Nuclear News Archive

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

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

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

BY SAFIA SAMEE ALI | nbcnews.com

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

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

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

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

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

lanl
Credit: Christopher Thompson for The New York Times

BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD | cnn.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY CHUCK JOHNSON & SUSAN SCUTTI | cnn.com

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

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

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

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

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

NPT Looks Ahead to 2020 Review Conference Without Consensus Recommendations

BY ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE | armscontrol.org

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

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

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

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

 

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Balky Capacitors Could Delay Two NNSA Nuke Refurb Programs

BY DAN LEONE | exchangemonitor.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY VINCE HOUGHTON | time.com May 7, 2019

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

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Producing mass destruction: Private companies and the nuclear weapons industry

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

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY | dontbankonthebomb.com

FULL REPORT AVAILABLE HERE

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

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

NPT News in Review 2019

The NPT News in Review is produced by Reaching Critical Will during nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committees and review conferences.

ARMS CONTROL TODAY – REMARKS: Gorging at the Nuclear Buffet Table

“It’s like showing up at a buffet and, instead of having a balanced meal, you say, “I will just gorge on every single capability that is out there.” When you only need a balanced meal to do the job, you don’t need to eat everything at the nuclear buffet table, including offensive and defensive weapons.

BY SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN | armscontrol.orgMay 2019

Unlike a dinner buffet where it’s “all you can eat at a fixed price,” the nuclear buffet table requires you to pay for everything. With the current spending plan, that is right now estimated to be $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years by the Congressional Budget Office. If you add on all the other capabilities this administration apparently wants to add on, you’re talking about an even bigger price tag.” Senator Chris Van Hollen, Appropriations Committee”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) argues against unrestrained nuclear weapon spending during his remarks at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting. (Photo: Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)

Before I ever thought of running for elected office, I interacted a lot with folks at the Arms Control Association and in the arms control community back in the 1980s. I grew up in a Foreign Service family in many places around the world, but one of the things that I remember most and that had a great impact on me was when I read Jonathan Shell’s New Yorker series, “The Fate of the Earth,” that described what would happen to the planet after a nuclear war.

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The Madness of Nuclear Deterrence

“The dangers have only become more acute in the decades since I tried to convince Thatcher.”

BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV | wsj.com

‘Deterrence cannot protect the world from a nuclear blunder or nuclear terrorism,” George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn recently wrote. “Both become more likely when there is no sustained, meaningful dialogue between Washington and Moscow.” I agree with them about the urgent need for strategic engagement between the U.S. and Russia. I am also convinced that nuclear deterrence, instead of protecting the world, is keeping it in constant jeopardy.

I asked her: “Are you really comfortable sitting on a nuclear powder keg?” I showed her a diagram representing the world’s nuclear arsenals, grouped into hundreds of squares. Each square, I told her, is enough to eliminate human civilization as we know it. I was unable to persuade Margaret Thatcher. We hear the same arguments today, including in the U.S. and Russia.
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Report: LANL Nuclear Safety Falls Short

This article illustrates why planned expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos Lab has a high probability of failure.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is again facing criticism for failing to ensure nuclear safety in its operations, this time from a U.S. Department of Energy assessment office. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal)

BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The U.S. Department of Energy has again found that Los Alamos National Laboratory falls short in ensuring nuclear safety in its operations, even as the lab moves toward a major increase in plutonium work under a mandate to ramp up manufacture of the cores of nuclear weapons.
A report released Monday by a DOE assessment team provides a long list of problems in how LANL manages nuclear safety issues. It notes deficiencies by both the private consortium that managed the lab for about 12 years before losing the $2 billion-plus annual operating contract last year and as well Triad National Security LLC, which took over Nov. 1.
The report says former contractor Los Alamos National Security LLC, or LANS, allowed safety issues to fester with “significant weaknesses.”

There are “institutional behaviors that have allowed identified problems to go uncorrected, problem recurrences to be routinely accepted, and corrective actions to often be delayed for years,” according to the report DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments.

The safety lapses are serious enough that they could lead to another shutdown of operations at LANL’s plutonium facility, the assessment suggests.

Read the report HERE
From the report’s executive summary: Overall, this assessment identified significant weaknesses in the LANS IM [issues management] process and institutional behaviors that have allowed identified problems to go uncorrected, problem recurrences to be routinely accepted, and corrective actions to often be delayed for years.Although the assessment team did not identify any immediate threats to workers, the public, or the environment, these weaknesses in IM, if uncorrected, can allow layers of defense for nuclear safety to degrade to the extent they did leading to the pause in July 2013 of key fissile material operations in the Plutonium Facility at LANL for over four years.

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“According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), EM’s environmental liability grew by about $214 billion from fiscal years 2011 through 2018, more than doubling its cleanup liability in just six years. This dramatically outpaced the roughly $45 billion EM spent on cleanup activities during that period.”

“NukeWatch: We should be expanding cleanup programs instead of nuclear bomb production that made this mess to begin with.”

View the PDF

Our Episode 03 doesn’t have the Night King or hordes of the undead, BUT I do get to talk with Leah Greenberg, co-founder of Indivisible and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019, to discuss her journey from congressional staffer to community organizer. She talks about how the idea for a 2016 handbook ignited a progressive movement of civic engagement for everyday people. Also, Ploughshares Fund’s own Michelle Dover reflects on the legacy of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. John Carl Baker takes a closer look at the motives and intentions of Trump’s offer for arms control talks with Russia and China.

You can listen here: http://pressthebutton.libsyn.com/
Or – Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

View the Filed Brief here
View an Exhibit of Recent Earthquakes in the Area here
More on the UPF Lawsuit here

DOD Official Ducks Question of Plutonium Pit Assurance if Congress Allows Only 1 Site

BY EXCHANGE MONITOR

WASHINGTON – A senior Pentagon official declined to say here Wednesday whether he believes the Department of Energy can deliver nuclear warheads for next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles on time if Congress does not fund both the plutonium-pit production plants the civilian agency wants to build.

“I’m aware of the issue, but I wouldn’t want to sort of step on my colleagues’ toes by addressing the details,” David Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said following a speech at the Brookings Institution. “I’ll defer on that one, for the time being, at least.”

In an email, a spokesperson with DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said the agency “is focused on the two-site approach for plutonium pit production that was endorsed by the Nuclear Weapons Council in May 2018.”

The Donald Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called on the NNSA to annually manufacture 80 pits — fissile nuclear-weapon cores — by 2030.

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In the second episode of Press The Button, the new podcast from Ploughshares Fund, Ned Price, former spokesperson for President Obama’s National Security Council and current Director of Communications and Policy with National Security Action, sits down with host Joe Cirincione. Also: this week’s nuclear news analysis with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Nuclear Field Coordinator and Senior Program Officer John Carl Baker.

You can listen here: http://pressthebutton.libsyn.com/
Or – Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

New Report Spells Out Saner Nuclear Spending Options

BY KINGSTON REIF & ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE | armscontrol.org

Despite characterizing during the Helsinki summit U.S. plans to replace the aging nuclear arsenal as “very, very bad policy,” the Trump administration is pursuing an excessive and unsustainable expansion of the role and capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the tune of nearly $500 billion, after inflation, over the next decade. Over the next 30 years, the price tag is likely to top $1.5 trillion and could even approach $2 trillion.

As our newly published report documents, it doesn’t have to be this way. U.S. Nuclear Excess: Understanding the Costs, Risks and Alternatives describes three realistic options to reduce spending on nuclear weapons and recommends steps Congress can take to adjust the programs to deal with the long-term budget challenges.

A companion website will be launched this summer, will provide regular updates on cost estimates and key decisions. The report and website were made possible with support from a project grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Hard duty in the Chernobyl zone

Cathie Sullivan, a New Mexico activist, worked with Chernobyl liquidator, Natalia Manzurova, during three trips to the former Soviet Union in the early 2000s. Natalia was one of 750,000 Soviet citizens sent to deal with the Chernobyl catastrophe. Natalia and Cathie together authored a short book, “Hard Duty, A woman’s experience at Chernobyl” describing Natalia’s harrowing four and a half years as a Chernobyl liquidator.

View an excerpt in this ARTICLE FROM beyondnuclearinternational.org

Feds stand by splitting ‘pit’ production between LANL, S.C.

“NNSA’s plans for expanded plutonium pit production is a house of cards waiting to fall down. First, we have an agency with a long track record of cost overruns and schedule slippages. Added to this is the lack of true mission need.
“Plutonium pit production is not being expanded to maintain stockpile safety and reliability. Instead it’s all about provocative new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested, or alternatively will push the U.S. back into testing with serious proliferation consequences.” –
Nuclear Watch New Mexico director Jay Coghlan

BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty
Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty

SANTA FE – Key federal agencies are standing by their plan split the work of producing the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons between Los Alamos National Laboratory and another site, a move that New Mexico’s congressional delegation continues to oppose.
But the Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Safety Administration were not unequivocal in describing the potential success of a two-site plan for making plutonium “pits.”

“Indeed, no option is without risk,” said NNSA administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty in a news release Wednesday.

The NNSA, which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons labs, announced that a contractor has completed a study of options for pit production that was mandated by language added to a defense budget bill by New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.

The two senators want all pit production — and the federal dollars and jobs that come with it — to remain at LANL and say turning a facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina into a second pit-production post will make the undertaking much more expensive.

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The New York Times sent a climate policy survey to the 18 declared candidates. They all want to stick to the Paris Agreement. Beyond that, they diverge.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke at a rally for the Green New Deal at the Capitol last month.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke at a rally for the Green New Deal at the Capitol last month.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times

BY LISA FRIEDMAN & MAGGIE ASTOR | nytimes.com

The nuclear option

The most divisive policy among the candidates was nuclear energy. Many climate change activists reject nuclear plants, even though they emit no carbon dioxide, because of safety concerns and a general preference for wind, solar and other purely renewable sources. And only seven candidates were unequivocally in favor of new nuclear energy development.

Mr. Sanders, who has called for a moratorium on nuclear power license renewals in the United States, rejected nuclear energy, as did Ms. Gabbard and Mr. Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Fla.

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Robert Mueller, Russian Interference, 2016, Presidential Election, 2016 Presidential Election, Trump, Special Counsel, Investigation, Redacted Mueller Report, Full report,

NNSA Downplays Study That Says Agency Can’t Make 50 Nuke Cores Per Year by 2030 in S.C.

A planned South Carolina facility will be able to produce 50 plutonium nuclear-weapon cores a year by 2030, despite a Department of Energy-funded study that says 2035 is more realistic, according to a top official with DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

BY DAN LEONE | exchangemonitor.com

“We have been working on scenarios to bring it back in time to ‘30,” Charles Verdon, NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs, told Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor Tuesday after a hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

In congressional testimony this year, NNSA Administrator Lisa-Gordon Hagerty has repeatedly mentioned the study — an engineering analysis completed by Parsons Government Services in 2018 — in the same breath as her appeals to lawmakers that the agency can only meet the Pentagon’s demand for 80 cores a year by 2030 by building the South Carolina facility while also producing cores in New Mexico.

– The full referenced Parson engineering analysis can be viewed here, & a summary here
NNSA remains silent on meeting national Environmental Policy Act requirements for public environmental review.

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Recognizes the Inherent Challenges in Meeting Requirements for Plutonium Pit Production and Notes that the Current Approach is Achievable Given Sufficient Time, Resources, & Management Focus

energy.gov | WASHINGTON – A study of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) recommended alternative to revitalize the United States’ plutonium pit production capabilities was delivered April 16 to Congress by the Department of Defense (DoD).

The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act required the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the NNSA Administrator, to contract a federally funded research and development center  (FFRDC) to conduct an assessment of NNSA’s two-pronged approach to achieve DoD’s requirement for producing no fewer than 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030.

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The Ploughshares Fund has released an official trailer for their new podcast, Press the Button! The podcast will cover the latest news, feature exclusive interviews and share insider, in-depth perspectives on all things nuclear. President of Ploughshares Fund Joe Cirincione will be the host, and you will also hear from many Ploughshares Fund voices like Program Director Michelle Dover, Deputy Policy Director Mary Kaszynski, Roger Hale Fellow Catherine Killough, Communications Director Delfin Vigil and more.

Press the Button will feature the smartest voices in nuclear and national security analyzing all the key issues. So, please take a listen. Our first full-length episode, with special guest Dr. Carol Cohn, will be dropping soon.

– Listen and subscribe on iTunes.
– Listen and subscribe on Spotify.
– Listen and subscribe on SoundCloud.
– Listen and subscribe on Google Play.

A NEW VISION 2019

The Ploughshares Fund has released a new report, “A New Vision: Gender. Justice. National Security.” These 10 essays from leading women in the field present a snapshot of what could be the start of a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive new vision for nuclear policy and national security.

Marchers carrying the “Women’s Wave” sign at the 2019 Women’s March in Washington, DC. IMAGE: Flickr / Mobilus in Mobili (cc)

This collection presents a snapshot of what could be the start of a truly diverse, equitable, inclusive and just new vision for nuclear policy and national security, direct from the minds of leading women in the field. We are grateful to the funding partners who made this report (pdf) possible.

US-Russia Chill Stirs Worry About Stumbling Into Conflict

The deep chill in U.S.-Russian relations is stirring concern in some quarters that Washington and Moscow are in danger of stumbling into an armed confrontation that, by mistake or miscalculation, could lead to nuclear war.

BY ROBERT BURNS | apnews.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — It has the makings of a new Cold War, or worse. American and European analysts and current and former U.S. military officers say the nuclear superpowers need to talk more. A foundational arms control agreement is being abandoned and the last major limitation on strategic nuclear weapons could go away in less than two years. Unlike during the Cold War, when generations lived under threat of a nuclear Armageddon, the two militaries are barely on speaking terms.

“During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked,” says the top NATO commander in Europe, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who is about to retire. “I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.”

Scaparrotti, in his role as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has met only twice with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian general staff, but has spoken to him by phone a number of other times.

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VAN HOLLEN LEADS LETTER URGING EXTENSION OF NEW START TREATY WITH RUSSIA

In the face of the Trump Administration abandoning international treaties and agreements, Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauds our senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for signing this important letter defending nuclear arms control.

vanhollen.sentate.gov | Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen led a letter with 23 Democratic Senators urging President Trump to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia for another five years. This week marked the ninth anniversary of the signing of the treaty.

"Without inhibiting the ability of the United States to maintain a survivable, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrent, New START has advanced the security interests of the United States and underpinned strategic stability with a major nuclear-armed rival. By setting mutual limits on the numbers of deployed nuclear warheads and deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery vehicles, the treaty constrains the size and composition of Russia's nuclear capabilities and – through comprehensive monitoring and transparency measures – allows the United States to verify Russia's treaty compliance with confidence. New START is due to expire in February 2021 and can be extended for up to five additional years by agreement between the U.S. and Russian presidents," the Senators wrote.

They conclude, "Arms control is not an end in itself; it is a tool for containing the military capabilities of our adversaries and safeguarding the national security interests of the United States and its allies. Since 1972, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have pursued such measures as a complement to maintaining a robust nuclear deterrent. We urge you to sustain this bipartisan policy and advance U.S. security by extending New START for an additional five years."

The full text of the letter is available below and here.

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"NukeWatch is very concerned over the possible termination of the JASONs. In 2004 NukeWatch asked then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman to require a JASONs study on the reliable lifetimes of plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear weapons. At the time the govt claimed pits were reliable for 45 years. The JASONs' conclusion that pits last 85 years or more had a profound effect, leading to congressional rejection of new nuclear weapons designs and related expanded pit production."

Storied Jason Science Advisory Group Loses Contract - Pentagon

BY JEFFREY MERVIS, ANN FINKBEINER | sciencemag.com

Examining the capabilities of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is a perennial topic for the Jason. U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS RONALD GUTRIDGE

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has severed its 60-year ties to a group of academics known as Jason, putting in jeopardy the group’s ability to conduct studies for the government on a range of national security issues.


 

Pentagon Pulls Funding for Team of Academics Who Work on the Most Difficult Scientific Problems

BY MATT NOVAC | gizmodo.com

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan meets with President Donald Trump and leaders of NATO in Washington on April 2, 2019
Photo: Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Defense under Patrick M. Shanahan has quietly pulled funding for an independent organization called the Jason Group under the Pentagon’s latest budget proposal. And it’s just one more way that the Trump regime is chipping away at independent scientific voices in the U.S. government.

The Jasons, as they’re sometimes called, are a team of academics who have historically tackled some of the most pressing scientific problems on behalf of the U.S. military. News that the Jason contract had been terminated was first revealed yesterday during a House budget meeting with members of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and reported by Science magazine.

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The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us

The U.S. must re-engage with Russia to ensure the ultimate weapon doesn’t spread and is never used.

BY GEORGE P. SHULTZ, WILLIAM J. PERRY & SAM NUNN | wsj.com

 
The U.S., its allies and Russia are caught in a dangerous policy paralysis that could lead—most likely by mistake or miscalculation—to a military confrontation and potentially the use of nuclear weapons for the first time in nearly 74 years. A bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia and walk back from this perilous precipice. Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War.
The most difficult task facing the U.S. is also the most important—to refocus on America’s most vital interests even as we respond firmly to Russia’s aggressions. 

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


“There’s nobody that’s been able to demonstrate to me that there isn’t risk here,”
says New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “There is risk. We need to be clear about that. I don’t think it’s the right decision for the state.”

BY NATHAN ROTT | npr.org

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

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

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The F-35 Fighter Jet Will Cost $1.5 Trillion. It’s Time for New Priorities.

An F-35 Lightning II sits on stage during the United Kingdom F-35 delivery ceremony on July 19, 2012, at Lockheed Martin Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas. TOM PENNINGTON / GETTY IMAGES

BY WILLIAM R. PITT | TRUTHOUT.ORG April 11, 2019

U.S. taxpayers are no strangers to getting saddled with monstrously expensive weapons programs at the expense of basic needs like food, shelter and education. The Pentagon paid $44 billion for 21 very fragile B-2 stealth bombers, few of which still fly in combat roles. The F-22 fighter, coming in at more than $350 million per plane, was built to combat Cold War adversaries who ceased to exist six years before the first jet rolled off the production line. The sticker price for Ronald Reagan’s harebrained “Star Wars” missile defense program stands at around $60 billion.

Until we find a better way, we will continue to spiral ever downward to dissolution.

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Federal Watchdog Probes Trump Admin Push for Saudi Nuke Deal

In 2017 Team Trump worked to clinch a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia—and an independent investigative agency wants to know what happened behind closed doors.

BY ERIN BANCO | thedailybeast.com

One of the government’s top investigative agencies has looked at allegations of potential wrongdoing by individuals in the Trump administration about their planning of a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia, according to two individuals with knowledge of the probe.

The line of inquiry is part of a broader investigation in the Office of the Special Counsel—an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency—into alleged politically motivated personnel decisions at government offices.

The OSC, which can seek corrective and disciplinary action, is looking at whether officials were retaliated against for raising concerns about the administration’s work related to a Saudi nuclear deal. As part of that investigation, OSC has also reviewed allegations about potentially improper dealings by senior members of the Trump administration in their attempt to map out a nuclear deal with Riyadh, according to two sources with knowledge of OSC’s work.

The details of the OSC probe, previously unreported, are the first indication that a government body other than Congress is investigating matters related to a potential nuclear deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. OSC declined to comment on the record for this story.

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The One Place in the US Google Earth Stopped Mapping

BY DRUV MEHROTRA & BRENDAN BYRNE | vice.com

The Tonopah Gap, which was recently, finally updated by Google. Image: Google Earth

Tonopah is a subsection of the Nellis Test and Training Range, which is jointly operated by the Department of Energy and Air Force. Since the early 1950s, the Nellis Range has been the site of extensive government aerospace and weapons testing.

The Nellis Complex contains the drone pilot HQ Creech Air Force Base, the site of extensive nuclear detonations formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds, and what is colloquially referred to as Area 51. The F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter, experimental unpersoned aerial vehicles, and, most recently, the delivery vehicle of the much-thunkpieced B61-12, a “steerable,” variable yield nuclear bomb, have been tested there.

Original article: vice.com

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A Nuclear Missile Gets Dismantled: Stop-motion Video

What goes up can be dismantled

BY RACHEL BECKER | theverge.com | Video by Smriti Keshari/Outrider Foundation

In a surprisingly cheerful stop-motion animation released today, two disembodied hands dismantle a model of a Minuteman III missile, a weapon that — if launched — could send a nuclear warhead across the world. The hands pull it apart, burn the fuel and explosives, and safely dispose of the nuclear warhead. “So now you know,” the narrator says. “We can do this.”

The video comes from the Outrider Foundation, the same educational nonprofit that created an uncomfortably beautiful blast simulator that lets you nuke your backyard. This time, the Outrider Foundation brings its design aesthetic to a less apocalyptic message about nuclear weapons: “They are built by humans. We know how to take them apart. We can make decisions about them that make our world safer,” says Tara Drozdenko, the Outrider Foundation’s managing director of nuclear policy and nonproliferation.

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Nuclear power excluded from EU’s green investment label

The European Parliament voted on a proposed classification for sustainable assets on Thursday (28 March), voting to exclude nuclear power from receiving a green stamp of approval on financial markets.

BY CLAIRE STAM & ALICIA PRAGER | euractiv.com

The abandoned Satsop Nuclear power plant in the state of Washington, US. [sharkhats / Flickr]

The text voted in Parliament also excludes fossil fuels and gas infrastructure from the EU’s proposed green finance taxonomy, which aims to divert investments away from polluting industries into clean technologies. In a bid to prevent “green-washing”, the Parliament text also requires investors to disclose whether their financial products have sustainability objectives, and if they do, whether the product is consistent with the EU’s green assets classification, or taxonomy.

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Chernobyl’s disastrous cover-up is a warning for the next nuclear age

“Fallout from bomb tests carried out during the cold war scattered a volume of radioactive gases that dwarfed Chernobyl.The Chernobyl explosions issued 45m [million] curies of radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. Emissions from Soviet and US bomb tests amounted to 20bn [billion] curies of radioactive iodine, 500 times more.”

Ukrainians protest against the cover-up of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, April 1990.
Photograph: Игорь Костин/РИА Новости

BY KATE BROWN | theguardian.com

Before expanding nuclear power to combat climate change, we need answers to the global health effects of radioactivity.

In 1986, the Soviet minister of hydrometeorology, Yuri Izrael, had a regrettable decision to make. It was his job to track radioactivity blowing from the smoking Chernobyl reactor in the hours after the 26 April explosion and deal with it. Forty-eight hours after the accident, an assistant handed him a roughly drawn map. On it, an arrow shot north-east from the nuclear power plant, and broadened to become a river of air 10 miles wide that was surging across Belarus toward Russia. If the slow-moving mass of radioactive clouds reached Moscow, where a spring storm front was piling up, millions could be harmed. Izrael’s decision was easy. Make it rain.

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Prospect of a nuclear war ‘higher than it has been in generations’, warns UN

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas — A view of the sculpture “Good Defeats Evil” on the UN Headquarters grounds, presented to the UN by the Soviet Union on the occasion of the Organization’s 45th anniversary. Created by Zurab Tsereteli, a native of Georgia, the sculpture depicts St. George slaying the dragon

“In a world defined by “competition over cooperation, and the acquisition of arms, prioritized over the pursuit of diplomacy”, the threat of a nuclear weapon being used is “higher than it has been in generations,” the Security Council heard on Tuesday.”

THE UNITED NATIONS

The warning came from Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, in a meeting convened in support of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), ahead of the next conference to review the historic accord, scheduled for 2020.

The possible use of nuclear weapons is one of the greatest threats to international peace and security Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, represents the only multilateral, binding commitment to the goal of disarmament by the States which officially stockpile nuclear weapons.

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Sens. Menendez and Rubio Question Energy Secretary over Approval of U.S.-Saudi Nuclear Cooperation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 2, 2019

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), today sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry expressing their concern and asking for clarifications about the Administration’s approval of multiple licenses for U.S. companies to sell nuclear energy technology and support to Saudi Arabia. The United States does not have a framework pact for bilateral nuclear cooperation known as a “123 Agreement” with Saudi Arabia, yet the Department of Energy took the unusual step of authorizing the transfer of certain nuclear energy technologies and assistance to the Kingdom.

“The Kingdom frankly has engaged in many deeply troubling actions and statements that have provoked alarm in Congress and led lawmakers to begin the process of reevaluating the U.S.-Saudi relationship and our long-term stability and interests in the region,” wrote the senators. “We therefore believe the United States should not be providing nuclear technology or information to them at this time.

“We are very concerned about the nuclear proliferation risk associated with the Kingdom’s nuclear program, concluded the Senators before requesting Secretary Perry provide Congress with detailed information about his decision to authorize the nuclear technology transfer.

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Animated info-graphic video on “What happens if make a huge pile from all 15,000 nuclear bombs and pull the trigger? And what happens if we make an even bigger pile?”

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Treaty’s End Would Give U.S., Russia Impetus to Make More Nukes: STUDY

“Neither country would have the same degree of confidence in its ability to assess the other’s precise warhead levels,” CNA’s Vince Manzo wrote in the study. “Worst-case planning is also more likely as a result.”

BY ARSHAD MOHAMMED & JONATHAN LANDAY | reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The demise of the only U.S.-Russia arms control pact limiting deployed nuclear weapons would make it harder for each to gauge the other’s intentions, giving both incentives to expand their arsenals, according to a study to be released on Monday.

