Nuclear News Archives – 2019

The Air Force Has Stopped Using 8-Inch Floppy Disks for Missile Command

The US nuclear forces’ Dr. Strangelove-era messaging system finally got rid of its floppy disks

BY: VALERIE INSINNA | c4isrnet.com

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. — In 2014, “60 Minutes” made famous the 8-inch floppy disks used by one antiquated Air Force computer system that, in a crisis, could receive an order from the president to launch nuclear missiles from silos across the United States.

But no more. At long last, that system, the Strategic Automated Command and Control System or SACCS, has dumped the floppy disk, moving to a “highly secure solid state digital storage solution” this past June, said Lt. Col. Jason Rossi, commander of the Air Force’s 595th Strategic Communications Squadron.

Russia test-fires missile from new nuclear-powered submarine

Russia has successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile from its latest nuclear-powered submarine, the country’s defence ministry says.

BY: JONATHAN MARCUS | bbc.com

Footage captured overnight shows the release of the so-called Bulava missile from an underwater position in the White Sea, the ministry said.

It was fired from Russia’s new Prince Vladimir submarine and was reported to have travelled thousands of kilometres.

The submarine is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Completed in the early hours of Thursday, the Bulava missile launch – the first of its kind from the Prince Vladimir – was one of many weapons tests expected to take place in the coming weeks.

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Senate Dems likely to block defense spending in border wall dispute

ARTICLE BY JOE GOULD | defensenews.com

DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

WASHINGTON ― Key Senate Democrats signaled Monday their caucus is likely to filibuster a proposed 2020 defense spending bill, which Senate Republican leaders plan to offer for a vote this week.In a Senate floor speech Monday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dared Democrats to hold up the bill, accusing them of blocking a troop pay raise “for the sake of picking a fight with the White House,” even after the raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

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The Chairman’s Choice

October 29 This week on Press the Button: Chairman Adam Smith of the House Armed Services Committee. His remarks on the future of U.S. nuclear policy at the National Press Club last week made the news when he said that it was very unlikely major policy provisions would survive conference, particularly on the new, more usable nuclear weapon.

Hear his comments directly in a special edition of Press the Button called “The Chairman’s Choice.”

Geoff Wilson of Council for a Livable World discusses this surprise development with Michelle Dover and Mary Kaszynski of Ploughshares Fund on Early Warning.

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The most radioactive state

Who will be the ultimate bearer of the nation’s nuclear waste?

In Mashable’s series Wasted, reporters dig into the myriad ways we’re trashing our planet. Because it’s time to sober up.

WRITTEN BY | mashable.com

Of all the states in the union, and to the certain dismay of many local residents, New Mexico presently has the potential to become the future bearer of more and more of the nation’s nuclear excesses.

Though New Mexico will resist, and may prevail. “Folks in New Mexico are not going to take it,” said Albuquerque resident Don Hancock, who is the director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program at the Southwest Research and Information Center, an advocacy group focused on environmental and social justice. “We’ll stop this.”

“New Mexicans should not have to tolerate this risk.”

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A SKINNY NDAA

Top Armed Services leaders in both houses of Congress are considering passing a slimmed-down National Defense Authorization Act that defers controversial measures for the sake of getting something passed, our colleague Connor O’Brien writes.

“It’s amounted to a backup plan,” House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told POLITICO, referring to the “skinny NDAA.” “It’s amounted to, we’re going to keep working on the bill itself, try to get resolved the top drawer issue of the [border] wall and we’ll have this as a backup discussion if necessary. I don’t have a problem with that.”

CHECKING TRUMP: More than 40 advocacy groups are out with a letter calling on lawmakers to oppose a final defense bill that doesn’t include the “core progressive priorities” aimed at constraining the Trump administration in the House-passed bill. That includes provisions to limit Trump’s Iran war powers, end U.S. support to the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen, bar new detainees at Guantanamo Bay, protect transgender troops and block deployment of new low-yield nuclear warheads.

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Frontlines of Impeachment

October 22 Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) gives us an insider view of the impeachment crisis and its impact on US foreign policy. Connolly serves on the Foreign Affairs and the Oversight Committees, both charged with the impeachment inquiry.

Early Warning features Joe Cirincione and Elizabeth Beavers discussing the Turkish president’s recent comments on nuclear weapons, and why we should keep the Open Skies Treaty. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Alec in Louisiana.

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Calling the National Nuclear Security Administration's latest Record of Decision (Federal Register, October 4, 2019) for the Continued Operation of the Y-12 National Security Complex , "an obvious attempt by the government to deliberately circumvent this Court's ruling," the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the Natural Resources Defense Council and four individual co-plaintiffs today filed a Motion to Enforce the judgment handed down in federal court in September by Chief United States District Judge Pamela Reeves.

