Nuclear News Archive

More nuclear weapons — less cleanup

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

Jay Coghlan, Director – Nuclear Watch New Mexico

BY JAY COGHLANsantafenewmexican.com

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

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

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Today is Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday to honor and celebrate Native American and Indigenous peoples.

Among the many injustices suffered by native communities in the centuries that have passed since Europeans arrived on North America’s shores and claimed it for their own is the dangerous and deadly exposure to the radioactive materials used to create nuclear weapons. The United States’ nuclear arsenal has taken an especially hard toll on the Navajo, who continue to live with the repercussions of nuclear mining even today.

BACKGROUND

The process of building nuclear weapons starts with mining. One of the main elements of a nuclear bomb is enriched uranium. Some of the world’s richest uranium deposits span across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah — heavily overlapping with the Navajo Nation. These mines provided the uranium used in the Manhattan Project; the United States’ top-secret endeavor to build the first nuclear bombs. Between 1944 and 1986 mining companies blasted 4 million tons of uranium out of Navajo land. Until 1971, uranium from these mines was sold exclusively to the United States government. Many Navajo were employed in the uranium mines and exposed to unsafe conditions by the companies in employing them. The mining companies knew that mine workers were at heightened risk for developing lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases in 15 or 20 years. Additionally, the mines operated in a way that contaminated the surrounding lands and water by leaving large piles of radioactive materials exposed.

Many Navajo continue to live in close proximity to contaminated uranium mines. Of the 523 abandoned mines, the Environmental Protection Agency has only successfully cleaned up nine. The legacy of these mines and the contamination they leached into the environment on the Navajo Nation has been devastating: the cancer rate on the reservation doubled from the early 1970’s to the late 1990’s, even as the cancer rate declined nationwide. Each and every day, minority populations like the Navajo continue to be unduly affected by the militaristic pursuits of our government. For the Navajo, that means generations of health problems in the name of our nuclear weapons. We owe it to them, and to all the marginalized communities harmed by our pursuit and maintenance of nuclear weapons, to highlight the price they have been forced to pay for our nuclear arsenal.

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Udall pushes to expand Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

Feds move to demolish 13 structures at toxic Santa Susana site without state oversight

BY: MIKE HARRISvcstar.com

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Sept. 6 toured his department’s portion of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory, which the agency is responsible for cleaning up. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO:/U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY)

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week it has decided to demolish and remove, without state oversight, 13 of 18 remaining structures from its portion of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory as part of the much-delayed cleanup of the site.

However, in a so-called record of decision it issued Monday, the federal agency said it recognizes that the demolition and removal of the other five structures must be “compliant” with state permits and state hazardous waste laws.

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Expanding nuclear weapon production is reckless

“Placing a novel warhead design in the active nuclear weapons stockpile with a substantially untested pit is irresponsible. Rapidly increasing production at sites with spotty records compounds that error with added safety hazards. Increasing plutonium pit production to a rate of 80 or more annually is both reckless and unnecessary.”

BY: MARYLIA KELLEY &  JOSEPH RODGERSthehill.com

© Getty Images

Behind closed doors, Congress is in the process of making a decision that will have a profound impact on nuclear risk levels and global security. Hanging in the balance is a decision to recklessly increase production of plutonium bomb cores or “pits.” The NDAA conference committee must not make that mistake.

Pits are the triggers for thermonuclear weapons. Currently, the United States does not manufacture plutonium pits on an industrial scale. In its fiscal 2020 budget request the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) seeks authorization to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 at two facilities separated by some 1,500 miles. The Senate NDAA fully funds the request. The House instead authorizes 30 pits per year, all at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in NM. Los Alamos is presently authorized to produce 20 pits annually.

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WIPP: New Mexico nuclear waste site’s five-year plan deemed ‘insufficient’ by state leaders

A group of governors from western states voiced “disappointment” in a recently released five-year strategic plan for ongoing operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, contending they weren’t adequately consulted on the future of the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad.

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | carlsbadcurrentargus.com

Shown is a conceptual representation of what WIPP may look like in the next several years. The new area of the mine is represented in blue. (Photo: Courtesy of Department of Energy)

Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center said the plan was insufficient in that it did not detail plans and costs needed to keep WIPP open until 2050. He said the plan detailed projects intended to keep WIPP open beyond 2025, without adequately explaining the associated costs.

“It’s not a five-year plan,” Hancock said. “The centerpiece of the plan is WIPP being open until 2050. That’s 30-year plan. They’re saying WIPP’s timeline needs to be doubled. This should be saying how WIPP is transitioning from emplacement to closure, but it does the opposite.”

Hancock said the DOE must communicate with the public on either keeping WIPP, known as a pilot project, open indefinitely or developing other repositories to handle the low-level transuranic (TRU) waste disposed of at the site.

He said another alternative would be for the DOE to develop a plan to emplace the waste at the generator sites – multiple nuclear facilities across the country – themselves.

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US official: Research finds uranium in Navajo women, babies

About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, a U.S. health official said. The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared Monday during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque.

MARY HUDETZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS jhnewsandguide.com

Leslie Begay, left, speaks with U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, Monday outside a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque, N.M., highlighting the atomic age’s impact on Native American communities. Begay, a former uranium miner on the Navajo Nation with lung problems, says there are lingering injustices and health problems on his reservation decades after mines closed. An Indian Health Service official cited federal research at the hearing that she says showed some Navajo women, males and babies who were part of the study had high levels of uranium in their systems.

Dr. Loretta Christensen — the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research — said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended last year. Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year, she said. The research is continuing as authorities work to clear uranium mining sites across the Navajo Nation.

“It forces us to own up to the known detriments associated with a nuclear-forward society,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, a tribe whose jurisdiction lies west of Albuquerque.

The hearing held in Albuquerque by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Haaland and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats from New Mexico, sought to underscore the atomic age’s impact on Native American communities. The three are pushing for legislation that would expand radiation compensation to residents in their state, including post-1971 uranium workers and residents who lived downwind from the Trinity Test site in southern New Mexico.

