Nuclear News Archives – 2019
At recent public forums, the Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory claimed that cleanup is more than half complete.
What these staged events fail to disclose, contradicting repeated claims of transparency, is that decisions already have been made behind closed doors to remove only approximately 6,500 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic waste, while leaving 30 times as much buried permanently above our groundwater aquifer.
LANL used to claim that groundwater contamination from lab operations was impossible. Today, we sadly know otherwise. Deep groundwater under LANL is contaminated with chromium, perchlorate and high explosives. Intermediate aquifers linked to deep groundwater are contaminated with tritium, industrial solvents, heavy metals and plutonium.
2020 Doomsday Clock Announcement
Washington, D.C. • January 23, 2020
Closer than ever: It is 100 seconds to midnight
Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.
WASHINGTON — A new fight over America’s nuclear budget has erupted from behind the scenes, as key Republicans in Congress are appealing to President Donald Trump for a significant boost to the agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear warheads.
Though there are often disagreements as presidents vet their budgets on Capitol Hill before finalizing them, it’s rare that those fights become public. This time, some of the president’s allies in Congress are battling the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on behalf of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency inside the Department of Energy.
“They want as much dirty warhead manufacturing as possible for Los Alamos, and they don’t want anybody to know or discuss the predictable problems and impacts on our communities and environment,” – Greg Mello of the Albuquerque-based Los Alamos Study Group
A review of a proposal to ramp up production of key components for the United States’ nuclear arsenal will be open and transparent, according to members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luján said in a joint statement to The Associated Press that they received assurances from federal officials that the review process also will include an opportunity for public comment.
The Democrats were briefed last week by federal officials after the National Nuclear Security Administration announced it did not need to do a more expansive nationwide review of the impacts of building plutonium cores at federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina.
As supporters of bringing more defense-related spending to New Mexico, the lawmakers initially refrained from commenting on whether they would support an expanded review, saying they needed more information. Watchdog groups have argued that federal officials are violating national environmental laws by not doing a more in-depth analysis.
The National Nuclear Security Administration said last week that it will proceed with a plan to sharply expand production of plutonium “pits” — the explosive triggers for thermonuclear weapons — without performing a full “programmatic” environmental review.
NNSA envisions producing “no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030,” including a minimum of 30 pits per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a minimum of 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site. Currently, “less than 20 per year” are produced, all at Los Alamos.
It is “NNSA’s determination that no further NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] documentation at a programmatic level is required,” the agency said in a January 8 Federal Register notice. (Site-specific assessments will still be prepared for plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Lab and the Savannah River Site.)
Environmental and anti-nuclear groups cried foul. “NNSA’s refusal to complete programmatic environmental review before plunging ahead with plans to more than quadruple the production authorization for plutonium bomb cores flies in the face of our country’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a standing federal court order mandating that the government conduct such a review,” said Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs.
The government isn’t going to “become conscious of the contradictions and interactions” of the numerous programs that would be involved unless it’s forced to prepare an environmental impact statement. Watchdogs [also] said the state needs to consider that the waste will need to be sent somewhere.
SANTA FE, N.M. — Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation find themselves in an awkward position as watchdogs claim the U.S. government is skirting key environmental laws by refusing to closely examine the consequences of increasing production of key plutonium components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The proverbial alien beamed down to Earth would find the situation quizzical indeed: The political debates and campaigns involved in selecting the most powerful person on the planet – the US president – scarcely mention the stark fact that any president could at any time be called to decide, almost instantly, whether to order a nuclear attack that would lead to the end of civilization. There is, at present, no significant check on the president’s ability to make that decision. If he orders a nuclear attack, there will almost certainly be one. For a variety of reasons, the chances of nuclear war are not negligible; they are at least as high as they were at the height of the Cold War, according to leading world experts. And a nuclear exchange of even modest proportions would change the world forever, bringing on nuclear winter, degrading civilization in countless other ways, and affecting every person, everywhere. (At least every live person. The tens or hundreds of millions killed quickly in a nuclear exchange will just be dead.)
As climate changes stresses our human institutions, we are likely to face deadly conflicts over critical resources.
President Donald Trump may not accept the scientific reality of climate change, but the nation’s senior military leaders recognize that climate disruption is already underway, and they are planning extraordinary measures to prevent it from spiraling into nuclear war. One particularly worrisome scenario is if extreme drought and abnormal monsoon rains devastate agriculture and unleash social chaos in Pakistan, potentially creating an opening for radical Islamists aligned with elements of the armed forces to seize some of the country’s 150 or so nuclear weapons. To avert such a potentially cataclysmic development, the US Joint Special Operations Command has conducted exercises for infiltrating Pakistan and locating the country’s nuclear munitions.
Overheard at the Blake’s Lotaburger at the corner of Guadalupe Street and Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe:
“What brings you back to New Mexico, dude?”
“I just got a great job at LANL, but I can’t find a place to live that I can afford.”
From fast-food joints to the chambers of local government to Realtors’ offices, everyone agrees: There’s a shortage of affordable, desirable housing in northern New Mexico to serve the growing workforces of places such as Los Alamos National Laboratories and Presbyterian Española Hospital.
It’s a vexing problem in an area where families are reluctant to move after generations in the same house, there is a lack of new housing developments in key areas, and New Mexico pueblos have been asserting and winning claims over water rights and roads.
“Regardless of presidencies, nuclear planning tends to have a life of its own…Iran is very much in the crosshair.” – Hans Kristensen
Nuclear planners operate from “relatively vague presidential guidance,” writing scenarios, conducting war games, and adjusting plans, weapons and the posture of forces to anticipate countless possible scenarios.
Ten days before Donald J. Trump was elected president in 2016, the United States nuked Iran. The occasion: a nuclear war exercise held every year in late October. In the war game, after Iran sank an American aircraft carrier and employed chemical weapons against a Marine Corps force, the Middle East commander requested a nuclear strike, and a pair of B-2 stealth bombers, each loaded with a single nuclear bomb, stood by while the president deliberated.
“Testing our forces through a range of challenging scenarios validates the safety, security, effectiveness and readiness of the strategic deterrent,” Adm. Cecil D. Haney, then the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said as the exercise got underway.
Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, SRS Watch, Tri-Valley CAREs Assert “Pit” Pursuit Violates National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
COLUMBIA, SC, USA, January 9, 2020 /EINPresswire.com/ — The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it is proceeding with aggressive plans to expand the production of plutonium pits without required nation-wide “programmatic” public review. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs assert this is in violation of the legal requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and a 1998 court order that stipulates that DOE must prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS) when it plans to produce more than 80 pits per year. Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico concluded, “We need to find smart ways to face the world’s renewed nuclear arms race. Unnecessary expanded production of questionable plutonium bomb cores is not the way to do it. Instead of aggressively modifying nuclear weapons the U.S. should carefully preserve its existing, reliable, extensively tested nuclear weapons stockpile while working toward a future world free of them. It’s that kind of analysis and consideration of credible alternatives that the National Environmental Policy Act should give Americans instead of the nuclear weaponeers rubber stamping their self-interested agenda of nukes forever at the taxpayer’s expense.”
U.S. plutonium bomb core production ended in 1989 when the FBI raided the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver while investigating environmental crimes. In 1997, DOE relocated pit production to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico after completing the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Production was capped at 20 pits per year.
“The 2016 consent order should be jettisoned in its entirety,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “And the fundamental principle is the state should be in the driver’s seat and not DOE.”
To back up his argument, Coghlan read some of the order’s guidelines, such as letting the federal agency set its own cleanup targets according to its budgetary constraints.
LOS ALAMOS — While some people coolly suggested a list of procedural changes, others vented Thursday about a waste cleanup agreement they say cuts out the public and gives the U.S. Energy Department too much power to call the shots.
Nuclear watchdogs, government accountability advocates and other critics argue that the decision skirts requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and a decades-old court order that included a mandate for an environmental review when the federal government embarked on plans to boost production to more than 80 of the nuclear cores a year.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The agency that oversees the United States’ nuclear arsenal says it doesn’t need to do any broad environmental reviews of a proposal that calls for ramping up production of plutonium triggers at federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina.
The National Nuclear Security Administration on Wednesday released a supplemental analysis related to the project, saying the determination was made after reviewing extensive documentation and public comments that were received last year.
