after he was shown a list of nearly 100 sick and dying workers compiled by Barbara Rice, a retired data analyst, who worked for 31 years on the GSA side of the complex.

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“This report makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons. After all, this is the gang that can’t shoot straight. They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely. Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece  the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.” — Jay Coghlan, Director – Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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Frantic parents fear for kids after radioactive contamination found at Ohio middle school

“It’s so scary that my child has been exposed to this because I have no idea how it’s going to affect him,” one mother said.

BY SAFIA SAMEE ALI | nbcnews.com

Ashley Day has always worried about the health risks of living a few miles from a defunct nuclear power plant in Piketon, Ohio. So, when her son Kendon came home Monday and told her school had been canceled for the rest of the year, she had a sinking feeling there was a connection.

A few hours later, her fears were confirmed: The Scioto Valley Local School District declared in a letter that Zahn’s Corner Middle School would be shut down for the remainder of the school year because of possible radioactive contamination from the nearby Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which the federal Department of Energy is in the process of decommissioning.

“I felt anxiety, anger, and paranoia all at once,” she said. “It’s so scary that my child has been exposed to this because I have no idea how it’s going to affect him.”

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

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

lanl
Credit: Christopher Thompson for The New York Times

BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD | cnn.com

A new lab manager, a new mission to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal with 30 plutonium “pits” for nuclear bombs, and the same old lackadaisical approach to safety.

Welcome to Los Alamos National Laboratory, a company town where the culture is apparently so ingrained, even tough Department of Energy criticisms are unable to penetrate. At a time when saber-rattling is de rigueur, when concerns over North Korea’s arsenal and a nuclear Iran are high, when HBO is airing “Chernobyl,” that does nothing to instill public trust.

LANL got dinged last year after it mistakenly used a commercial air cargo service for a cross-country radioactive plutonium shipment. In 2014, LANL’s use of the wrong kitty litter burst a storage barrel and prompted a nearly three-year shutdown of the nation’s one-and-only nuclear waste repository, WIPP in Carlsbad. And the year before, a general slate of safety issues at the lab prompted a moratorium on plutonium work.

The latest weaknesses “if uncorrected, can allow layers of defense for nuclear safety to degrade to the extent they did leading to the pause in July 2013 of key fissile material operations in the Plutonium Facility at LANL for over four years,” the DOE audit says.

And that is a huge issue considering the lab is ramping up production on the devices that act as nuclear bomb triggers. The 30-pit order is expected to be met in six years, and there’s no other facility in the country that can fill it.

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Ohio town worries about safety after radioactive contamination is found at middle school

On Monday, Zahn’s Corner Middle School in Piketon was closed because enriched uranium had been detected inside the building and neptunium-237 had been detected by an air monitor next to it.

BY CHUCK JOHNSON & SUSAN SCUTTI | cnn.com

(CNN) Are we safe? That’s the concern that’s been in the back of neighbors’ minds when they look at the looming Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Pike County, Ohio, Jennifer Chandler said.

“It looks like they make clouds there,” the Piketon village councilwoman thought as a child, seeing steam coming out of the stacks. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have any idea what they did.”

The US Department of Energy plant was built to produce enriched uranium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program during the Cold War and, in later years, supported commercial nuclear reactors. One of three such plants in the United States, it operated from 1954 to 2001, when it commenced decontamination and decommissioning, which continues today.

In the past five years, five students in the nearby Scioto Valley Local School District have been diagnosed with cancer; three of them have died, Chandler said.

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2019 Preparatory Meeting for 2020 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference Ends in Failure

NPT Looks Ahead to 2020 Review Conference Without Consensus Recommendations

BY ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE | armscontrol.org

NPT states-parties failed to adopt a common set of recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference on the final day of the two week-long 2019 PrepCom on Friday, May 10. Nevertheless, most states expressed optimism in concluding statements about prospects for next year’s review conference and underlined the importance of action in the intervening 12 months on key NPT-related commitments.

The recommendations drafted by the chair, Syed Hussin of Malaysia, failed to garner consensus especially after a round of revisions that sought to take into account the suggestions of the majority of NPT states-parties led several nuclear-weapon states and some of their allies to express their displeasure and their support for the earlier draft. Since NPT states did not adopt the revised draft recommendations by consensus, the document will be issued instead as a working paper submitted by the PrepCom chair. The chair also issued an 8-paragraph reflection on the PrepCom.