The expiration of the New START accord also may undermine faith in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls on nuclear states such as the United States and Russia to work toward nuclear disarmament, as well as influence China’s nuclear posture, historically one of restraint.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Media excerpts (copying URLs into browser is recommended):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detailed NNSA Budget Documents Accelerates Nuclear Weapons Arms Race

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

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

Some selected NNSA FY 2019 nuclear weapons budget highlights are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The increase represents the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Budget Dramatically Increases Nuclear Weapons Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch commented,

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

# # #

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

 

Testimony Calls Out Continued DOE Cost Estimating Mismanagement

Testimony Calls Out Continued DOE Cost Estimating Mismanagement

Given that DOE has challenges estimating almost all large projects, taxpayers must push to spend on cleanup first. Both nuclear weapons and environmental management estimates keep increasing. We can keep spending on dangerous nuclear weapons that we don’t need, or we can finally focus on cleaning up the Cold War mess.

Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials presented some of their recent work to Congress concerning management problems facing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Office of Environmental Management (EM). NNSA is responsible for managing the nation’s nuclear weapons and supporting the nation’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts. In support of these missions, NNSA’s February 2016 budget justification for the Weapons Activities appropriations account included about $49.4 billion for fiscal years 2017 through 2021 to implement its nuclear weapons complex modernization plans. More recently, in November 2017, NNSA issued its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, which included about $10.2 billion for nuclear weapons activities for fiscal year 2018.

Since the end of the Cold War, it is claimed that much of the nuclear weapons production infrastructure has become outdated, prompting congressional and executive branch decision makers to call on DOE to develop plans to modernize. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) 2010 Nuclear Posture Review identified long-term modernization wishes and alleged requirements. In January 2017, the President directed the Secretary of Defense to initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to meet the Administration’s vision. This review was released in February 2018.

GAO has found that NNSA’s estimates of funding needed for its modernization plans exceeded the budgetary projections included in the President’s own modernization budgets. And the costs of some major modernization programs—such as for nuclear weapon Life Extension Programs (LEPs) — may also increase and further bust future modernization budgets.

The LEPs facing potential cost increases include:

B61-12 LEP. An independent cost estimate for the program completed in October 2016 exceeded the program’s self-conducted cost estimate from June 2016 by $2.6 billion.

W80-4 LEP. Officials from NNSA’s Office of Cost Policy and Analysis told us that this program may be underfunded by at least $1 billion to meet the program’s existing schedule

W88 Alteration 370. According to officials from NNSA’s Office of Cost Policy and Analysis, this program’s expanded scope of work may result in about $1 billion in additional costs.

EM is responsible for decontaminating and decommissioning nuclear facilities and sites that are contaminated from decades of nuclear weapons production and nuclear energy research. In February 2017, GAO reported that, since its inception in 1989, EM has spent over $164 billion on cleanup efforts, which include retrieving, treating, and disposing of nuclear waste.

GAO found that the federal government’s environmental liability has been growing for the past 20 years—and is likely to continue to increase—and that DOE is responsible for over 80 percent ($372 billion) of the nearly $450 billion reported environmental liability. Notably, this estimate does not reflect all of the future cleanup responsibilities that DOE may face.

EM Growing Liability
Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management’s Annual Spending and Growing Environmental Liability

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As NNSA works to modernize the nuclear weapons complex, EM is addressing the legacy of 70 years of nuclear weapons production. These activities generated large amounts of radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel, excess plutonium and uranium, and contaminated soil and groundwater. They also contaminated thousands of sites and facilities, including land, buildings, and other structures and their systems and equipment. Various federal laws, agreements with states (including New Mexico), and court decisions require the federal government to clean up environmental hazards at federal sites and facilities, such as nuclear weapons production facilities. For years, GAO and others have reported on shortcomings in DOE’s approach to addressing its environmental liabilities, including incomplete data on the extent of cleanup needed.

EM has some budget issues, too.

Examples of costs that DOE cannot yet estimate include the following:

DOE has not yet developed a cleanup plan or cost estimate for the Nevada National Security Site and, as a result, the cost of future cleanup of this site was not included in DOE’s fiscal year 2015 reported environmental liability. The nearly 1,400-square-mile site has been used for hundreds of nuclear weapons tests since 1951. These activities have resulted in more than 45 million cubic feet of radioactive waste at the site. According to DOE’s financial statement, since DOE is not yet required to establish a plan to clean up the site, the costs for this work are excluded from DOE’s annually reported environmental liability.

DOE’s reported environmental liability includes an estimate for the cost of a permanent nuclear waste repository, but these estimates are highly uncertain and likely to increase. In March 2015, in response to the termination of the Yucca Mountain repository program, DOE proposed separate repositories for defense high-level and commercial waste. In January 2017, we reported that the cost estimate for DOE’s new approach excluded the costs and time frames for site selection and site characterization.

Govt pulls full Nuclear Posture Review – Get it here!

The old link for the full Nuclear Posture Review

https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF

live on Friday February 2, 2018, now yields nothing.

The Defense Department’s new link

https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0218_npr/

has an executive summary and some fact sheets, but not the full  Review.

Interestingly, the executive summary looks like it’s translated into Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and French. No doubt people around the world are looking at it.

But you now can find the full Nuclear Posture Review at

https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF

That won’t go away!

“Gateway Drug to Nuclear War” Feeds More Nuke Addiction

“Gateway Drug to Nuclear War” Feeds More Nuke Addiction

The Trump Administration’s high policy document, the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), released February 2, includes recommendations for the deployment of lower yield, “more usable” nuclear warheads. This will only feed the US addiction to nukes.

An article on the same day in The American Conservative, “Trump’s Nuke Plan Raising Alarms Among Military Brass”, quotes one retired senior Army officer who tracked the NPR as saying that nuclear neocons were providing Donald Trump with “gateway drug for nuclear war.”

From that article –

So while the [NPR’s] recommendations won’t necessarily be a surprise, what is less public is the bitter battle during its drafting that pitted senior Army and Navy warriors against nuclear wonks inside the Defense Department. That fight—over the exorbitant costs associated with the NPR, and charges that it could make nuclear war more likely—are bound to continue through implementation.

“It’s one thing to write a policy,” a senior Pentagon civilian privy to the NPR fight told The American Conservative, “and it’s another thing to have it implemented. What the NPR is recommending will break the bank, and a lot of people around here are worried that making nuclear weapons more usable isn’t what we should be doing. The conventional military guys have dug in their heels, they’re dead-set against it. This battle isn’t over.”

In effect, the congressionally mandated review calls for the U.S. to deploy two new types of lower yield nuclear warheads, generally defined as nuclear bombs below a five kiloton range (the one dropped on Hiroshima was 20 kilotons), that could be fitted onto a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and one, yet to be developed, that would be fitted onto a submarine-launched cruise missile. Additionally, the NPR calls for “recapitalizing” the complex of nuclear laboratories and plants, which, taken together with the proposed modernization program of the U.S. nuclear arsenal (the “triad”), will almost certainly cost in excess of the estimated price tag of $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years.

The article continues that Army and Navy officers worry that senior administration officials would promote massive new funding initiatives at the expense of badly needed funding for conventional military readiness. They also worry, more urgently, that the administration would put the nation on the slippery slope to nuclear escalation.

NukeWatch’s bottom line: Addiction to nukes is a potentially world-ending problem.

Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review goes in the opposite direction of meeting our long-term need to eliminate the one class of weapons of mass destruction that can truly destroy our country. It will instead set back nonproliferation and arms control efforts across the globe, and further hollow out our country by diverting yet more huge sums of money to the usual fat defense contractors at the expense of public education, environmental protection, natural disaster recovery, etc. Under the Trump Administration, expect Medicare and Social Security to be attacked to help pay for a false sense of military security. Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review is part and parcel of that.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Please help support NukeWatch.

Trump’s Nuke Plan Raising Alarms Among Military Brass

Draft Nuclear Posture Review Degrades National Security

Yesterday evening the Huffington Post posted a leaked draft of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This review is the federal government’s highest unclassified nuclear weapons policy document, and the first since the Obama Administration’s April 2010 NPR.

This Review begins with “[m]any hoped conditions had been set for deep reductions in global nuclear arsenals, and, perhaps, for their elimination. These aspirations have not been realized. America’s strategic competitors have not followed our example. The world is more dangerous, not less.” The NPR then points to Russia and China’s ongoing nuclear weapons modernization programs and North Korea’s “nuclear provocations.” It concludes, “We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it be.”

If the United States government were to really “look reality in the eye and see the world as it is”, it would recognize that it is failing miserably to lead the world toward the abolition of the only class of weapons that is a true existential threat to our country. As an obvious historic matter, the U.S. is the first and only country to use nuclear weapons. Since WWII the U.S. has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, and on many other occasions.

Further, it is hypocritical to point to Russia and China’s “modernization” programs as if they are taking place in a vacuum. The U.S. has been upgrading its nuclear arsenal all along. In the last few years our country has embarked on a $1.7 trillion modernization program to completely rebuild its nuclear weapons production complex and all three legs of its nuclear triad.

Moreover, Russia and China’s modernization programs are driven in large part by their perceived need to preserve strategic stability and deterrence by having the ability to overwhelm the U.S.’ growing ballistic missile defenses. Ronald Reagan’s pursuit of “Star Wars” (fed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s false promises of success) blocked a nuclear weapons abolition agreement in 1988 with the soon-to-collapse Soviet Union. In 2002 George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which has been a source of constant friction with the Russian government ever since.

More recently, at Israel’s request, the U.S. blocked the 2015 NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations from agreeing to an international conference on a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East (Israel, an undeclared nuclear weapons power, has never signed the NPT). As an overarching matter, the U.S. and other nuclear-armed NPT signatories have never honored the Treaty’s Article VI mandate “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…”, in effect since 1970. As a consequence, last year more than 120 countries at the UN passed a nuclear weapons ban treaty which the U.S. vehemently denounced, despite the fact that there have long been ban treaties on chemical and biological weapons which the U.S. has not only supported but also sought to enforce.[1]

With respect to North Korea’s nuclear provocations, that repressive regime is clearly seeking deterrence against the U.S. (North Korea’s infrastructure was nearly completely destroyed during the Korean War, and it witnessed the destruction of the Iraqi regime that did not have nuclear weapons). The bombastic statements of “fire and fury” and who has the bigger “nuclear button” from two unpredictable heads of state (Trump and Kim Jong Un) have put the entire world on edge, given the highest chance of nuclear war since the mid-1980’s.

Finally, the Nuclear Posture Review purports to be all about “deterrence” against hostile threats. However, the U.S’ true nuclear posture has never been just deterrence, but rather the ability to wage nuclear war, including possible preemptive first strikes. This is the reason why the U.S. (and Russia) keep thousands of nuclear weapons instead of the few hundred needed for just deterrence.[2] And keeping and improving the ability to wage a nuclear war is the underlying reason for the $1.7 trillion “modernization” program that is giving nuclear weapons new military capabilities, instead of prudently maintaining a few hundred existing nuclear weapons.

In addition to fully preserving and improving the enormous land, sea and air-based Triad, the new NPR calls for:

1)   Near-term development of a low-yield nuclear warhead for existing Trident missiles launched from new strategic submarines.

2)   New sub-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

3)   Keeping the 1.2 megaton B83-1 nuclear gravity bomb “until a suitable replacement is identified.”

4)   “Provid[ing] the enduring capability and capacity to produce plutonium pits at a rate of no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030.”

5) “Advancing the W78 warhead replacement to FY19… and investigating the feasibility of fielding the nuclear explosives package in a Navy flight vehicle.”

Obvious problems are:

1)         An adversary won’t know whether a Trident sub-launched nuclear warhead is a new low-yield or an existing high-yield warhead. In any event, any belief in a “limited’ nuclear war is a fallacy that shouldn’t be tested – – once the nuclear threshold is crossed at any level, it is crossed, and lower-yield nuclear weapons are all the more dangerous for being potentially more usable.

2)         Sub-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles are inherently destabilizing as the proverbial “bolt out of the blue,” and can be the perfect weapon for a nuclear first-strike. Moreover, this is redundant to nuclear-armed cruise missiles that are already being developed for heavy bombers.

3)         The National Nuclear Security Administration largely justified the ongoing program to create the B61-12 (the world’s first “smart” nuclear gravity bomb) by being a replacement for the 1.2 megaton B83-1 bomb. Does this indicate doubts in the ~$13 billion B61-12 program? And will it lead to a bump up in the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S.’ arsenal?

4)         To date, the talk has been up to 80 pits per year, not “no fewer than.” Also, the 2015 Defense Authorization Act required that the capability to produce up to 80 pits per year be demonstrated by 2027. The NPR’s later date of 2030 could be indicative of longstanding plutonium pit production problems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. That delay and hints of higher than 80 pits per year could also point to the pit production mission being relocated to the Savannah River Site, which is under active consideration. In any event, future plutonium pit production pit production is not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, but is instead for future new-design nuclear weapons.

5)         “W78 warhead replacement… in a Navy flight vehicle” is code for so-called Interoperable Warheads, whose planned three versions together could cost around $50 billion. These are arguably huge make work projects for the nuclear weapons labs (particularly Livermore), which ironically the Navy doesn’t even want.[3] It is also the driving reason for unnecessary future production of more than 80 pits per year.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch commented,

“This Nuclear Posture Review does not even begin to meet our long-term need to eliminate the one class of weapons of mass destruction that can truly destroy our country. It will instead set back nonproliferation and arms control efforts across the globe, and further hollow out our country by diverting yet more huge sums of money to the usual fat defense contractors at the expense of public education, environmental protection, natural disaster recovery, etc. Under the Trump Administration, expect medicare and social security to be attacked to help pay for a false sense of military security, and this Nuclear Posture Review is part and parcel of that.”

# #

[1]     Since then the U.S. has reportedly used strong arm tactics to discourage individual countries from ratifying the nuclear weapons ban treaty. See http://www.businessinsider.com/mattis-threatened-sweden-over-a-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-2017-9

[2]     This was explicitly stated in a Department of Defense follow-on to the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). It states: “The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.”

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original), http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

[3]     See https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf

New Mexico Environment Department Surrendered to DOE Extortion


  The New Mexico State Auditor Office recently questioned whether two settlements between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy were in the best interests of New Mexico. That Office noted:

The [New Mexico Environment] Department unnecessarily forgave tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties related to various waste management issues and missed cleanup deadlines by the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors… [C]onsidering the seriousness of the violations, and the clarity regarding responsibility for the violations, it appears highly unusual that the Department would not collect any civil penalties under these circumstances. [1]

The settlements were over contractor violations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that resulted in a ruptured waste drum that contaminated 22 workers and closed WIPP for nearly three years, costing the American taxpayer at least $1.5 billion to reopen. NMED claimed it had to agree to “supplemental environmental projects” instead of financial penalties because otherwise DOE would have taken the penalty money out of cleanup funding. [2]

Unfortunately, the $74 million NMED agreed to in supplemental environmental projects were for items that the DOE is already obliged to do. For example, $46 million was dedicated to repaving roads at or near WIPP and LANL that DOE uses to ship radioactive wastes, and another $10 million was earmarked for LANL’s own potable water supply.[3]

In contrast, NMED completed an assessment of $54 million in penalties that would have gone to New Mexico, but did not enforce them before making the settlements with DOE. This was at a time when the state was beginning to face a serious budget crisis. As State Senator John Arthur Smith (Chair of the Senate Finance Committee) put it, NMED’s failure to levy penalties when New Mexico was facing a budget crisis is “taking it out of the pockets of our kids and young people when they do something like that.” [4]

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “This is inexcusable that NMED preemptively surrendered to Department of Energy extortion. In effect DOE is saying if you, the regulator, fine us, we will cut the money the taxpayer has paid to clean up our mess that threatens the citizens you are suppose to protect.”

NMED’s position that it had to agree to DOE’s extortion is not borne out by the facts. For example, there is a clause in the current LANL management contract that specifically holds the contractor accountable for “Fines and penalties imposed by any other regulatory agency, if it is the result of Contractor or subcontractor misconduct.” [5] Moreover, DOE cleanup projects are funded by specific congressional budget line items. It is highly unlikely that DOE could legally reprogram money from them to pay penalties without congressional approval.

In addition to the WIPP settlements, the State Auditor Office also noted:

The 2016 settlement agreement between DOE and the Department regarding longstanding contamination at LANL also raises concerns. While DOE and its contractor incurred millions of dollars in potential civil penalties related to missed cleanup deadlines, in revising the 2005 Compliance Consent Order, the Department also completely forgave the collection of these penalties while also loosening the compliance deadline framework.

Before Gov. Susanna Martinez took office New Mexico had an enforceable Consent Order with a detailed cleanup compliance schedule that implicitly forced DOE to get additional LANL cleanup funding or face financial penalties for missed deadlines. But under Gov. Martinez and at the Lab’s request, former NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn and Kathryn Roberts (then-Director of NMED’s Resource Protection Division) granted more than 150 time extensions for cleanup milestones, and then turned around and claimed that the Order was not working. In June 2016 NMED signed a revised Consent Order full of loopholes that allows the Lab to potentially get out of cleanup by claiming that it is too difficult or costly.

With the revised Consent Order in hand, the DOE Los Alamos Environmental Management Office then followed with a baseline cost projection of up to $3.8 billion to clean up LANL, which is woefully low, while nevertheless delaying cleanup completion out to 2040. DOE also claimed that only 5,000 cubic meters of wastes need to be cleaned up, willfully ignoring the estimated ~200,000 cubic meters they plan to “cap and cover” and leave buried as a permanent nuclear waste dump. In alignment with this, the DOE just awarded a 10-year LANL cleanup contract to Newport News Nuclear BWXT, LLC, at a rate of $140 million per year, again woefully low.

Flynn subsequently left NMED through the proverbial revolving door to become executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, whose main mission is to lobby against environmental regulations. Roberts left NMED to work for Longenecker and Associates, a DOE contractor that is named as an “interested party” in bidding for the prime LANL management contract. At Longenecker, Roberts joined Christine Gelles, who, as the former head of DOE environmental management programs at LANL, initiated negotiations with NMED and Roberts over the revised Consent Order.

Nuclear Watch has sued DOE over missed compliance deadlines in the 2005 Consent Order, in which New Mexico could potentially collect ~$100 million in penalties. Despite that, the Environment Department intervened against the enviromentalists in that lawsuit.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch added, “We look forward to a New Mexico Environment Department under the next governor that quits coddling the nuclear weapons industry and aggressively protects the environment through enforceable cleanup deadlines and penalties. That would be a real win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high-paying jobs.”

# # #

Additional Background:

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s September 21, 2016 Second Amended Complaint in its lawsuit over missed cleanup milestones in the 2005 Consent Order is available at https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/cleanup_lawsuit/Second-Amended-Complaint-as-filed-9-21-16.pdf

For a detailed critique of the revised Consent Order by Nuclear Watch please see https://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2492

Endnotes:

[1] The New Mexico State Auditor’s November 21, 2017 letter to Mr. Butch Tongate, the current NMED Secretary, is available at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NMED_ACO_SA_lttr_11-21-17.pdf

[2] NMED’s claim that it had to agree to supplemental environmental projects and not penalties is from State auditors challenge WIPP leak settlement, Rebecca Moss, Nov 30, 2017, http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/state-auditors-challenge-wipp-leak-settlement/article_8e0a3329-e38d-5680-a228-a6be7f2ea451.html

[3] See https://energy.gov/articles/us-department-energy-and-new-mexico-finalize-74m-settlement-agreements-nuclear-waste

[4] Sen. John Arthur Smith’s quote is also from Rebecca Moss’ article State auditors challenge WIPP leak settlement

[5] See LANS Prime Contract Sections B – H, p. 20, http://www.lanl.gov/about/_assets/docs/conformed-prime-contract.pdf

Some notes on the Congressional Budget Office study on nuclear weapons modernization costs

CBO quotes in italics.

First, some policy matters not addressed in the CBO study.

Driving the astronomical expense of modernization that the CBO reports on is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of “deterrence,” thousands of warheads are being refurbished and improved to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government. As a top-level 2013 Defense Department policy document put it, “The new guidance [in Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review] requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.” [1]

A new Nuclear Posture Review under President Trump is currently scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Among other things, it is expected to overturn the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review’s prohibition against new-design nuclear weapons, possibly promoting more usable “mini-nukes”, and to shorten the lead-time necessary to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing. Any changes implemented by Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review may well add to the CBO’s new cost estimate.

Nuclear weapons “modernization” is a Trojan horse for the indefinite preservation and improvement of the US nuclear weapons arsenal, contrary to the 1970 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty and the nuclear weapons ban treaty passed this last June by 122 nations at the United Nations (for which the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). Contrary to those treaties, all eight existing nuclear weapons powers are now modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, while the newest ninth power North Korea is engaged in heated, bellicose rhetoric with President Trump. But clearly the astronomical expense of US nuclear weapons modernization is not needed to deal with North Korea.

Ironically, “modernization” may actually undermine national security because the nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia) are pushing radically new weapons designs that can’t be full-scale tested, or, alternatively, if they were to be tested would have severe international proliferation consequences. See House Armed Services Committee Chairman Max Thornberry’s recent remarks that perhaps the US needs to return to testing at

http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2017/10/09/national-defense-nuclear-security-tennessee-oak-ridge-national-lab/740612001/

The most prudent way to maintain stockpile safety and reliability would be to hew to the extensively tested pedigree of the existing stockpile while performing rigorous surveillance and well proven methods of maintenance, including the routine exchange of limited life components. As a 1993 Stockpile Life Study by the Sandia Labs concluded:

It is clear that, although nuclear weapons age, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desires. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapons retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision. (https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Sandia_93_StockpileLife.pdf, parentheses in the original.)

While the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study is obviously dated, it is still relevant because no new-design nuclear weapons have been manufactured since then (which may soon change). Further, the findings of that study have since been bolstered by subsequent expert independent studies (see, for example, https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/JASON_ReportPuAging.pdf and https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/lep.pdf).

CBO Costs

P.1 The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most recent detailed plans for nuclear forces, which were incorporated in the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request, would cost $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars over the 2017–2046 period: more than $800 billion to operate and sustain (that is, incrementally upgrade) nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them.

That planned nuclear modernization would boost the total costs of nuclear forces over 30 years by roughly 50 percent over what they would be to only operate and sustain fielded forces, CBO estimates. During the peak years of modernization, annual costs of nuclear forces would be roughly double the current amount. That increase would occur at a time when total defense spending may be constrained by long-term fiscal pressures, and nuclear forces would have to compete with other defense priorities for funding.

P. 2: Overall, CBO estimates that planned modernization would cost $399 billion through 2046…

P.3 : The rising costs of modernization would drive the total annual costs of nuclear forces, including operation and sustainment, from $29 billion in 2017 to about $50 billion through the early 2030s, CBO estimates. As most modernization programs reach completion, costs would gradually fall to around $30 billion a year in the 2040s.

First, these costs are not necessary, as implied in the policy section above, when well-known methods would prudently and faithfully maintain the stockpile. Moreover, these expenditures that the taxpayer is being compelled to bear could actually degrade national security. To further put the cost of “modernization” into perspective, the Congressional Research Service has estimated the total post-9.11 costs of the “Global War on Terrorism” at $1 trillion and all of World War II at $4 trillion. See https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22926.pdf

It is also roughly the same amount that the Trump Administration is beginning to push for in questionable missile defense technologies and tax cuts for the already rich, adding to uncertainties how the average American taxpayer can afford nuclear weapons “modernization”.

P. 20: Nuclear Weapons Laboratories and the Production Complex.

DOE operates a complex of design laboratories and production facilities that provide the engineering and scientific capabilities required to sustain the stockpile of nuclear weapons. Those capabilities include the following:

  • Facilities to produce and process the nuclear materials and other specialized components used in nuclear weapons and weapons research;
  • Basic scientific research and high-speed computer simulations to improve understanding of the dynamics of nuclear explosions and the aging of weapons;
  • Research to develop and certify the processes used in maintaining nuclear weapons; and
  • The infrastructure required to support those efforts.

In CBO’s estimation, the costs to DOE of those efforts would be $261 billion over the 2017–2046 period, or an average of about $9 billion per year, under the 2017 plan. Those costs do not include sustainment and LEP activities specific to particular weapon types; in CBO’s accounting, those costs have been included with the costs of their associated delivery systems. Projected costs also exclude DOE’s other nuclear-related activities, like nonproliferation efforts and environmental cleanup.

Unfortunately the CBO report gives little further detail on DOE costs. But do note that nonproliferation and cleanup programs will likely remain flat or be cut in order to help pay for “modernization”, and the pressure to do so will likely increase every year the deeper we get into modernization.

With respect to its reported DOE costs, CBO is essentially tracking the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) annual budget category “Total Weapons Activities” minus the Life Extension Programs (LEPs). Total Weapons Activities had a FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request (CBR) of $10.2 billion. Of that, LEPs) were $1.74 billion, a $441.56 increase above FY 2017 (see FY 2018 NNSA budget request, p. 64.), and which will likely increase yet more.

To project future labs’ and production complex budgets, we can take the CBO’s $9 billion annually and add annual Life Extension Programs costs of around $2 billion for a total cost of $11 billion. Thus the labs and production plants are obviously going to see budget increases for some period of time.

This won’t however necessarily translate into a lot of new jobs at the New Mexico labs, which is often promoted by the New Mexico congressional delegation. For more on this please see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Expanded-Pit-Production-lack-of-positive-impact-9-15-17.pdf

Of particular note is that the NNSA’s own environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project-Nuclear Facility said that despite its $6.5 billion cost it would not produce a single new Lab job because it would merely relocate existing jobs. Nuclear Watch argues that comprehensive cleanup would be the real job producer at LANL.

P. 12: At DOE, persistent managerial problems, particularly with security and with the execution of construction projects, have led to a debate about management structure for the weapons laboratories. Resolving those issues is likely to add to the costs of nuclear weapons.