A key component of every nuclear weapon, most of the plutonium cores in the stockpile were produced in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the nuclear agency.
Nuclear watchdogs, government accountability advocates and other critics argue that the decision skirts requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and a decades-old court order that included a mandate for an environmental review when the federal government embarked on plans to boost production to more than 80 of the nuclear cores a year.
“NNSA’s refusal to complete programmatic environmental review before plunging ahead with plans to more than quadruple the production authorization for plutonium bomb cores flies in the face of our country’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a standing federal court order mandating that the government conduct such a review,” – Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CARES
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will not complete a programmatic study for environmental impacts of increased plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) and one other lab located in South Carolina. The decision to not do so drew criticism from Nuclear Watch NM and other groups, who argue such assessments are required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and an existing court order.
Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear warheads where the chemical reactions occur that cause the warhead to detonate. The U.S. made thousands of cores during the Cold War, but pit production has all but stopped in the last thirty years.
Now, the federal government is getting ready to ramp up pit production in order to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and “assure the nation has a safe, secure and credible deterrent,” said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and the NNSA Administrator, in a statement. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for at least 80 plutonium pits to be produced per year by 2030, with a target of 30 pits produced annually at LANL and 50 pits produced annually at Savannah River Site.
The aim of presenting the case for the continued possession of these terrifying weapons that hold the potential to destroy all life on earth this way seems to be to convince citizens that nuclear weapons are morally justifiable and thus somehow ‘acceptable.’
Poised as the nuclear powers appear to be to resume the nuclear arms race, leaders of these countries have been at pains to assure their countrymen and the rest of the world that, though determined to maintain and even expand their nuclear arsenals, they will only use them for the purposes of a second strike i.e. in retaliation to a nuclear first strike by a nuclear-armed belligerent. Their pledges are meant to reassure us that nuclear weapons are for defensive rather than offensive purposes. The aim of presenting the case for the continued possession of these terrifying weapons that hold the potential to destroy all life on earth this way seems to be to convince citizens that nuclear weapons are morally justifiable and thus somehow ‘acceptable’. For a number of reasons, however, a second strike may not be as morally defensible as leaders would have us believe.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to submit its fiscal 2021 budget request to Congress Feb. 10, with defense spending expected to be essentially flat compared to the previous year.A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget confirmed to Defense News that the date for the budget submission has been locked in. The date was first reported by Politico.
President Donald Trump signed off on the FY20 budget, including $738 billion for defense, on Dec. 20, following almost three months of the government running under a continuing resolution.
The two-year budget deal from last summer called for $740 billion in defense spending for FY21, essentially flat. The budget is expected to continue the department’s focus on implementing the National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes challenging China and Russia.
The state of New Mexico is reconsidering its 2016 pact with the U.S. Department of Energy on how to regulate the cleanup of decades-old hazardous waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Ryan Flynn, who became the state’s environment secretary in 2013, granted the lab 150 deadline extensions during his tenure, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
Shortly after Flynn announced in 2016 that the consent order was being revised, the Energy Department reduced its top-range estimate for the long-term cleanup to $3.8 billion and said it would need at least 20 years to complete it, Coghlan said.
That reduced the yearly cleanup projection to $150 million from the earlier $250 million estimate, Coghlan said.
“It’s no coincidence that a mere few months after the 2016 consent order came out, DOE low-balled its life-cycle estimate,” he said.
The administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to revisit the agreement — known as a consent order — that the state Environment Department crafted under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to replace a more stringent 2005 version that expired at the end of 2015.
The public will have a chance to air views about the current consent order and suggest changes at a meeting Thursday at the University of New Mexico’s Los Alamos campus. The meeting is being held in response to people expressing concerns about the consent order to state regulators and legislative leaders, said Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Environment Department.
“Experts estimate that it would take two Russian warheads to destroy with high confidence one of the 400 active US ICBMs, each armed with a single warhead. This might seem like a good deal, until you ask what the impact of 800 Russian warheads exploding on US territory would be…The long-term contamination would be about ten times greater than that from the Chernobyl accident, rendering a large swath of the Midwest uninhabitable for generations.”
The proposed US nuclear modernization program includes replacing the 400 existing Minuteman III missiles with a new set of “Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent” missiles and their associated facilities. The cost for this modernization is very large, with an advertised price tag of $85 billion, and if history is any guide, a substantial cost escalation is likely. On the one hand, if these silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) deter attacks that would cost tens of millions of lives, then they are worth this much many times over. On the other hand, if they are more likely to cause massive numbers of human deaths, then they are immensely expensive even if they cost nothing.
The primary argument for silo-based ICBMs is that they would “sponge up” a large number of Russian warheads if the United States were attacked.
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has approved a final Supplement Analysis (SA) and determination on the Complex Transformation Supplement Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) which evaluated whether increasing capabilities to produce a minimum of 50 pits per year at a re-purposed Mixed-oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) and a minimum of 30 pits per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), with additional surge capacity at each site if needed, would require the preparation of a new or supplement EIS. This SA is the programmatic, complex-wide analysis mentioned in the Notice of Intent for the site-specific SRS EIS that was published in the Federal Register (FR) on June 10, 2019, and the final of the draft SA that was released for an approximately 45-day public comment period on June 28, 2019.
In August, the United States withdrew from the landmark INF Treaty of 1987 due to the Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the treaty and Vladimir Putin’s reckless deployment of the Russian 9M729 cruise missile. Another crucial arms control treaty, the New START agreement, is set to expire in early 2021. Recently, George Shultz and Mikhail Gorbachev called American and Russian decision makers to preserve the INF Treaty. (1)
More than thirty years ago, Shultz and Gorbachev stepped forward with President Reagan to change history’s direction. Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty on the occasion of their historic Washington Summit on December 8, 1987. The unprecedented agreement eliminated all US and Russian missiles between the ranges of 500 to 5500 kilometers. The two countries destroyed a total of 2,692 ballistic and cruise missiles by the treaty’s deadline of June 1, 1991, with verification measures that were previously unimaginable.
If the Trump plan survives legal challenges, polluters would no longer need a permit to release contaminated water into ephemeral streams and wetlands that aren’t immediately adjacent to protected waters. This would, according to New Mexico’s Environment Department, eliminate about 40% of the state’s water pollution permits, including those held by wastewater treatment plants, hard-rock mines and coal mines.
The effect this could have on the state’s drinking water is illustrated most starkly at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the former Manhattan Project site that serves as a center of the country’s nuclear research and development.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require a federal pollution permit be used to regulate Los Alamos County’s contaminated stormwater, which for years has flowed into streams and the Rio Grande, a primary source of drinking water.
Attorneys representing the Taos-based advocacy group Amigos Bravos said their client’s September lawsuit against the EPA pushed the agency to require the permitting under the Clean Water Act.
The EPA issued preliminary findings in 2015 that showed pollutants in some parts of Los Alamos National Laboratory property and other areas of Los Alamos County far exceeded state health and water quality standards, yet the agency failed to take action, according to the Oregon-based Western Environmental Law Center.
“The EPA finally took a hard look at where these pollutants are coming from,” said Andrew Hawley, a law center attorney, in an interview. “The pollutants of concern were showing up in the tributaries going into the Rio Grande.”
EPA representatives at the regional office in Dallas couldn’t be reached Tuesday to comment on the agency’s decision or discuss the timeline for implementing the permit.
Washington’s pursuit of national ballistic missile defense for the last twenty years has, as much as anything else, driven Russian and Chinese strategic nuclear weapons acquisition decisions.
There are a small number of threats to our nation’s security, involving truly catastrophic consequences, which may be managed by good public policy. Some of these involve uncertainties over scientific or technological developments that could lead to good, as well as very bad outcomes. Think designer biology, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. But two stand out both for the certainty and magnitude of their destructive impact: climate change and nuclear weapons.
What does good public policy look like when dealing with nuclear weapons? It looks like actions that reduce uncertainty, increase transparency and security, and decrease numbers. It is called “arms control.”
A look back at the ground-breaking legislation on its 50th anniversary.
In late January 1969, a blowout on Unocal’s Platform A leaked 3 million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, just 6 miles from Santa Barbara, California. The spill — at the time, the largest in U.S. history — spread over 800 square miles, coated 8 miles of beaches and killed thousands of animals. Images of the devastation shocked a public increasingly worried about the environment and helped spur Congress to pass a sweeping law aimed at preventing similar disasters in the future — the National Environmental Policy Act.