In his closing remarks, the incoming president-designate of the 2020 Review Conference, Rafael Mariono Grossi of Argentina promised to “begin work on Monday” on an ambitious plan for consultations with states-parties.

He later tweeted: “As #NPT2019 closes work starts to prepare a successful Review of Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2020. I will consult extensively reach out to all. Everybody’s goal is success. No less. ⁦

 

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Balky Capacitors Could Delay Two NNSA Nuke Refurb Programs

BY DAN LEONE | exchangemonitor.com

WASHINGTON — The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will be late with initial deliveries to the Pentagon of two refurbished nuclear weapons, the head of the semiautonomous nuclear-weapons agency said here Wednesday.

The Air Force was supposed to get its refurbished B61, to be called B61-12, in 2020. The Navy was supposed to get its first W88 Alt 370 in December 2019. Because of defects with electrical capacitors needed for both weapons, those those dates are now “expected” to slip, an NNSA spokesperson said. How far is yet to be determined.

After disclosing the slip in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty told Weapons Complex Morning Briefing that her agency has been evaluating the bad capacitors for “the last couple of months.”

Capacitors store electric charges. The defective items intended for the B61-12 and W88 Alt 370 are commercial units procured by the NNSA’s Kansas City National Security Campus, which acquires and manufactures the non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons. Gordon-Hagerty said it will take several months to decide what to do about the wonky components.
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Support the JASON science-advisory group

The elite panel that guides the US government is undermined by wavering financial support. More-secure backing is in the national interest.

The Jasons have provided the US government with independent advice on classified military developments and nuclear weapons. Credit: Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty

nature.com | If there is one thing that President Donald Trump’s administration sorely needs, it is rational, independent science-based advice on crucial issues. Which is why it was so concerning when the US Department of Defense (DOD) abruptly decided in March to end its long relationship with a science-advisory panel known as JASON.

For nearly 60 years, the scientists on the panel — the Jasons — have provided the US government with unvarnished, independent advice on matters ranging from classified military developments and nuclear weapons to artificial intelligence and global warming. Its members are a roll call of elite and illustrious scientists.

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Federal nuclear board nixes request for hearing on New Mexico waste facility

ELEA/Holtec storage ground view
Artist Rendering of proposed ELEA/Holtec “storage” plan for commercial reactor spent fuel rods in southeast New Mexico

A federal board that oversees commercial nuclear materials and licenses said Tuesday it has rejected a request by a group of opponents over a proposed nuclear waste storage site in Southern New Mexico.

Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company specializing in nuclear reactor technology, is waiting on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve its license for an expansive facility that could be used to hold all of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel — radioactive uranium left over from power production.

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Engel, McCaul Introduce Legislation to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Michael McCaul, the Committee’s ranking member, today introduced legislation calling on the Trump Administration to retain limits on Russia’s nuclear forces. The “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” calls for an extension of New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits on Russia until 2026, as allowed under the Treaty, unless Russia violates the Treaty or until a new agreement in is in place that provides equal or greater constraints, transparency, and verification measures with regard to Russia’s nuclear forces.

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The U.S. Wanted to Hide Nukes in Arctic Ice Tunnels. The Plan Blew Up in Their Faces.

A Greenlander with his dog sleigh looks at the radars at Thule Air Base in Northern Greenland in 1966. NF/AFP/Getty Images

BY VINCE HOUGHTON | time.com May 7, 2019

As far as these things go, Camp Century was a pretty good cover. It was nominally designed as an underground military research station, located about 150 miles east of the American air base at Thule, Greenland. The stated purpose of Camp Century was to improve the American defense capability in the Arctic — to develop better survival and transportation techniques, and to obtain more useful knowledge about the harsh climate and the physical properties of the region. In essence, we covered up for a super-secret operation using a kinda-secret one.

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Producing mass destruction: Private companies and the nuclear weapons industry

ICAN and PAX published a new report that shows how the commercial sector is massively involved in producing nuclear weapons. The report, “Producing mass destruction: Private companies and the nuclear weapons industry”, is part of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb project.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY | dontbankonthebomb.com

FULL REPORT AVAILABLE HERE

Governments are contracting at least US$ 116 billion (€ 102 billion) to private companies in France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States for production, development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. State owned companies in China connected to nuclear weapon production are starting to raise money through bond issuances, while Israeli, Pakistani, North Korean, and Russian nuclear programmes are still not transparent.