Transformation of the Existing Stockpile

DoD and DOE are seeking to transform the existing nuclear weapons stockpile through its speculative “3+2” plan. “2” is for the air leg, with B61-12s and Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) warheads on new bombers. “3” is for the Interoperable Warheads for land and sub-launched ballistic missiles.

P. 2: Overall, CBO estimates that planned modernization would cost $399 billion through  2046 and include these programs:….

P. 3: A new air-launched nuclear cruise missile, the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon;

The LRSO is controversial and a number of Democrat senators are on record opposing it (especially Dianne Feinstein), in large part because it is viewed as a destabilizing nuclear weapon (the proverbial “bolt out of the blue”). Ex-DoD Secretary Bill Perry speaks very eloquently against it.

P.3: A life-extension program (LEP) for the B61 nuclear bomb that would combine several different varieties of that bomb into a single type, the B61-12; A LEP for the B61-12 bomb when it reaches the end of its service life, referred to as the Next B61.

My point here is that a perpetual cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs (LEPs) is being planned that goes beyond the CBO report’s end date of 2046. Moreover, the B61-12, melded from one strategic and 3 tactical variants, arguably has new military capabilities since its new tail kit gives it “smart” bomb capabilities.

P. 3: A series of LEPs that would produce three interoperable warheads (called IW-1 through IW-3), each of which would be compatible with both ICBMs and SLBMs. Comment below.

The lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile is already being tripled through a new “superfuze” for the sub-launched W76, the most prevalent warhead in the stockpile. See https://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578 This could have serious geopolitically destabilizing consequences. This superfuze or similar ones may be used in other Life Extension Programs (LEPs), creating yet more new military capabilities.

The Interoperable Warheads

P. 31: The three IWs (Interoperable Warheads), designated IW-1 through IW-3, are slated to enter development in 2022, 2026, and 2033, respectively. Collectively, the three IWs would replace a total of four types of warheads—two for ICBMs (the W78 and W87) and two for SLBMs (the W76 and W88).

  • Three speculative IW’s to replace just four warheads? That’s a lot of expense. The FY 17 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan shows estimated costs of ~$14 billion each (or ~$42 billion total), which is likely low.
  • We argue that the W78 should have a “simple” less expensive and less technically risky Life Extension Program instead of the IW (which reportedly elements within the Air Force are receptive to). The W87 has already gone through a Life Extension Program. It was initially downloaded from decommissioned MX Peacekeeper missiles, but about 200 W87 warheads have been reloaded onto Minuteman III missiles, leaving some 250 spares. The W76 is now half-way through a LEP, with arguably new military capabilities (see below). The W88 is about to go through a major “alteration.”
  • So why are Interoperable Warheads needed? One likely reason is that the IWs are primarily being pushed by the Livermore Lab as a means for it to stay relevant in the nuclear weapons game. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which has been dominated by Livermore leadership for the last decade, will produce new plutonium pits for the IWs.
  • The US Navy is on record as not wanting the IW-1. See the 2012 Navy memo leaked to us at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf More recently, Navy Strategic Missile Boss: Interoperable Warhead Not Yet Required http://seapowermagazine.org/stories/20170525-IW.html
  • The Navy will be even less inclined to want the IW-1 because there is a major $3 billion “alteration” scheduled for the W88 warhead which will “refresh” its conventional explosives and give it a new arming, fuzing and firing set that may give it new military capabilities.

Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL

Expanded plutonium pit production is not necessary. See our extended argument at https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/PitProductionFactSheet.pdf

But simply put, the clearest evidence that none is needed is that no pit production is scheduled for existing nuclear weapons. The 29 stockpile plutonium pits for the W88 sub-launched warhead that LANL finished in 2011 was to catch up on the production run that was abruptly stopped at the Rocky Flats Plant by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. No production of any type of pit for the existing stockpile has been scheduled since then.

Future expanded plutonium pit production is for the Interoperable Warhead (IW). The link between the Interoperable Warhead and expanded plutonium pit production is demonstrated at:

An NNSA official also stated that the IW-1 LEP budget estimates in the 2016 budget materials are predicated on NNSA successfully modernizing its plutonium pit production capacity. The official stated that if there are delays in the current plutonium infrastructure strategy, the IW-1 LEP will bear costs that are greater than currently estimated to produce the number of additional plutonium pits it needs to support the program. Modernizing The Nuclear Security Enterprise, Government Accountability Office, March 2016, p. 29, http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/675622.pdf

The Interoperable Warhead will use a W87-like pit.

Don COOK (then-NNSA Dep. Administrator for Defense Programs): We’re going through a down selection right now involving NNSA, DOD, StratCom, Joint Staff, Navy and Air Force. And we are looking particularly at the W-87 pit because it’s a pit that’s already based on IHE (insensitive high explosives)… we’ve begun the engineering and development of that kind of a pit at PF-4, at Los Alamos, and work is progressing very well. http://secure.afa.org/HBS/transcripts/2013/May 7 – Dr. Cook.pdf

LANL Director McMillan: “Also during the past year, we successfully completed production of three W87 development pits.” Congressional testimony, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/McMillan_04-09-14.pdf

NNSA FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request, p. 57: Increases are also included for Plutonium Sustainment to fabricate four to five development (DEV) W87 pits…

Ibid., p. 72: Plutonium Sustainment – Fabricate four to five development (DEV) W87 pits.

New pits for the Interoperable Warhead will not be exact replicas, and therefore could degrade national security because they cannot be full-scale tested, or perhaps worse push the US back into testing. This is indicated in # 4 below:

Plutonium Sustainment includes the following:

(1) Plutonium pit process engineering, process qualification, pit manufacturing, pit manufacturing equipment and personnel, pit fabrication tooling design and manufacturing, and non-nuclear pit component manufacturing.

(2) Design laboratory and production plant activities for plutonium stockpile product development.

(3) Engineering and physics-based evaluation and testing of development pits necessary for war reserve production.

(4) Fabrication of design definition development pits that explore new design features. NNSA FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request, P. 107

Two recent related Nuclear Watch press releases

Quote: Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The American public is being sold a bill of goods in so-called nuclear weapons modernization, which will fleece the taxpayer, enrich the usual giant defense contractors, and ultimately degrade national security. Inevitably this won’t be the last major price increase, when the taxpayer’s money could be better invested in universal health care, natural disaster recovery, and cleanup of Cold War legacy wastes. Nuclear weapons programs should be cut while relying on proven methods to maintain our stockpile as we work toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. That is what would bring us real security.”

Quote: Councilwoman Renee Villarreal, who led the effort, commented:

As emphasized through this resolution, prioritizing cleanup and safety will have a direct impact on the City of Santa Fe and northern NM communities by doing right for past and historic legacy contamination, as well as recent nuclear criticality safety incidents at LANL. Regional economic development would be stimulated through comprehensive cleanup of the Lab. That would be a real win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment and our water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

[1] The quote on top-level counterforce nuclear weapons doctrine is from Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original) http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

Cost of Nuclear Weapons Upgrades and Improvements Increases to $1.2 Trillion

Cost of Nuclear Weapons Upgrades and Improvements Increases to $1.2 Trillion

Today, in Washington, DC, the Congressional Budget Office released its new report Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046, which it summarized as:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most recent detailed plans for nuclear forces, which were incorporated in the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request, would cost $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars over the 2017–2046 period: more than $800 billion to operate and sustain (that is, incrementally upgrade) nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them.

That planned nuclear modernization would boost the total costs of nuclear forces over 30 years by roughly 50 percent over what they would be to only operate and sustain fielded forces, CBO estimates. During the peak years of modernization, annual costs of nuclear forces would be roughly double the current amount. That increase would occur at a time when total defense spending may be constrained by long-term fiscal pressures, and nuclear forces would have to compete with other defense priorities for funding.

To put this in perspective, the Congressional Research Service has estimated the total post-9.11 costs of the “Global War on Terrorism” at $1 trillion and all of World War II at $4 trillion. It is also roughly the same amount that the Trump Administration is beginning to push for in questionable missile defense technologies and tax cuts for the already rich, adding to uncertainties how the average American taxpayer can afford it.

Expanded U.S. nuclear capabilities under the rubric of “modernization” include:

  • The wholesale rebuilding of the Department of Energy’s production complex for nuclear weapons, with new and/or upgraded manufacturing plants for nonnuclear, plutonium and highly enriched uranium components expected to be operational until ~2080;
  • A perpetual cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs that refurbish existing nuclear warheads while giving them new military capabilities (see, for example, https://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578); and
  • Completely new intercontinental ballistic missiles, destabilizing cruise missiles, heavy bombers and submarines to deliver the rebuilt nuclear weapons.

Driving this astronomical expense is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of “deterrence,” thousands of warheads are being refurbished and improved to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government. As a top-level 2013 Defense Department policy document put it, “The new guidance [in Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review] requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.”

A new Nuclear Posture Review under President Trump is currently scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Among other things, it is expected to overturn the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review’s prohibition against new-design nuclear weapons, possibly promoting more usable “mini-nukes”, and to shorten the lead-time necessary to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing.

Nuclear weapons “modernization” is a Trojan horse for the indefinite preservation and improvement of the US nuclear weapons arsenal, contrary to the 1970 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty and the nuclear weapons ban treaty passed this last June by 122 nations at the United Nations (for which the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). Contrary to those treaties, all eight existing nuclear weapons powers are modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, while the newest ninth power North Korea is engaged in heated, bellicose rhetoric with President Trump. But clearly the astronomical expense of US nuclear weapons modernization is not needed to deal with North Korea.

Ironically, “modernization” may actually undermine national security because the nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia) are pushing radically new weapons designs that can’t be full-scale tested, or, alternatively, if they were to be tested would have severe international proliferation consequences. The most prudent way to maintain stockpile safety and reliability would be to hew to the extensively tested pedigree of the existing stockpile while performing rigorous surveillance and well proven methods of maintenance, including the routine exchange of limited life components. As a 1993 Stockpile Life Study by the Sandia Labs concluded:

It is clear that, although nuclear weapons age, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desires. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapons retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision. (Parenthesis in the original.)

While the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study is obviously dated, it is still relevant because no new-design nuclear weapons have been manufactured since then (which may soon change). Further, the findings of that study have since been bolstered by subsequent expert independent studies (see, for example, https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/JASON_ReportPuAging.pdf and https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/lep.pdf).

Nevertheless, under nuclear weapons “modernization” the labs are pushing so-called Interoperable Warheads for both land and sub-launched ballistic missiles that will combine elements of three different warheads into a new untested design. The Los Alamos Lab is now tooling up to produce new plutonium pits for those warheads, which will not be exact replicas, thus introducing uncertainties into performance reliability. To compound the irony, the US Navy doesn’t even want the Interoperable Warhead (see https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf and http://seapowermagazine.org/stories/20170525-IW.html).

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The American public is being sold a bill of goods in so-called nuclear weapons modernization, which will fleece the taxpayer, enrich the usual giant defense contractors, and ultimately degrade national security. Inevitably this won’t be the last major price increase, when the taxpayer’s money could be better invested in universal health care, natural disaster recovery, and cleanup of the Cold War legacy wastes. Nuclear weapons programs should be cut while relying on proven methods to maintain our stockpile as we work toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. That is what would bring us real security.”

# # #

CBO Weapons Costs Chart
Estimated Costs of US Nuclear Weapons for the next 30 years

 

The Congressional Budget Office’s report Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046, October 2017, is available at https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53211

For the Congressional Research Service’s estimated war costs see Costs of Major US Wars, June 2010, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22926.pdf

The quote on top-level counterforce nuclear weapons doctrine is from

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C.

Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original)http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

The 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study is available at https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Sandia_93_StockpileLife.pdf

Santa Fe City Council: LANL Cleanup Order Must Be Strengthened & Expanded Plutonium Pit Production Suspended Until Safety Issues Are Resolved

Santa Fe, NM – On October 25 the Santa Fe City Council passed the following:

A RESOLUTION REQUESTING THAT THE NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT STRENGTHEN THE REVISED LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABS CLEANUP ORDER TO CALL FOR ADDITIONAL CHARACTERIZATION OF LEGACY NUCLEAR WASTES, INCREASED CLEANUP FUNDING, AND SIGNIFICANT ADDITIONAL SAFETY TRAINING; AND SUSPEND ANY PLANNED EXPANDED PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION UNTIL SAFETY ISSUES ARE RESOLVED…

The Resolution was co-sponsored by Santa Fe City Councilors Carmichael Dominguez, Michael Harris, Signe Lindell, Joseph Maestas and Renee Villarreal, and unanimously adopted by all eight City Councilors. Mayor Javier Gonzales was not present.

Councilwoman Villarreal, who led the effort, commented:

As emphasized through this resolution, prioritizing cleanup and safety will have a direct impact on the City of Santa Fe and northern NM communities by doing right for past and historic legacy contamination, as well as recent nuclear criticality safety incidents at LANL. Regional economic development would be stimulated through comprehensive cleanup of the Lab. That would be a real win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment and our water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

The passage of this Resolution is significant for northern New Mexico for many critical reasons.

The Santa Fe City Council is the first local government to take a position on the revised 2016 Consent Order governing cleanup at LANL. In Nuclear Watch’s view, the revised Consent Order was a giveaway by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to LANL, contrary to the original 2005 Consent Order, because:

  • Ex-NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn, before becoming chief lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, granted more than 150 extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at LANL’s request, and then claimed the Order wasn’t working
  • NMED’s chief negotiator for the revised 2016 Consent Order passed through the revolving door to work for a Department of Energy contractor that is now an “interested party” in bidding for the LANL management contract;
  • NMED forgave more than $300 million in potential fines under the 2005 Consent Order, at a time when the State of New Mexico was facing a $600 million budget deficit; and
  • The revised 2016 Consent Order lacks enforceability and allows LANL to get out of cleanup by claiming that it’s too difficult and/or costly.

For documentation, see https://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/NMED-PR-1-16-17.pdf , https://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/2016-Lifecycle-Baseline-Cost-estimate-PR.pdf and https://www.nukewatch.org/pressreleases/NWNM_Consent_Order_PR-6-28-16.pdf

The Santa Fe City Council is also the first local government to take a position that planned expanded plutonium pit production should be suspended until all safety issues are resolved, as certified by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. This follows a number of nuclear criticality safety incidents at the Lab, as outlined in the Resolution.

Ironically, future expanded plutonium pit production is being driven by the nuclear weapons labs for a so-called “Interoperable Warhead” that the US Navy doesn’t want. (See a leaked Navy memo at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf and Navy Strategic Missile Boss: Interoperable Warhead Not Yet Required http://seapowermagazine.org/stories/20170525-IW.html)

Moreover, it was recently revealed that the Trump-appointed chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board was secretly arguing for downsizing or abolishing it. Both New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich have rallied against that, even introducing an amendment to the FY 2018 Defense Authorization Act protecting the Safety Board. This Santa Fe City Resolution lends additional local support to the Safety Board.

The City of Santa Fe is a member of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, which is comprised of nine cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Los Alamos Lab. The Coalition is overwhelmingly funded by Los Alamos County and the Department of Energy, and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is its chairman. The Regional Coalition has yet to take a position calling for enhanced nuclear safety before plutonium pit production is expanded, or against the revised 2016 Consent Order that undermines potential job creation through weak enforcement of cleanup.

Other local governments may pass resolutions similar to that just passed by the City of Santa Fe. Perhaps this could persuade the Regional Coalition to actively advocate for enhanced nuclear safety before plutonium pit production is expanded, and genuine, comprehensive cleanup that could truly drive regional economic development.

# # #

The Santa Fe City Resolution is available at https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/2017-76-LANL-Cleanup.pdf

 

ICAN wins Nobel Peace Prize, NM politicians and Archbishop should support nuclear weapons abolition

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Wins Nobel Peace Prize

NukeWatch Calls on New Mexico Politicians and Santa Fe Archbishop To Support Drive Towards Abolition

Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly applauds the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (as disclosure, NukeWatch is one of ICAN’s ~400 member groups around the world). This award is especially apt because the peoples of the world are now living at the highest risk for nuclear war since the middle 1980’s (with the possible exception of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan). During President Reagan’s military buildup the Soviet Union became convinced that the United States might launch a pre-emptive nuclear first strike. Today, we not only have Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea and Kim Jong-un’s counter threats, but also renewed Russian fears of a US preemptive nuclear attack.

NukeWatch also applauds the shrewdness of the Nobel Prize Committee in making this Peace prize award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in distinct contrast to its award to President Obama early in his first term. Ironically, Obama went on to launch a one trillion dollar-plus rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, its delivery systems and production complex, which Trump now seeks to accelerate.

Generally unknown to the American taxpayer, our government has quietly tripled the lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile though increased accuracy (including more precise heights of burst). The American taxpayer has been constantly told that the purpose of the US nuclear weapons stockpile is for deterring others. However, only a few hundred nuclear weapons are necessary for just deterrence. Instead, the official (but not well publicized) policy declared by the Department of Defense following a 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review” is:

The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy. *

In other words, the US keeps thousands of nuclear weapons in order to fight a nuclear war, which even President Reagan admitted cannot be “won.” Nevertheless, the Trump Administration is now conducting a new Nuclear Posture Review, which is expected to endorse new lower yield, more “usable” nuclear weapons and a new nuclear-armed cruise missile well suited to be the proverbial “bolt out of the blue.”

In 1970 the original five nuclear weapons powers (the US, USSR (now Russia), UK, France and China) pledged in the NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) to enter into serious negotiations leading to global nuclear disarmament, in exchange for which all other countries agreed to not acquire nuclear weapons (the exceptions were Israel, India, and Pakistan, and later North Korea which withdrew). Out of frustration with the lack of progress under the NPT, this last July 7 at the United Nations 122 countries passed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which bans nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use, threat of use, and deployment of any country’s nuclear weapons in another country. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN for being the lead nongovernmental organization sheparding the Treaty, which the United States and other nuclear weapons have adamantly opposed.

As past Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King put it, “the arc of history bends towards justice.” Given the nuclear weapons powers refusal to enter into negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament, the NonProliferation Treaty has always been unjust in that it instituted global nuclear “apartheid” between the haves and have nots. Nuclear Watch calls on New Mexican politicians to get on the right side of history and end their unquestioning support for expanded nuclear weapons programs in our state.

Forty per cent of all National Nuclear Security Administration funding for nuclear weapons research and production programs is spent in New Mexico alone (around $4 billion annually). Despite that, our state remains mired in poverty and at the bottom of socioeconomic metrics (except for Los Alamos County, which is the second richest county in the USA, next to some of the poorest communities in the country).

Given that New Mexico has the second highest unemployment rate, our congressional delegation should push for cleanup that can create far more jobs than nuclear weapons programs. At the Los Alamos Lab nuclear weapons programs largely center around expanded plutonium pit production, which has endemic nuclear safety problems and is for a new nuclear weapons design that the Navy doesn’t want anyway. Our senators are particularly key, as Tom Udall sits on the very budget committee that former Sen. Pete Domenici used to funnel money to the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, and Martin Heinrich sits on the Armed Services Committee.

In addition, Nuclear Watch calls on Santa Fe Catholic Archbishop John Wester, whose diocese includes the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, to become more vocal in following the lead of the Vatican against nuclear weapons. The Holy See was instrumental to the passage of the nuclear weapons ban treaty, and is hosting a global nuclear disarmament conference November 10-11 in Rome as a direct follow-on. It is our hope that Archbishop Wester goes to that conference.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The fact that we live in a world with unpredictable national leaders that could start a nuclear war at any time should not be used as an excuse against the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Instead, that is exactly why we must have a nuclear weapons ban treaty, just like we already have for chemical and biological weapons. Nuclear weapons abolition will be long and hard in coming, but just like the abolition of slavery, it will come. New Mexicans have a special responsibility to help win this historic struggle. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done, in large part by pressuring our politicians and religious leaders for a future world free of nuclear weapons.”

# # #

* Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013,  page 4 (quotation marks in the original), http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

For past Soviet Union fears of a nuclear first strike by the US, see for example https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/a-cold-war-conundrum/source.htm

For the increased lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, giving it unparalleled first strike capabilities, see http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

For information on the November 10-11, 2017 Vatican disarmament conference see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-conference-aims-to-build-momentum-for-nuclear-disarmament-69412

Talking Points: The 2016 LANL Cleanup Consent Order Should Be Rescinded

Why rescind the 2016 Consent Order? 

  • In June 2016 the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) signed a revised Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The new Consent Order is a big step backwards in achieving comprehensive, genuine cleanup at the Lab.
  • NMED should have kept the original, enforceable 2005 Consent Order that it fought so hard for under the Richardson Administration, modified as needed for the cleanup schedule and final compliance date.
  • Under Gov. Martinez, the revised 2016 Consent Order was a giveaway by NMED to DOE and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. As documented below, it is clearly the reverse of the 2005 Consent Order, whose underlying goal was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup.

The 2016 Consent Order was negotiated to allow DOE’s budget to drive cleanup, not what is needed to permanently protect our water.

  • As late as 1996 LANL was claiming that groundwater contamination from its operations was impossible, even going so far as to request a waiver from NMED from having to monitor for contamination to begin with (which fortunately NMED denied).
  • Since then, extensive groundwater contamination from chromium, perchlorates, high explosives and VOCs has been documented.
  • As a harbinger of more to come, plutonium has been detected up to 240 feet below the surface of Area G, the Lab’s largest waste dump. See https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/AGCME-Plate_B-3_radionuclides_subsurface.pdf

LANL plans to “cap and cover” some 200,000 cubic meters of toxic and radioactive wastes at Area G, creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts.

  • Despite the threat to precious water resources, the revised 2016 Consent Order allows DOE to determine cleanup priorities based on its anticipated budget, which is the reverse of the original Consent Order.
  • The new Consent Order allows LANL and DOE to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up. (See CO quotes below.)
  • Shortly after the 2016 Consent Order went into effect, DOE took advantage of it by estimating a lifetime budget that projected a top range of $3.8 billion to clean up the Lab, while delaying completion to 2040. That works out to only around $150 million per year, when NMED is already on record that $250 million per year is needed. DOE is planning “cleanup” on the cheap.
  • Worst of all, DOE claimed that only 5,000 cubic meters of mixed radioactive wastes need to be cleaned up, willfully ignoring the estimated 200,000 cubic meters in Area G alone. See https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/LBC-Summary-Aug-2016.pdf, p. 3.

Whose interests were represented in the 2016 Consent Order? Not New Mexico’s!

  • Shortly after the 2016 Consent Order went into effect, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn displayed his true environmental colors by resigning to become the Executive Director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The Association’s main purpose is to lobby on behalf of the oil and gas industry against environmental regulations.
  • Before joining NMED, Mr. Flynn worked for a law firm that advertises that “Our representation of oil and gas producers, mid-stream entities, and natural gas pipelines has been a mainstay of Modrall Sperling’s natural resources practice since the early days of the firm.” Modrall Sperling has also defended LANL or LANS (LANL’s managing contractor) against environment regulations and labor complaints.
  • In January 2017 Kathryn Roberts, the head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division and lead Consent Order negotiator, announced that she was leaving to work as a public communications specialist for Longenecker and Associates, a DOE contractor. Prior to working at NMED, Ms. Roberts worked at LANL for four years as Group Leader for Regulatory Support and Performance.
  • At Longenecker Ms. Roberts joined Christine Gelles, its Corporate Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer. They know each other well, as Ms. Gelles was the former interim manager of the new DOE Environmental Management field office at the Los Alamos Lab. A Longenecker resume´ notes that Gelles “Led planning and initial regulatory interactions with New Mexico Environment Department negotiation of Los Alamos Consent Order.” She also led initial development of the LANL lifetime budget that will cheat New Mexico out of needed increased cleanup funding. See http://longenecker-associates.com/leadership/
  • During the 2016 Consent Order negotiations, Ms. Roberts was one of Gelles’ main counterparts on the other side of the table as head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division. Now Gelles is one of her superiors at Longenecker, when the DOE contractor could possibly bid in the future on LANL cleanup.
  • Section II.A of the 2016 Consent Order allowed the Lab to “settle any outstanding violations of the 2005 Consent Order.” Existing violations were then waived.
  • NMED pre-emptively surrendered its regulatory and enforcement powers, when the state of New Mexico really needed the money!
  • New Mexico could have collected more than $300 million in stipulated penalties had NMED vigorously enforced the 2005 Consent Order. At the time, New Mexico was facing a budget crisis with a projected $600 million deficit. In effect, NMED gave half of that deficit away to a polluting nuclear weapons site that has an annual budget of ~$2.4 billion and rising.

The 2005 Consent Order was all about the enforceable schedules.

  • The 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production.
  • It stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due in December 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump.

Under Gov. Martinez, NMED extensions eviscerated the 2005 Consent Order.

  • When NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn announced a draft new Consent Order on March 30, 2016, he publicly claimed that the 2005 Consent Order was not working, hence the need for a new one to replace it.
  • Nuclear Watch agrees that the 2005 Consent Order wasn’t working, but that’s because Flynn granted more than 150 compliance milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating it. The 2005 Consent Order was working quite well until Gov. Martinez took office.

Some specific provisions in the 2016 Consent Order that put DOE in the drivers seat.

  • “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” See https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/LANL_Consent_Order_FINAL.pdf, p. 28.
  • “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…” Ibid, p. 32.
  • “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” Ibid, p. 29.
  • “… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” Ibid, p. 30.
  • “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” Ibid, p. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. Ibid, p. 35.
  • Altogether, these put the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department, and create giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL. The 2016 Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when the Department’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.

All future cleanup does not have cradle to grave enforceable deadlines.