President Richard Nixon signed NEPA into law on Jan. 1, 1970, from his home office on the Pacific Coast. The signing was a fitting launch for the environmental decade of the 1970s — a time when “America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment,” as Nixon said in his signing statement. “It is literally now or never.”
Reckoning with History is an ongoing series that seeks to understand the legacies of the past and to put the West’s present moment in perspective.
“When it comes to giving the Pentagon $738 billion—even more money than it requested—there is a deafening silence within Congress and the ruling elites about what our nation can and cannot afford.”
In a scathing op-ed for the Washington Post Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders took aim at Republican and Democratic “deficit hawks” who claim the U.S. cannot afford to guarantee healthcare to all, make higher education tuition-free, or fund other crucial domestic priorities but have no issue with voting to hand the Pentagon $738 billion.
“When it comes to giving the Pentagon $738 billion—even more money than it requested—there is a deafening silence within Congress and the ruling elites about what our nation can and cannot afford.” — Sen. Bernie Sanders
The 2020 authorization bill fails to check Trump’s worst impulses. Over 30 progressive national security organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing the final bill as doing “almost nothing to constrain the Trump administration’s erratic and reckless foreign policy.” Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said she would oppose the bill, calling it a “$738 billion Christmas present to giant defense contractors.”
Question: How do you go from a National Defense Authorization Act that in July was opposed by every House Republican to one that was approved by more GOP votes than Democratic ones and that President Donald Trump called a huge win that he cannot wait to sign?
Answer: Add Space Force and parental family leave and take out all of the progressive national security provisions.
The House passed the compromise NDAA last night; President Trump has said he will sign it. This final bill is a world apart from the version passed by House Democrats in July. The House version, ably led by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, prohibited deployment of Trump’s new “low-yield” nuclear weapon for Trident submarines, which defense experts called “a gateway to nuclear catastrophe.”
WASHINGTON — The U.S. has tested a ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers, the first such test since the country withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty this year.
Nuclear War Simulator, launching in 2020, lets the user design a plausible doomsday scenario and study the humanitarian impact. Just don’t call it a “game.”
Full scale global nuclear war is hard to fathom. One nuclear launch could set off a chain of events that would radically alter life on the planet. Millions would die in the initial blasts and millions more would starve as the climate changed and our way of life withered. Just how are we supposed to reckon with the possibility of such wide-scale destruction?
Programs like NUKEMAP let you plot individual bombs and video games like Defcon simulate the war, but neither comes close to rendering the devastation a doomsday scenario would bring. That’s what Nuclear War Simulator (NWS) is for.
Controversy continues to brew following revelations of repeated shoreline collapses into the Detroit River of a property contaminated with uranium, PCBs and other dangerous chemicals from an abandoned Manhattan Project contract facility in Detroit, Michigan.
The most recent collapse into the river occurred on November 26 or 27, 2019 but was not reported until a week later with a tip off to the Windsor Star newspaper just across the river in Canada. A previous collapse into the river occurred in October 2011 did not apparently result in remediations. The old Revere Copper and Brass site, now known as Detroit Bulk Storage, was used in the 1940s to process more than a thousand tons of uranium that was rolled into fuel rods to make the fissionable material for the first atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The facility continued to operate as part of the nation’s atomic bomb assembly line well into the 1950s before winding down and eventually abandoned in 1984. It is considered just one of hundreds of nuclear weapons contractor sites that make up America’s forgotten nuclear “waste land.”
Extension of the New START Treaty would offer Trump an easy diplomatic win.
President Trump received Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House this week — a meeting that prompted considerable controversy, given the fraught backdrop of U.S.-Russia relations. Yet the coverage — additionally complicated by the impeachment proceedings taking place on Capitol Hill — almost entirely overlooked a crucial topic of the negotiations: the urgent need to keep alive a vital nuclear arms agreement.
Readouts and media reports reveal that Lavrov discussed the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), set to expire in February 2021, with his American interlocutors. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both suggested that China must be included in a future strategic nuclear arms deal, hinting that they may not extend the New START Treaty without Chinese involvement.
That would be a major mistake. The United States and Russia should extend the New START Treaty, an outcome that clearly would serve U.S. national security interests. At the same time, U.S. arms control negotiators could begin discussions with their Chinese counterparts about a new, future multilateral treaty to limit the deployments of nuclear weapons. While doing so, they should recognize that China is already well below the limits on nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles specified by New START and thus need not be a party to this agreement.
But these two negotiations should be sequenced, not linked. Extend the New START Treaty with Russia first; begin strategy stability talks with Russia and China second.
WASHINGTON – A top Pentagon official for nuclear defense sexually harassed three women on his staff and resigned as an investigation substantiated the charges against him, the Defense Department inspector general reported Thursday.
Guy Roberts, who had served as the assistant Defense secretary for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, resigned on April 2 amid a probe into allegations from three women on his staff that he had forced hugs and kisses on them and told inappropriate jokes. The inspector general’s investigation began Feb. 22.
Are the stars finally aligning for Washington and Moscow to extend the New START treaty?
Nuclear arms control is reportedly on the agenda for a rush-meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today. Over the past weeks, Russia had softened its preconditions for extending the New START Treaty––the only strategic arms control agreement still in place between the two nuclear superpower––while
President Donald Trump last week said that he had spoken with President Vladimir Putin and “we are – he very much wants to, and so do we, work out a treaty of some kind on nuclear weapons…”
The New START treaty limits US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear forces, and additionally facilitates inspections and exchanges of information on the status and movements of their intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. Signed in 2010, the treaty expires in February 2021 but can be extended for another five years.There is nothing other than personalities and bad advice that is preventing Moscow and Washington from extending New START. Retaining the treaty is clearly in the interest of both countries, particularly as other arms control agreements have been abandoned and military tensions are steadily increasing.
WASHINGTON — 30 organizations representing a diverse set of issue areas — strengthening diplomacy, protecting migrants and refugees, preventing wars of choice, reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe, combating corruption, promoting human rights and sound environmental policies, and standing up for democratic values — released the following statement regarding the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report:
“Despite the fact that we do not all advocate on the same issues, we are compelled to state clearly in one voice: The results of negotiations for the final text of the NDAA are disastrous. The FY2020 NDAA conference report has been so severely stripped of vital House-passed provisions essential to keeping the current administration in check that it no longer represents a compromise, but a near complete capitulation.
The results of negotiations for the final text of the #ndaa2020 are disastrous and far removed from our vision for a just, peaceful, and democratic foreign policy. Read our statement in partnership with 30 other organizations here: https://t.co/AiO3aMlA4X
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) December 10, 2019
The 3488-page Conference Report is at:
The 741-page Joint Explanatory Statement is at:
The 19-page bill summary is at:
On Plutonium Pit Production:
Nuclear Forces have been the cornerstone of our national defense and the conference agreement funds the President’s budget request for Nuclear National Security Administration programs, including nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation activities. In addition, the FY20 NDAA supports the U.S. Strategic Command requirement to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 and doesn’t prohibit the Department from deploying low-yield nuclear weapons. It also clarifies nuclear safety authorities.
1. Page 1907 of the report defines a requirement to submit the costs of complying with cleanup agreements:
SEC. 4409. ESTIMATION OF COSTS OF MEETING DEFENSE ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP MILESTONES REQUIRED BY CONSENT ORDERS.
”The Secretary of Energy shall include in the budget justification materials submitted to Congress in support of the Department of Energy budget for each fiscal year (as submitted with the budget of the President under section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code) a report on the cost, for that fiscal year and the four fiscal years following that fiscal year, of meeting milestones required by a consent order at each defense nuclear facility at which defense environmental cleanup activities are occurring. The report shall include, for each such facility—”(1) a specification of the cost of meeting such milestones during that fiscal year; and ”(2) an estimate of the cost of meeting such milestones during the four fiscal years following that fiscal year.”.
2. On page 1914 of the report: Prohibiting the DOE high-level waste interpretation from being applied (only) to Hanford.
However, the Joint Explanatory Statement (p. 492 of PDF) states: “The conferees note that the inclusion of the provision does not prejudice how to process high-level waste nor does it discourage the use of the Department of Energy’s interpretation of high-level waste in future years or at other locations.”