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An evolving nuclear agenda spurs plutonium pit production at LANL

A ‘dirty, dirty process’

BY: KENDRA CHAMBERLAINE | nmpoliticalreport.com

A plutonium pit design from the 1940s. This photo was taken during a recreation of a criticality issue that occurred in 1946 at LANL. Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos has a starring role in a shift to U.S. nuclear policy that’s two presidential terms in the making. Nuclear watchdog groups in the state are concerned about the United States’ evolving nuclear agenda, which will see a sharp increase in plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

LANL recently released its $13 billion expansion proposal to accommodate increased pit production at the site. The expansion is part of a wider push across the country to ramp up the nuclear warhead manufacturing machine, according to Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group.

Plutonium pits are central to nuclear weaponry. They are the “radioactive cores of modern nuclear weapons,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. He added that the pits themselves are weapons. “It was essentially a plutonium pit that destroyed Nagasaki on August 9, 1945,”

The ramp-up is years in the making, as successive presidential administrations have struggled to address how to modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile. But nuclear watchdog groups worry an increase in pit production at LANL would have negative repercussions for the region. While LANL has touted the proposed economic benefits of its proposal for the area, activists argue the dangers outweigh the benefits. 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trump’s rumored pullout from Open Skies Treaty would idle Offutt jets

BY: STEVE LIEWER | OMAHA WORLD HERALD omaha.com

Trump Open Skies Treaty
House democrats are trying to block an apparent move by the Trump administration to pull out of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The aircraft and flight crews that fly the missions are based at Offutt Air Force base. One of the two 55th Wing OC-135B Open Skies aircraft taxies on the Offutt runway, near the former Martin Bomber Plant. CREDIT: US AIR FORCE

The Trump administration is believed to be preparing to pull out of the 34-nation Open Skies Treaty, a plan that would idle two Offutt-based OC-135B reconnaissance jets and their crews.

The treaty, proposed by President George H.W. Bush following the Cold War, allows member nations to fly supervised photo-reconnaissance flights over one another’s countries. This week, the U.S. and Germany are partnering on an Open Skies mission over Russia.

The planes are crewed and maintained at Offutt by the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, which is part of the 55th Wing. Several dozen Offutt airmen are involved in the program.

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October 8 The MacArthur Foundation Director of the Nuclear Challenges Program Emma Belcher comes on Press the Button to discuss the role of philanthropy in fighting the two existential threats to humanity – nuclear weapons and climate change. On the Early Warning news segment, Erica Fein from Win Without War joins Tom Collina and Akshai Vikram from Ploughshares Fund to discuss the impeachment inquiry and how it’s affecting the debate over the defense budget.

Also, an answer to the question: Do nuclear weapons work in space?

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There are about 26 nuclear weapons corporations earning nearly $100 billion per year amongst themselves. ‘They have vested financial interests in producing more and more nuclear weapons,’ says Dr Keith Suter (Australia), Economics Futurist and member of the Club of Rome,  ‘and they exert intense political power on decision makers to protect these interests.

As the United Nations First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) starts its 2019 session in New York today, plans are progressing to publicise the colossal waste of money on nuclear weapons by physically ‘counting out’ the global nuclear weapons budget.

Over the next four weeks, governments meeting at the UN will debate and vote upon a number of nuclear disarmament resolutions. However, the impact of these resolutions is likely to be minimal as long as there continues to be strong financial interests in maintaining the nuclear arms race.

Count the Nuclear Weapons Money

The Count the Nuclear Weapons Money Action, which takes place during UN Disarmament Week (October 24-30), aims to raise media and public attention to this, and to publicise actions that indivduals and organisations can take to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in nuclear weapons corporations, and shift these budgets and investments to better purposes.

The money counting will take place in a number of outside locations around Manhattan (as well as in New Jersey and Long Island) and at an interactive installation in an art gallery in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Click here if you would like to join the counting.

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Impeachment Slows All Hill Defense Biz; DoD Approps On Life Support

There’s not a lot of confidence out there about the prospects for a 2020 budget agreement. “A stripped down mini-NDAA may be all that could pass this year for defense,” says one long-time budget watcher.

BY breakingdefense.com

WASHINGTON: As the House of Representatives gears up to impeach President Trump, it’s getting harder and harder for anyone involved in defense to get a hearing with leadership, and the chances for a defense appropriations bill appear to be getting smaller every day.

While the chances for a second year of regular order (actually passing spending and major policy bills) already seemed unlikely, impeachment is sucking the oxygen out of the room, leaving regular order gasping for air. President Trump’s decision to take $3.6 billion from military construction accounts to build the so-called wall along the border with Mexico probably killed the chances for a defense spending bill. Add impeachment and the experts say abandon hope, all ye who enter the Capitol.

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We’re More at Risk of Nuclear War With Russia Than We Think

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle need to start addressing the danger.

BY: GEORGE BEEBE | politico.com

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lael Huss

In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans genuinely and rightly feared the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Schoolchildren regularly participated in air raid drills. Federal, state and local governments prepared for operations in the event of a nuclear emergency. More than a few worried citizens built backyard bomb shelters and stockpiled provisions.

Today, that old dread of disaster has all but disappeared, as have the systems that helped preclude it. But the actual threat of nuclear catastrophe is much greater than we realize. Diplomacy and a desire for global peace have given way to complacency and a false sense of security that nuclear escalation is outside the realm of possibility. That leaves us unprepared for—and highly vulnerable to—a nuclear attack from Russia.

The most recent sign of American complacency was the death, a few weeks ago, of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty—a pivotal 1987 agreement that introduced intrusive on-site inspection provisions, destroyed an entire class of dangerous weaponry, and convinced both Washington and Moscow that the other wanted strategic stability more than strategic advantage.

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Trump Claims Energy Secretary Rick Perry Is Behind Ukraine Call at Heart of Impeachment Inquiry: Report

President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

BY ANNA KAPLAN | thedailybeast.com Oct. 5, 2019

Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Trump has reportedly tried to pin the explosive Ukraine call at the center of an impeachment inquiry on Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Axios reports that the president claimed Perry had asked him to make the July phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked a whistleblower complaint. Trump reportedly claimed that he did not even want to call Zelensky, but said Perry had wanted him to inquire about a liquified natural gas plant. Trump is currently facing an impeachment inquiry for allegedly using that phone call to pressure Zelensky to pursue an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son’s ties to a major Ukrainian gas company. 

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Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe

The title of a new study by Toon et al, published this week in Science Advances, speaks volumes: “Rapidly Expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe.”

advances.sciencemag.org | PSR’s  press statement | usatoday.com | icanw.org

The study models the potential impacts of a regional nuclear conflict and found that, given the increased size and power of their respective nuclear arsenals, the effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan would have even more catastrophic impacts than previously thought.