  • Under the 2016 Consent Order, all anticipated cleanup projects do not have scheduled, enforceable cleanup deadlines from the beginning to the end of the project. This will encourage a lack of accountability in LANL cleanup programs that are already slow, incomplete, and wasteful of taxpayers’ dollars.
  • The 2016 Consent Order eliminates all the final deadlines for completing cleanup under the 2005 Consent Order, and replaces them with an open-ended and vague scheduling process, with highly limited enforcement opportunities.
  • The 2005 Consent Order (Section XII) established dozens of detailed deadlines for the completion of corrective action tasks, including completion of investigations at individual sites, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, submittal of groundwater monitoring reports, evaluation of remedial alternatives for individual sites, and completion of final remedies. These deadlines were truly enforceable under Section III.G.
  • The 2016 Consent Order abandons the 2005 Consent Order provisions and replaces them with a so-called “Campaign Approach” under Section VIII. Under Section VIII.A.3, it would be up to the DOE, not the regulator (i.e., NMED) to select the timing and scope of each “campaign.”
  • “Campaigns” have enforceable cleanup deadlines for only the work scheduled for the current year, when cleanup takes many years. These campaigns are to be negotiated each year between NMED and DOE with no public participation and opportunity to comment on the schedule. To add insult to injury, the annual schedule is determined by funding at DOE’s discretion, rather than the schedule driving the funding, which was the fundamental driver of the 2005 Consent Order.
  • All cleanup projects should have mandatory completion dates scheduled from the beginning, and must be fully enforceable. The 2016 Consent Order miserably fails that test.

The opportunity for a public hearing was not provided.

  • Any extension of a final compliance date (which was December 6, 2015) under the 2005 Consent Order should have been implemented only after the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.
  • The Environment Department was legally required to follow these public participation requirements that were explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order, but did not.

Public participation provisions in the 2005 Consent Order were not incorporated into the 2016 Consent Order.

  • The 2016 Consent Order explicitly limits public participation requirements that were incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order.
  • All notices, milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications should have had public review and comment and the opportunity for a public hearing, but did not.

Comprehensive cleanup at LANL would be a win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

  • When DOE wants to do something, it lowballs the cost. When DOE doesn’t want to do something, it highballs the cost. LANL has estimated that comprehensive cleanup of Area G would cost $29 billion. Using actual costs of cleaning up smaller dumps, Nuclear Watch has extrapolated that cleanup of Area G would cost $7 to 8 billion. See https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Area_G_Comparison_Costs-11-14-12.pdf
  • But of that $29 billion, DOE estimated that labor costs would be $13 billion. Applying that 45% proportion to Nuclear Watch’s estimate, that would be around $3.5 billion in jobs, jobs that northern New Mexico sorely needs.
  • In contrast, the government’s own environmental impact statement for a $6.5 billion nuclear weapons facility for expanded plutonium pit production stated that it would not produce a single new lab job, because it would merely relocate existing lab jobs.
  • Comprehensive cleanup at LANL would be a real job producer!

Chromium Groundwater Contamination at Los Alamos Lab Far Greater Than Previously Expected; LANL’s Treatment Plan Must Be Drastically Changed

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has detected far more hexavalent chromium (Cr) contamination than previously estimated in the “sole source” regional groundwater aquifer that serves Los Alamos, Santa Fe and the Española Basin. Sampling in July from a new well meant to inject treated groundwater back into the aquifer detected chromium contamination five times greater than the New Mexico groundwater standard of 50 micrograms per liter (ug/L).

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen, and is the culprit in many illnesses as depicted in the well-known film Erin Brockovich. A “sole source aquifer” is a designation given by the Environmental Protection Agency when an aquifer supplies at least 50 percent of the drinking water for its service area and there are no reasonably available alternative drinking water sources should the aquifer become contaminated. Nuclear Watch discovered the alarming data in obscure entries in the Lab’s contamination database IntellusNM (http://intellusnm.com).

The location of the particular well, Chromium Injection Well 6 (CrIN-6), was chosen because LANL thought that it would be on the edge of the chromium groundwater plume where detection samples would be below the New Mexico standard of 50 ug/L, or in other words on the boundary of what legally requires treatment. Given this new information, if this new well is used to inject treated water, it will help push the contamination beyond Lab boundaries instead of blocking it. The thickness of the chromium plume at this location is not exactly known, but elsewhere it contaminates approximately the top 80 feet of the groundwater aquifer.

LANL’s “Chromium Plume Interim Measures Plan”, approved by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), is designed to remove chromium contaminated water from the center of the plume through extraction wells, treat it so it meets the state’s ground water standard, and inject the treated water into the leading edge of the plume in an attempt to slow or halt the plume migration.

CrIN-6 is currently the last proposed injection well, while injection wells 1 through 5 are already active. The new data indicates that the leading edge of the plume passed CrIN-6’s location some time ago. Injecting treated water into it now will only serve to push the plume farther east toward San Ildefonso Pueblo and the Buckman Wells that the City of Santa Fe relies on for a third of its drinking water.

The new data suggest there will have to be will have to be a complete re-thinking of chromium groundwater treatment by LANL and NMED, with more wells needed to both accurately find the true boundary of the chromium plume and eventual treatment. This inevitably means that remediation will take longer and cost more, when at the same time NMED weakened its own regulatory authority through a revised Consent Order governing cleanup that it agreed to with the Department of Energy last year (for more, see background below).

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Timely budgets for additional urgently needed cleanup work at Los Alamos are far from being a given. The 2016 Consent Order that NMED and DOE negotiated both weakened and delayed cleanup at LANL, and allows DOE to get out of cleanup by simply claiming that it is too expensive or difficult. But we demand that DOE find additional funding to immediately address this threat to New Mexico’s precious water resources, without robbing other badly needed cleanup projects.” In contrast, funding for the Lab’s nuclear weapons that caused the contamination to begin with continues to grow.

NukeWatch Operations Director, Scott Kovac stated, “It is easy for data to get buried and never see the light of day in the Lab’s contamination database. LANL should proactively keep the public continuously informed of important new developments. NMED and LANL must modify and expand the chromium groundwater treatment plan to meet this growing threat. The new well must not be used for injection, and instead treated water should be injected in front of the contaminant source to help permanently flush it out, instead of behind it which will push the contamination offsite.”

# # #

Background

Chart of samples data from Intellus NM compiled by Nuclear Watch. To locate data, go to http://intellusnm.com and search by Location ID.

Field Sample ID Location ID Sample Date Parameter Name Report Result Report Units Sample Time
CrIN6-17-142149 CrIN-6 07-16-2017 Chromium 247.24 ug/L 19:00
CrIN6-17-142150 CrIN-6 07-16-2017 Chromium 249.69 ug/L 23:00
CrIN6-17-142148 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 262.07 ug/L 15:00
CrIN6-17-142151 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 252.07 ug/L 03:00
CrIN6-17-142152 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 260.22 ug/L 11:00
CrIN6-17-142154 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 257.65 ug/L 07:00
CrIN6-17-142163 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 259 ug/L 15:00

Chromium was released into the head of Sandia Canyon until 1972.

  • Potassium dichromate was used in cooling towers as a corrosion inhibitor at a Laboratory power plant
  • Up to 72,000 kg was released from 1956-72 in hexavalent form [Cr(VI)]

Discovered in 2004

  • A Cr plume is in the regional aquifer at 900–1,000 feet below the canyon bottom at deepest, which places the Cr into the top of the aquifer
  • Size was estimated at approximately 1 mile x 1/2 mile x <50 feet thick
  • Plume edge is approximately 1?2 mile from the closest drinking water well

For how the 2016 Consent Order has weakened NMED’s regulatory authority, see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Consent-Order-should-be-rescinded-9-10-17.pdf

Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at LANL Will Not Result in Significant Positive Effect On Job Creation and the Regional Economy

Abstract: Expanded production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores of modern thermonuclear weapons, is cynically being justified as a source of job creation. Precise data on employment in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the number of additional jobs if expanded is not publicly available to our knowledge. However, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s own documents quoted below explicitly state that expanded pit production would not have any significant positive effect on job creation and the regional economy of northern New Mexico. Further, Nuclear Watch argues that expanded plutonium pit production could actually have negative effect if expanded pit production blocks other economic alternatives such as comprehensive cleanup, which could be the real job producer. Moreover, given LANL’s poor safety and environmental record, expanded plutonium pit production could have a seriously negative economic effect on northern New Mexico in the event of any major accidents or additional contamination.

Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Nuclear Facility Portion of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico

https://energy.gov/nepa/eis-0350-s1-supplemental-environmental-impact-statement-nuclear-facility-portion-chemistry-and

Bolded emphasis added

Note: The CMRR-Nuclear Facility was the up to $6.5 billion dollar plutonium facility NNSA proposed to build at LANL in direct support of expanded plutonium pit production. The Obama Administration cancelled it in 2012 after costs rose so high. Nevertheless, the 2011 CMRR-Nuclear Facility supplemental environmental impact statement remains the most relevant source of publically available socioeconomic information concerning expanded plutonium pit production that we know of.

Volume 1, p. 2-43, Socioeconomics

Under the Modified CMRR-NF Alternative, an increase in construction-related jobs and businesses in the region surrounding LANL is also expected. Construction employment would be needed over the course of a 9-year construction period under either the Deep or Shallow Excavation Option. Construction employment under either option is projected to peak at about 790 workers, which is expected to generate about 450 indirect jobs in the region. Operation of the Modified CMRR-NF and RLUOB would involve about 550 workers at LANL, with additional workers using the facility on a part-time basis. The personnel working in the Modified CMRR-NF and RLUOB, when fully operational, would relocate from other buildings at LANL, including the existing CMR Building, so an increase in the overall number of workers at LANL is not expected.

Note: The first phase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project, the Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building (RLUOB), is already built. It is now being retrofitted to handle up to 400 grams of plutonium-239 equivalent instead of the original 8.4 grams. This will greatly increase its special nuclear materials analytical chemistry and materials characterization capabilities in direct support of expanded plutonium pit production.

Under the Continued Use of CMR Building Alternative, about 210 employees would continue to work in the CMR Building until safety concerns force additional reductions in facility operations. In addition, about 140 employees would be employed at RLUOB. A total of about 350 personnel would have their offices relocated to RLUOB. The personnel working in the CMR Building and RLUOB, when fully operational, would not result in an increase in the overall number of workers at LANL.

Pg. 4-12

4.2.9 Socioeconomics

Construction Impacts—Construction of new buildings at TA-55 to house CMR activities would require a peak construction employment level of 300 workers. This level of employment would generate about 852 indirect jobs in the region around LANL. The potential total employment increase of 1,152 direct and indirect jobs represents an approximate 1.3 percent increase in the workforce and would occur over the proposed construction period. This small increase would have little or no noticeable impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the region of influence (ROI).

 Operations Impacts—CMRR Facility operations would require a workforce of approximately 550 workers. As evaluated in the CMRR EIS, this would be an increase of about 340 workers over currently restricted CMR Building operational requirements. Nevertheless, the increase in the number of workers in support of expanded CMRR Facility operations would have little or no noticeable impact on socioeconomic conditions in the LANL ROI (region of influence). New LANL employees hired to support the CMRR Facility would compose a small fraction of the LANL workforce and an even smaller fraction of the regional workforce.

4.3.9 Socioeconomics

Construction Impacts – Deep Excavation Option—Construction of the Modified CMRR-NF under the Deep Excavation Option would require a peak construction employment level of about 790 workers (LANL 2011a:Data Call Tables, 002). This level of employment would generate about 450 indirect jobs in the region around LANL. The potential total peak employment of 1,240 direct and indirect jobs represents an increase in the ROI workforce of approximately 0.8 percent. Direct construction employment would average 420 workers annually over this time, approximately half of the estimated peak employment. The average direct construction employment would result in about 240 indirect jobs in the region around LANL. This total of 660 direct and indirect jobs represents an approximate 0.4 percent increase in the ROI workforce. These small increases would have little or no noticeable impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the ROI.

Pg. 4-54

Chapter 4 – Environmental Consequences

Construction Impacts – Shallow Excavation Option—The impacts under the Shallow Excavation Option from construction of the Modified CMRR-NF would be similar to the Deep Excavation Option. The peak employment number of about 790 construction workers would be the same as under the Deep Excavation Option, and the annual average would be 410 workers over the life of the project. The average direct construction employment would result in about 240 indirect jobs in the region around LANL. This total of 650 direct and indirect jobs represents an approximate 0.4 percent increase in the ROI workforce. Therefore, there would be little or no noticeable impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the ROI.

Operations Impacts—Operations at the Modified CMRR-NF and RLUOB would require a workforce of approximately 550 workers, including workers that would come from other locations at LANL to use the Modified CMRR-NF laboratory capabilities. The number of workers in support of Modified CMRR-NF operations would cause no change to socioeconomic conditions in the LANL four-county ROI (region of influence). Workers assigned to the Modified CMRR-NF and RLUOB would be drawn from existing LANL facilities, including the CMR Building. The number of LANL employees supporting the Modified CMRR-NF and RLUOB operations would represent only a small fraction of the LANL workforce (approximately 13,500 in 2010) and an even smaller fraction of the regional workforce (approximately 165,000 in 2010).

Volume 2, p. 2-13: As discussed in this CMRR-NF SEIS, operation of the new CMRR-NF, if built, is not expected to result in any increase in LANL employment. The people expected to work in the new facility would be transferred from other facilities at LANL where CMR-related activities are currently being accomplished (such as the CMR Building).

– End of NNSA quotes –

Note: The CMRR-Nuclear Facility was expected to cost up to $6.5 billion. It’s pathetic that the largest construction project ever in New Mexico (with the exception of the interstate highways) was going to create no new Lab jobs.

 Comprehensive cleanup at LANL would be a win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

  • When DOE wants to do something, it lowballs the cost. When DOE doesn’t want to do something, it highballs the cost. LANL has estimated that comprehensive cleanup of Area G would cost $29 billion. Using actual costs of cleaning up smaller dumps, Nuclear Watch has extrapolated that cleanup of Area G would cost $7 to 8 billion. See https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Area_G_Comparison_Costs-11-14-12.pdf
  • But of that $29 billion, DOE estimated that labor costs would be $13 billion. Applying that 45% proportion to Nuclear Watch’s estimate, that would be around $3.5 billion in jobs, jobs that northern New Mexico sorely needs.
  • Comprehensive cleanup could be the real job producer. It has the additional advantage of being more conducive to regional economic development in that more locally based contractors could possibly do the cleanup work, instead nuclear weapons work such as expanded plutonium pit production conducted by huge out-of-state defense contractors such as Bechtel and Lockheed Martin.

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to advocate for nuclear weaponeers?

From our colleague Don Hancock at the Southwest Research and Information Center:

Two members (Roberson and Santos) of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) have gone public over an internal dispute about a Memorandum of Agreement between DNFSB and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in which DNFSB staff would be detailed to NNSA so that, among other things, they would be “advocating for and defending NNSA’s FY 2018 budget request.” The internal memo is posted at: https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/12526/Memo%20from%20Roberson%20and%20Santos%2C%20Objection%20to%20Memorandum%20of%20Agreement%20with%20DOE.NNSA%20.pdf

The memo is dated last Friday (August 11) and the detail would start August 21. Not a good sign that DNFSB is, in part, going from overseeing DOE weapons sites to advocating for NNSA’s budget. – End –

Our comment:

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly objects to this attempt by the National Nuclear Security Administration to compromise the Safety Board. DNFSB has played a vital role in protecting the public from dangerous nuclear weapons activities that have been riddled with safety lapses, incompetence, cost overruns and mismanagement. The Safety Board is commissioned by Congress, not NNSA, and we fully expect the New Mexican congressional delegation to protect the Safety Board’s independence and objectivity.”

Nuclear war can be avoided – let’s get it right!

Despite the hyperbole from both Trump and Kim Jong Un, nuclear war can be avoided. This not an argument for complacency, but rather to get it right.

Perhaps the silver lining in the crisis with North Korea can be that that the focused attention of the peoples of the world will rise to demand brakes on nuclear weapons, as it did to great effect in the 1980’s. But now we finally have an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, just like chemical and biological weapons.  It won’t be easy, but let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done!

http://thebulletin.org/north-korea%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cnot-quite%E2%80%9D-icbm-can%E2%80%99t-hit-lower-48-states11012

North Korea’s “not quite” ICBM can’t hit the lower 48 states

Theodore A. Postol, Markus Schiller, Robert Schmucker 

From the point of view of North Korean political leadership, the general reaction to the July 4 and July 28 launches could not have been better. The world suddenly believed that the North Koreans had an ICBM that could reach the West Coast of the United States and beyond. But calculations we have made—based on detailed study of the type and size of the rocket motors used, the flight times of the stages of the rockets, the propellant likely used, and other technical factors—indicate that these rockets actually carried very small payloads that were nowhere near the weight of a nuclear warhead of the type North Korea could have, or could eventually have. These small payloads allowed the rockets to be lofted to far higher altitudes than they would have if loaded with a much-heavier warhead, creating the impression that North Korea was on the cusp of achieving ICBM capability.

In reality, the North Korean rocket fired twice last month—the Hwasong-14—is a “sub-level” ICBM that will not be able to deliver nuclear warheads to the continental United States. Our analysis shows that the current variant of the Hwasong-14 may not even be capable of delivering a first-generation nuclear warhead to Anchorage, Alaska, although such a possibility cannot be categorically ruled out. But even if North Korea is now capable of fabricating a relatively light-weight, “miniaturized” atomic bomb that can survive the extreme reentry environments of long-range rocket delivery, it will, with certainty, not be able to deliver such an atomic bomb to the lower 48 states of the United States with the rocket tested on July 3 and July 28.

….

We emphasize at this point that advances in rocketry demonstrated by North Korea in the Hwasong-14 are significant, and although the Hwasong-14 is not an immediate threat to the continental United States, variants that are almost certainly now under development, but probably years away from completion, will eventually become missiles with sufficient payloads to deliver atomic bombs to the continental United States.

General conclusions—for now. Our general conclusions from intensive study of a wide variety of data relating to the two rockets that North Korea launched in July:

  • The Hwasong-14 does not currently constitute a nuclear threat to the lower 48 states of the United States.
  • The flight tests on July 4 and 28 were a carefully choreographed deception by North Korea to create a false impression that the Hwasong-14 is a near-ICBM that poses a nuclear threat to the continental US.
  • The Hwasong-14 tested on July 4 and 28 may not even be able to deliver a North Korean atomic bomb to Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Although it is clear that North Korea is not capable of manufacturing sophisticated rocket components, their skill and ingenuity in using Soviet rocket motor components has grown very substantially. This is not good news for the long run.

It is time for the United States to get serious about diplomacy and appropriate defensive preparations (see sidebar, “Comments on the developing situation with North Korea”) to constructively support those diplomatic efforts.

 

NMED claims revised Consent Order is a stronger enforcement tool. Not so!

Rebecca Moss at the New Mexican has another hard charging article on safety lapses at the Los Alamos Lab.  See “Lab might have known dangerous waste was unmarked” at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lab-might-have-known-dangerous-waste-was-unmarked/article_19d37b31-219a-5620-954c-a62fa9620d2a.html

If the New Mexico Environment Department is claiming, as this article reports, that its revised Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a stronger enforcement tool than the original 2005 Consent Order, then it is being highly disingenuous (to put it politely).

Interested citizens should judge for themselves. The 2016 revised Consent Order is available at http://www.lanl.gov/environment/protection/compliance/order-on-consent.php

The revised Consent Order was a giveaway by NMED to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. It is clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup.

The new Consent Order allows LANL and DOE to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up. Not long after the revised Consent Order went into effect, DOE took advantage by estimating a lifetime budget that projected a top range of $3.8 billion to clean up the Lab by 2040. That works out to only around $150 million per year, when NMED is already on record that $250 million per year is needed. Most egregious of all, DOE claimed that only 5,000 cubic meters of wastes needed to be cleaned up, purposively misleading the public and politicians by willfully ignoring the ~200,000 cubic meters of radioactive and toxic wastes known to be buried in LANL’s biggest dump alone.

Some of the highlights (or perhaps better put as lowlights) of the revised Consent Order are:

  • “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…” P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department
  • “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order is held hostage to DOE’s budget.“… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.
  • “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

Given all this, how can NMED claim with a straight face that the 2016 revised Consent Order is a stronger enforcement tool? This is just more of the Martinez administration coddling the nuclear weapons industry in New Mexico. Indeed, NMED had the gall to give LANL more than 150 extensions to the original Consent Order, and then turned around and claimed the Consent Order was not working and replaced it with a toothless tiger. Furthermore, and this is telling, the main Consent Order negotiator for NMED left shortly after it was signed to go work for a DOE contractor!

New Mexicans should demand comprehensive, enforceable cleanup at the Lab, which would be a real win-win, permanently protecting our precious water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

 

Lawsuit aims to halt Uranium Processing Facility construction to review earthquake risks

Lawsuit aims to halt Uranium Processing Facility construction to review earthquake risks
Brittany Crocker, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee Published 11:00 a.m. ET July 28, 2017

Prior to this lawsuit, a federal safety board also raised concerns over seismic risks at the UPF and at two older buildings Y-12 plans to continue using.

A lawsuit filed last week against the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) alleges the government agencies ignored new information about seismic risks during a second environmental review on Y-12 National Security Complex’s Uranium Processing Facility.

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance filed the lawsuit in Washington with Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Natural Resources Defense Council to stop the building’s construction until another environmental review is completed.

The plaintiff organizations asserted revised plans for the Uranium Processing Facility are significantly different from those the NNSA analyzed in 2011. They said NNSA’s supplementary environmental review of the revised plans only covered earthquake risks at the new facility, and not the two legacy buildings Y-12 plans to continue using.

More

Plans are to complete UPF by 2025 for no more than $6.5B
UPF at Y-12 proposes to house enriched uranium operations for thermonuclear warhead secondaries. Courtesy NNSA.

Annual Sackcloth and Ashes Hiroshima Day Peace Vigil at Los Alamos, NM

Annual Sackcloth and Ashes Hiroshima Day Peace Vigil at Los Alamos, NM

Saturday, August 5th, 2017, people will gather at 2:00 p.m. at Ashley Pond Park in Los Alamos, NM for the annual sackcloth and ashes peace vigil to commemorate Hiroshima Day. There will be a quiet walk, then sitting in sackcloth and ashes for 30 minutes, then returning to the park, where friends will reflect together on the current UN movement to outlaw nuclear weapons, with Rev. John Dear and Jay Coghlan of Nukewatch. Bring water, an umbrella and a peace sign.

Every year the Pax Christi NM sponsors this peace vigil commemorating the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Symbols are very powerful. They bring it all home,” says Father John Dear of Pax Christi New Mexico, the state chapter of an international Catholic peace movement.

Folks slip on sack cloths and carry bags of ashes to depict penitence and conversion to nonviolence, as portrayed in a story from the Book of Jonah in the Bible.

“Jonah used sack cloths and ashes in Nineveh. Two hundred years ago in
Boston, they used tea. Mahatma Gandhi used salt,” Dear says. “With this
symbol, we reclaim an ancient biblical image to show our political and
spiritual opposition to nuclear weapons and the work of Los Alamos.”

For info, contact Bud Ryan at bud@siochainworld.org
Peace

Peace vigil participants in sack cloth line the street, each sitting in front of a small pile of ashes

Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Activities Reaches 70% Of Annual Budget

Make no doubt about it, Los Alamos National Laboratory is a nuclear weapons research, development, and production facility. In this year’s FY18 Congressional Budget Request:

70% of the Lab’s budget is Nuclear Weapons Activities

11% is for Nuclear Nonproliferation

10% for ‘Work For Others’

8% Cleanup

1% Science

.4% Nuclear Energy

.2% Renewables

LANL Budget Is 70% nuclear weapons activities
Los Alamos National Laboratory
FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request
(In billions of dollars)

This chart and the FY18 LANL Lab tables to back it up are here

New nuclear ‘pit’ production at LANL is unnecessary

From the Albuquerque Journal
New nuclear ‘pit’ production at LANL is unnecessary
By Jay Coghlan
Friday, July 21st, 2017 at 12:02am

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Center for Public Integrity recently published a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos lab that captured a lot of national attention.

Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons. The articles were largely based on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s annual contractor Performance Evaluation Reports. Those reports are publicly available only because Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued for them in 2012.

The former plutonium pit production site, the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, was shut down by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. A special grand jury indicted both Department of Energy (DOE) officials and the contractor, but a federal judge quashed the indictments at the urging of the local federal attorney general. It was only by sheer luck that a major plutonium fire on Mother’s Day 1969 didn’t contaminate Denver with highly carcinogenic plutonium.

I specifically recall senior DOE officials promising New Mexicans 20 years ago that serious lessons were learned from Rocky Flats and that re-established plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) would always be safe. Since then, the lab has spent billions of taxpayers’ money on plutonium pit production but, as the recent articles document, LANL still can’t do it safely.

As the articles reported, a serious nuclear criticality accident was narrowly averted in July 2011, which resulted in the three-year shutdown of LANL’s main plutonium facility. Nevertheless, according to the fiscal year 2011 LANL Performance Evaluation Report, the lab contractor was paid $50 million in pure profit for that year.

In 2014, a radioactive waste barrel improperly prepared by LANL ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), shutting down that multi-billion-dollar facility for nearly three years. Radioactive waste disposal at WIPP will remain constrained for years, raising the question of where future LANL bomb-making wastes will go.

Congress has required the Los Alamos lab to quadruple plutonium pit production, regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile. The requirement was drafted by professional staff on the House Armed Services Committee, one of whom was originally from the Sandia nuclear weapons lab.

That the existing stockpile doesn’t need pit production is demonstrated by the fact that none has been scheduled since 2011 when LANL finished up the production run that was stopped when Rocky Flats was shut down.