3. On pages 1942-51 of the report: Changes to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).
Among those changes is trying to ensure DNFSB access to DOE sites. One example is that DNFSB has access to nuclear facilities “without regard to the hazard or risk category assigned to a facility by the Secretary.”
Drawing upon six decades of constructive contacts between American and Russian citizens, we the participants in the latest Dartmouth Conference have decided to issue this urgent appeal to our governments, warning of the dangers of a new nuclear arms race and strongly urging both governments to act immediately to extend the New START Treaty beyond its February 2021 expiration.
ARTICLE & ANALYSIS BY: James F. Collins, David Mathews, Vitaliy Naumkin & Yury Shafranik | russiamatters.org
The contractor that’s been in charge of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s operations for the past year lost track of 250 barrels of waste, while the company heading the legacy cleanup mislabeled and improperly stored waste containers and took months to remedy some infractions, according to the state’s yearly report on hazardous waste permit violations.
Triad National Security LLC, a consortium of nonprofits that runs the lab’s daily operations, had 19 violations of its permit from the New Mexico Environment Department. Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos, also known as N3B, which is managing a 10-year cleanup of waste generated at the lab, was cited 29 times. Triad’s most notable violation was shipping 250 barrels of mostly mixed waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad without tracking them. Mixed waste contains low-level radioactive waste and other hazardous materials. Inspectors found records still listed the waste at the national lab.
Mislabeled containers should be taken seriously because they can cause incidents if the contents aren’t identified, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
Lab personnel didn’t update the shipping data because they were waiting for WIPP to acknowledge it had received the waste, lab spokesman Matt Nerzig said in an emailed statement. “There was no risk to public health or safety and the inventory is now correct,” Nerzig said, adding that shipping updates now will be done when waste leaves the lab. But a watchdog group said failing to track such a high volume of waste is an egregious error that falls in line with the lab’s long history of serious missteps.
“The fact that LANL has mischaracterized, misplaced, mis-inventoried — or whatever — 250 barrels of waste is pretty astounding,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “We see mistakes being made by a new contractor. So definitely, all of this is cause for concern.”
Concerns that a calcium residue might be flammable prompted officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory to curtail plutonium operations and suspend waste shipments in early November, according to a federal report.
The lab suspended most waste generation and certification at its plutonium facility and halted all waste shipments after officials questioned the accuracy of documentation, particularly on how much calcium-and-salt residue remained in transuranic waste after processing, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent oversight panel, said in a Nov. 15 report that was publicly released Friday.
Calcium is used to help reduce oxidation in plutonium. Traces of the substance typically linger after processing, and if they are too high, they can ignite when exposed to open air, the report says.
The report didn’t say how long the operations and waste shipments were suspended. A lab spokesman could not comment Monday.
Officials from multiple agencies met in Carlsbad on Nov. 5 and 6 to discuss the hazard, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, Triad National Security LLC — the consortium that operates the lab — and N3B, a cleanup contractor. They concluded there wasn’t enough evidence of a flammable calcium level to keep operations suspended, the report said.
However, they decided to withhold shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant until further testing could be conducted, the report said.
The underground storage facility near Carlsbad forbids waste that has volatile chemicals mixed in.
WIPP became more vigilant about testing for flammable mixtures after a waste container was packaged in 2014 with a volatile blend of wheat-based kitty litter and nitrate salts, which caused it to explode and leak radiation. WIPP shut down for almost three years while it underwent a $2 billion cleanup.
“If DOE and LANL continue to treat the public with disdain, it is going to be a long and difficult permitting process. All in all, this first meeting was disappointing and unproductive.” — Joni Arends, of CCNS
This week the renewal of the New Mexico Environment Department hazardous waste permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) began in a very controlled public meeting at the Cities of Gold in Pojoaque. There was no presentation by the Department of Energy (DOE) or its contractor, Triad National Security, LLC, about their plans to renew the application. If the public had questions, they were instructed to write them on a half-sheet comment and question card. There was no explanation about if and how those comments and questions would be answered.
Listen to the full story:
CCNS has prepared a pre-emptive sample public comment letter you can use to express what needs to be included in LANL’s permit application, including proposals to install confined burn and detonation facilities, and coming into compliance with the federal and state hazardous waste laws and regulations dealing with tank systems (that are used to treat liquid hazardous and radioactive waste) and seismic requirements. The last surface rupture on the Pajarito Plateau fault system was 1,400 years ago – thus requiring additional LANL submittals and NMED review. LANL_Permit_Renewal_App_public_comment_120519 The current ten-year LANL permit expires in late December 2020. Under the regulations, the permit application is due to the Environment Department 180 days before the permit expires, or in late June 2020. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/lanl-permit/ The hazardous waste permit renewal application for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is on the same timeline. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp-permit-page/ CCNS and others have made numerous requests to both LANL and WIPP management to submit their applications in the spring of 2020 to give additional opportunity for the public to review both. At the meeting, CCNS asked when LANL would submit its application. A LANL staff member said they could not disclose the date.
WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers involved in annual defense authorization negotiations finalized a sweeping deal late Monday that creates a new Space Force among other policies, but it dropped contentious border wall restrictions and several other provisions favored by progressives.
The 3,488-page compromise bill, which supports $738 billion in defense spending for 2020, left out limits on the border wall, low-yield nuclear weapons and the president’s authorization to wage war on Iran. However, Democratic leaders did win ― in exchange for the Space Force ― an agreement for 12 weeks of paid parental leave to millions of federal workers, which could give some House Democrats otherwise opposed to the large defense bill a reason to vote for it.
The agreement caps months of negotiations made unusually complex because Democrats control the House and Republicans the Senate. The House is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday, as Congress has only a few days to pass the bill before the House’s Christmas recess begins Thursday afternoon. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
An informational meeting on Nov. 20 turned confrontational
A public meeting regarding the long-delayed cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Lab last week got heated when police were called in to remove one of the activists waiting to give feedback on a recently released environmental impact study.
Dan Hirsch, president of the nonprofit nuclear policy organization Committee to Bridge the Gap, had planned to present a slideshow while giving his three minutes of testimony during a Nov. 20 event held by NASA at Best Western Posada Royale Hotel in Simi Valley. The three-minute time was allotted to anyone who chose to share comments related to the field lab.
But the longtime site cleanup activist said he was met with opposition from NASA officials, who physically tried to block the setup of a projector that he brought with him and then later called police to have him removed from the venue.
The confrontation lasted about 15 minutes, he said. And while he was waiting quietly in line to give his comments, Hirsch said police showed up and asked him to leave voluntarily or he would be charged with trespassing.
The 2,850-acre field lab in unincorporated hills just southeast of Simi Valley experienced the partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 when it was the Rocketdyne/Atomics International rocket engine test and nuclear facility. The site also experienced other chemical and radioactive contamination over the years.
Fireworks erupted this week at a NASA public meeting on the much-delayed cleanup of a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory outside Simi Valley.
Longtime cleanup activist Dan Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nonprofit nuclear policy organization, said he was asked by Simi Valley police to leave Wednesday night’s meeting at the Best Western Posada Royale after trying unsuccessfully to present a slide show.
The meeting was held to allow the public to comment on NASA’s recently released Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding cleaning up its portion of the field lab site.
(MOSCOW) — Two Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela on Monday, a deployment that comes amid soaring Russia-U.S. tensions.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said a pair Tu-160 bombers landed at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas on Monday following a 10,000-kilometer (6,200-mile) flight. It didn’t say if the bombers were carrying any weapons and didn’t say how long they will stay in Venezuela.
An 85-gallon drum of radioactive waste leaked into its secondary container. Nearly two dozen waste containers were either mislabeled or not labeled at all. Officials failed to conduct mandated hazardous waste inspections.
During Los Alamos National Laboratory’s most recent fiscal year, officials logged 69 instances of noncompliance with the federal permit that allows the facility to store, manage and treat hazardous waste, according to a newly released annual report that details the violations.
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board is asking Department of Energy (DOE) Environment Management and New Mexico Environment Department to address the potential impacts of the possible redefinition of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) for the board.
BY MAIRE O’NEILL thelosalamosreporter.com
A public hearing being conducted by the New Mexico Environment to consider the ground water discharge permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory headed into its second day Thursday in the Los Alamos Magistrate Courtroom.