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Top Health Expert Warns of Drinking Water Risks in Piketon Radiation Case

“The source of the uranium and other poisonous substances found in the air and on school property — the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon, Ohio, which made material for nuclear bombs throughout the Cold War — is owned by the federal government. Simply put, the feds aren’t working very hard to investigate themselves.”

BY STUART H. SMITH | stuarthsmith.com

One thing that I’ve found to be a constant in more than 25 years of working cases around pollution from radiation: A good outside expert will often tell citizens the things that government or big business simply can’t or won’t.

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October 1 House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump last week. What does this mean for nuclear policy and national security? Ro Khanna, US Representative from California’s 17th congressional district, joins Joe Cirincione for a special interview on the explosive allegations against the US president and the need to prevent a new war of choice during this time. Rep. Khanna, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), introduced a bipartisan amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act to prevent federal funds from being used for any military force against Iran without congressional authorization. “In the Silo” provides an exclusive look at the August 6 protest in front of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, featuring narration by Ploughshares Fund Development Associate Elissa Karim.

News summary with Mary Kaszynski, Joe Cirincione, and Abigail Stowe-Thurston of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Susan in California.

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BY THAD MOORE tmoore@postandcourier.com

About this series

This article is the second part in “Lethal Legacy,” The Post and Courier’s investigation into the nation’s plans for disposing of plutonium, the dangerous metal that triggers nuclear weapons. This installment probes the Department of Energy’s failed MOX project, an ambitious but doomed effort to clean up the legacy of the Cold War.

Part I: Why South Carolina is likely stuck with a stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear materials 


Dogged by faulty assumptions and lacking political will, the federal government squandered billions of dollars and an opportunity to dispose of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear material by chasing a massive construction project in South Carolina that was doomed from the start.

The MOX saga reveals an unsettling reality of the nuclear era after the Cold War. The U.S. and the world’s other nuclear powers have proven they are capable of pulling the explosive potential out of atoms, but they have proven unable to dispose of a creation that will retain immense power and be a danger for eternity.

What is MOX? MOX, short for mixed-oxide, is a type of fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. It gets its name from the combination of two oxidized nuclear metals: plutonium and uranium.The U.S. government and Russia agreed to make MOX fuel with highly enriched plutonium, which they made for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The idea was to make the plutonium less potent and generate electricity by reacting it in power plants; the project’s supporters described it as a way for the countries to turn their “swords into plowshares.”

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Nuclear weapons: Explained in numbers


There are far fewer nuclear weapons now than at the height of the Cold War and the major nuclear powers have all signed up to the principle of disarmament. But there are other countries that possess nuclear weapons which have not signed up to any arms control treaties.

And with fears of a renewed nuclear arms race between the US, Russia and China, the topic is high on the agenda at this year’s UN General Assembly. Reality Check’s Jack Goodman takes a look at the facts and figures behind the world’s nuclear arsenals.

Motion graphics by Jacqueline Galvin. | 26 Sep 2019 © bbc.com

Is it time to ditch the NPT?

“Nuclear weapon states have used this treaty to argue that their nuclear weapons are legal and a sovereign right. As a result, the NPT became the cornerstone of a severely hypocritical nuclear order where a few states regard wielding their nuclear weapons as legitimate while proscribing this sovereign right to other states…nuclear weapon states have no intention to give up their nuclear weapons.”

Is it time to ditch the NPT?
UN/IAEA inspectors examine suspect equipment in Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. Photo Credit: IAEA Action Team

BY JOELIEN PRETORIU & TOM SAUER | thebulletin.org

In 2020, the participants in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will congregate for the treaty’s 10th review conference. Which means that it may be a good time to re-examine the relevance of the NPT, and even consider the idea of dropping this treaty in its entirety, in favor of the new kid on the block: the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, also know as the Ban Treaty. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, one treaty seeks to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons, while the other goes further and seeks to get rid of them entirely. This difference is reflected in their formal titles.

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New Aerial Photos Released of Trifecta of U.S. Nuclear Construction Debacles

page1image19099216

DOE’s Terminated Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Plant, Dominion/SCE&G Canceled V.C. Nuclear Reactor Project & Georgia Power’s Ongoing, Bungled Vogtle Reactor Construction
Columbia, South Carolina – Savannah River Site Watch has obtained new aerial photos of the three bungled nuclear construction projects in South Carolina and Georgia and is publicly releasing them. The three projects comprise the trifecta of large, failed U.S. nuclear construction project in the United States, according to SRS Watch.
“We are pleased to facilitate distribution of the photos of the three failed nuclear projects in South Carolina and Georgia as close observation of them will reveal the status of the sites and where so much money has been needlessly wasted,” said Tom Clements, Director of Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch). “It is stunning to realize that perhaps $40 billion has been spent so far on the three sites, with the cost at all of them going up daily, money that should have been spent on projects of positive benefit to the public,” added Clements.  “The photos commemorate the three largest, failed nuclear construction projects in the United States and will be of use when the proper investigations into the failed projects are conducted,” added Clements.

How a $5 part used to modernize nuclear warheads could cost $850 million to fix

World’s first nuclear smart bomb to become even more expensive..

BY AARON MEHTA | defensenews.com

WASHINGTON — Issues with commercial parts on two nuclear warhead modernization projects could cost up to $850 million to fix, but the agency in charge of America’s warheads believes it has a solution.

The issue, first revealed by Verdon during the Sept. 4 Defense News Conference, would put both warhead modernization programs at an 18- to 20-month delay of their first production units, although NNSA is hopeful there won’t be significant delays on the overall program timelines.

The parts in question are commercially available capacitors that, during stress testing, did not give NNSA confidence they could survive the 20-30 years needed for these designs. Verdon stressed that the parts were not at risk of failure under normal circumstances, but that the agency was acting out of an abundance of caution for the long-term life of the weapons.

That caution is pricey: the Original capacitors, Verdon said, ran about $5 per unit. The upgraded ones, built to a higher standard NNSA believes can survive the lifetime of the programs, come in at $75 per unit. All told, the B61-12 will cost an extra $600-700 million, and the W88 will cost about $120-$150 million because of the capacitor issue.