At NukeWatch’s request, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) required an independent study of the lifetimes of pits. The expert conclusion was that plutonium pits last at least a century, more than double government estimates (the oldest pits in the stockpile are now around 45 years old). Moreover, there are some 20,000 existing plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas.

Future plutonium pit production is for a new so-called “Interoperable Warhead” that is supposed to function both as a land-based ICBM and a sub-launched nuclear warhead. The nuclear weapons labs are pushing this $13 billion make-work project that the Navy doesn’t want.

Ironically, new-design pits for the Interoperable Warhead may hurt national security because they cannot be tested in a full-scale nuclear weapons test or, alternatively, testing them would have severe international proliferation consequences.

Given all this, why expand plutonium pit production when apparently it can’t be done safely and may decrease, not increase, our national security? One strong reason is the huge contractor profits to be had under the $1 trillion-plus “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and production complex started under Obama, which Trump promises to expand. Far from just “modernization,” existing nuclear weapons are being given new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government.

The directors of the Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs in truth wear two hats – the first as lab directors, the second as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs. This inherent conflict of interest skews U.S. nuclear weapons policy and should be brought to an end.

The New Mexico congressional delegation kowtows to the nuclear weapons industry in our state. I specifically call upon Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to certify within this calendar year that future plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab will be safe, or otherwise end their support for it.

Jay Coghlan is the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

The pit is in the primary
From pogo.org

US Still On Track For $1 Trillion Nuclear Weapons Modernization

Here’s a breakdown of nuclear weapons costs. The average is $34 billion per year.

$1T Trainwreck For Nuclear Weapons Spending
10-Year Estimates for Sustaining and Modernizing the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent

DOD and DOE are undertaking an extensive effort to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. This effort is expected to take decades and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Congress requires submission of an annual report to congressional committees on DOD’s and DOE’s plans for related matters and includes a provision that GAO review aspects of that joint report. GAO has previously recommended that future joint reports provide more thorough documentation of methodologies and context for significant changes from year to year.

GAO analyzed the departments’ internal plans and budget estimates for sustaining and modernizing the nuclear deterrent and interviewed DOD and DOE officials. The fiscal year 2017 joint report continues to omit explicit information about all assumptions and limitations in DOD’s and DOE’s methodologies and reasons for year-to-year programmatic changes in some estimates—information that could improve transparency for decision makers in Congress.

Read the GAO Report Here

Public Interest Organizations File Lawsuit Against New Nuclear Bomb Plant

Public Interest Organizations File Lawsuit Against New Nuclear Bomb Plant

July 20, 2017

Contact: Jay Coghlan, NWNM, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay[at]nukewatch.org

Washington, DC – Today, the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit to stop construction of the problem-plagued Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) until legally required environmental review is completed. The UPF, located at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Y-12 production plant near Oak Ridge, TN, is slated to produce new thermonuclear weapons components until the year 2080. The UPF is the tip of the spear for the U.S.’s planned one trillion dollar-plus make over of its nuclear weapons arsenal, delivery systems, and production plants.

“The story of this new bomb plant is a long tale of outrageous waste and mismanagement, false starts and re-dos, a federal agency that refuses to meet its legal obligation to engage the public, and a Senator that is bent on protecting this piece of prime nuclear pork for his home state,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA. “But the short version is this: when the NNSA made dramatic changes to the UPF, and admitted that it intends to continue to operate dangerous, already contaminated facilities for another twenty or thirty years, they ran afoul of the National Environmental Policy Act. Our complaint demands that the NNSA complete a supplemental environmental impact statement on the latest iteration of its flawed plans.”

The NNSA first issued a formal “Record of Decision” to build the UPF in 2011. Within a year, the agency had to admit it had made a half-billion dollar mistake because the designed footprint of the bomb plant was not big enough to hold all of the required equipment and safety features. The American taxpayer had to eat that half billion dollars, as the NNSA held no contractor responsible for it. The agency’s parent organization, the Department of Energy, has been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project mismanagement and chronic cost overruns for 26 consecutive years.

More recently, the House FY 2018 Energy and Water Development Appropriations report noted that the NNSA had to reprogram $403 million out of the UPF’s $1.4 billion contingency fund to address “unforeseen issues” before ground is even broken. Both the NNSA and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-TN, chair of Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee) have repeatedly claimed that UPF construction will not exceed $6.5 billion. That declared budget cap seems increasingly uncertain, which could have serious negative political consequences for the troubled facility.

The UPF started with an original estimated price tag of between $600 million to $1 billion in 2006. In December 2013 an independent cost assessment by the Department of Defense pegged the UPF at more than $19 billion, which stopped the project dead in its tracks and compelled NNSA to develop a new approach. The agency commissioned a “Red Team” to perform a quick, secret study, whose recommendation was eventually adopted. In July 2016, the NNSA published an Amended Record of Decision in the Federal Register describing its new plan.

“It was a dramatic change,” commented Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “Instead of consolidating all enriched uranium operations into one big, new UPF, NNSA decided to build multiple smaller but integrated buildings, only one of which would be designed to modern seismic standards. More importantly, the agency declared it would continue to indefinitely use deteriorating, already contaminated facilities for dangerous highly enriched uranium operations, while admitting that the buildings can not meet current environmental and seismic standards.”

The National Environmental Policy Act requires a federal agency to revisit any environmental analysis when its plan undergoes significant changes that might impact the environment, or when new information comes to light. It also requires public involvement throughout the process. “NEPA’s fundamental purposes are to ensure that agencies take a hard look at consequences before taking action and to ensure that the public has a voice in agency decisions,” said William Lawton, an attorney working on the case at Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP. “Here, the NNSA has chosen to save money by continuing to rely on outdated, deteriorating buildings that run a very real risk of collapsing and releasing nuclear contamination in the event of an earthquake. The agency is putting the public at risk, and the public has a right to make sure that the government has taken the legally required hard look at those serious risks.”

 

“Since 2011, despite our repeated efforts to get information, including filing Freedom of Information Act requests, visiting DOE offices, asking officials for information and writing hundreds of letters, we have been shut out of the process completely,” noted OREPA’s Hutchison. “When we saw the final document, admitting that they were going to continue to use dangerous risky facilities without bringing them up to code, we realized why the NNSA was so determined not to make its plan public.”

Coghlan noted that the NNSA faced a similar scenario several years ago at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico when plans for a huge new plutonium pit fabrication facility were substantially changed. “We told NNSA they had to complete more public review, and the agency wisely decided to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement,” he said. “The proposed changes to the UPF are even more dramatic, and we are invoking that precedent to demand that NNSA follow the law.”

# # #

The complaint is available at https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/UPFcomplaint.pdf

The Oak Ridge Environmental and Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Natural Resources Defense Council have engaged the well-respected public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks, LLP, located in Washington, DC, to represent them in the litigation.

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance is an 1,800 member grassroots public interest group that has focused on nuclear weapons and environmental issues at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Nuclear Reservation since 1988.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico had been watchdogging Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities in New Mexico and across the NNSA’s nuclear weapons complex since 1999.

The Natural Resources Defense Council combines the power of more than two million members and online activists with the expertise of some 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.

Plans are to complete UPF by 2025 for no more than $6.5B
UPF at Y-12 proposes to house enriched uranium operations for thermonuclear warhead secondaries. Courtesy NNSA.

NukeWatch provided factual basis for landmark series

The third article in the Center for Public Integrity’s landmark series on safety lapses while contractors profit at the nuclear weapons labs is carried today in the New Mexican at

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/light-penalties-lax-oversight-encourage-weak-safety-culture-at-nuclear/article_f1fe83c0-153b-55aa-a922-9a77ef719235.html

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is proud to have provided the factual basis for this landmark series. Specifically, CPI’s two previous articles explicitly referred to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) contractor Performance Evaluation Reports report ten times, while this article overwhelmingly relies on information contained in those reports.

Those Performance Evaluation Reports are available only because NukeWatch successfully sued for them in 2012 (see our complaint at <https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/FOIA-Complaint3-28-12.pdf>). Our lawsuit overcame the government’s argument that the reports were proprietary and that the taxpayer had no right to know how wasteful, unsafe nuclear weapons contractors were paid. NNSA knew its legal position was weak – – we sued on a Wednesday and started getting the Performance Evaluation Report on the following Monday. But it goes to show that citizens must compel the government to be transparent so that there can be greater public safety.

Hopefully CPI’s articles lead to serious reform of the NNSA’s nuclear weapons complex, and again illustrate how public sunshine leads to greater transparency and accountability. But the real irony is that the unsafe practices documented by the CPI’s series is for unneeded, very expensive expanded plutonium pit production.

Maintenance of the existing stockpile does not need actual production of pits (we already have ~15,000 in storage at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX). Moreover, plutonium pits last at least a century, according to an independent expert study required by former Senator Jeff Bingaman at NukeWatch’s request (the government’s previous estimate of pit lifetimes was 45 years).

Future expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab is all about new-design nuclear weapons that the labs are pushing but the military doesn’t want. That is irresponsible, polluting and very expensive. New Mexicans should pressure their congressional delegation to ensure that expanded plutonium pit production at LANL is safe and absolutely needed to begin with, or otherwise drop their unquestioning support for it.

For more on plutonium pit production at LANL see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/PitProductionFactSheet.pdf

 

Oppose Plans To Bring ALL the Nation’s Commercial Reactor Waste To New Mexico!

Oppose Plans To Bring ALL the Nation’s Commercial Reactor Waste To New Mexico!

Contact your New Mexico U.S. Representative ASAP!

Contact Information and Sample Request are Below

Please vote against Shimkus Nuclear Waste Bill

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois) succeeded in rushing his high-level radioactive waste dump/centralized interim storage facility (including parts targeted at New Mexico!) legislation past the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee he chairs.

Title I of the bill provides that the DOE Secretary could enter into agreements to pay for private storage facilities, such as the Holtec site in Eddy and Lea Counties in New Mexico. That would change the existing law’s prohibitions of such DOE action, which have been in place for 35 years.

If a centralized interim storage facility, or “de facto permanent parking lot dump,” is opened at the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA) site near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, incredibly large numbers of high-level radioactive shipments could come to NM. ELEA is a scheme being promoted by the New Jersey-based Holtec International irradiated nuclear fuel shipping/storage container company. Holtec submitted its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 40-year license to store 100,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel. There are currently 80,000 metric tons stored at reactors around the country.

ALL the commercial spent fuel in the country could end up in New Mexico, which has no commercial reactors and did not generate any of this waste.

Please note that Ben Ray Luján (Democrat-New Mexico-3rd U.S. Congressional District) <http://lujan.house.gov/> serves on the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee. If you reside in his district, it is especially important that you contact him ASAP, urging his leadership in opposing this bill! And please urge your friends, neighbors, family, etc. to do the same!

If you reside elsewhere in New Mexico, please contact your own U.S. Representative. This bill will impact the entire state of New Mexico — in fact, it will impact the entire country!

 

BEN RAY LUJÁN (Democrat-NM’s 3rd U.S. Congressional District)

Email <https://lujan.house.gov/email-me/>

Washington, D.C. office direct phone number: (202) 225-6190

Santa Fe Office, Ph: (505) 984-8950

 

MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (Democrat-NM’s 1st U.S. Congressional District)

Email Link <https://lujangrisham.house.gov/contact>

Washington, D.C. Office: Ph:(202) 225-6316

Albuquerque Office: Ph: (505) 346-6781

 

U.S. Rep. STEVE PEARCE (Republican-NM’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District)

Washington, D.C. Office: Phone: (202) 225-2365

Alamogordo Office: Phone: 855-4-PEARCE

 

For More Info

 

 

SAMPLE LETTER

Subject: Please vote against Shimkus Nuclear Waste Bill

Please convey to Rep. Lujan our strong opposition to the Shimkus unnumbered nuclear waste bill that was reported by the Environment Subcommittee of E&C on June 15. We ask that he vote against the bill during full committee markup. We also urge him to speak against the bill and voice New Mexico’s objections to being targeted for ALL of the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel.

Title I of the bill provides that the DOE Secretary could enter into agreements to pay for private storage facilities, such as the Holtec site in New Mexico and Waste Control Specialists in Texas. That would change the existing law’s prohibitions of such DOE action, which have been in place for 35 years.

Such a change is unwarranted because spent fuel can stay at the existing reactor storage sites, would allow for unnecessary and dangerous transportation across the nation, and supports a false premise that New Mexicans support such a facility. As the Congressman knows, that is not true. New Mexicans opposed spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste coming to WIPP, which resulted in the prohibition of such waste in the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act.

New Mexicans and many tribal members opposed the private storage facility proposed on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in the 1990s. New Mexicans continue to oppose bringing spent fuel to the state. The Holtec license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that the site would be designed for 100,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel. That’s ALL of the spent fuel that currently exists (less than 80,000 metric tons), plus decades more of spent fuel production at nuclear power plants.

The bill also has many objectionable provisions related to Yucca Mountain, western water and land rights, reducing environmental protections, among many other things.

Thus, the bill’s many flaws make it unworkable.

Please vote against the bill during markup.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Your name

City

Zip Code

 

Some Background on Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab

Some Background on Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab

The Washington Post has published the first in a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that when imploded initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons.

  • The former production site, the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, was shut down by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. A special grand jury indicted both DOE officials and the contractor, but its report was sealed by a federal judge at the urging of the local federal attorney general. It was only by sheer luck that a major plutonium fire on Mother’s Day 1969 didn’t contaminate Denver with highly carcinogenic plutonium.
  • Senior DOE officials promised New Mexicans 20 years ago that serious lessons were learned from the Rocky Flats Plant and re-established plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) would always be safe. Since then the Los Alamos Lab has spent billions of taxpayers’ money on plutonium pit production, but as the Washington Post article documents still can’t do it safely.
  • As the Washington Post article reports, a serious nuclear criticality incident was narrowly averted in July 2011, which resulted in the three-year shut down of LANL’s main plutonium facility. Nevertheless, according to the FY 2011 LANL Performance Evaluation Report, the Lab contractor was paid $50 million in pure profit for that year. These Performance Evaluation Reports are the report card whereby the government determines how much the taxpayer will pay nuclear weapons contractors. The government denied taxpayer access to these reports until NukeWatch successfully sued for them.
  • A radioactive waste barrel improperly prepared by LANL ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), shutting down that multi-billion dollar facility for nearly three years. Radioactive waste disposal at WIPP will remain constrained for years, raising the question of where future LANL bomb-making wastes will go.
  • Plutonium facilities at LANL are supposed to be designed to withstand a serious earthquake that is supposed to occur only once in every 10,000 years. The last serious earthquake near the Lab is believed to have occurred 11,500 years ago. Although there is no exact linear correlation, LANL is in a sense “overdue” for a serious seismic event given its numerous geologic faults.
  • Congress has legislated a requirement that the Los Alamos Lab expand plutonium pit production, regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile. That requirement was drafted by professional staff on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, one of whom was originally from the Sandia nuclear weapons lab. That the existing stockpile doesn’t need pit production is demonstrated by the fact that none has been scheduled since LANL caught up with 29 W88 pits that were stopped when the Rocky Flats Plant was shut down.
  • At NukeWatch’s request former senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) required an independent study of the lifetimes of pits. The expert conclusion was that plutonium pits last at least a century, more than double government estimates (the oldest pits in the stockpile are now around 45 years old). Moreover, there are some 15,000 existing plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.
  • Future plutonium pit production is for a new so called “Interoperable Warhead” that is suppose to function both as a land-based ICBM and sub-launched nuclear warhead. The nuclear weapons labs are pushing this $13 billion make-work project that the Navy doesn’t want. Ironically, new-design pits for the Interoperable Warhead may hurt national security because they cannot be tested in a full-scale nuclear weapons test, or alternatively testing them would have severe international proliferation consequences.
  • Given all this, why expand plutonium pit production when apparently it can’t be done safely and may decrease, not increase, our national security? One strong reason is the huge contractor profits to be had under the one trillion dollar-plus “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and production complex initiated under Obama, which Trump promises to expand. Far from just “modernization”, existing nuclear weapons are being given new military capabilities despite denials at the highest levels of government.
  • The directors of the Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs in truth wear two hats, the first as lab directors, the second as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs. This inherent conflict-of-interest that skews U.S. nuclear weapons policy should be brought to an end.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The New Mexican congressional delegation kowtows to the nuclear weapons industry in our state. I specifically call upon my two senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to certify within this calendar year that future plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab will be safe, or otherwise end their support for it.”

# # #

The Washington Post article is available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/safety-lapses-undermine-nuclear-warhead-work-at-los-alamos/2017/06/17/87f051ee-510d-11e7-b064-828ba60fbb98_story.html

The article is also being carried in The New Mexican at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/repeated-safety-lapses-hobble-lanl-s-work-on-u-s/article_f45dd72a-d6f6-580c-97af-8ffcb9fe8364.html

For more on expanded plutonium pit production please see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/PitProductionFactSheet.pdf

Don’t trust what NNSA and LANL say

In direct response to the Center for Public Integrity’s first article, NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz broadcasted a strongly worded statement to national media. Among other things, Klotz categorically claimed that, “By late 2016, the (LANL) plutonium facility had resumed all operations that had been paused in 2013.” (Emphasis added)

This doesn’t square with these two weekly reports from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board:

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending September 9, 2016

Following successful closure of the corrective actions, LANL will have completed the revised scope of the formal restart project, restoring basic functionality to the facility¹s manufacturing and surveillance missions. An additional 18 readiness activities are planned for the next two years, including some new activities and some that were de-scoped from the formal restart project such as the aqueous chloride and nitrate operations.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending December 30, 2016

Plutonium Facility personnel completed the revised scope of the restart project. Notably, several process deviations occurred in resumed operations prompting management to significantly change the material move procedure. The next significant readiness review is scheduled to occur in April 2017 for the aqueous chloride and americium oxide operations. – End –

This goes to show why the public can’t trust the truthfulness of anything the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Los Alamos Lab say. When they are a long ways from a touchdown, they move the goal posts (i.e., “de-scoping”) while collecting millions in taxpayers’ dollars.

 

Nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab

The Washington Post has published the first in a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that when imploded initiate the nuclear detonation. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/safety-lapses-undermine-nuclear-warhead-work-at-los-alamos/2017/06/17/87f051ee-510d-11e7-b064-828ba60fbb98_story.html

The article is also being carried in The New Mexican at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/repeated-safety-lapses-hobble-lanl-s-work-on-u-s/article_f45dd72a-d6f6-580c-97af-8ffcb9fe8364.html

I live in Santa Fe, NM and clearly remember senior DOE officials promising 20 years ago that serious lessons were learned from the Rocky Flats Plant and re-established plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) would always be safe. Rocky Flats was shut down by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. A special grand jury indicted both DOE officials and the contractor, but its report was sealed by a federal judge at the urging of the local federal attorney general. It was only by sheer luck that a major plutonium fire on Mother’s Day 1969 didn’t contaminate Denver with highly carcinogenic plutonium (google the article The Day We Almost Lost Denver).

Since then the Los Alamos Lab has spent billions of taxpayers’ money on plutonium pit production, but still can’t do it safely. Moreover, as the  article mentions, a radioactive waste barrel improperly prepared by LANL ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), shutting down that multi-billion dollar facility for nearly three years. Radioactive waste disposal at WIPP will remain constrained for years, raising the question of where future LANL bomb-making wastes will go.

Congress in its infinite wisdom has legislated a requirement that the Los Alamos Lab expand plutonium pit production, regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile. That the existing stockpile doesn’t need pit production is demonstrated by the fact that none is scheduled. Future pit production is for a new so called “Interoperable Warhead” that is suppose to function both as a land-based ICBM and sub-launched nuclear warhead. The nuclear weapons labs are pushing this $13 billion make-work project that the Navy doesn’t want. Ironically, new-design pits for the Interoperable Warhead may hurt national security because they cannot be tested in a full-scale nuclear weapons test, or alternatively testing them would have severe international proliferation consequences.

At my request former senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) required an independent study of the lifetimes of pits. The expert conclusion was that plutonium pits last at least a century, more than double government estimates (the oldest pits in the stockpile are now around 45 years old). Moreover, there are some 15,000 existing plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.

Given all this, why expand plutonium pit production when apparently it can’t be done safely and may decrease, not increase, our national security? One strong reason is the huge contractor profits to be had under the one trillion dollar-plus “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and production complex initiated under Obama, which Trump promises to expand. Far from just “modernization”, existing nuclear weapons are being given new military capabilities despite denials at the highest levels of government.  The directors of the Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs in truth wear two hats, the first as lab directors, the second as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs. This is inherent conflict-of-interest that skews U.S. nuclear weapons policy should be brought to an end.

The New Mexican congressional delegation kowtows to the nuclear weapons industry in my state. I specifically call upon my two senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to certify within this calendar year that future plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab will be safe, or otherwise end their support for it.

For more background on plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/PitProductionFactSheet.pdf

A Preview of Trump’s Budget: More Nuclear Bombs and Plutonium Pit Production

Santa Fe, NM – The nonprofit organization Third Way is claiming that it has received a leaked version of Trump’s FY 2018 budget that is scheduled to be released this coming Tuesday. Assuming this leak is accurate, the proposed level of funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA)’s Total Weapons Activities is $10.2 billion, a full billion above what was requested for FY 2017 (and presumably granted in the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations, for which details are not yet available).

Trump’s “skinny budget” entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”, released on March 16, stated that it would increase funding for “the goals of moving toward a responsive nuclear infrastructure and advancing the existing program of record for warhead life extension programs.” This is where the one billion increase will be largely, if not entirely, directed.

Concerning Life Extension Programs, rather than merely maintaining and extending the lives of existing nuclear weapons as advertised, they are being given new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government. A current example is the B61-12 Life Extension Program, which is transforming a “dumb” nuclear bomb into the world’s first highly accurate “smart” nuclear bomb.

With respect to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), “responsive infrastructure” no doubt means accelerating upgrades to existing plutonium facilities and likely building two or three new underground “modules”, all for the purpose of quadrupling plutonium pit production from 20 to 80 pits per year. (Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons.)

Expanded plutonium pit production is planned despite the facts that:

1)         The existing stockpile does not need pit production, and none is scheduled;

2)         Nuclear criticality safety concerns are not fully resolved at LANL’s main plutonium facility, which only recently restarted major operations after more than three years because of these concerns. Since then, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has given LANL a “red grade” on nuclear criticality safety issues;

3)         Disposal of radioactive wastes from plutonium pit production is still severely limited after a waste barrel improperly treated by LANL ruptured and shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for nearly three years; and

4)         Future expanded plutonium pit production is for an “Interoperable Warhead” which the Navy doesn’t want and has been delayed for five years.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico director, commented, “Fattening up our already bloated nuclear weapons stockpile is not going to improve our national security. New Mexicans desperately need better funded schools and health care, not expanded plutonium pit production that will cause more pollution and threaten our scarce water resources.”

Nuclear Watch New Mexico will be spending next week in Washington, DC for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 29th consecutive DC Days to discuss Trump’s new budget with the New Mexican congressional delegation and key committees.

# # #

Third Way’s press statement and budget spreadsheet are available at http://www.thirdway.org/newsroom/press-releases/third-way-statement-on-the-leaked-may-8-trump-budget

For more on expanded plutonium pit production please see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/PitProductionFactSheet.pdf

 

 

How could New Mexico’s senators support Heather Wilson for Air Force Secretary?

Commentary by NukeWatch Steering Committee member Chuck Montaño. Chuck is a federally protected LANLK whistleblower, and we’re proud to have him!

*******

It’s disturbing, but not surprising that both New Mexico U.S. Senators, and so many of their Senate colleagues, supported Donald Trump’s nomination of former New Mexico Congresswomen, Heather Wilson, to the position of Air Force Secretary. My award-winning book about the corrupting influence of money and politics, titled Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths, provides in depth perspective on how this occurs and why, regardless of political party affiliation.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, most fraud, waste and abuse can be attributed to managerial malfeasance occurring at the highest levels of leadership, and a reluctance(if not outright refusal) by those with oversight authority to hold those responsible accountable. A couple of years back, Ms Wilson was caught lobbying for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia, and other federal facilities, she receiving tens of thousands of dollars a month in the process. These federal installations were later forced to reimburse the taxpayer for those monies, this being akin to the proverbial slap on the wrist with a wet noodle.

As a former auditor and fraud investigator in Los Alamos, and the once director of fraud and special investigations for the office of the New Mexico state auditor, I know for a fact that using taxpayer dollars to lobby is a blatant violation of federal and state law. I also know that employees are legally required to report fraud, waste and abuse occurring at taxpayer-funded institutions. Indeed, it is a condition of employment at federally-funded facilities. So why did New Mexico U.S. Senator’s Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and so many of their Senate colleagues, choose to ignore the evidence about Wilson’s lobbying activity, introduced into the record at her recent confirmation hearing? Indeed, why do our elected representatives prefer to look the other way as government whistleblower’s (AKA employees) careers get destroyed, by these employers, for reporting such malfeasance? Perhaps we are a nation of laws, but the institutions and individuals charged to enforce them are clearly selective as to how and when they choose to do so, thus ensuring  the powerful get their way and, perhaps most importantly, that the status quo always always remains intact.

 

Charles ‘Chuck’ Montano, author

Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths

www.losalamosdiary.com

 

Trump adds to DC muck with Heather Wilson as Air Force Secretary

So much for draining the swamp. Trump and the Senate just added to the muck in Washington, DC by confirming ex-Congresswoman Heather Wilson as Secretary of the Air Force. Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest weapons contractor, started paying her $10,000 a month the day after she stepped down from office to help devise a strategy to extend its $2.6 bilion/year  management contract of the Sandia Labs without competitive bid (the Labs are in her district). She went on to get a similar contract with the Los Alamos Lab, also for $10,000 a month. Good work, if you can get it!