On Wednesday, public comment was heard throughout the day from members of the public, tribal representatives, public officials and watchdog groups such as Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
BY PAM WRIGHT weather.com
FORMER COLORADO THERMONUCLEAR PARTS PLANT NOW A WILDLIFE REFUGE
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the gates of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 15 near a former Environmental Protection Agency superfund site which used to house a plant that manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs for nearly four decades, the Associated Press reports.
Andy Stiny | The Santa Fe New Mexican
Three nuclear watchdog groups across the U.S., including Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are accusing the National Nuclear Security Administration of creating a plan to increase production of plutonium bomb cores in violation of an environmental law.
BY ADRIAN C. HEDDEN, Carlsbad currentargus.com
“Calculation change will not impact facility’s capacity”
[We at NukeWatch do believe that this proposed change WILL expand WIPP’s capacity and are working hard to stop it.]
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant said a proposed modification to facility’s permit to dispose of nuclear waste will have little impact on WIPP operations or its maximum capacity for emplacement. The modification regards how the facility tracks the volume of transuranic (TRU) waste permanently stored in the underground repository.
BY AI TANABE, Staff Writer The Asahi Shimbun
Hibakusha atomic bomb survivors admonished U.S. President Donald Trump for threatening to walk away from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in a protest letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Oct. 22. The note, addressed in Japanese to the commander-in-chief, was compiled by five hibakusha groups in Nagasaki expressing their concerns over the proposed withdrawal from the 1987 treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union.
The groups stated that if the United States pulls out of the treaty, “global momentum for nuclear disarmament will fade away while the likelihood of a nuclear war crisis will rise.”
THE LOS ALAMOS MONITOR ONLINE
Feds Test Regional Aquifer for More LANL Contamination of High Explosives
Monday, October 22, 2018
Chemicals used to make high explosives have reached the regional water supply, the Los Alamos federal environmental manager discovered two years ago.
The contractor for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management field office is drilling a second well to find out just how much contamination has occurred.
Critics: WIPP proposal would allow more nuclear waste storage
By Rebecca Moss | sfnewmexican.com
Sep 19, 2018 Updated Sep 19, 2018
As the public comment period closes Thursday on modifications to a state permit allowing the federal government to store nuclear waste at a southeastern New Mexico repository, critics are decrying the changes as an effort to increase storage capacity at the site and are accusing the state Environment Department of rushing the approval process.
The U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, a private contractor that manages the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, submitted a request early this year to change the way radioactive waste at the site is measured.
They want to measure the waste by the volume inside each waste drum rather than by the total number of containers at the site. WIPP can store a maximum of 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic waste — discarded tools, soil and equipment contaminated by plutonium and other radioactive materials — in its underground salt-bed caverns. But its capacity has been measured so far by the total volume of the waste drums, not the materials held inside them.
Mini-nukes: Still a horrible and dangerous idea
By John Mecklin, September 19, 2018
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Perhaps the most dangerous weapons program the US government has recently pursued involves a low-yield nuclear warhead for submarine-launched nuclear missiles. The arguments against development of such “small nukes” are legion and overwhelmingly compelling. In fact, almost exactly one year ago, I laid out some of those arguments in an article headlined, “Mini-nukes: The attempted resurrection of a terrible idea.” And, I said then, don’t just take my word for it; read the analysis of Jim Doyle, a former longtime technical staffer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Simply put, the availability of “small” nuclear warheads increases the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used, and any use of nuclear weapons easily could (some experts might say “inevitably would”) lead to general nuclear war and the end of civilization.
In the last year, however, the Trump administration released a Nuclear Posture Review calling for development of a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Congress subsequently passed a defense authorization act that includes money for the program, and another bill allocates millions in the Energy Department budget specifically for pursuit of the new warhead.
New Mexico Senators Speak Out Over Order They Say Would Hamper Nuclear Safety Board
They want Congress to suspend a move that would limit access to information about facilities and could hinder the panel’s ability to oversee worker health and safety.
by Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican,
Aug. 31, 5 a.m. EDT
This article was produced in partnership with The Santa Fe New Mexican, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.
New Mexico’s senators are asking Congress to block a Department of Energy order that would limit a federal board’s access to information about nuclear facilities and could hinder its ability to oversee worker health and safety.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the leaders of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall also asked their colleagues to block impending staff cuts and a broad reorganization at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. New Mexico is home to three of the 14 nuclear facilities under the board’s jurisdiction: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
“We feel strongly that these two matters facing the [safety board] and its future must be suspended while Congress and the public have time to review and offer constructive feedback” on how to maintain and improve the board, the senators wrote to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking member of the energy and water development subcommittee.
The West’s atomic past, in opera halls
On stage and in Congress, Trinity test downwinders fight for recognition.
Elena Saavedra Buckley, High Country News, Aug. 30, 2018
Outside the Santa Fe Opera, a 62-year-old venue nestled in juniper-covered hills, retirees reclined by cloth-covered tables in the parking lot. As the August heat reflected off the asphalt, they tailgated with flutes of champagne. Soon, they would file in to see Doctor Atomic, an opera about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the 24 hours before the first atomic bomb, which he helped create, detonated over New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin in the Trinity test.
Doctor Atomic has been performed in New York and San Francisco, but never before in New Mexico, where Manhattan Project scientists from Los Alamos Laboratory created the bomb. John Adams composed the opera in 2005, and Peter Sellars’s libretto uses declassified Los Alamos documents, focusing on the scientists’ perspective. This was the first time that downwinders — people whose families lived in the Tularosa Basin, in the path of the bomb’s radiation — appeared on stage during a performance. This summer, 73 years after Trinity, New Mexico’s downwinders are finally receiving some attention — onstage and in Congress.
The Trinity test occurred at 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1945, about 150 miles south of Santa Fe and the laboratory and only weeks before the bombings in Japan. It bathed the basin in light, creating a half-mile-wide crater. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders believe that blast’s radiation gave their families cancer, either from the air or through milk and produce, and that the diseases are being passed down genetically.
Trump Administration Muzzles Nuclear Weapons Safety Watchdog
The administration, working in open alliance with profit-making contractors, is scaling back the safety group’s authority and slashing its staff.
Center For Public Integrity
08.30.18 6:00 AM ET
By Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity
A small government safety organization tasked with protecting the workers who construct America’s nuclear arsenal and with preventing radioactive disasters in the communities where they live is under new siege in Washington.
The Trump administration, acting in an open partnership with the profit-making contractors that control the industrial sites where U.S. nuclear bombs are made and stored, has enacted new rules that limit the authority and reach of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, created by Congress in 1988 amid broad public concerns over civil and military nuclear safety lapses.
The administration’s new rules eliminate the board’s authority to oversee workplace protections for roughly 39,000 nuclear workers and also block its unfettered access to nearly three-quarters of the nuclear weapons-related sites that it can now inspect.
In a separate move, the board’s new acting Republican chairman has proposed to put more inspectors in the field but to cut its overall staff by nearly a third, including letting some of its supporting technical experts in Washington go. The board already has one of the smallest oversight staffs of any federal agency.
The twin assaults on the operations and authority of the safety board come just as the Energy Department, acting at President Trump’s direction, is embarking on the most aggressive era of nuclear weapons production since the Cold War. Trump has called for one new nuclear bomb to be produced immediately and for the production of another new bomb to be studied.
A Nuclear Energy Meltdown Scrambles Southern Politics
South Carolinians have some of the highest electricity bills in the country, thanks in part to nuclear energy
BY ANDREA COOPER | AUG 30 2018
REVEREND LEO WOODBERRY CLUTCHED the pulpit, his voice rumbling toward the people gathered in the basement theater at Little Rock AME Zion church. Around 75 men and women wearing everything from stylish dresses to blue jeans and T-shirts sat in rapt attention.
“Talk to your friends,” Woodberry implored, wearing a “Justice First” T-shirt and a baseball hat. “Your neighbors, your commissioners, your mayors. Tell them we are ready right now to move away from fossil fuels. We’re ready to make our cities 100 percent renewable!”
People clapped, whistled, and cheered “Yes!” and “Amen!”
Woodberry was on his Justice First Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, 100 miles from his home in Florence, South Carolina. The environmental activist had come here to proclaim that the moment had arrived for the climate change, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, and marriage equality movements to unite for a common cause: opposing an extractive economy “based on death and destruction and sickness.”