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12 States join the Nuclear Ban Treaty on International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2019

On the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, 12 states took another significant step towards achieving this goal by signing or ratifying the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, during a special High-Level Ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The five nations that ratified during the ceremony are:

  • Bangladesh
  • Kiribati
  • Laos
  • Maldives
  • Trinidad & Tobago

These states are also joined by Ecuador, which became the 27th state to ratify the Treaty on September 25th, one day before the ceremony.

The following states signed on to the Treaty:  Botswana, Dominica, Grenada, Lesotho, St Kitts and Nevis, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago (as the latter two states both signed and ratified the Treaty during the ceremony).

The treaty now has 79 signatories and 32 States Parties. By signing, a State commits to not take any action that would undermine the treaty’s object and purpose. Upon depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, a state becomes legally bound by the terms of the treaty. When the Treaty has 50 states Parties it will enter into force, making nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

The ceremony was hosted by long-time champions of the Treaty: Austria, Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa and Thailand and enabled presidents and foreign ministers to take this important step while they were gathered at the UNGA.

ICAN meets Irish President Michael Higgins

Newly-elected President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, opened the ceremony, and spoke passionately in support of the Treaty’s importance in ending nuclear weapons. “We commend states that have joined TPNW and urge those who have not done so to do join in this most vital action,“ he said during his address to the UNGA Plenary event earlier in the day.

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, celebrated the move by these 12 countries and the outspoken support for the Treaty around the world throughout the day.  “Away from most cameras, we come together to do the actual work of nuclear disarmament. For the good of your people and the good of the world you propel the Treaty toward entry-into-force […]  Today, in this room, I feel the scale tilting toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This day of action gives us all hope at a bleak time.”

After today, the treaty is almost two-thirds of the way to its entry into force, and this momentum is expected to continue. Several countries have confirmed to ICAN that their ratifications are imminent, and campaigners around the world will not stop until every country is on board.

Join the movement to end nuclear weapons

The full ceremony can be viewed here:

Nuclear power is not the answer in a time of climate change

Wild weather, fires, rising sea levels, earthquakes and warming water temperatures all increase the risk of nuclear accidents, while the lack of safe, long-term storage for radioactive waste remains a persistent danger.

BY HEIDI HUTNER & ERICA CIRINO | aeon.co 

The Woolsey Fire seen from Topanga Canyon in California. Photo courtesy of Peter Buschmann/USDA/Flickr

Proponents of nuclear power say that the reactors’ relative reliability and capacity make this a much clearer choice than other non-fossil-fuel sources of energy, such as wind and solar, which are sometimes brought offline by fluctuations in natural resource availability. Yet no one denies that older nuclear plants, with an aged infrastructure often surpassing expected lifetimes, are extremely inefficient and run a higher risk of disaster.

‘The primary source of nuclear power going forward will be the current nuclear fleet of old plants,’ said Joseph Lassiter, an energy expert and nuclear proponent who is retired from Harvard University. But ‘even where public support exists for [building new] nuclear plants, it remains to be seen if these new-build nuclear plants will make a significant contribution to fossil-emissions reductions given the cost and schedule overruns that have plagued the industry.’

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Nuclear Abolition: The Road from Armageddon to Transformation

Nuclear weapons pose a grave threat to the future of civilization. As long as we allow these weapons to exist, we flirt with the catastrophe that they will be used, whether intentionally or accidentally.

ESSAY BY DAVID KRIEGER
Great Transition Initiative
(August 2018), http://www.greattransition.org/publication/nuclear-abolition.

Meanwhile, nuclear weapons skew social priorities, create imbalances of power, and heighten geopolitical tension. Diplomacy has brought some noteworthy steps in curbing risks and proliferation, but progress has been uneven and tenuous. The ultimate aim of abolishing these weapons from the face of the earth—the “zero option”—faces formidable challenges of ignorance, apathy, and fatigue.

Yet, the total abolition of nuclear weapons is essential for a Great Transition to a future rooted in respect for life, global solidarity, and ecological resilience.

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DOE for First Time Rejects Safety Board Recommendation – SRS Watch

SRS Watch and Nuclear Watch New Mexico have been working hard together on pit production issues. SRS Watch and NukeWatch NM, alongside other groups in ANA, have requested that the DNFSB now get involve in issue related to conversion of the canceled plutonium fuel (MOX) plant at SRS into a Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) to produce plutonium “pits” for nuclear weapons.

“The safety board informed ANA that it is monitoring the situation with pit production but we think they should actively be involved as NNSA continues to push this risky new mission on SRS,” said Clements of SRS Watch.

Read Full Press Release

September 23 John F. Tierney, former US Representative and current executive director of the Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, joins Joe Cirincione to discuss his work on the National Defense Authorization Act, and challenges the idea that US national security depends on ever-increasing defense spending.

News summary with Mary Kaszynski, Joe Cirincione, and Michelle Dover. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Clair in Massachusetts.

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Sens. Warren, Sanders, Markey call on defense leaders to chill pit production push

Two Democratic presidential candidates believe there is no reason to produce 80 plutonium pits per year, as is planned, and have urged congressional defense leaders to step back and reconsider related legislation, according to a missive reviewed recently by the Aiken Standard.

September 23, 2019 | BY COLIN DEMAREST | aikenstandard.com

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for President, speaks to an overflow crowd at her USC Aiken Town Hall in August CC: COLIN DEMAREST//AIKEN STANDARD

In a Sept. 13 letter, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts described a significantly bolstered pit production mission as “unnecessary, unachievable and ill-advised,” citing an independent analysis that earlier this year cast serious skepticism on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s and U.S. Department of Defense’s recommended path forward.

That report, handled by the Institute for Defense Analyses, listed three cautionary findings in its publicly available summary: Reaching 80 pits per year is possible, but “extremely challenging”; no available option will likely satisfy the demand by deadline; and further risk assessment is needed.

A Congressional Budget Office study released earlier this year very roughly estimated pit production to cost $9 billion over the next decade.

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Groups threaten to sue over nuclear weapons work at US labs

ORIGINAL: WASHINGTON POST

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Nuclear watchdog groups say they will sue if the U.S. government doesn’t conduct a nationwide programmatic environmental review of its plans to expand production of key components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment threatened legal action in a letter sent this week to officials.