Now as Air Force Secretary she will oversee the world’s most expensive weapons systems made by guess who? Lockheed Martin.  All this for a Defense Department that has never been able to pass a financial audit for how it spends taxpayers’ money. Sadly, it’s business it as usual for the weapons megabusiness.

In particular, it’s especially hypocritical for New Mexico’s senior senator Tom Udall to have voted for her, given that he sent out an email fundraiser immediately after Trump’s speech to Congress denouncing his cabinet nominee’s conflicts-of-interest.  I think it shows that the New Mexican congressional delegation’s primary loyalty is to the nuclear weapons industry in our state, instead of to political party or even good governance.

In contrast, praise and glory to California’s senior senator Dianne Feinstein who issued a strong statement against Heather Wilson because of her possibly illegal lobbying activities. Both the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs had to pay back the US government the ~$430,000 they had been  reimbursed for paying her, but there is no public record of Wilson ever paying back one red cent.

 

How US Nuclear Force Modernization is Undermining Strategic Stability

Nuclear Weapons defects graph from 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study
Nuclear Weapons defects graph from 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study

A must read:

How US Nuclear Force Modernization is Undermining Strategic Stability:
The Burst-Height Compensating Super-Fuze

By Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, Theodore A. Postol

http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

Excerpt:

The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing- boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three- and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.

This is a super outstanding analysis by Mssrs. Kristensen, McKinzie and Postol.  I’m no doubt naïve, but I’m hoping it will have some real political and geopolitical impact.

And how in keeping with the 2013 Defense Dept. guidance, which Kristensen was the first to point out to me. It helps to demonstrate that the American public doesn’t really have nuclear “deterrence” as claimed for a half-century. Instead, the U.S. has always had a nuclear war-fighting strategy, as first demonstrated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To quote:

The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original) http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

As Kristensen, McKinzie and Postol point out, the geopolitical risks in radical improvements to U.S. nuclear warfighting capabilities are enormous. A secondary concern I’d like to point out is the risk to nuclear weapons reliability posed by intentionally introducing major changes to an extensively tested stockpile.

The Pantex Plant (final assembly site for US nuclear weapons) has a newsletter called The Pantexan (duh!). I recall circa 2009 that it had an article concerning the fact that the MC 4700 “super fuze” that was being installed in the then-ramping up W76 Life Extension Program had initial design and production problems. As the article boasted, those defects were detected and swiftly corrected.

However, the principle remains that introducing intentional changes can undermine confidence in stockpile reliability. The grand irony is that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has been lavishly funded because of the official rationale of preserving stockpile reliability, but I believe it has been a Trojan horse all along for using Life Extension Programs to create new military capabilities (and which the excellent analysis above reinforces).

[I have tried a few times to again find that Pantexan article, unfortunately without success.]

The above graph from the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study  shows that the supermajority of nuclear weapons defects occur within the first 5 years from the First Production Unit. Marylia Kelley (Executive Director of TriValley CAREs that watchdogs Livermore Lab ) and I met with Vic Reis, commonly regarded as the “father” of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, in 2004 or 2005. He explicitly said to us that the whole purpose of the Stockpile Stewardship Program was for the “other side of the bathtub curve”, i.e. when defects were going to multiply because of aging.

Guess what? That hasn’t happened, given long-established stockpile surveillance, rigorous maintenance and well-understood replacement of “limited life components” (e.g., batteries, neutron generators, tritium).

Indeed, the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study itself said

We undertook this study to understand how long nuclear weapons last. We quickly learned that this is the wrong question. It is clear that, although nuclear weapons age, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desire. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapon retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision.

The more significant question is “what does it take to sustain a weapon while it is in the stockpile?”… Failures, defects, and aging problems have been rare…

[Available at http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Sandia_93_StockpileLife.pdf]

So again, I think the Stockpile Stewardship Program has been a ruse to indefinitely preserve U.S. nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. And now we have the trillion dollar-plus “modernization” to vastly expand U.S. nuclear warfighting capabilities.

 

How US Nuclear Force Modernization is Undermining Strategic Stability

A must read:

Nuclear Weapons defects graph from 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study

How US Nuclear Force Modernization is Undermining Strategic Stability:
The Burst-Height Compensating Super-Fuze

By Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, Theodore A. Postol

http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

Excerpt:

“The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing- boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three- and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

This is a super outstanding analysis by Mssrs. Kristensen, McKinzie and Postol.  I’m no doubt naïve, but I’m hoping it will have some real political and geopolitical impact.

And how in keeping with the 2013 Defense Dept. guidance, which Kristensen was the first to point out to me. It helps to demonstrate that the American public doesn’t really have nuclear “deterrence” as claimed for a half-century. Instead, the U.S. has always had a nuclear war-fighting strategy, as first demonstrated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To quote:

The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original) http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

As Kristensen, McKinzie and Postol point out, the geopolitical risks in radical improvements to U.S. nuclear warfighting capabilities are enormous. A secondary concern I’d like to point out is the risk to nuclear weapons reliability posed by intentionally introducing major changes to an extensively tested stockpile.

The Pantex Plant (final assembly site for US nuclear weapons) has a newsletter called The Pantexan (duh!). I recall circa 2009 that it had an article concerning the fact that the MC 4700 “super fuze” that was being installed in the then-ramping up W76 Life Extension Program had initial design and production problems. As the article boasted, those defects were detected and swiftly corrected.

However, the principle remains that introducing intentional changes can undermine confidence in stockpile reliability. The grand irony is that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has been lavishly funded because of the official rationale of preserving stockpile reliability, but I believe it has been a Trojan horse all along for using Life Extension Programs to create new military capabilities (and which the excellent analysis above reinforces).

[I have tried a few times to again find that Pantexan article, unfortunately without success.]

Below is a graph (pending) from the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study which shows that the supermajority of nuclear weapons defects occur within the first 5 years from the First Production Unit. Marylia Kelley (Executive Director of TriValley CAREs that watchdogs Livermore Lab ) and I met with Vic Reis, commonly regarded as the “father” of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, in 2004 or 2005. He explicitly said to us that the whole purpose of the Stockpile Stewardship Program was for the “other side of the bathtub curve”, i.e. when defects were going to multiply because of aging.

Guess what? That hasn’t happened, given long-established stockpile surveillance, rigorous maintenance and well-understood replacement of “limited life components” (e.g., batteries, neutron generators, tritium).

Indeed, the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study itself said

We undertook this study to understand how long nuclear weapons last. We quickly learned that this is the wrong question. It is clear that, although nuclear weapons age, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desire. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapon retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision.

The more significant question is “what does it take to sustain a weapon while it is in the stockpile?”… Failures, defects, and aging problems have been rare…

[Available at http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Sandia_93_StockpileLife.pdf]

So again, I think the Stockpile Stewardship Program has been a ruse to indefinitely preserve U.S. nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. And now we have the trillion dollar-plus “modernization” to vastly expand U.S. nuclear warfighting capabilities.

Nuclear Weapons defects graph from 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study

Russia Violates Important Arms Control Treaty, While US Presses Ahead With Destabilizing Strategic Advantages

There is this important article today:

US General Says Russia Has Deployed Banned Missile

WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. general on Wednesday accused Russia of deploying a land-based cruise missile in violation of “the spirit and intent” of a nuclear arms treaty and charged that Moscow’s intention is to threaten U.S. facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance.

“We believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing….

continued at <http://www.defensenews.com/articles/us-general-says-russia-has-deployed-banned-missile>

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico definitely takes treaty violations seriously. But left unsaid is the fact that the US is acquiring 1,000 new nuclear-armed cruise missiles permitted under New START, which because of that, despite what Trump says, is a better deal for the US than Russia.

Then there is the pending forward deployment in Europe of new B61-12s with new military capabilities (the world’s first “smart” nuclear bomb), plus the ongoing increase in hard target kill capability “boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three…”, as so well recently explained by Kristensen, McKinzie and Postal. See http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

Then there is American chest thumping about new threats to NATO, but left unsaid is NATO expansionism to the borders of Russia; and American abrogation of the ABM Treaty, leading to ballistic missile defenses in Europe that could destabilize “deterrence.”

Yes, treaties are essential, but as usual hard nosed military capabilities unfortunately rule the day.  It’s a wonder that Russia’s nuclear posture isn’t actually more aggressive than it is in the face of new American threats.

Of course the nuclear weapons states are pretty hopeless, as the United States and Russia spiral into a new nuclear arms race. Something new is needed.

We are curious as to where the pending nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations might go and what impact they might have. More to come, as NukeWatch director Jay Coghlan observes the first week of negotiations March 27-31 at the United Nations in New York City.

Costs Jump in Nuclear Weapons vs. Cleanup; Nuclear Weapons Winning over Environmental Protection

 America is at a crossroads, having to choose between an unnecessarily large, exorbitant, nuclear weapons stockpile, and cleanup that would protect the environment and water resources for future generations. Expanded nuclear weapons research and production, which will cause yet more contamination, is winning.

Two recently released government reports make clear the stark inequality between the so-called modernization program to upgrade and indefinitely preserve U.S. nuclear forces (in large part for a new Cold War with Russia), and the nation-wide program to clean up the radioactive and toxic contamination from the first Cold War. The Obama Administration launched a trillion dollar nuclear weapons “modernization” program, which President Trump may expand. In contrast, cleanup of the first Cold War mess has been cut from a high of $8.5 billion in 2003 to $5.25 billion in 2016, even though comprehensive cleanup would produce far more jobs than nuclear weapons programs.

With respect to cleanup, last week the Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its bi-annual High-Risk Series, which added “Environmental Liabilities” to its list of federal programs and operations that are particularly susceptible to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. Environmental liabilities are expressed as the estimated taxpayers’ cost of necessary future cleanup.

The Department of Energy is running the world’s largest cleanup program addressing the massive contamination caused by Cold War nuclear weapons research and production. But that national program is plagued by inefficiencies, mismanagement, cost overruns and excessive contractor profits.

According to GAO, since 1989 DOE’s Office of Environmental Management has spent over $164 billion on cleanup. Nevertheless, “Despite billions spent on environmental cleanup, DOE’s environmental liability has roughly doubled from a low of $176 billion in fiscal year 1997 to the fiscal year 2016 estimate of $372 billion.”

Therefore, from a cost perspective, cleanup is going backwards fast. Moreover, that $372 billion won’t be anywhere near the total cost of comprehensive, genuine cleanup because not all contamination is yet known. Furthermore, DOE explicitly plans to “cap and cover” much of its existing buried radioactive and toxic wastes, creating de facto permanent nuclear waste dumps while declaring them cleaned up according to regulations.

In contrast, funding is rapidly rising for revamped nuclear weapons and the missiles, submarines and bombers to deliver these most formidable weapons of mass destruction. Underpinning this astronomical expense is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of “deterrence,” thousands of warheads are being refurbished and kept to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government. As a top-level 2013 Defense Department policy document put it, “The new guidance [in Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review] requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.”

President Reagan said long ago that nobody can win a nuclear war. Thousands of nuclear weapons are certainly not needed to deter emerging nuclear threats such as North Korea or potential nuclear terrorism. In addition, there are increasing hints (for example, by the Defense Department’s Defense Science Board) that the U.S. may develop and produce more precise low-yield nuclear weapons that are arguably more usable, and even possibly return to full-scale testing.

Expanded U.S. nuclear capabilities under the rubric of “modernization” involves the wholesale rebuilding of DOE’s nuclear weapons production complex; a perpetual cycle of Life Extension Programs that refurbish existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities; and completely new ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, heavy bombers and submarines to deliver the rebuilt nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, that’s going to cost American taxpayers more than previously thought. Last week the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated study Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2026. It estimated that “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear forces will cost $400 billion during 2017 to 2026. This is 15% higher than a CBO estimate two years ago of $348 billion for the 10-year period of 2015 to 2024.

Moreover, in its earlier report CBO asserted that the next two decades will cost even more. Therefore, modernization will exceed the one trillion dollars over 30 years that is often cited now. And that figure could go much higher yet should Trump accelerate modernization, which he implied when he tweeted the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability…”

Common to both its nuclear weapons and cleanup programs, DOE has the singular distinction of having its contract management designated as high risk by GAO for 26 consecutive years. This is because the Department’s track record of inadequate management and oversight of contractors, who comprise 95% of all nuclear weapons complex employees, has left DOE vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse. The list of busted projects is overwhelming, while the usual nuclear weapons contractors are typically not held accountable (for example, Bechtel’s Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford or Babcock and Wilcox’s half-billion dollar design mistake for Y-12’s proposed Uranium Processing Facility).

To illustrate this nation-wide problem locally, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), run by Bechtel and the University of California, recently signed a new 2016 Consent Order governing cleanup with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), which has coddled the nuclear weapons industry under Gov. Martinez. This new agreement pushes completion of Lab cleanup out to 2040, while creating loopholes where DOE can get out of cleanup by simply claiming that it is too difficult or costly. As a result, DOE has cut the Lab cleanup budget to around $188M per year, in contrast to a high of $225 million in 2014, or the $250 million per year that NMED has said in the past is necessary.

To add insult to injury, LANL’s estimated 3-4 billion dollar environmental liability assumes that nearly 200,000 cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes are left behind forever in unlined dumps, protected only by “cap and cover” and thereby “cleaned up” according to regulations. But this, of course, is false cleanup. As a 2005 LANL hydrogeological report put it, “Future contamination at additional locations [in regional groundwater] is expected over a period of decades to centuries as more of the contaminant inventory reaches the water table.”

But nuclear weapon research and production at LANL, which threatens precious water resources, is not only thriving, but is expanding. Currently, up to $6 billion is planned to be spent on upgrading existing plutonium facilities and building new ones so that production can be expanded to 50-80 plutonium pits per year by 2028 (pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons). Ironically, expanded pit production is for exorbitant “Interoperable Warheads” for both intercontinental ballistic missiles and sub-launched missiles that the nuclear weapons labs are pushing but the Navy doesn’t want. Moreover, the planned changes to the existing, extensively tested nuclear stockpile are so radical that they could undermine confidence in performance reliability, possibly prompting a return to full scale testing.

Scott Kovac, Research Director at Nuclear Watch NM, commented, “Ten years from now, after taxpayers spend another $50 billion on cleanup, DOE’s environmental liability estimate will probably still be more than $400 billion. Meanwhile the US will have spent the same amount on expanded nuclear weapons production that will cause yet more contamination. That money should instead be used to get cleanup done once and for all, giving American taxpayers the real national security of a clean environment and safe drinking water.”

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, observed, “Over the next few decades the window will close for comprehensive, genuine cleanup. Unfortunately, our children and grandchildren will instead be saddled with the ongoing financial and environmental debts of never-ending improvements to nuclear weapons that keep a privileged elite rich. As citizens we need deep and meaningful contractor reform and stronger federal oversight. The directors of the nuclear weapons labs should be stripped of their two-hatted role as the presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs, which are built-in conflicts-of-interest. Then perhaps we would begin to see jobs-creating cleanup programs taking precedence over unneeded, exorbitant nuclear weapons programs that threaten global security and local environments.”

###

GAO High-Risk Series 2017 is available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-317

Specific DOE cleanup cost numbers are at http://gao.gov/highrisk/us_government_environmental_liability/why_did_study#t=1

Projected Costs Of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 To 2026 February 2017 is available at https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/52401-nuclearcosts.pdf

The quote on top-level counterforce nuclear weapons doctrine is from:

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original) http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

For possible more usable nuclear weapons and a return to full-scale testing, see Seven Defense Priorities for the New Administration, Defense Science Board, December 2016, http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/Seven_Defense_Priorities.pdf
The quote on more expected groundwater contamination is from LANL’s Hydrogeologic Studies of the Pajarito Plateau: A Synthesis of Hydrogeologic Workplan Activities (1998–2004), ER2005-0679 December 2005, Page 5-15, http://www.worldcat.org/title/los-alamos-national-laboratorys-hydrogeologic-studies-of-the-pajarito-plateau-a-synthesis-of-hydrogeologic-workplan-activities-1998-2004/oclc/316318363

As Trump Seeks to Expand U.S. Nuclear Weapons Capabilities New Sandia Labs Director Argued for Expanded Use of Nuclear Weapons

On December 22, 2016 president-elect Donald Trump upended four decades of U.S. policy to reduce nuclear weapons by tweeting “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The next morning he doubled down by declaring, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

That same day Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that his country’s nuclear weapons are fully capable of penetrating any American missile defense system, and observed “It’s not us who have been speeding up the arms race.” Earlier Trump had suggested that Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia should perhaps obtain nuclear weapons, and reportedly asked a foreign policy advisor why the U.S. couldn’t use nuclear weapons if it already had them. Further, Trump refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe or against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Underlying all this is a trillion dollar effort begun under the Obama Administration to upgrade U.S. nuclear forces, including new nuclear weapons production plants, and new missiles, submarines and bombers, all expected to be operational until around the year 2080.

One of the most important players in the trillion dollar nuclear weapons upgrade is the Sandia National Laboratories, with its newly appointed director Stephen Younger. Long before Trump, Younger argued for the expanded use of nuclear weapons, writing in his June 2000 paper Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century “[i]t is often, but not universally, thought that nuclear weapons would only be used in extremis, when the nation is in the gravest danger…..This may not be true in the future.” (P. 2)

Although generally the least publicly recognized of the three American nuclear weapons labs, Sandia is the largest by both budget and number of personnel (the other two nuclear weapons labs are the Los Alamos and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories). Sandia has multiple sites (hence is called “Labs” in the plural), but its main facility is on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM. Nearby is the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex, likely the largest storage facility for nuclear weapons in the nation, with up to 2,500 warheads. Kirtland AFB also sites the Air Force’s national Nuclear Weapons Center, which describes itself as the “The Nucleus of America’s Deterrent”, whose stated mission is to “Deliver nuclear capabilities Warfighters use every day to deter and assure.”

Although “deterrence” has been sold to the American taxpayer for decades as the rationale for nuclear weapons, in reality the U.S. (and Russian) arsenal is for nuclear warfighting, as a 2013 top-level Pentagon document explicitly states:

The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.

As one source explains

Counterforce doctrine, in nuclear strategy, [is] the targeting of an opponent’s military infrastructure with a nuclear strike. The counterforce doctrine is differentiated from the countervalue doctrine, which targets the enemy’s cities, destroying its civilian population and economic base. The counterforce doctrine asserts that a nuclear war can be limited and that it can be fought and won. https://www.britannica.com/topic/counterforce-doctrine

In turn, counterforce requires thousands of nuclear weapons for nuclear warfighting, instead of the few hundred needed for only deterrence. But as President Ronald Reagan famously put it in his 1984 State of the Union address:

A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?

In 1988 Reagan nearly reached agreement with Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ban nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, relying on false promises made by then-Livermore Lab Director Edward Teller, Reagan insisted on pursuing ballistic missile defenses (or “Star Wars”), which killed any possible deal. Thus, sadly, counterforce and the capability to wage a nuclear war remain the operative national security policy as we face today’s very real risk of entering into a new nuclear arms race with Russia.

Stephen Younger already foreshadowed this in his 2000 paper when he wrote, “The United States employs a counterforce strategy that targets military assets that could inflict damage to our national interests.” (P. 9) He is now in a prime position to implement that counterforce policy as Sandia Labs Director.

Sandia’s main mission is design of the thousands of nonnuclear components (such as fuzes, radars, etc.) that weaponize the nuclear designs of the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories into deliverable weapons of mass destruction. However, Sandia’s secondary mission is studying nuclear weapons “effects,” which are not the horrific effects of nuclear weapons on humans and the environment. Instead, this concerns the effects of nuclear weapons on nuclear weapons, to make sure that they are radiation hardened so that they will operate in the severe environments of a nuclear war. This is aimed at mostly the fratricidal effects of our own weapons, since any single target might be hit with multiple warheads. This has every thing to do with nuclear warfighting and first strike capabilities, rather than mere “deterrence.”

Younger’s appointment as director is also indicative of Sandia’s growing focus on nuclear weapons, principally due to Life Extension Programs (LEPs) that not only seek to indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons, but to also give them new military capabilities (Sandia is currently the lead lab for the B61-12 LEP, which is transforming a “dumb” bomb into the world’s first nuclear smart bomb). A decade ago Sandia Labs fell below 50% funded by nuclear weapons programs, which was publicly touted by the New Mexican congressional delegation as successful mission diversification leading to possible greater regional economic development. However, that trend is now reversed. In the FY 2017 federal budget request Sandia is 56% funded by nuclear weapons programs. In terms of gross funding for nuclear weapons programs Sandia is tied with the Los Alamos Lab at $1.58 billion for FY 2017, while Lawrence Livermore Lab’s nuclear weapons program is $1.07 billion. Sandia’s total annual budget is around $2.8 billion, the largest of the three nuclear weapons labs.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “Americans can’t allow an unpredictable president and a greedy nuclear weapons complex to fool us into a new nuclear arms race. Reagan said it best that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” We need to make sure that Trump gets that message as well. He says he wants to both rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and expand nuclear weapons capabilities. But it’s one or the other – Trump will find out the hard way that the country can’t afford to have it both ways.”

# # #

Stephen Younger’s June 2000 paper “Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century” is available at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NuclearWeaponsIn21stCentury.pdf

For more on the Kirtland Air Force Base, the nuclear weapons complex within the nuclear weapons complex, please see https://nukewatch.org/Kirtland.html

The quote on U.S. nuclear weapons counterforce policy is from: Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C. Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original) http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

Watchdogs Assail Revolving Door Between New Mexico Environment Department and Polluters

Nuclear Watch NM Press Release

For immediate release: January 17, 2017

Contact: Jay Coghlan, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay[at]nukewatch.org

 

Watchdogs Assail Revolving Door

Between New Mexico Environment Department and Polluters;

Gov. Martinez Fails to Protect State Budget and Environment

Santa Fe, NM – As the annual state legislative session begins, New Mexico is faced with a ~$70 million budget deficit, which must be balanced as per the state’s constitution, while revenues are projected to continue falling. To remedy this, Gov. Martinez plans to divert $120 million from public school reserves, take ~$12.5 million out of state employee retirement accounts, make teachers and state workers pay more into their retirement accounts (they are already among the lowest paid in the country), and extend 5.5% cuts for most state agencies while cutting yet more from the legislature and higher education. Instead, the state’s budget deficit could have been prevented had the New Mexico Environment Department aggressively fined polluters. But unfortunately there is a strong revolving door between NMED and the polluters it is suppose to regulate.

In her 2012 State of the State speech Gov. Martinez said, “My appointees are barred from lobbying state government for 2 years after serving in my administration.” Yet in August 2016 the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Mr. Ryan Flynn, resigned to become the Executive Director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, whose main purpose is to lobby on behalf of the oil and gas industry against environmental regulations. Before joining NMED, Mr. Flynn worked for a law firm that advertises that “Our representation of oil and gas producers, mid-stream entities, and natural gas pipelines has been a mainstay of Modrall Sperling’s natural resources practice since the early days of the firm.” Modrall Sperling lawyers were very active in the NM Oil and Gas Association’s opposition to the so-called “pit rule” that sought to prevent oil and gas drilling mud waste from leaching into and contaminating groundwater. In June 2013 the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission, appointed by Gov. Martinez, eviscerated the pit rule.

Similarly, Martinez and Flynn promulgated new groundwater protection rules that for the first time in the country actually allows groundwater contamination if it doesn’t migrate past the footprint of the operating site. This is the so-called Copper Rule, drafted by the copper mining giant Freeport-McMoRan (which is also a Modrell Sperling law firm client).

On January 13, 2017 Kathryn Roberts, the head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division, announced that she was leaving the Environment Department to accept an unnamed job in Alamogordo. Before NMED she worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for four years as Group Leader for Regulatory Support and Performance (of “cleanup”). Upon information and belief, she will work as a public communications specialist for Longenecker and Associates, a Department of Energy (DOE) contractor that proposes to drill deep boreholes to test the disposal of high-level nuclear waste near Alamogordo.

This is part of the continuing targeting of New Mexico as the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Longenecker and Associates have participated in Sandia Labs studies of deep borehole high-level waste disposal. Of interest are some relatively recent new hires by Longenecker, including Don Cook, a longtime Sandia Labs scientist, past manager of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in the United Kingdom, and most recently the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (i.e., nuclear weapons) at the National Nuclear Security Administration. As such, he was essentially the head of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs.

Also new to Longenecker and Associates as Corporate Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer is Christine Gelles, former interim manager of the new DOE Environmental Management field office at Los Alamos. A Longenecker resume´ notes that Gelles “Led planning and initial regulatory interactions with New Mexico Environment Department negotiation of Los Alamos Consent Order.” Ms. Roberts would have been one of Gelles’ counterparts on the other side of the table as head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division.

An original 2005 Consent Order negotiated between NMED and DOE was meant to compel comprehensive cleanup at LANL and force the Energy Department to increase cleanup funding. The new Consent Order, likely negotiated at least in part between Gelles and Roberts, contains giant loopholes whereby DOE can get out of cleanup by simply claiming that is too difficult or too costly. In fact, since the new Consent Order went into effect in June 2016, DOE has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at LANL will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year, which is ridiculously low. That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump, posing a permanent threat to groundwater. DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” This is a distinct and very unfortunate break from the 2005 Consent Order.

Particularly galling is the fact that under Gov. Martinez and ex-Secretary Ryan Flynn the New Mexico Environment Department granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order, and then turned around and said that the Consent Order wasn’t working. From a budget perspective, New Mexico could have collected more than $300 million in stipulated penalties, more than four times the state’s projected budget deficit, had NMED vigorously enforced the 2005 Consent Order.