That same economy is responsible for an unprecedented energy and financial disaster in Woodberry’s home state: A $9 billion nuclear project—once heralded as part of a U.S. nuclear revival—has been abandoned after years of delays and mismanagement. One of the South Carolina utilities responsible for the colossal failure has billed its customers $37 million each month to recoup costs.
The US Government Is Updating Its Nuclear Disaster Plans And They Are Truly Terrifying
“We are looking at 100 kiloton to 1,000 kiloton detonations,” a FEMA official said.
Dan Vergano BuzzFeed News Reporter
Reporting From Washington, DC
Posted on August 24, 2018, at 11:59 a.m. ET
Amid concerns over North Korea, federal emergency managers are updating disaster plans to account for large nuclear detonations over the 60 largest US cities, according to a US Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
The shift away from planning for small nuclear devices that could be deployed by terrorists toward thermonuclear blasts arranged by “state actors” was discussed on Thursday at a two-day National Academies of Sciences workshop for public health and emergency response officials held at its headquarters across the street from the US State Department.
“We are looking at 100 kiloton to 1,000 kiloton detonations,” chief of FEMA’s chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear branch Luis Garcia told BuzzFeed News. The agency’s current “nuclear detonation” guidance for emergency planners, first released in 2010, had looked at 1 to 10 kiloton blasts — smaller than the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs that killed more than 200,000 people at the end of World War II. Those smaller size detonations had seemed more reasonable after 9/11, with high concerns about an improvised terrorist bomb.
California State Legislature Passes Pro-Nuclear Disarmament Resolution
Sacramento–Assembly Joint Resolution 33 (AJR 33), introduced by Santa Barbara’s State Assembly member, Monique Limón, passed in the state Senate today by a vote of 22 to 8. This marks a huge step forward in California’s support of nuclear disarmament and puts the state at the forefront of this critical issue.
The resolution calls on federal leaders and our nation to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of our national security policy, and spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war. (More on the Treaty here.)
Rick Wayman, Deputy Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in Santa Barbara whose mission is to create a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons, was asked by Limón to testify in support of the Resolution.
The modern nuclear arsenal: A nuclear weapons expert describes a new kind of Cold War
Nuclear Knowledge: The modern nuclear arsenal
Secrecy, bombastic threats and doomsday talk abound when talking about nuclear weapons, so The Post sat down with expert Hans Kristensen to clear the air. (Jenny Starrs /The Washington Post)
By Jenny Starrs
August 24 at 7:00 AM
With the flurry of talks with North Korea and the fallout from the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, nuclear weapons have become a major topic of discussion in recent months. But secrecy abounds: Who has what weapons? How many? How much damage could they do?
Hans Kristensen tries to answer those questions. As the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Kristensen and his colleagues delve into open source data, analyze satellite imagery and file requests under the Freedom of Information Act to get the most accurate picture of the world’s nuclear-armed countries. The initiative produces reports on nuclear weapons, arms control and other nuclear matters, and gives recommendations on how to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons worldwide.
Kristensen sat down with The Washington Post to discuss how the United States’s nuclear capabilities stack up with the rest of the world, and potential problems down the road. The questions and answers have been edited for brevity.
New Los Alamos lab manager Triad will pay GRT, official says
By Andy Stiny | email@example.com
Aug 22, 2018 Updated 16 hrs ago
A representative of Triad National Security LLC, which takes over management of Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, said Wednesday the consortium will pay gross receipts taxes, easing concerns of local officials about losing millions of dollars in revenue.
Scott Sudduth, assistant vice chancellor with the Office of Federal Relations for the Texas A&M University system, told an audience of about 50 community members during a meeting in Los Alamos that the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department responded to a recent inquiry from Triad by saying that “it is their view that the gross receipts tax does apply to Triad.”
Los Alamos County officials had said previously that if Triad were deemed to have nonprofit status, the county estimated it could lose $21 million annually and the state $23 million in gross receipts tax revenues, according to published reports.
State lawmakers maintained they will have a say in a proposed facility to store high-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad and Hobbs, despite an opinion issued by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas suggesting New Mexico will have a limited role in licensing the project.
New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), who chairs the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee said Balderas’ opinion was informative but did not preclude lawmakers from preventing the facility from operating.
The committee convened in May to study the project proposed by New Jersey-based Holtec International, and held its third meeting on Wednesday at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.
Opposed to the project, Steinborn said state lawmakers owe their constituents a full review of the proposal.
“I think it’s kind of a troubling deficiency in the government if the state doesn’t have to give consent to have something like this foisted upon it,” he said. “The State of New Mexico owes it to the people to look at every aspect of it.”
ALBUQUERQUE — A long-anticipated study into the cancer risks of New Mexico residents living near the site of the world’s first atomic bomb test likely will be published in 2019, the National Cancer Institute announced.
Institute spokesman Michael Levin told the Associated Press that researchers are examining data on diet and radiation exposure on residents who lived near the World War II-era Trinity test site, and scientists expect to finish the study by early next year.
The federal government confirms some people in the St. Louis area may have a higher risk of getting cancer. A recent health report found some residents who grew up in areas contaminated by radioactive waste decades ago may have increased risk for bone and lung cancers, among other types of the disease. The assessment was conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As CBS News correspondent Anna Werner reports, the situation is not unique to St. Louis because it’s connected to America’s development of its nuclear weapons program decades ago. Radioactive wastes persist in soils, and many believe that’s why they or a loved one developed cancer. Now for the first time, federal health officials agree, on the record, that’s a real possibility.
In an example of Now-You-See-It-Now-You-Don’t, the NM Environment Department (NMED) is proposing to change their method of measuring waste emplaced into the underground at WIPP. This would would allow 30% more waste into WIPP than is currently allowed. This sleight of hand would be accomplished by not counting the outer-most container of waste packages in the future. This proposal is one piece of a larger plan to bring more waste to WIPP. New Mexicans have already taken enough of the nation”s radioactive waste. More waste increases the the chance of serious accidents leading to dangerous contamination.
Comments are currently due September 20, 2018 at 5pm, but this deadline ridiculously short. Please join us when we ask for an extension.
We will soon post some sample comments and will give updates as soon as NMED posts the Permit Modification online.
See the Notice here – WIPP Class 3 VOR Notice
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced 12 appointees to the Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).
Construction on a new complex has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration to replace 25 aged and dilapidated buildings currently located near Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories.
The University of California will continue to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory alongside two new partners.
“In a letter to the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee last month, the Project On Government Oversight was joined by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Savannah River Site Watch in requesting justification for this expanded capacity. NNSA has over 14,000 plutonium cores already constructed and in storage, many of them specifically designated for potential reuse in new nuclear weapons as part of a ‘strategic reserve.’
If the interoperable warhead is not needed or wanted by the Defense Department, then new pit production is not needed, and the MOX facility can be terminated once and for all. If it is, Congress should ensure that any path forward will be appropriately sized and scoped to meet that mission need. Either way, if all of these interlocking parts are not matched up as part of an overall strategy then there’s only going to be more waste, fraud, and abuse and it is the average American taxpayer who will pay the price.”
-Lydia Dennett, POGO investigator See her full report at POGO)
Russian military: incoming missiles will be shot down if they threaten Russian personnel. Trump: “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and smart!” Read More…
A BBC production, 2016.
“To achieve DoD’s 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.”
-Joint Statement from Ellen M. Lord and Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty on Recapitalization of Plutonium Pit Production
NB: Lisa Gordon-Hagerty is the Administrator of the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration); Ellen Lord is a DOD Under-secretary and Chair of the Nuclear Weapons Council (Gordon-Hagerty is also an NWC member).
After a historic summit, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have pledged to pursue “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and to work towards “a permanent and solid peace regime.”