In June, the National Nuclear Security Administration said it would prepare an environmental impact statement on pit-making at Savannah River. A less extensive review was planned for Los Alamos.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

In Memoriam: Peter Stockton

“Stockton spent his life fighting The Man, and The Man in his sights was government corruption. Once he sank his teeth into an investigation he wouldn’t let go.”

WRITTEN BY: KEITH RUTTER pogo.org

When it comes to mononymous people in government oversight, “Stockton!” was at the top of the list. But he also had a first name. Peter Stockton, age 80, passed away Sunday, September 8. He is survived by, as he would say, “6 1/2 children and 10 grandchildren.”

I knew Peter for about 30 years. Let’s be honest—Peter Stockton was an acquired taste. He was blunt and gruff. “Stockton!” was usually followed by an expletive in many corners of DC, even by his friends. But he was a true champion of the nation’s taxpayers, and we will be poorer for the loss.

For over 30 years Stockton worked in government attempting to expose corruption (22 years of which were as a staffer for Representative John Dingell). In the 1970s, he investigated most of the major defense contractors and oil companies, the diversion of bomb-grade uranium to Israel, and the death of Karen Silkwood. His investigation into the construction and operation of the Alaskan Pipeline spanned from the 1970s into the 1990s. In the 1980s and early 1990s, he probed the security and effectiveness of the nuclear weapons production program and defense contractor fraud.

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Senate panel wants probe into nuclear weapon glitches

Panel is concerned that problems might reflect fundamental oversight shortcomings that have broader implications

September 18, 2019 | BY JOHN M. DONNELLY | rollcall.com

An Air Force F-16C carries a B61-12 bomb on a test flight at Nellis AFB, Nev. Problems with commercially manufactured electrical components have caused months of delays. (Staff Sgt. Brandi Hansen/U.S. Air Force photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee wants to order the Energy Department to launch an investigation into technical problems that have recently plagued U.S. nuclear weapons programs.

The committee’s mandate is buried deep inside the report accompanying the $48.9 billion Energy-Water spending bill (S 2470) for fiscal 2020 that the committee approved on Sept. 12.

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Pelosi Names Conferees to National Defense Authorization Act Conference

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi today named House Democrats to serve on a conference committee of the House and Senate versions of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

September 17, 2019 | Press Release Link: https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/91719-1

“Democrats have always stood for a strong and smart national defense,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “In July, House Democrats were proud to pass a responsible NDAA that keeps our nation safe while reducing wasteful spending, maintaining a tough stance on Russia, solidifying Congress’s oversight role over defense initiatives and advancing our bedrock American values.  Our skilled Democratic Conferees will bring their expertise to ensure that the FY 2020 NDAA maintains key Democratic priorities, including a critical pay raise for our brave men and women in uniform, lifesaving support for veterans and military families and prohibiting any defense funds from being used to build the President’s wasteful, ineffective border wall.  Guided by the leadership and vision of our Conferees, House Democrats will never waver from our responsibility to support those who serve and defend our country.”

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September 17 War Hawk Down: A deep dive with into the firing of John Bolton, his record of failure, and how his core beliefs and worldview are deeply indicative of the way that Washington thinks about national security.

Special Guest: Trita Parsi. “In The Silo” explores at Chain Reaction, our annual fundraising gala. This year featured a tribute to Lew Butler, the founding Chair of the Board of Directors. News summary with Mary Kaszynski, Joe Cirincione, and Michelle Dover. Joe answers a question from Ben in Scotland.

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A terrifying new animation shows how 1 ‘tactical’ nuclear weapon could trigger a US-Russia war that kills 34 million people in 5 hours

European Leadership Network Group Statement on Nuclear Arms Control

Ahead of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, over 100 members of the European Leadership Network’s network of political, diplomatic and military figures call on leaders at UNGA to address rising nuclear risk, and renew commitments to international nuclear diplomacy and arms control.

The full statement and list of signatories is reproduced in English below, and is also available in French, German, Italian, and Russian************

As world leaders prepare to meet this month at the United Nations in New York, we call on them to take urgent steps to reduce the risks of nuclear confrontation. We join a growing number of international leaders in raising the alarm over new nuclear dangers.

Last month we witnessed the end of the landmark US-Russia Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Today, there are grave doubts over the future of the only remaining agreement that limits and regulates Washington and Moscow’s strategic nuclear weapons, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). And new challenges confront the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Stability is eroding and risks are rising. North Korea has grown its nuclear weapon stockpile, tests missiles, and continues to feel threatened. The fate of inter-Korean and US-DPRK dialogue remains uncertain. Tensions are flaring between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. And, following Washington’s unilateral breach and resumed sanctions, Iran may walk away from the nuclear deal that constrains its ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Moreover, new military technologies threaten to destabilise global and regional nuclear confrontations. These technologies are rapidly evolving and entirely uncontrolled.

The risks of nuclear accident, misjudgement or miscalculation have not been higher since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Complacency should not be an option. It is not only European security at stake.

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The Catastrophic Tenure Of John Bolton

 “The national security adviser’s principal responsibility has traditionally been to oversee a disciplined policymaking process that includes the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, and to tee up big decisions for the president,” editorialized The Washington Post the night of Bolton’s firing, “Mr. Bolton didn’t do that.”

BY JOE CIRINCIONE | lobelog.com Sep. 11, 2019

John Bolton’s tenure was a complete disaster. The national security architecture after Bolton looks like the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.

Seventeen months ago, before Bolton became Donald Trump’s third national security advisor, the United States still had a deal that had stopped Iran’s nuclear program in its tracks. More, it had rolled it back to a fraction of its original size and boxed it into the most intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated. It was a deal for the ages. All of Trump’s military, intelligence and security advisors and our closest allies urged Trump to stay in the accord. Bolton destroyed it in two months, pushing Trump to violate it and impose draconian sanctions on Iran.

“Withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal should be a top Donald Trump administration priority,” Bolton tweeted in July 2017, months before his appointment. “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” he shouted at an MEK rally in July 2017, promising them that they would all celebrate in Tehran “before 2019.”

Today, Iran is slowly pealing away from the deal, too, taking baby steps towards restarting capabilities that someday could allow it to make the material for a bomb, should it decide to do so. No new deal. No better deal. No regime change. No celebration in Tehran. “Trump has spent years making a mess of Iran policy for no reason other than right wing politics and incompetence,” tweeted former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes as news of Bolton’s sacking spread.