[For more, see here]

All of this is part of a pattern where the Martinez Administration has coddled the nuclear weapons industry even as that industry is cutting cleanup funding and ramping up nuclear weapons production that caused the mess to begin with. Gov. Martinez and ex-NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn have touted what they call an historic $74 million settlement that New Mexico and DOE reached after a radioactive waste barrel that LANL improperly treated ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), contaminating 21 workers and closing down that multi-billion dollar facility for nearly three years. What was left unsaid is that DOE was already responsible for the supermajority of “Special Environmental Projects” that were agreed to in lieu of penalties and fines that could helped solved New Mexico’s budgets woes, even though state and federal policy on those projects both require that the regulatory agency collect a significant monetary penalty.

Not one penny went to New Mexico, while DOE was “obliged” to, for example, repave roads at WIPP and LANL that it uses to transport the radioactive bomb waste that it produces. To add insult to injury, NMED agreed to waive penalties for all future, unknown violations – no matter the severity or length – as long as there is corrective action of any sort at some undefined time. Also included in this give-away was an obligation by NMED to negotiate modifications to the 2005 Consent Order (now completed to New Mexico’s disadvantage), and to forego penalties that could have been assessed against DOE under it.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “It seems that the Environment Department under Gov. Martinez is in the business of protecting business against environmentalists. The legislature should hold their feet to the fire so that New Mexicans have a real environment department that protects our precious water resources and creates jobs doing so.”

# # #

 

Energy Dept Misrepresents Cost and Scope of Los Alamos Cleanup

New Mexican Politicians Should Not Be Misled

Energy Dept Misrepresents Cost and Scope of Los Alamos Cleanup

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has released a 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary of proposed future cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  At the beginning of that document DOE declares that “An estimated 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste remains, of which approximately 2,400 cm [cubic meters] is retrievably stored below ground”, a claim which was widely reported in New Mexican media.  From there DOE estimates that it will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion to complete so-called cleanup around 2040.

The public was notified of the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate in a September 15 Santa Fe City press release, with the subtitle “Study Lays Out Timeline, Costs, and More, Answers Critical Questions with Honest Assessment.” Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is quoted, “This report represents the first and most comprehensive release of specific plans to complete the cleanup of legacy waste at LANL, and is a big step forward for the people in these communities who want to see a concrete commitment to making progress.” Mayor Gonzales went on to thank Senators Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for their help in obtaining the report.

However, the DOE report is far from honest. It intentionally omits any mention of approximately 150,000 cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes just at Area G (LANL’s largest waste dump) alone, an amount of wastes 30 times larger than DOE acknowledges in the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate. In reality, DOE and LANL plan to not clean up Area G, instead installing an “engineered cover” and leaving the wastes permanently buried. This will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above the regional groundwater aquifer, three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Radioactive and toxic wastes are buried directly in the ground without liners, and migration of plutonium has been detected 200 feet below Area G’s surface.

Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales is the Vice-Chair of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. The Coalition is comprised of elected official from eight cities, counties and pueblos surrounding LANL, and is overwhelmingly funded by DOE and Los Alamos County. The same Santa Fe City press release quotes the RCLC Executive Director, “The Lifecycle Baseline documentation provides our communities the necessary foundation to properly advocate on behalf of the best possible scenarios for cleaning up legacy nuclear waste at the Laboratory in the most time and cost-efficient manner. After years of requests for this document, we now have the tool that can get us to additional cleanup dollars to get the job done.”

However, the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary itself states that it is “based on realistic expectations of annual funding for the remaining work” (last page, unnumbered) and “annual funding is expected to remain constant throughout the duration of the cleanup mission” (p. 5). While annual funding for the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs has climbed to $1.5 billion, cleanup has fallen from a high of $225 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017. Moreover, this trend of declining cleanup funding may be exacerbated by the planned trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces, including research and production sites like LANL (which is slated to quadruple production of the plutonium pit triggers for nuclear weapons). Instead of being a tool for additional dollars for genuine, comprehensive cleanup, the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary is a DOE ploy to avoid cleaning up more than 90% of all wastes at LANL.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, commented, “Mayor Gonzales and the Regional Coalition are to be commended for getting any Lab cleanup plan at all out of the Department of Energy. But now they should take the next step and get the Department of Energy to quit being so chintzy with cleanup. Our elected officials should demand that DOE retract its false claim that there is only 5,000 cubic meters of waste left at LANL to clean up. Then our politicians should push hard for a genuine, comprehensive cleanup plan that permanently protects the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”

# # #

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

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

The full MDA G Corrective Measures Evaluation (159 MB) is available at  http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/eprr/ERID-206324

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

 

Radioactive waste disposal practices at Los Alamos National Laboratory

DOE Secretly Funding Front Group to Help it Evade Nuclear Cleanup

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2016
Contact: Denise Duffield, 213-689-9170 <tel:213-689-9170>  office
Cindi Gortner 818-489-1226
Bonnie Klea 818-854-4825
Marie Mason  805-279-0356 

 

U.S. Department of Energy Secretly Funding Front Group to Help it Evade Nuclear Cleanup at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Controversial grant made at the same time department reneged on financial commitment to national independently administered community fund


Community members living near the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory were outraged to learn that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has secretly been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that the agency’s request for secrecy may have been made to avoid attention from Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime supporter of full cleanup.

SSFL is heavily contaminated with nuclear and chemical contamination resulting from decades of nuclear activities and rocket engine testing, In 2010, agreements (Administrative Orders on Consent or AOCs) were signed between the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and DOE and NASA to cleanup all detectable contamination at their respective portions of the property. The AOC was first proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM) Dr. Inez Triay. Boeing, which owns most of the site, refused to sign the agreement and is pushing for a much weaker cleanup.

In 2011, under the Brown Administration, the DTSC’s commitment to full cleanup began to erode, and along with it, those of NASA and DOE. Over objections from community members   and elected officials , the DTSC replaced the longstanding public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, with the SSFL Community Advisory Group (SSFL CAG). The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL, and the group actively lobbies against the AOCs. One CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here .) and states that the AOC will harm the environment and Native American artifacts, which are in fact protected by the AOC. The CAG also denies SSFL’s health impacts. One CAG member, a former SSFL official and current DOE contractor, maligned previous health studies so badly that their authors felt compelled to write an op-ed in the Ventura County Star in defense.

The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded, and neither the CAG nor  DTSC have disclosed that information. In December 2015   and in May 2016 , cleanup advocates complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct. No action was taken on the matter.

The complaints were instigated by the CAG’s announcement, at it’s August 19, 2015 meeting, that it would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. A video from the meeting shows CAG member Alec Uzemeck claiming the donation had “no strings,” and that it was anonymous “Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that. We wanna have the money in hand when we announce who the donors are.” (See video here .) The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here ) make it clear that the anonymity was at the donor’s request, and so secret that the CAG leadership would not reveal the donor to the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign.

At it’s August 17, 2016 meeting, a full year after having announced its anonymous gift, the CAG revealed that the donor was the Department of Energy. Uzemeck said, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here. The CAG’s tax returns   show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.

The DOE refuses to answer questions about the arrangement, what the grant funds are expended on, explain why the funding was kept secret for a full year, or provide a copy of the grant application and contract. “For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibiiity-Los Angeles in an August 30 email to Dr. Monica Regalbuto, Assistant Secretary for the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.

Community members are also deeply troubled that DOE funded the CAG during the same month that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. Reneging on its contract and failing to disperse a final $300,000 payment to NMCF caused over a dozen community groups to lose key funding.

“DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.” said Duffield in the email to Regalbuto.

Community members are dismayed and angered by the revelations. Simi Valley resident Marie Mason, who has led community cleanup efforts for 28 years, said, “I find it more than shocking that the DOE would fund this group and ask to conceal they are the funding source and especially to not have Senator Boxer find out. I am more than disgusted and filled with sadness. DOE and DTSC are part of the problem with too many close ties to the polluters and total disregard for the communities they are supposed to protect.”

Bonnie Klea, a former worker at SSFL and cancer survivor, said, “I am appalled that DOE funded the CAG so that members can go out and lobby against the AOC and deny the cancer risks from the past, present and future exposure from the site. This is disgusting. ” Klea and others note that the CAG does not represent the views of the community, which overwhelming supports the AOCs. All but 14 of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement, and over 1,600 signed a petition last year urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here .)

Duffield’s email to DOE, sent also to local and state officials, implored the agency for answers and noted that no local elected officials had been consulted with or informed of the funding. “The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements.”

# # #

The Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, or RCC, is a community-based alliance dedicated to the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), commonly known as Rocketdyne.



From: Denise Duffield <dduffield(at)psr-la.org
Date: Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 12:57 PM
Subject: Time-Sensitive Request re: DOE CAG funding and the SSFL AOC cleanup agreement
To:
monica.regalbuto@em.doe.gov

Dear Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management Regalbuto:

I was shocked to learn recently that DOE has been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that DOE had apparently requested that the funding be kept secret so that Senator Barbara Boxer wouldn’t learn of it. I write today to both apprise you of this troubling situation and to request further information and documents related to DOE’s decision to fund the SSFL CAG.

The SSFL CAG is a small but highly controversial group that is lobbying against the cleanup agreement (Administrative Order on Consent, or AOC) for SSFL signed by both DOE and the state regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). For example, one CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here.) “The AOC Cleanup: More Harm Than Good?” reads another (here.) The CAG routinely propagates false information about SSFL’s contamination, health impacts, and cleanup. A CAG – Community Advisory Group – should represent the community. However, the SSFL CAG does not even remotely represent the community, which understands that SSFL is contaminated with dangerous radionuclides and chemicals and needs to be fully remediated per the current DOE cleanup agreement. The CAG is a classic “astroturf” (i.e., fake grassroots) group dominated by people with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL.

The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded and how it spends those funds. The CAG has refused to disclose that information, which is troubling for an entity that claims to be public. The community has suspected that the money comes from one or more of the entities that polluted the site and that is trying to get out of its cleanup obligations, and that that is why the CAG wouldn’t disclose the funding source or sources. Now it appears that that is indeed the case. For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.

The DOE SSFL cleanup agreement (AOC) was proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM), Dr. Inez Triay. It was signed by DOE and DTSC in December 2010. The AOC stipulates that Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone at SSFL are to be cleaned up to background. In February 2014, at a meeting of the SSFL Work Group, DOE SSFL Project Director John Jones told the audience of community members, elected officials, and media that the DOE was committed to upholding the AOC agreement (see video here.)

Since then, the community has seen an erosion of DOE’s stated commitment, including a Public Scoping plan which included numerous options that would violate the AOC (such as keeping waste on site), accompanied by a report grossly exaggerating soil removal estimates (see statement by the Southern California Federation of Scientists here.) In addition, the AOC explicitly defines soils as including structures (see page five of AOC here), which are to be cleaned up to background and all wastes to go to licensed low level radioactive waste disposal sites, yet DOE is now taking the position that it can demolish nuclear structures at SSFL at will, using far less protective standards, and dispose of their radioactive wastes anywhere. The DOE has also apparently told the CAG that it is contemplating trying to modify the AOC to be required to perform much less cleanup than it had promised in order to save money (see CAG July 20, 2016 minutes here.)

And now, we have learned that the DOE has been funding the CAG. The DOE is abundantly aware that the CAG openly, actively, and vigorously works to break the AOC cleanup agreement that DOE signed. DOE’s funding of the SSFL CAG is therefore an alarming and direct assault on the AOC itself. It also makes clear that the CAG is an agent of one of the parties responsible for the pollution at the site and which is trying desperately to get out of its obligation to clean up all the radioactive and toxic mess that it made. The CAG regularly lobbies elected officials to try to persuade them to push to weaken the cleanup —an activity outside the scope of a regular community advisory group. It is very troubling for DOE, responsible for the contamination and sworn to uphold a cleanup agreement to clean it all up, to be secretly funding a group that lobbies elected officials to support DOE breaking its agreement.

We are also deeply disturbed by the secrecy surrounding DOE’s grant to the SSFL CAG. The CAG first announced that it was to receive $32,000 in funding at an August 2015 meeting, in which it stated that the donor wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime SSFL cleanup supporter, learning of the funding and taking action thereon. (See video of CAG meeting here.) Only now, a year later, near the end of Senator Boxer’s esteemed Senate career, has the CAG apparently been given permission to reveal that the identity of its funder is the DOE. It is outrageous and unconscionable for a government agency to make a financial contribution to any organization and request that the funding be kept secret, for any reason, let alone for the purpose of evading the attention of a United States Senator who would likely object to what it was doing. The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here) make it clear that the anonymity, which lasted a full year, was at the donor’s request.

Further, the DOE funded the CAG during the same year that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. The DOE’s agreement with NMCF states, “By utilizing a cooperative agreement with an independent entity to distribute grant funds to qualified organizations representing the interests of the public, DOE-EM will ensure that the program is not viewed as a surrogate for DOE’s own preferences, and that long-term DOE-EM decisions are based on input from individuals and/or groups who are most likely to be affected by those decisions.”

In other words, DOE was supposed to stay out of the grant selection process to assure that groups funded were independent of DOE. However, the DOE weighed in heavily against a re-application submitted by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) for the SSFL Work Group, the longstanding advisory group established a quarter of a century ago by the electeds and which represents the main mechanism for the community to learn about and provide feedback on the cleanup and hold the agencies accountable. In August 2013 we applied for and received a $23,000 CIF grant. We re-applied in August 2014, but learned that DOE was pressuring CIF to deny the grant, which violated its commitment to keep hands-off the selection process. To its credit, in November 2014, the NMCF awarded the second grant of $20,000 (and did not fund the SSFL CAG, which had also applied for the funding.)

Very shortly thereafter, the DOE reneged on the final $300,000 it had pledged to NMCF, impacting not just PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group but over a dozen communities nationwide. NMCF sent a message to its grantees on March 16, 2015 stating, “Earlier this year, representatives of the Department of Energy (DOE) advised New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) that the foundation would receive only partial funding for the CIF grant program in 2015.  Last month, we were informed that NMCF would only be funded a small portion of the overall budget request solely for administrative oversight of the current 2014-15 grant cycle, and no funding would be allocated to go towards new grant-making. Adding to our confusion and concern, the decision-making process associated with the 2015 CIF appropriation has not been clearly communicated, nor have we been given a clear indication of the reasons for the reduction in funding.”

We cannot say with certainty that DOE revoked funding to the NMCF due to its decision to fund the SSFL Work Group despite the inappropriate pressure by DOE. But, we must point this out as a strong possibility in light of the timing and DOE actions described herein. The CIF grant enabled the return of the trusted public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, which attracted capacity crowds who were able to learn about the contamination that would be left on site if the cleanup agreements were not upheld. DOE had participated in the SSFL Work Group since its inception, but has now stopped attending virtually any public meeting where it could be held to account for its actions. Regardless of DOE’s motivation to abrogate its agreement with NMCF, it is very troubling that the DOE made this decision while simultaneously funding an organization that opposes a cleanup agreement that the DOE has been strongly signaling it wants to break. DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.

It is difficult to overstate just what is at stake for communities near SSFL right now. Decades of nuclear and aerospace activities at SSFL have left a legacy of dangerous nuclear and chemical contamination that continues to migrate from the site to offsite populations. Federal studies have shown an increase in cancers associated with proximity to the site. In 2010, after decades of attempts to achieve full cleanup, the historic AOCs were signed. As a result, $41.5 million dollars were spent for a US EPA survey that identified background radiation and found nearly 500 samples, in just one area of SSFL, that were above background, in some cases dramatically so. The community eagerly anticipated full cleanup, which the AOC stipulated would be complete by 2017.

We are now just months away from 2017, but cleanup has yet to begin. Indeed, DOE’s draft EIS – which a court ordered a decade ago and was due to be published years ago – is not yet released. Community members have feared that DOE’s EIS would be a full-bodied attack on the very cleanup agreement DOE had sworn to carry out, and wondered if the EIS was being delayed so as to not come out until after Senator Boxer leaves office and can no longer take action to insist DOE live up to the promises made. This suspicion has only increased given the timing of the announcement that DOE is the CAG’s secret benefactor, and that the reason for the secrecy was to avoid attention from Boxer. The community is appalled and angry, and deserves to know the full details of DOE’s arrangement with the SSFL CAG.

Below please find background information and documentation on these matters, followed by a series of pressing questions. I request that DOE provide answers to the questions, as well as a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application/proposal to the DOE and its DOE grant/contract, as well as any grant report, immediately. If there has been more than one grant to the CAG, provide information about each. The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements. DOE funding a front group to lobby elected officials to push them to support DOE breaking its cleanup agreements would be an outrage.

Background and Documentation

The SSFL CAG was formed in 2012 over the objections of longtime community members and local elected officials. (See community petition here and letter from elected officials Julia Brownley, Fran Pavley, Shelia Kuehl, Linda Parks, and Greig Smith opposing formation of the CAG and supporting instead the longstanding SSFL Work Group here.) The CAG is widely perceived as a front group for the polluters that does not represent the interests of the community, because it is opposes the cleanup agreements that are overwhelming supported by the community. All but a handful of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement. Last year over 1,600 signed a petition urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here.) Yet every member of the CAG opposes the AOCs, despite the requirements that a CAG represent the range of community perspectives.

The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals who are former employees or contractors of the parties responsible for cleaning up the site (Boeing, DOE, and NASA.). Alec Uzemeck worked for Boeing’s predecessor, North American Aviation, at its then-headquarters in Downey for which the Santa Susana site was the field lab. Brian Sujata was Boeing’s project manager for SSFL cleanup, while Boeing was DOE’s contractor for the cleanup. Ross Berman worked for both Tetra Tech and CH2M Hill, contractors for the responsible parties. And Abe Weizberg was an official at SSFL, in charge of safety for the SNAP reactors, one of which experienced 80% fuel damage in an accident. Weitzberg remains a consultant for the DOE.

Since its founding, the SSFL CAG has undertaken a multi-faceted campaign aimed at undoing the SSFL cleanup agreements. This includes exaggerating cleanup soil volumes and truck traffic and claiming that the cleanup will harm the site’s natural environment and Native American artifacts (which are in fact protected by the AOC.) The CAG also attempts to minimize the contamination at SSFL and health impacts. Last year,  CAG member and former SSFL official Weitzberg launched an effort to have the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) refute prior health studies and weigh in against the cleanup. In the process, he maligned the authors of those studies, who expressed their objections in an article published in the Ventura County Star here. The CAG has also made a habit of regularly and publicly disparaging longtime community members and cleanup advocates. Whereas meetings of the longstanding SSFL Work Group are packed with concerned members of the public and representatives of elected officials, very few attend CAG meetings. The last meeting had only half a dozen CAG members and a roughly equal number of the public, most of whom were critics of the CAG’s biases and actions.

On August 19, 2015, CAG member Alec Uzemeck announced at an SSFL CAG meeting that the CAG would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. The minutes from the meeting (which can be viewed here) state that the CAG established a non-profit foundation, “…in response to the gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.” The CAG leadership was so secretive about the donor’s identify that it refused to inform the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign, as reflected in the minutes, ” As a result of the fact that the donor is anonymous, Elizabeth Harris has resigned from the CAG…”  At the meeting, Uzemeck repeatedly said that the donation had “no strings,” and of the gift said, “Why is it anonymous at this point? Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that.” (See video here.)

In December 2015 and in May 2016, cleanup advocates and community members complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct (see paragraphs 4 -6 on page 2 of the IRP’s May 12, 2016 minutes here.)

Finally, at an SSFL CAG meeting on August 17, 2016, nearly a year after announcing the funding and the donor’s request that its identity be kept secret so as to keep Senator Boxer in the dark, Uzemeck announced, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” A recording of Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here.

The SSFL CAG’s tax returns, which can be viewed here, show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.

Questions for the Department of Energy

1. Did DOE, as reflected in the CAG’s minutes, suggest to the SSFL CAG to form a non-profit foundation so that it could provide funding to the CAG?

2. When did DOE begin discussing funding the CAG? When did it actually make the contribution, and what was the amount of the gift?  Has there been more than one?

3. What is the stated purpose of the grant? What will/have grant funds be expended on?

4. Under what category of funding was this grant made? Was it made from the DOE Office of Environmental Management, the same office that reneged on its commitment to NMCF?

5. CAG member Alec Uzemeck repeatedly stated that the grant had “no strings.” Does the DOE grant have any restrictions? Is lobbying prohibited? Is the CAG required to submit a report on its activities? Will it be invited to reapply for funding again this year?

6. Why did DOE request that its gift to the CAG be anonymous? Did the DOE tell the CAG, as expressed by Alec Uzemeck, verbally or in writing, that it wanted its gift secret, at least for a time, because it wanted to avoid repercussions from Senator Barbara Boxer?

7. How does the DOE reconcile public statements that it will uphold the AOC at the same time that it is funding a group that overtly works to destroy the AOC?

8. Did DOE’s animosity toward the Santa Susana cleanup agreement, and its displeasure at CIF funding PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group, cause it to cancel the last year of its funding to NMCF, and thus cost over a dozen community groups throughout the United States to lose funding?

9.  Did DOE consult with elected officials historically concerned about SSFL cleanup as to whether the grant should be given to the CAG and whether it was a legitimate group representing the community?  Why did DOE ignore the opposition to the CAG expressed, in writing, by the electeds?

10.  Why did DOE not publicly solicit grant applications instead of secretly arranging to give the money to the CAG?  Why did DOE not solicit a grant application from the longstanding SSFL Work Group established by the electeds, which supports the cleanup agreements DOE is supposedly sworn to uphold?  Given that very few people attend CAG meetings, and the Work Group meetings are often standing-room only, why did DOE secretly fund the CAG, without a competitive grant application process, and not solicit an application from SSFL the Work Group?

Again, in addition, I request that DOE provide a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application or proposal to DOE, as well as the DOE-SSFL CAG grant contract or agreement, immediately.

Sincerely,

Denise Duffield
Coordinator, SSFL Work Group
and
Associate Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles

cc:  Senator Barbara Boxer
Congresswoman Julia Brownley
California Senator Fran Pavley
LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks
LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander
DTSC Director Barbara Lee
DTSC IRP Chair Gideon Kracov

 

DOE Inspector General report on the B61-12 nuclear smart bomb

The Department of Energy Inspector General has issued its audit report National Nuclear Security Administration’s Management of the B61-12 Life Extension Program. The B61-12 will literally cost twice its weight in gold. It is slated for production beginning 2020 and will blur the line between battlefield and strategic nuclear weapons by combining one strategic and three tactical variants. It will also be the world’s first “smart” nuclear bomb with a steerable tailfin kit giving it vastly improved accuracy. Nevertheless the U.S. government denies that the B61-12 will have any new military capabilities.

In its audit report, the DOE IG notes:

We believe without further improvement to its project management tools, it will be difficult for the program to proactively manage the costs, schedule, and risks of the B61-12 LEP to ensure it can deliver the First Production Unit within cost and meet its critical national security schedule.  In addition, there is uncertainty whether the original cost estimate for the B61-12 LEP contains sufficient management reserve to allow the program to respond to the numerous risks identified in the program.  Finally, not having documented assurance that unresolved significant finding investigations are a part of weapons design input significantly reduces management’s ability to ensure that redesigned nuclear weapon components have addressed prior safety and reliability concerns.

Regarding the last sentence “… reduces management’s ability to ensure that redesigned nuclear weapon components have addressed prior safety and reliability concerns”:

There was a problem with the new-design arming, firing and fuzing set for the W76-1, which is being produced now in its current Life Extension Program. It wasn’t a showstopper, but nevertheless a problem where new individual AF&F components had to be screened to determine whether their performance was affected.

The graph below from the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study shows how the supermajority of nuclear weapons defects are discovered within the first few years of production. The point I’m reaching for is that as Life Extension Programs become more aggressive and more new-design components are used, design and production defects will be inevitable. It would be far better to maintain the stockpile through a conservative curatorship approach.

Circa 1995 I met with DOE Asst. Sec. for Defense Programs Victor Reis, the so-called father of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Reis explicitly told me that the exorbitant Stockpile Stewardship Program was all about “the other side of the bathtub curve,” meaning it’s all about accelerated defects showing up at some time due to aging. Guess what? It hasn’t happened, not with ongoing surveillance and maintenance and exchange of limited life components that have been almost routine for decades. As the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study concluded,

“It is clear that, although nuclear weapons ages, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desire. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapon retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision.”

Since then, the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study’s conclusion has been buttressed by the JASON’s 2006 Pit Life Study and 2009 Life Extension Programs Study. In short, Life Extension Programs are not necessary for maintaining the nuclear stockpile, and may in fact undermine reliability by intentionally introducing major changes to an extensively tested stockpile. Life Extension Programs are, however, essential for creating new military capabilities for existing nuclear weapons, which is pretty clearly demonstrated by the B61-12 about to go into production, and arguably the W76-1 as well.

Nuclear Weapons defects graph from 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study

NNSA Set to Approve New Facilities for Expanded Plutonium Pit Production Without Credible Plans and Required Public Review

August 10, 2016

Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, on the 71st anniversary of the destruction of Nagasaki by a plutonium bomb, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) submitted a report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) plans to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. NNSA has scheduled a formal “Critical Decision 2” at the end of this coming September to proceed with preliminary design of the upgraded and new facilities necessary to expand plutonium pit production.

The NNSA is a semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, which has the singular distinction of being the only federal department on the GAO’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayer’s dollars for 25 consecutive years. LANL is NNSA’s so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence” and the nation’s only site for pit production, but major operations at PF-4, its main plutonium facility, have been stopped since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns. In addition, there is no place for LANL to send its radioactive transuranic wastes from plutonium pit production since one of its waste drums ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 and indefinitely closed that multi-billion facility.