Read the recent articles linked below to get a feel for how alarmed some in the know are at this time. These concerns are not heard much on US mass media. You may find some alarmist, but the general drift is unmistakeable. And lets’ not forget that those who know, such as Former Defense Secretary William Perry, have been saying we are not alarmed enough, nowhere near enough. Perry: “The danger of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War. Our public is blissfully unaware.” (ref)
– Foreign Policy: On the Verge of Nuclear War
– Time: Mikhail Gorbachev: The U.S. and Russia Must Stop the Race to Nuclear War
– The Nation: Unproven Allegations Against Trump and Putin Are Risking Nuclear War
– Counterpunch: The Skripal Poisonings and the Ongoing Vilification of Putin
– Salon: Behind this week’s Russia headlines:
A mystery, a leap to conclusions and a fateful turn
How did we get to this point? Here’s some background:
– Andrew Lichterman: U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Racing: Still Crazy After All These Years
– Austin Long: Red Glare: The Origin and Implications of Russia’s ‘New’ Nuclear Weapons
USA Today reported on an unreleased federal study blaming fallout from worldwide nuclear bomb testing for at least 15,000 cancer-related deaths and more than 20,000 non-fatal cancers in U.S. residents born since 1951.
President Donald Trump agrees to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a significant development in the decades-long effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached,” Trump tweeted Thursday.
- Trump’s decision bypasses the traditional negotiation process in favor of a top-level face-to-face meeting.
The worrisome aspects of Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review represented the arguments of the “Second Nuclear Age” hawks, i.e. that the world is no longer bi-polar, that the US needs more small nukes widely deployed so as not to be caught with either no response or a strategic response in regional conflicts, where the adversary might doubt we would go strategic. Thus US ‘deterrence’ had weakened. In this view, numerous smaller, widely deployed nukes are meant to sustain ‘deterrence’ into the more chaotic “Second Nuclear Age”.
On the other hand, the Russian response is framed by their overriding anxiety that the US, with its missile defense systems surrounding Russia, and NATO troops on Russian borders, is intent on developing the ability to win a nuclear war with Russia. Russia is afraid of the destabilization of the Cold War strategic equilibrium model, wherein neither side sought an advantage so great that it might consider a surprise attack. ABMs – anti-ballistic missile systems- were banned so that neither side could hope to launch a first strike and take out the remaining retaliatory missiles with a missile defense system.
The Russian high command stated last year that they in fact did now think the US was working to develop this capability (ref). The Trump Nuclear Posture Review, with its emphasis on war-fighting nukes, only reinforced Russian command fears that the US could be preparing for a fight. The weapons systems Putin announced last week were all noted for their ability to defeat missile defenses and thus, in the Russian view, to preserve ‘MAD’- mutually assured destruction- the Cold War’s solution to preventing a nuclear war. To understand better the Russian view, it’s worth remembering what Yuri Andropov said in 1981:
“The US is preparing for war but it is not willing to start a war… They strive for military superiority in order to ‘check’ us and then declare ‘checkmate’ against us without starting a war.” (ref)
Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly March 1, 2018:
“Back in 2001, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system…
Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defense systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.
We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002…
Despite our numerous protests and pleas, the American machine has been set into motion, the conveyer belt is moving forward. There are new missile defense systems installed in Alaska and California; as a result of NATO’s expansion to the east, two new missile defense areas were created in Western Europe: one has already been created in Romania, while the deployment of the system in Poland is now almost complete…”
Defeating missile defenses, from Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly, March 1:
– The Sarmat ICBM “is untroubled by even the most advanced missile defense systems.”
– A nuclear-powered, nuclear-capable cruise missile: “invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems.”
– A high-speed, deep ocean nuclear drone “There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”
– The RS-26 “Avangard” (aka YU-71) A nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that can travel at 20 times the speed of sound. “It flies to its target like a meteorite, like a ball of fire”
The intersection of these two contrasting frames of reference could see misunderstandings, confusion, and conflict. Putin seemed to feel obliged to make a clear warning.
“We are greatly concerned by certain provisions of the revised Nuclear Posture Review, which… reduce the threshold for use of nuclear arms… in response to conventional arms attacks and even to a cyber-threat.”
As such, I see it as my duty to announce the following.
Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.”
But he continued:
“There should be no doubt about this whatsoever. There is no need to create more threats to the world. Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilization. We have been saying this all along. All these proposals are still valid. Russia is ready for this.
And in closing,
“I hope that everything that was said today would make any potential aggressor think twice, since unfriendly steps against Russia such as deploying missile defenses and bringing NATO infrastructure closer to the Russian border become ineffective in military terms and entail unjustified costs, making them useless for those promoting these initiatives.
It was our duty to inform our partners of what I said here today under the international commitments Russia had subscribed to. When the time comes, foreign and defense ministry experts will have many opportunities to discuss all these matters with them, if of course our partners so desire.”
“The potential increase would mark a $79 million boost in WIPP’s funding compared with enacted spending in FY 2017, while several infrastructure projects are ongoing at the site to increase airflow and continue to expand the facility’s underground nuclear waste repository.”
“We’re modernizing and creating a brand new nuclear force. And frankly, we have to do it because others are doing it. If they stop, we’ll stop. But they’re not stopping. So, if they’re not gonna stop, we’re gonna be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before. And I hope they stop. And if they do, we’ll stop in two minutes. And frankly, I’d like to get rid of a lot of ’em. And if they want to do that, we’ll go along with them. We won’t lead the way, we’ll go along with them…
But we will always be number one in that category, certainly as long as I’m president. We’re going to be far, far in excess of anybody else.”
For more see Politico
Experts have been saying for some time that there is no good military solution to the Korea crisis. The best way to see the crisis defused would, of course, start with a rapprochement of the two Koreas. In fact the State Dept. recently said that the US would have no objection to a unified Korea as long as it was de-nuclearized. So that path was in the wind, but when the two Koreas initiated a peace and reconciliation effort at the Olympics, US Vice President Pence refused to go along.
Pence spent the days leading up to Friday’s opening ceremonies warning that the North was trying to ‘hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games’ with its ‘propaganda.’
But the North was still welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called ‘Olympic games of peace’ and the U.S. appeared to be the one left out in the cold.
Pence sat stone-faced in his seat as Moon and North Koreans officials stood together with much of the stadium to applaud their joint team of athletes. White House officials stressed that Pence had applauded only for the American team, but Asia experts said the vice president’s refusal to stand could be seen as disrespectful to the hosts.
While South Korean President Moon did not hesitate to shake hands and smile with his North Korean visitors, Pence didn’t appear to even look in the direction of the North Korean delegation during the Friday event.
Seems the Trump administration would rather threaten than talk.
We often hear these days that the North Korean nuclear weapons program is a failure of deterrence. It is not. DPRK’s nuke forces were developed for the same reasons ours exist: to deter another state from attacking it. (In particular, the US.) DPRK’s program is a confirmation of the concept of deterrence.
The concept of deterrence means a state has nuclear weapons so other states dare not attack. As such all states might aspire to develop a deterrent. Our ‘deterrence’ was never meant to prevent states form going nuclear, only to prevent them from attacking us.
Preventing other states from going nuclear was the purpose of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT deal was that non-nuclear weapons states would abstain from developing nuclear arsenals in exchange for a promise from the nuclear weapons states to negotiate in good faith to achieve genuine reductions and eventual abolition of nuclear arsenals. The nuclear weapons states have not done that. They still have 15000 nukes. That is the failure.
DPRK’s nuclear development isn’t down to a failure of deterrence but rather a failure of the nuclear weapons states to abide in good faith by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Massive gamble”, “risk of mass casualties and utter devastation”… Urges diplomatic efforts…
Selected Press Items
Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported:
“Santa Fe city leaders asked for developers’ ideas on what to do with the city-owned midtown campus…The National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA], which administers the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract, submitted a master developer proposal to build an open-campus environment with administrative offices, sustainable green spaces, engineering space, light manufacturing, training facilities and research and development…
[A NNSA spokesperson said] “LANL is undergoing unprecedented growth and expects to hire more than 1,000 new personnel annually for the next several years. Having a new campus — midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories [LANL and Sandia]— to house professional staff, scientists, and engineers in partnership with the city of Santa Fe — would be very beneficial.” ”
LANL’s growing jobs are primarily for expanded production of plutonium pits (the radioactive triggers of nuclear weapons) which helps to fuel the new global arms race. Over the last decade the Santa Fe City Council has passed three different resolutions against expanded plutonium pit production. Seventy percent (and growing) of LANL’s ~$2.6 billion annual budget is for core nuclear weapons research and production programs, while the remainder directly or indirectly supports those programs. In contrast, LANL’s renewable energy budget is .007% of its nuclear weapons budget and the Lab has zero dedicated funding to fight climate change. Moreover, LANL claims that its cleanup is more than half complete, intentionally omitting that it plans to leave ~150,000 cubic meters of toxic and radioactive wastes permanently buried uphill from the Rio Grande and above our common groundwater aquifer.