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California lawmaker aims to stop closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-Templeton (San Luis Obispo County), on Wednesday proposed a state constitutional amendment that would designate nuclear power as a source of renewable energy.

BY J.D. MORRIS | sfchronicle.com Sep. 4, 2019

The proposal, which requires a constitutional amendment, faces long odds for passage.Photo: Michael A. Mariant / Associated Press 2005

Cunningham and two pro-nuclear organizations who support his amendment think its passage would make Diablo Canyon worth as much as $3.6 billion. A statement from Cunningham’s office said prolonging the life of Diablo Canyon would help the state fulfill its climate goals and “provide ratepayers with a cheap and constant source of energy for decades to come.”

But John Geesman, an attorney for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, an anti-nuclear nonprofit, viewed the amendment as an attempt to prop up Diablo Canyon’s finances and said it had little chance of garnering the support it needs in the Legislature and electorate.

“That’s two mountains they’re probably incapable of climbing, realistically,” Geesman said. “The public just doesn’t want this stuff.”

Trump fires John Bolton

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump abruptly announced in a tweet Tuesday that he has asked national security adviser John Bolton to resign, noting that he “strongly disagreed with many” of Bolton’s suggestions “as did others in the administration.”

September 10 Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists joins Joe Cirincione to discuss Chinese and Russian nuclear modernization plans, and the state of nuclear arsenals around the world.

Leon Ratz joins Early Warning to discuss Iran’s latest announcement about its nuclear program, Russia’s plans to produce new weapons, and Congress’s return to Washington. Joe Cirincione and Michelle Dover answer a question from Gerrard on how citizens can influence their leaders to support nuclear weapons prohibition.

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Radioactive Barges Are Killing the Vibe on This Russian Beach After Deadly Missile Blast

A pair of pontoon barges suspected of being doused in radioactivity during a deadly nuclear missile accident in Russia washed up on a local beach three weeks ago, where they’ve reportedly been leaking radiation into the sea and sand ever since.

BY GREG WALTERS | vice.com

They landed near the mouth of the Verkhovka river, and have been sitting there with no official warning signs beyond a dirty red shirt stretched between two wooden poles, according local Russian media.​

Radiation measurements as high as eight times normal background levels were taken on Aug. 31 from a distance of 150 meters, while earlier tests soon after the pontoons arrived peaked as high as 38 times normal, the outlet said. Those levels are still well short of life-threatening, but measurements closer to the barges haven’t been made.

“No idiots could be found to check the levels on the pontoons themselves without protection,” the local TV presenter deadpanned during a broadcast Monday.

One of the two barges washed up at the mouth of the Verkhovka River a day after the explosion, on Aug. 9. The other was left there by tugboats four days later, Belomorkanal reported.

A PAIR OF PONTOON BARGES LANDED ON A RUSSIAN BEACH THREE WEEKS AGO, AND HAVE BEEN SITTING THERE WITH NO OFFICIAL WARNING SIGNS BEYOND A DIRTY RED SHIRT STRETCHED BETWEEN TWO WOODEN POLES, ACCORDING TO A REPORT ON LOCAL TELEVISION STATION BELOMORKANAL. CREDIT: YOUTUBE

Readings taken on Saturday, Aug. 31 measured from 70 to 186 microroentgen per hour. Earlier measurements in August peaked at 750 microroentgen per hour. Normal local background levels in the area are closer to 20 microroentgen per hour, according to Greenpeace.

There’s not enough data yet to know what the levels are like on the barges themselves.

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Nuclear Weapons Build-Up Insanity, Los Alamos Lab so-called “Clean-Up” – Jay Coghlan, Nukewatch NM – NH #428

Nuclear weapons – a reminder of what they look like and what they can do.

LISTEN HERE:

Nuclear weapons – their design, engineering, chances for implementation – that’s the topic we explore with Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nukewatch NM. Jay goes over the division of responsibility for nuclear weapons of mass destruction between Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL), Sandia Laboratory, and California’s Lawrence Livermore Lab. He then rips into Department of Energy for the lies and “theatre” surrounding claims of a “more-than-halfway-completed” so-called “clean-up” of LANL that ignores the vast majority of radioactive contamination… and ultimately is funding the new nuclear arms race.

9 LANL waste containers denied shipment to WIPP

Barrels filled with transuranic waste fail inspection, remain at lab’s Plutonium Facility

BY TRIS DEROMA | lamonitor.com

DNSFB reports: https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/18696/Los%20Alamos%20Week%20Ending%20July%2026%202019.pdf

Nine containers full of transuranic waste are stuck at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility after the Carlsbad Waste Isolation Pilot Plant refused to take them in back in July.

The containers, which hold waste items such as gloves, tools and other items that have come into contact with radiological materials, were scheduled to be shipped to WIPP during the week of July 26.

The Department of Energy’s contractor N3B that operates WIPP inspected the drums at LANL prior to the shipping date and determined that the drums contained materials that could combust.

N3B Spokesman Todd Nelson said that there was never a chance the containers would have made it to WIPP in the condition they were in.

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September 3 Barbara Slavin, Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, joins Joe Cirincione to discuss increasing tensions in the Middle East and the effects of Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign toward Iran.

Michelle Dover hosts Early Warning with Joe Cirincione and Tom Collina on the anniversary of the USSR’s first nuclear test. Michelle Dover and Joe Cirincione answer a question from Patrick about who in the US government is taking current nuclear weapons risks seriously.

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Younger retiring as director of Sandia Labs

Sandia National Laboratories Director Steve Younger is retiring after two years on the job.

BY SCOTT TURNER / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER | abqjournal.com August 27, 2019

Younger retiring as director of Sandia Labs
Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Younger told employees at the labs in an email Monday, saying he informed the National Technology and Engineering Solutions Board of Managers of his intent to retire on Dec. 31.

The New Nuclear Arms Race Is Here. And Russia’s Already Paying the Price.

Meet 4 new nuclear weapons systems the Kremlin is testing — right now.

BY GREG WALTERS | vice.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to President of National Research Center “Kurchatov Institute” Mikhail Kovalchuk, as he visits Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, the home of the Soviet nuclear weapons program and later Soviet and Russian non-military nuclear technologies in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

At the funeral for 14 Russian sailors, Captain Sergei Pavlov hailed the “blameless heroes” for dousing the fire that broke out on their nuclear spy submarine, called the Losharik, during a secret mission last month.