ICAN + PAX: New research that shows which 28 private companies are involved in building nuclear weapons.

Selected Press Items

Koreas agree to work toward peace and 'complete denuclearization'

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

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

Pence's Anti-North Korea PR Campaign Bombs

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

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

Could a false alarm like Hawaii trigger a war?

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

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

What the Hell Happened in Hawaii?

Hawaii Panics After Alert About Incoming Missile Is Sent in Error

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

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

North Korea signals intent to 'complete' its nuclear force

How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea

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

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

California's plans for North Korean nuclear attack revealed

The Memo: Fears escalate over North Korea

Trump at UN threatens to 'totally destroy' North Korea

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

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

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

Hwasong 14: Not an ICBM? Still an open question

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

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

North Korea Finally Tests an ICBM

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

Detailed report on Nth Korea missile and nuclear weapons programs

Thinking the Unthinkable With North Korea

A Quick Technical Analysis of the Hwasong-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s 2020 Nuclear Weapons Budget Escalates New Arms Race

DOE logo
DOE logo

Posted By Scott Kovac

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

Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising

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

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

Guest Commentary | June 23, 2019

By Geoffrey Fettus, Special to CALmatters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Explosive-Containing Components in a Generic Nuclear Weapon

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

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Brave Political Leadership on Disarmament?

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Tale of Two Consent Orders and What Is Needed

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

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LANL Regional Coalition Faces More Opposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sandia National Laboratories Annual Budget is 81% Military Work

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

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

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

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

 

New Momentum for Saner Nuclear Policy: Event Highlights

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

BY SOPHIA STROUD | – NukeWatch NM Web Designer

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

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

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

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Fukushima: Eighth Anniversary of a Crippling Nuclear Disaster

fukushima

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

BY SOPHIA STROUD | – NukeWatch NM Web Designer

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

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

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

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

By Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director

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

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WIPP Receives Notice of Upcoming Investigation for Chemical Overexposures to Workers

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

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NNSA’s pet ‘Interoperable Warhead’ is DEAD

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

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

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

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

At some point, DOE will have to admit that it has no idea what it will cost to cleanup the Cold War nuclear weapons complex sites. DOE should stop making more wastes until the existing wastes are remediated. The new estimate is more that twice the amount that has been spent in total since cleanup began in 1989, with the most difficult sites still to come.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Clean Up, Don’t Build Up!

The thing is that the new $377 billion estimate includes leaving much of the waste behind.

Program-Wide Strategy and Better Reporting Needed to Address Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability GAO-19-28: Published: Jan 29, 2019. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 2019.

The Department of Energy is tasked with cleaning up waste from Cold War nuclear weapons production, much of which is hazardous or radioactive. The department’s Office of Environmental Management estimates that future work could cost at least $377 billion—$109 billion more than last year’s estimate.

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Plutonium Pit Production NEPA Talking Points

LANL Molten Plutonium for Pit
Molten plutonium in a crucible. 

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

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

“Preliminary” Research Pushes Economic Impact Boundaries for LANL

While Sandia, LANL, and Journal Statements Leave Many Questions

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

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

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Costs of Nuclear Weapons Jump Dramatically

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Messages from the 2019 Doomsday Clock Announcement – ICAN

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

Topline

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

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

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

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

Beatrice Fihn – Executive Director
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

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

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NNSA Plans to Replace the W78 Warhead

W78 Silo GAO-19-84

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

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

Read the report

Please Help Support NukeWatch

Dear Friends of Nuclear Watch New Mexico:

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

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Join In Giving Tuesday

Join In Giving Tuesday

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

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

Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation

Watch Dog

Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation

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

Read more about it here

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

Read more about it here

LANL Ships Waste Offsite Illegally, Again and Again

LANL Ships Waste Offsite Illegally, Again and Again

Posted by Scott Kovac Nov 14, 2018

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

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

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Citizens Oppose Plans For New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump

Citizens Oppose New Mexico Nuke Dump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several Videos Are Here

Principles for Safe Management and Geological Isolation of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel

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

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

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

For Immediate Release


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See NukeWatch’s Amended Complaint here

See Judge Judith Herrera’s decision here

Contacts:
Jay Coghlan: Nuclear Watch New Mexico
989.7342

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

New Contractors Selected For Expanded Nuclear Weapons Production at Los Alamos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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