Just this last Sunday Pope Francis called for the abolition of nuclear weapons while in Japan paying homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.
The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. It would be supremely ironic if the City of Santa Fe hosted a satellite campus for a massive institution that spends 2 billion dollars (and counting) every year on nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Mayor Webber and the Santa Fe City Council surely know that the institutionalized presence of a nuclear weapons production laboratory in our city would generate a tremendous amount of controversy, a controversy they could well do without. The leaders of the City of Santa Fe should nix LANL’s proposal for a satellite campus in our town as a nonstarter and an affront to St. Francis de Assisi, the saint of peace.”
# # #
The Santa Fe New Mexican article is available at
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 24, 2019
Santa Fe, NM – Today, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons while paying homage to the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two cities were both destroyed by atomic weapons designed and produced by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located in northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese.
The Holy Father declared:
“With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home. The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth. How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”
Two of the U.S.’ three nuclear weapons laboratories, the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, are located within the Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese. Together the two labs spend $4 billion per year on core nuclear weapons design, testing and production programs. In addition, up to 2,500 nuclear weapons are estimated to be held in strategic reserve at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex, less than two miles south of the Albuquerque International Airport. That complex is probably the largest repository of intact nuclear weapons in the country and perhaps the world.Continue reading
In a recent report, the Department Of Energy’s Office of Inspector General (IG) found issues with the way Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) keeps track of controlled substances such as cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. The IG found that LANL staff had not managed controlled substances in accordance with applicable Federal laws and regulations.
The IG also found that LANL staff had mislabeled procurement records of these drugs, kept inaccurate inventories, and retained controlled substances well beyond the conclusion of experiments. The IG determined that Los Alamos did not have appropriate “processes, procedures, or controls in place to monitor, track, account for, and dispose of controlled substances.”
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), located outside Carlsbad, NM. is the nation’s only geologic repository for defense-generated transuranic waste. The Department of Energy (DOE) is accepting comments on its 2019-2024 “Strategic Plan”, which should be focused on closing WIPP. But the Plan focuses on extending WIPP’s lifetime to 2050 and beyond. WIPP’s disposal phase was extended until 2024 (in 2010), and the last expected year of final closure of the WIPP facility (i.e., date of final closure certification) was to be 2034. There was always a 10-year period for final closure after the disposal operations ceased.
But, instead, the WIPP Strategic Plan is stocked full of new projects that will extend WIPP’s life another 25 years at least. Yet, WIPP officials don’t mention how or when they plan to modify the State Permit with the new proposed date. DOE’s own waste-handling inefficiencies and mistakes have caused this delay that the people of New Mexico are now paying for by having WIPP open longer than planned. We are asking everyone to oppose DOE’s “WIPP Forever” plans by sending in comments. See below.
DOE Moves Forward With Unneeded New Shaft at WIPP
Originally billed as a replacement exhaust shaft to help WIPP recover from the 2014 exploding drum event that shut down WIPP for three years, a proposed new shaft is now designed to increase WIPP’s capacity. WIPP officials have repeatedly stated that after a new filter building is complete, WIPP will have returned to its pre-2014 capacity without the new shaft. The $75 million new fifth shaft would increase the mining and waste handling capacity by 25% at any given time.
One would think that increasing the annual ability to emplace waste at WIPP would help keep the repository on track to stop receiving waste by its original date of 2024. But along with the annual increased mining and disposal capacity, DOE has also released a Strategic Plan to extend WIPP’s waste disposal deadline to 2052.
Today, lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment sent a second letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The letter demands a nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement for the agencies’ proposed expanded production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. Invoking the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the letter concludes:
“…we advise the agencies that timely compliance with NEPA is the best means for the agencies to keep these [expanded plutonium pit production] projects on track, as a failure to rigorously comply with NEPA may necessitate litigation, including if necessary motions for injunctive relief, all of which would likely increase the expense of DOE’s and NNSA’s proposed actions and extend their timelines further. Accordingly, we strongly encourage DOE and NNSA to come into compliance with NEPA by preparing a new or supplemental PEIS for its proposals regarding plutonium pit production, and to do so immediately. If the agencies continue on their current trajectory, we will have no choice but to evaluate all our options to enforce compliance with federal environmental laws.”
As background, on May 10, 2018, the Departments of Defense and Energy jointly announced that plutonium pit production would be expanded from the currently sanctioned level of 20 pits per year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico to at least 30 pits per year, plus redundant production of at least 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, which would be a completely new mission there.
A new assessment finds that Department of Energy (DOE) is not conducting effective oversight of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) beryllium program, or of safety and health programs in general. In addition, DOE is not maintaining sufficient technical capability and knowledge of site and contractor activities to make informed decisions about hazards and risks. DOE indicated the lack of sufficient safety and health resources has presented a challenge to achieving effective oversight in this area.
Defense News reports that “Nuclear gravity bomb and warhead upgrades face new delays” because of new components used in so-called Life Extension Programs (LEPs) to prolong the service lives of existing nuclear weapons. These programs also give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities. For example, see How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze
The point of this blog is to raise the question of whether these Life Extension Programs really enhance U.S. national security while maintaining the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, perhaps the crux issue is prudent and conservative maintenance of the stockpile versus increasingly aggressive LEPs.
19 seconds – the amount of time airborne radiological contamination could be released before the safety dampers close. This assumes that all other components work perfectly.
A recent report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) explains the DNFSB’s calculations on the proposed new (estimated at nearly $300 million) safety significant confinement ventilation system (SSCVS).
Comments to the Northern NM Citizens’ Advisory Board
By Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch NM, July 24, 2019
Tremendous progress requires overall improvement, not just at one spot. A recent Environmental Management Los Alamos (EMLA) press release claimed “tremendous progress” with regards to the chromium (Cr) plume. Media stories then did their job and generalized that everything about the plume was getting better. This is the kind of public relations’ language that does not help to further the discussion on these complex issues.
July 16th 2019 is the 74th anniversary of the first above ground nuclear bomb test on a U S civilian population. It was done near Tularosa New Mexico. The people were given no warning and have been subjected to 74 yrs of US government coverup and misinformation about the impact on them.
Over the last decade funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) nuclear weapons programs has increased 20%. However, funding for needed cleanup has remained flat at one-tenth of the almost $2 billion requested for nuclear weapons programs in FY 2020. Nuclear weapons funding is slated to keep climbing under the $1.7 trillion 30-year nuclear weapons “modernization” program begun under Obama. Trump is adding yet more money, and is accelerating the new arms race with Russia by adding two new types of nuclear weapons. Cleanup funding, on the other hand, is doomed to stay flat for the next two decades because the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) under Gov. Martinez gutted a 2005 “Consent Order” that would have forced the Department of Energy (DOE) and LANL to get more money for cleanup.
The Road to Genuine Los Alamos Lab Cleanup
Funding for nuclear weapons is still the priority at the Lab
- $1.7 trillion 30-year “modernization” program total current estimate across the nation
- LANL receives $2 billion annually for nuclear weapons work
Legacy Cleanup Program at LANL is getting started with new contractor
- Current cleanup estimate is $4.1 billion remaining to finish by 2036
- LANL cleanup has been receiving $195 to $220 million per year
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.
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.
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.
There should be no expanded pit production until nuclear safety is fully assured by an independent, unrestricted Safety Board, and our congressional delegation should be the first to demand that.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
A new report illustrates why planned expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos Lab has a high probability of failure.
May 4 – 5
City of Mud presents
Mom/Prom/Ban the Bomb
A two-day trunk show of
eight mighty jewelers
(and one acclaimed textile artist)
will benefit Nuclear Watch New Mexico
as they fight proliferation and pollution.
Saturday, May 4 from 11 to 6.
Sunday the 5th from 11 to 4.
1114 A Hickox St, Santa Fe, NM 87505
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.
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.
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.
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
3/13 PODCAST: Nuke Watch Director Jay Coghlan on the Lawsuit Against LANL
LISTEN ON SANTAFE.COM
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.
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.
The live video streaming link is Now Up Here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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/
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. p>
– 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.
– 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.
– 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
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.