“At the cost of their lives,” Pavlov said, “they prevented a catastrophe on a planetary scale.”

But as Russia tests and deploys an array of exotic new nuclear weapons, fears are mounting that the next nuclear mishap may not be so easily contained.

This summer alone, Russia has suffered some two-dozen casualties in accidents related to exotic nuclear hardware, including the mysterious explosion linked to the Skyfall missile program that killed seven and sent local radiation levels spiking in a nearby city.

The deadly incidents are stoking fears of a return to Cold War-style runaway nuclear arms development, accompanied by dangerous accidents and Soviet-style cover-ups.

“We need to acknowledge that the Russians are engaged in wacky programs,” said Aaron Stein, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “It’s indicative of an arms complex that has been cut loose to pursue exotic, silly projects. And it’s dangerous.”

You can blame the renewed U.S.-Russian arms race, which nuclear experts warn is driving Russia to recklessly experiment with “absurd” new ideas.

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On 29 August, the International Day against Nuclear Tests, Kazakhstan deposited its instrument of ratification for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, becoming the 26th state party.

From 1949 to 1989, an estimated 456 Soviet nuclear tests — including 116 atmospheric tests — were carried out at the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, with devastating long-term consequences for human health and the environment.
Upon the break-up of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan inherited approximately 1,400 nuclear warheads, which it subsequently gave up — recognizing that its security was best achieved through disarmament.
The date of 29 August 2019 has special significance for Kazakhstan. It marks 70 years since the first Soviet nuclear test at the Semipalatinsk site and 28 years since the formal closure of that site.

We congratulate Kazakhstan on its ratification and we acknowledge the persistent efforts of Alimzhan Akhmetov, of the Center for International Security and Policy in Kazakhstan, to encourage the Kazakh government to take this important step.

Pakistan ups nuclear rhetoric, carries out launch of ballistic missile

BY AJAY BANERJEE | tribuneindia.com Tribune News Service New Delhi August 29, 2019

Pakistan has successfully test-fired surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi’, capable of delivering multiple warheads up to 290 km, the Army said on Thursday, amid fresh Indo-Pak tensions after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Pakistan on Wednesday closed three aviation routes of the Karachi airspace till August 31, which had promoted speculation about the possible missile-testing.

With this, Pakistan upped its ‘nuclear rhetoric’. The Director General of Inter Service Public Relations (DG-ISPR) said Pakistan on Wednesday night tested a short range nuclear missile in Sindh.

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France Is Still Cleaning Up Marie Curie’s Nuclear Waste

Her lab outside Paris, dubbed Chernobyl on the Seine, is still radioactive nearly a century after her death.

BY TARA PATEL | bloomberg.com

France Is Still Cleaning Up Marie Curie’s Nuclear Waste
Marie Curie working at the Radium Institute, a radioactivity laboratory created for her by the Pasteur Institute and the University of Paris at the University of Paris, 1925. PHOTOGRAPHER: SCIENCE SOURCE

In 1933 nuclear physicist Marie Curie had outgrown her lab in the Latin Quarter in central Paris. To give her the space needed for the messy task of extracting radioactive elements such as radium from truckloads of ore, the University of Paris built a research center in Arcueil, a village south of the city. Today it’s grown into a crowded ­working-class suburb. And the dilapidated lab, set in an overgrown garden near a 17th century aqueduct, is sometimes called Chernobyl on the Seine.

No major accidents occurred at the lab, which closed in 1978. But it’s brimming with radio­activity that will be a health threat for millennia, and France’s nuclear watchdog has barred access to anyone not wearing protective clothing. The lab is surrounded by a concrete wall topped by barbed wire and surveillance cameras. Monitors constantly assess radiation, and local officials regularly test the river.

“We’re proof that France has a serious nuclear waste problem,” says Arcueil Mayor Christian Métairie. “Our situation raises questions about whether the country is really equipped to handle it.”

Nuclear power accounts for almost three-fourths of France’s electricity, vs. a fifth in the U.S. There’s no lasting solution for the most dangerous refuse from the country’s 906 nuclear waste sites, including some of what’s in Arcueil.

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Women’s Equality Day 2019: Diversity Encourages Innovation

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated in the United States in August to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
Nuclear weapons, since their inception, have been associated with masculinity, their use considered the ultimate demonstration of power and dominance. In order to maintain that dominance, the existing patriarchy has framed nuclear abolition as “feminine,” implying that nuclear abolition is weak, emotional and even cowardly. These misguided stereotypes make it extremely difficult for women to be hired, promoted or taken seriously in the national security establishment.

nuclear diplomacy needs more women

“Negotiating successfully requires having the best people, regardless of gender, and recognizing that diversity enhances innovation.”

The story of women in nuclear security reflects many of the broader lessons we’ve learned about gender and politics: that women’s contributions have often been ignored or excluded, risking policies that lack key perspectives, nuance and debate. With today’s high stakes, we need national security policy that includes all of the best ideas. New and lasting solutions require diversity of representation and experience if we’re to solve the issues surrounding humanity’s survival.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/05/23/why-nuclear-diplomacy-needs-more-women/

Arms Control Association: #ThisWeek in Nuclear History: The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon on August 29, 1949 at Semipalatinsk in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Tests continued at the site until 1989 with little regard for their effect on the local people or environment. After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, tests ended at the site and it was officially closed on Aug 29, 1991. The International Day against Nuclear Tests is now observed annually on August 29.

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#ThisWeek in Nuclear History: The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon on August 29, 1949 at Semipalatinsk in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Tests continued at the site until 1989 with little regard for their effect on the local people or environment. After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, tests ended at the site and it was officially closed on Aug 29, 1991. The International Day against Nuclear Tests is now observed annually on August 29. Read more about the terrible health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing and the responsibility of our generation to ensure it never happens again in this month's Arms Control Today, "Close the Door on Nuclear Testing." (Link in bio) #nucleartesting #CTBT #Nomoretests

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Selected Press Items

Koreas agree to work toward peace and 'complete denuclearization'

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

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

Pence's Anti-North Korea PR Campaign Bombs

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

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

Could a false alarm like Hawaii trigger a war?

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

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

What the Hell Happened in Hawaii?