Despite all this, funding for NNSA’s nuclear weapons research and production programs is being increased to nearly double the Cold War’s historic average, while nonproliferation, warhead dismantlement and cleanup programs are being cut or held flat. This is in part due to plans to spend at least a trillion dollars over the next 30 years on completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear weapons and producing new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver them. The “modernized” U.S. nuclear force is expected to be operational until at least until 2080, more than a century after the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty’s mandate for global nuclear disarmament.

The GAO’s report found that NNSA’s plans for upgraded and new facilities to expand plutonium pit production to 50-80 pits per year “did not include key performance parameters” and lacked analysis of a full range of alternatives. LANL’s currently approved production level is up to 20 pits per year, sanctioned in a 1996 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that was required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Subsequent NEPA efforts by NNSA to formally approve expanded plutonium pit production at LANL failed, and new efforts to expand plutonium pit production without adequate NEPA coverage could be vulnerable to legal challenge. Additionally, there is no public explanation or justification for the need to expand to 50-80 pits per year other than the nuclear weaponeers saying so. In contrast, independent expert studies have shown that pits have reliable lifetimes of at least a century (the average age of pits in the stockpile is now around 31 years), and up to 20,000 plutonium pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.

In 2012, in the face of exploding costs and rising citizen opposition, NNSA cancelled an earlier proposal to build a Walmart-sized “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project-Nuclear Facility” for expanded plutonium pit production. Now, as an alternative, NNSA and LANL seek to raise the administrative limit on plutonium in the CMRR Project’s first phase, the newly constructed Radiological Lab, from an original 8.4 grams to 400 grams; upgrade PF-4, the Lab’s main plutonium facility; and proceed with a “Plutonium Modular Approach project.”

Raising the amount of plutonium in the Rad Lab to 400 grams allows for dramatically increased “materials characterization” and “analytical chemistry” in direct support of expanded plutonium pit production. But it also raises the Rad Lab from a “radiological facility” to a “Hazard Category 3” nuclear facility, which has never been done before. Planned gloveboxes and the existing ventilation system may have to change and the facility’s seismic safety rating re-examined. The Rad Lab was originally constructed and equipped for a total cost of $400 million, but now up to another $675 million in equipment is being added. On top of that, re-categorizing the Rad Lab to a Hazard Category 3 facility could cost another $365 million. In all, the Rad Lab can cost up to $1.5 billion, while upgrades to PF-4 will cost another billion.

The Plutonium Modular Approach involves building at least two and perhaps three underground “modules” at one billion dollars each or more. The GAO report notes how since NNSA narrowly defined the program requirement as building the modules themselves instead of examining the need for the modules, “there is effectively no project alternative other than the modular approach,” despite DOE’s own orders to complete an analysis of a full range of alternatives.

In all, according to the GAO report, the full CMRR alternative of upgrading the Rad Lab and PF-4 and building at least two modules would cost at least 4 billion dollars, compared to the CMRR”s previous price tag of $5.8 billion (which was up from $975 million in 2005), and this is before the usual cost overruns. The GAO report also notes how the CMRR alternative appears cheaper because non-nuclear weapons operations, such as preparing plutonium for NASA’s spacecraft battery packs, have been eliminated. NNSA’s pattern when faced with its own cost overruns is to cut out all but nuclear weapons production, as it did with the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN. When a Defense Department estimate put UPF construction at $19 billion (up from $6.5 billion), NNSA eliminated dismantlements and downblending of highly enriched uranium so that it could keep production of thermonuclear components that can kill millions.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL is not needed to maintain stockpile safety and reliability, but instead is a must for nuclear weaponeers who want to give existing weapons new military capabilities through so-called Life Extension Programs. This GAO report is more evidence of how taxpayers’ money could be far better spent than on poorly planned, unnecessary and very expensive expanded plutonium pit production.”

# # #

The GAO report NNSA Needs to Clarify Requirements for Its Plutonium Analysis Project at Los Alamos is available at

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-585?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

 

DOE’s 25 year status on GAO’s High Risk list is documented at

http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/doe_contract_management/why_did_study

 

For an extensive history of successful citizen activism against plutonium pit production see

http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Pit-Production-History.pdf

LANL Estimate of $2.9 Billion for “Remaining” Cleanup Leaves Nuclear & Toxic Wastes Behind and Kills Needed Jobs

 

For immediate release July 28, 2016

 

LANL Estimate of $2.9 Billion for “Remaining” Cleanup

Leaves Nuclear & Toxic Wastes Behind and Kills Needed Jobs

 

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will cost $2.9 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year.

That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump. Those wastes sit in unlined pits and trenches, 800 feet above groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande (plutonium contaminants have been detected 200 feet below Area G). During this same period of time the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with will cost ten times as much, even before expected funding increases for expanded production of plutonium bomb core “pits” and increasingly aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities.

DOE’s announcement also pegs the cost of past cleanup at LANL at $3.2 billion to date, raising the question of what has been and will be accomplished with precious taxpayer dollars. The answer is not much for the money. According to DOE’s own data, for the next couple of years only around a sixth of LANL’s “cleanup” funding will actually go to cleanup. Approximately one-third will be used to catch up on worker pensions and another third to babysit improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. More than half of the remaining one-third for real cleanup goes to LANL’s notoriously high overhead.

DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” Despite repeated requests, DOE refused to estimate cleanup costs at LANL until a new Consent Order was finalized with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).  Both agencies recently signed it, creating a giant loophole in which the Lab can claim that cleanup is too expensive or impractical to achieve. This is the exact opposite of the original 2005 Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL ask Congress for additional cleanup funding. Subsequently, funding for LANL cleanup has fallen from $224 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017.

Under the Gov. Martinez Administration, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at the Lab’s request and then claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed suit against DOE and LANL for missing compliance milestones under the original Consent Order, with potential fines of more than $300 million. NMED explicitly absolves those violations and fines through the new Consent Order and has intervened in the lawsuit against NukeWatch. This raises the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case, a $2.3 billion per year nuclear weapons facility)?

DOE and NMED kill the chance for serious job creation at the Los Alamos Lab with a deceptive plan for so-called cleanup that leaves tons of radioactive and toxic wastes in the ground that will permanently threaten northern New Mexico’s precious water resources. In addition to the environmental and safety threats and contamination, nuclear weapons programs are not big producers of new jobs. For example, the environmental impact statement for a planned $6.5 billion plutonium facility for expanded nuclear weapons production explicitly stated that not one new Lab job would be created because it would merely relocate existing jobs. In contrast, a LANL study of full cleanup of Area G assumed that around 40% of the total cost would go to labor. Thus, as a rough approximation, for every additional billion dollars put into cleanup, another 3,000 years of cleanup work could be created for one hypothetical worker (in other words, hundreds of high paying jobs for the regional economy).

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department deal New Mexicans a bad hand by pushing a plan that blocks genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab. We need real cleanup that protects our precious water resources for future generations, not more nuclear bombs that cause the mess to begin with.”

#  #  #

DOE’s presentation on its cost estimate for future LANL cleanup is available at

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/EMLA_Los_ALamos_LCB_Estimate_NNMCAB_Presentation_07272016.pdf

Nuclear Watch NM Amends LANL Cleanup Lawsuit – Claims New Consent Order To Be Invalid

Nuclear Watch NM Amends LANL Cleanup Lawsuit – Claims New Consent Order To Be Invalid

Nuclear Watch New Mexico has amended its federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) that alleges twelve violations of a 2005 Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Those violations could result in potential penalties of more than $300 million dollars that would go to the state, if only the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) were to enforce them.

Nuclear Watch now asks the court to declare the new 2016 Consent Order to be invalid because the requirement for the opportunity of a public hearing was not met.

NMED intervened in the case on June 23, 2016. The next day, NMED and DOE signed the 2016 Consent Order after a 60-day comment period, during which over 40 citizens, nonprofit organizations, public officials, and two Pueblos provided comments. Lack of enforceability and lack of concrete long-term schedules were common major foci of the comments. Despite that, “No change” without any further explanation was NMED’s overwhelming response to specific public comments as the two agencies moved from the draft to final Consent Order.

The finalized new Consent Order surrenders enforceability by creating a giant loophole where DOE and LANL can avoid cleanup by claiming that it is either too expensive or impractical. This is clearly the opposite of what is needed, when nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the mess to begin with are receiving increased taxpayer funding, while cleanup programs are being cut.

In addition, NMED’s new Consent Order explicitly absolves DOE and LANS of past violations. In response, Nuclear Watch has added to its lawsuit this request for declaratory judgment by the court that DOE and NMED violated the public’s right for the opportunity of a formal hearing, explicitly required by the 2005 Consent Order.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “We will not let the public’s right for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab be papered over by DOE and NMED. Both agencies agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, which included rigorous public participation requirements and a detailed the cleanup schedule, including a final compliance date. We will continue to push for the public to have a true voice in these important matters. ”

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Attorney John E. Stroud are representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce timely cleanup at LANL.

###

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s 1st amended complaint is available here

NMED’s Final Consent Order and the “response” to comments matrix are available here

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s original lawsuit complaint is available here

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here

 

 

 

NM Environment Dept Finalizes Consent Order on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup Surrenders Enforcement to Nuclear Weaponeers

NM Environment Dept Finalizes Consent Order

on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Surrenders Enforcement to Nuclear Weaponeers

 

Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move to avoid publicity, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) announced late Friday afternoon June 24 that it had finalized a new “Consent Order” to replace a 2005 Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Environment Department’s brief press release headlined “Agreement Focuses on Cleanup & Supporting Stronger Federal Funding Requests.” This is doublespeak, as the new Consent Order is a giveaway to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. The new Order is also clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup. In contrast, the new Consent Order allows them to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up.

The nuclear weaponeers are now openly talking about the “The Second Nuclear Age” before cleaning up form the first nuclear age. They are actively seeking to expand nuclear weapons production that caused the widespread contamination to begin with, particularly plutonium pit production at LANL.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs. But yet the Environment Department fails New Mexicans by failing to enforce cleanup at Los Alamos.”

When NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn announced a draft new Consent Order on March 30, he claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch agrees, but that’s because Secretary Flynn granted more than 150 compliance milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating the old Consent Order. While finalizing the new Consent Order NMED ignored the explicit public participation requirements of the old Order, which among other things requires a public hearing on major modifications. Instead, NMED rammed through the final Consent Order, largely brushing aside the formal comments of some 40 concerned citizens and the Santa Clara Pueblo.

LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup has been cut to $189 million for FY 2017 (down from $225 million in FY 2014), with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguard improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).

The original 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. Instead, the Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

 

A few of the serious deficiencies of the new Consent Order are:

[Quotes are from the new Consent Order followed by page numbers]

• “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…”  P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department.

• “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order will be held hostage to DOE’s budget, which recently cut LANL’s cleanup funding.

• “… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.

• “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

• The new draft Consent Order explicitly states that public participation requirements do NOT apply to future modifications of the Order. P. 25. This is the opposite of what the original Consent Order required, which made a point of incorporating the public process requirements of federal environmental law. Nuclear Watch New Mexico maintains that full public participation requirements apply to the new Consent Order as well, including its very formulation as a major modification of the old Consent Order. That full public participation process requires a public hearing if there are unresolved issues, which NMED has rejected, a position that may be of questionable legality.

 

On May 12, 2016, Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a lawsuit against LANL and DOE for failing to meet compliance milestones in the old Consent Order. These violations incur around $300 million dollars in potential penalties, which NMED shows no sign of enforcing. To the contrary, NMED has filed a motion to intervene against Nuclear Watch New Mexico in its lawsuit, raising the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case a for-profit nuclear weapons lab)?

Moreover, when Nuclear Watch NM filed a notice of intent to sue on January 21, NMED Secretary Flynn sought to intimidate our lawyers by declaring “If a suit is filed, and the Environment Department becomes involved, we would insist on collecting any and all labor and legal costs from the (New Mexico Environmental Law Center) to reimburse New Mexico’s taxpayers for the costs resulting from this groundless and frivolous action.”

Far from being a frivolous action, Nuclear Watch and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center seek to compel full and genuine environmental restoration at the Los Alamos Lab, which the new Consent Order blocks by giving the nuclear weaponeers giant loopholes to avoid cleanup.

 

#  #  #

NMED’s June 24 press release and the new Consent Order are available here

Public comment on the draft Consent Order (including Nuclear Watch NM and Santa Clara Pueblo) is available here

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s lawsuit complaint, filed May 12, 2016, is available here

  • Our complaint alleged twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. At that time we calculated 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to $294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here

NMED Secretary Flynn’s quote is from “Nuclear Watch to sue over LANL cleanup problems”, Mark Oswald, Albuquerque Journal, January 21, 2016, is here.

 

Underground Pits and shafts at Area G
LANL Area G Underground Disposal Pits and Shafts

University of New Mexico’s growing involvement in nuclear weapons prograns

See Honeywell, UNM sign accord to pursue joint research

This is more evidence of the University of New Mexico’s deepening involvement in nuclear weapons programs. UNM recently announced that with Boeing, the U. of Texas and others that it was going to bid on the Sandia Labs management contract.

Honeywell runs the new Kansas City Plant, which is manufacturing and/or procuring ~100,000 nonnuclear nuclear weapons components every year for increasingly aggressive Life Extension Programs. These programs not only extend the service lives of nuclear weapons for up to 60 years, but also give them new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

UNM is also the host site for the June 21 Strategic Deterrence Symposium featuring top military and Energy Dept. nuclear brass. Nuclear Watch NM will be there to see what they are to.

Obama’s Speech in Hiroshima

Obama’s speech is  beautiful and very moving.

But he’ll be gone soon while the one trillion dollar modernization of U.S. nuclear forces that begins under him will go on for 30 years and then some (unless we stop it, that is).

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/28/world/asia/text-of-president-obamas-speech-in-hiroshima-japan.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

 

Text of President Obama’s Speech in Hiroshima, Japan

MAY 27, 2016

 

Sign the Petition – No Loopholes, No Excuses – Full Cleanup at Los Alamos!

Dear Friends,

Thanks to those who made it to the meeting last night!

 

NukeWatch has a new petition –

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has issued a proposed new “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of nuclear weapons.

We demand NMED close the giant loophole in the proposed Consent Order that would allow Los Alamos Lab and DOE to get out of cleanup by simply saying that they don’t have enough money.

And we demand NMED hold a public hearing on the proposed Consent Order, given the intense public interest in cleaning up the Lab.

For more info –

https://www.change.org/p/kathryn-roberts-no-excuses-no-loopholes-full-cleanup-at-los-alamos-lab

AND WE HAVE EXPANDED OUR SAMPLE COMMENTS FOR YOU TO USE AS YOU SEE FIT

Please let your voice be heard and turn in public comments.

Copy the sample comments below and paste into an email.

Please modify as you see fit, then email to the address below.

If you don’t mind, please cc: us at: info(at)nukewatch(dot)org

 

[date]

 

Ms. Kathryn Roberts

New Mexico Environment Department

Post Office Box 5469

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

 

Via email to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us 

 

Dear Ms. Roberts,

I urge the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to abandon the proposed 2016 Compliance Order on Consent, or Consent Order, for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), released for public comment on March 30, 2016.  It creates serious problems and represents a giant step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.

The Environment Department should keep the existing Consent Order that went into effect March 1, 2005, while modifying and updating a cleanup schedule that includes a realistic final compliance date.  I also formally request that NMED provide the opportunity for a public hearing on the revised cleanup schedule and new completion date, in accordance with the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act and the 2005 Consent Order.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

The opportunity for a public hearing must be provided

  • Any extension of a final compliance date must be treated as a Class 3 permit modification to the 2005 Consent Order and therefore requires a 60-day public comment period.
  • Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order can be implemented only after the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.
  • The Environment Department is legally required to follow these public participation requirements that explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order.

Withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order 

  • The proposed draft represents a big step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.
  • The Environment Department should keep the current 2005 Consent Order and revise the Section XII cleanup schedule and final compliance date.
  • I request that the Environment Department withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order.

The public deserves the opportunity to comment on all following drafts 

  • It seems likely that a later draft – after the Lab’s and public comments are incorporated into a revised draft – and after closed-door negotiations between the Environment Department and the Laboratory – could be substantially different from the current draft.
  • I request that the public have the opportunity to review and comment on any further drafts of a revised proposed 2016 Consent Order.

Public participation provisions in the existing 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order explicitly limits public participation requirements incorporated into the existing 2005 Consent Order.
  • I request that all notices, milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications require public review and comment, and the opportunity for a public hearing.

The current state of cleanup must be updated and next steps scheduled

  • Work under the existing 2005 Consent Order needs to be subject to public review.  In 2005 DOE agreed to complete cleanup under the Consent Order by December 6, 2015, which did not happen.  In order for the public to understand where the work under the existing Consent Order stands, LANL should be required to provide a current, publicly available list of the status of all cleanup projects under the 2005 Consent Order.
  • Further, I request that next steps for cleanup at every site listed in the 2005 Consent Order be documented in detail and given a scheduled completion date, or alternatively verified as already completed.
  • All documents submitted under the 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into any revised Consent Order.

All documents must be made public as required in the 2005 Consent Order

  • The State and the Lab must make all communications, documents, submittals, approvals, notices of deficiencies and denials under any revised Consent Order readily and electronically available to the public.
  • The State and the Lab must notify individuals by e-mail of all submittals, as required in the 2005 Consent Order.

The Environment Department must respond in writing to all public comments

  • I request that the State reply individually to each and every comment submitted.
  • The Lab’s comments and NMED’s response to comments must be made public.

All future work must have enforceable deadlines

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order proposes a “Campaign” approach with enforceable cleanup deadlines limited to the work scheduled only for that year.
  • I request that all anticipated cleanup projects have scheduled, enforceable cleanup deadlines from the beginning of any revised Consent Order.

The Consent Order cannot be open-ended

  • Any Consent Order for LANL cleanup must have a final compliance date to which the State and the Lab agree to and are so bound.
  • The public should be given an opportunity for a public hearing on the new final compliance date as required by New Mexico’s hazardous waste regulations.

 

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Extend the Original Final Compliance Date Without Required Public Participation

The proposed 2016 consent order would indefinitely extend the final compliance date for completing corrective action at the Laboratory, without the opportunity for a public hearing with formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses. Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.  The Environment Department is legally required to follow these procedural requirements.

The legal requirements that mandate a public hearing are clear. Section XII of the 2005 Consent Order establishes the compliance schedule for implementation and completion of corrective actions at specific sites at the Laboratory. This schedule is mandatory. The final report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order – therefore, the final compliance date – was the remedy completion report for the huge Area G waste dump, required to be submitted by December 6, 2015. The proposed 2016 Consent Order would indefinitely extend this final compliance date by not designating a specific final compliance date.

But this revision must be treated as a major Class 3 permit modification. Section III.W.5 of the 2005 Consent Order explicitly provides for the preservation of full procedural rights for the public as follows:

This Consent Order hereby incorporates all rights, procedures and other protections afforded the Respondents [DOE and UC, now LANS] and the public pursuant to the regulations at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42) and 20.4.1.901 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals concerning, for example, remedy selection decisions of the [Environment] Department.

Thus, extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Limit Other Public Participation Procedures

The proposed 2016 Consent Order expressly limits public participation requirements in a way that completely diverges from those provided in the 2005 Consent Order.  As explained above, the 2005 Consent Order explicitly protects procedural due process rights available to the public.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order explicitly removes these protections, as follows:

The Parties agree that the rights, procedures and other protections set forth at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42), 20.4.1.901 NMAC, and 20.4.1.902 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals, do not apply to modification of the Consent Order itself. [Emphasis added]

Thus, as proposed in the above language, the Parties (the Environment Department, Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC) have inappropriately agreed to remove the due process rights, procedures and other protections provided to the public under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  This provision must be stripped from the proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Eliminate Enforceable Deadlines

The proposed 2016 consent order would eliminate all the deadlines for completing cleanup under the 2005 Consent Order, and replace them with an open-ended and vague scheduling process, with limited enforcement opportunities.

The 2005 Consent Order, in Section XII, established dozens of deadlines for the completion of corrective action tasks, including completion of investigations at individual sites, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, submittal of groundwater monitoring reports, evaluation of remedial alternatives for individual sites, and completion of final remedies. These deadlines are enforceable under section III.G.

The proposed 2016 Consent Order would abandon the 2005 Consent Order provisions and replace them with a so-called “Campaign Approach” under Section VIII.  Under Section VIII.A.3, it would be up to the DOE, not the regulator at the New Mexico Environment Department, to select the timing and scope of each “campaign.”

Enforceable deadlines for cleanup tasks would apply no more than one year into the future. Deadlines would be based on “Campaigns” negotiated each year with DOE with no public participation and opportunity to comment on the schedule. To add insult to injury, the annual schedule would be determined by funding at DOE’s discretion, rather than the schedule driving the funding, which was the fundamental approach of the 2005 Consent Order.

All cleanup projects must mandatory completion dates scheduled from the beginning date of any revised Consent Order, and must be fully enforceable.

 

Existing Violations Must Not Be Eliminated

Section II.A of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would “settle any outstanding violations of the 2005 Consent Order.” This is a get out of jail free card.  Without enforceable schedules from the beginning, any consent order is not truly unenforceable, and the Environment Department would be abdicating its responsibility to protect human health and the environment as required by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  NMED must not surrender its regulatory and enforcement powers!

 

Attorney General Approval Must Be Obtained

The 2005 Consent Order was signed by the Attorney General of New Mexico for purposes of the Covenant Not to Sue (section III.) and the Reservation of Rights (section III.). As indicated on the draft signature page, there is no indication of the NM Attorney General plans to sign the proposed 2016 Consent Order. Yet it would provide the State of New Mexico with a covenant not to sue DOE on behalf of the State of New Mexico, not merely on behalf of the Environment Department. The Attorney General was an active participant, representing the People of New Mexico, in the 2005 Consent Order.  The Environment Department has a responsibility to ensure that the NM Attorney General is consulted, and his approval obtained, before any consent order is adopted.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Omit Detailed Requirements Found in the 2005 Consent Order

The 2005 Consent Order includes numerous detailed requirements for such things as well installation, sample collection, and preparation of work plans and reports. These ensure that the cleanup work is done properly, consistently, and according to standard industry practices.  They also ensured that work plans and reports were consistent, easy for the Environment Department to review, and easy for the public to understand.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order omits many such requirements, which should be corrected.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Allow Budget To Dictate Cleanup 

The proposed 2016 Consent Order allows DOE to provide cleanup priorities based on anticipated budget, which is backwards. . By the time NMED receives an estimated annual cleanup budget from DOE, the horse has left the barn. The original purpose of the 2005 Consent Order was to compel DOE and LANL to ask Congress for additional funds to accelerate cleanup. The giant loophole in the proposed 2016 Consent Order that allows DOE and LANL to say that they don’t have sufficient funding and therefore can choose to exempt themselves from cleanup should be eliminated.

 

Cleanup Levels Must Remain Strict

Section IX Cleanup Objectives and Cleanup Levels of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would allow DOE to “develop site specific ecological cleanup levels” to mitigate unacceptable ecological risk due to release of site-related contaminants. There is no mention of NMED’s role in this process. DOE would be allowed to demonstrate to NMED that any particular “cleanup objective is impracticable.” To do this, DOE may consider such things as technical difficulty, the cost of the project, hazards to workers or to the public, and any other basis that may support a finding of impracticability. If NMED approves the impracticability request, DOE can then propose alternative cleanup methods using site-specific risk assessments. All of this could take place behind closed doors, as there are no public participation requirements in this section. Please clarify what cleanup levels will be used and when and where they will be applied.

 

New Mexico deserves better

In closing, the Environment Department’s proposed 2016 Consent Order allows the federal government to leave Northern New Mexico contaminated if DOE believes that cleanup is too difficult or costly– a sorry situation indeed for a nuclear weapons facility that receives over 2 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department should implement a new revised Consent Order that is aggressive and enforceable and in which the State of New Mexico stays in the driver’s seat, not LANL and DOE. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, helping to permanently protect the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high-paying cleanup jobs. .

 

Sincerely,

Name

City

 

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 31, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

Public Meeting: Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads

Dear Friends,

Please join us for an informal public meeting Tuesday, May 24 at 6pm.

Main Library Community Room, 145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe, NM

Please remember that no refreshments are allowed at the Library.

See you there!

 

Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads
A Discussion on the Future of Cleanup at Los Alamos

 

We have opportunities to take new directions

How do we get to the Northern New Mexico we want leave for future generations?

Learn how your input can help make better cleanup decisions at Los Alamos National Laboratory

 

Join us for a
Public Meeting: Tuesday May 24, 2016, 6 – 7:30pm
at the
Main Library Community Room, 145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe

Topics to be Addressed
Los Alamos Cleanup Order

  • For “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy Cold War wastes
  • The 10-year trip since the original Consent Order was signed in 2005
  • New “Consent Order” Proposed by the NM Environment Department
    • Proposed changes from the existing
    • What can be improved?
    • Who is in the driver’s seat?
    • Just along for the ride, or will the public have real input?
    • Public comments due May 31

 

Department of Energy’s new Environmental Management at Los Alamos

  • Cleanup work no longer under nuclear weapons work
  • Looking for a new contractor
  • Can cleanup accelerate?

 

Nuclear Watch’s lawsuit

  • Alleging violations of the 2005 Consent Order

 

Questions, answers, and discussion

  • What’s on your mind
  • Your comments are important

 

Brought to you by Nuclear Watch New Mexico

(505) 989-7342

info@nukewatch.org

www.nukewatch.org

 

Materials Disposal Area B (MDA B) Contamination Excavation at LANL - Will removal of wastes continue?
Inside a protective enclosure, Cold War wastes are excavated at Los Alamos - Will it continue? (LANL photo)

 

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