Hawaii Panics After Alert About Incoming Missile Is Sent in Error

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

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

North Korea signals intent to 'complete' its nuclear force

How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea

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

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

California's plans for North Korean nuclear attack revealed

The Memo: Fears escalate over North Korea

Trump at UN threatens to 'totally destroy' North Korea

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

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

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

Hwasong 14: Not an ICBM? Still an open question

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

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

North Korea Finally Tests an ICBM

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

Detailed report on Nth Korea missile and nuclear weapons programs

Thinking the Unthinkable With North Korea

A Quick Technical Analysis of the Hwasong-12

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

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

LANL Busted For Losing Control of Controlled Substances

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.”

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Help Stop Plans to “Modernize” WIPP

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.

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Help Stop The New Strategic Plan That Would Double WIPP’s Lifespan

Proposed Shaft #5 at WIPP
Proposed Shaft #5 at WIPP

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.

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COURT VACATES LEGAL AUTHORITY FOR NUCLEAR BOMB PLANT CONSTRUCTION IN OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Knoxville, TN – Judge Pamela Reeves, Chief United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, declared the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration in violation of the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) and vacated key decisions regarding NNSA’s enriched uranium operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“With this ruling,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, “the NNSA no longer has any legal authority to continue construction of the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant.”

Reeves’ 104-page ruling declares “the 2016 Supplement Analysis, the 2016 Amended Record of Decision, the 2018 Supplement Analysis…are vacated.” The 2016 Amended Record of Decision was prepared by the NNSA to “reflect its decision to implement a revised approach for meeting enriched uranium requirements by upgrading existing EU processing buildings and constructing a new Uranium Processing Facility.”

The 2016 A-ROD was the first formal statement of NNSA’s plan to separate its single-structure “big box” UPF design into multiple buildings and to continue using two out-of-compliance facilities for enriched uranium operations for at least twenty more years.

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Watchdogs Issue Second Demand for Nation-Wide Environmental Review of Expanded Plutonium Pit Production

Today, lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment sent a second letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The letter demands a nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement for the agencies’ proposed expanded production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. Invoking the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the letter concludes:

“…we advise the agencies that timely compliance with NEPA is the best means for the agencies to keep these [expanded plutonium pit production] projects on track, as a failure to rigorously comply with NEPA may necessitate litigation, including if necessary motions for injunctive relief, all of which would likely increase the expense of DOE’s and NNSA’s proposed actions and extend their timelines further. Accordingly, we strongly encourage DOE and NNSA to come into compliance with NEPA by preparing a new or supplemental PEIS for its proposals regarding plutonium pit production, and to do so immediately. If the agencies continue on their current trajectory, we will have no choice but to evaluate all our options to enforce compliance with federal environmental laws.”

As background, on May 10, 2018, the Departments of Defense and Energy jointly announced that plutonium pit production would be expanded from the currently sanctioned level of 20 pits per year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico to at least 30 pits per year, plus redundant production of at least 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, which would be a completely new mission there.

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Lack Of Safety And Health Priorities Continue To Plague Los Alamos Beryllium Program

A new assessment finds that Department of Energy (DOE) is not conducting effective oversight of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) beryllium program, or of safety and health programs in general. In addition, DOE is not maintaining sufficient technical capability and knowledge of site and contractor activities to make informed decisions about hazards and risks. DOE indicated the lack of sufficient safety and health resources has presented a challenge to achieving effective oversight in this area.

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

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

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

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Proposed New Exhaust at WIPP Designed to Release Radiation

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).

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Bolivia’s ratification on Hiroshima Day brings Nuclear Ban Treaty halfway to entry into force

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

ICAN August 6, 2019

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

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

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

Viewpoint by Alice Slater

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

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Lab Claims of Tremendous Progress Need Second Look

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

Comments to the Northern NM Citizens’ Advisory Board

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

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

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As of today, the INF Treaty is officially dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public “Scoping” Comments Needed by Thursday July 25:

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

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

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

Where:                        Email to NEPA-SRS@srs.gov

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

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

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

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

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The Road to Genuine Los Alamos Lab Cleanup Backgrounder

The Road to Genuine Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Summary

Funding for nuclear weapons is still the priority at the Lab

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

Legacy Cleanup Program at LANL is getting started with new contractor

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

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Congress needs to start over on nuclear waste

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

Guest Commentary | June 23, 2019

By Geoffrey Fettus, Special to CALmatters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Explosive-Containing Components in a Generic Nuclear Weapon

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

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Brave Political Leadership on Disarmament?

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Tale of Two Consent Orders and What Is Needed

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

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LANL Regional Coalition Faces More Opposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump’s 2020 Nuclear Weapons Budget Escalates New Arms Race

DOE logo
DOE logo

Posted By Scott Kovac

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

Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising

More than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, all eight established nuclear weapons powers are “modernizing” their stockpiles. Talks have broken down with North Korea, the new nuclear weapons power. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan narrowly averted war last month. Russian President Vladmir Putin made new nuclear threats in response to Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This could lead to hair-trigger missile emplacements in the heart of Europe and block extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. If so, the world will be without any nuclear arms control at all for the first time since 1972.
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Sandia National Laboratories Annual Budget is 81% Military Work

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

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

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

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

 

New Momentum for Saner Nuclear Policy: Event Highlights

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

BY SOPHIA STROUD | – NukeWatch NM Web Designer

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

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

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

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Fukushima: Eighth Anniversary of a Crippling Nuclear Disaster

fukushima

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

BY SOPHIA STROUD | – NukeWatch NM Web Designer

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

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

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

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

By Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director

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

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WIPP Receives Notice of Upcoming Investigation for Chemical Overexposures to Workers

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

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NNSA’s pet ‘Interoperable Warhead’ is DEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Plutonium Pit Production NEPA Talking Points

LANL Molten Plutonium for Pit
Molten plutonium in a crucible. 

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

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

“Preliminary” Research Pushes Economic Impact Boundaries for LANL

While Sandia, LANL, and Journal Statements Leave Many Questions

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

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

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Costs of Nuclear Weapons Jump Dramatically

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Messages from the 2019 Doomsday Clock Announcement – ICAN

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

Topline

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

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

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

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

Beatrice Fihn – Executive Director
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

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

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NNSA Plans to Replace the W78 Warhead

W78 Silo GAO-19-84

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

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

Read the report

Please Help Support NukeWatch

Dear Friends of Nuclear Watch New Mexico:

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

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