"Within hours of the Judge's September ruling, NNSA told reporters that it would keep right on doing what it was doing, including building the UPF bomb plant. Then they published the new Record of Decision which is a direct challenge to the Court—it says they have decided they will comply with the Court's order at some uncertain date in the future, and in the meantime, it's business as usual. We went to court in the first place, because 'business as usual' was violating the law." — OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison

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Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.

“There are approximately 50 US nuclear weapons, stored on Turkish soil. The United States had never openly acknowledged its existence, until Wednesday, when Trump did exactly that. When asked about the safety of these weapons, stored in a bunker controlled by the Americans at Incirlik Air Base, Mr. Trump said, “We have confidence and we have a large air base there, a very powerful air base.” But not everyone is so confident, because the air base belongs to the Turkish government. If relations with Turkey deteriorate, US access to that base is not guaranteed.”

ARTICLE BY DAVID E. SANGER | nytimes.com

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey addressing legislators from his party this month in Ankara, Turkey. Credit: Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press

Erdogan is playing before an anti-American domestic audience with his nuclear rhetoric, but he is very unlikely to look for nuclear weapons,,quot; said Jessica C. Varnum, an expert in Turkey at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Middlebury in Monterey, California, “There would be huge economic and reputational costs for Turkey, which would damage the pockets of Erdogan voters.”

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A Cheaper Nuclear Sponge

“With today’s technology, land-based [ballistic] missiles are an embarrassment,” the late, great strategist Thomas Schelling wrote in 1987. The weapons, he added, “seem to give the entire deterrent a bad name.”

ARTICLE BY | warontherocks.com

Schelling was right: Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are by far the least valuable leg of the so-called nuclear triad, which also consists of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-delivered cruise missiles and gravity bombs.

So long as U.S. adversaries possess nuclear weapons, we believe the United States should maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter nuclear attacks against itself and its allies. But the Trump administration’s approach to sustaining and upgrading the arsenal is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe. Nowhere is this more evident than with respect to its plan to build a new ICBM.

Instead of proceeding with current plans to build an entirely new ICBM system at a cost that is likely to exceed $100 billion, the Pentagon could save scores of billions — without sacrificing U.S. security — by continuing to rely on a smaller number of existing Minuteman III missiles.

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Trump administration talking tough about another government shutdown for border wall funding

On Thursday, the Senate failed a veto override on Donald Trump’s emergency declaration, which is being used to purloin funds appropriated for other programs and use them for his border wall. That sets up yet another budget fight that will simmer along between the House, Senate, and White House for the next month. It also sets up another fight over a Trump government shutdown.

ARTICLE BY JOAN MCCARTER | dailykos.com

Before the August recess, all parties agreed to a continuing resolution to fund the government until the week before Thanksgiving, in anticipation that all the individual spending bills for all the departments would be passed and signed by then. What it really set up was another fight with Trump. “Trump is not interested in signing other domestic spending bills until there is agreement on the border wall,” a senior administration official told The Washington Post.

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Feds give Navajo uranium contract to firm with sketchy past

A High Country News investigation finds the EPA awarded Tetra Tech a contract despite knowing its subsidiary had likely engaged in data manipulation, false reporting and profiteering.

ARTICLE BY SUSIE NIELSEN | hcn.org

United Nuclear's uranium mine and mill within the Navajo Nation in Church Rock, New Mexico | Wikimedia Commons
United Nuclear’s uranium mine and mill within the Navajo Nation in Church Rock, New Mexico | Wikimedia Commons

In September 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency received a troubling message from the Navy: Tetra Tech EC, the firm tasked with cleaning up the radioactive former naval shipyard Hunters Point in San Francisco, might have manipulated its data.

The past performance of Tetra Tech, even beyond its subsidiary at Hunters Point, has been marked by controversy. The parent company has been at the center of other lawsuits, including a consolidated case regarding its involvement in cleaning up after the North Bay Fires, a series of wildfires that devastated regions north of San Francisco in the fall of 2017.

“The Navajo Nation project is a bull’s-eye radioactive project with dangerous radioactivity. For Tetra Tech to get that project at all — to be even allowed to bid on it — is shocking.” – David Anton, attorney for the Tetra Tech EC whistleblowers

In 2008, the EPA and five other federal agencies, in consultation with Navajo Nation, developed the first comprehensive plan to address the legacy of uranium contamination in and around the Navajo Nation. As of 2014, of the 43 highest-priority Navajo Nation mines as designated by the EPA, only one of them — the Skyline Mine — had been mostly cleaned up.

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry To Resign

NPR ALL THINGS CONSIDERED JEFF BRADYnpr.org Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry plans to leave his position at the end of the year, President Trump confirmed to reporters Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. Trump praised Perry and said he already has a replacement in mind.

“Rick has done a fantastic job,” Trump said. ” But it was time.”

Trump said that Perry’s resignation didn’t come as a surprise and that he has considered leaving for six months because “he’s got some very big plans.”

Perry, 69, is one of Trump’s original Cabinet members and recently has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry of Trump.

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Urgent: Move US Nuclear Weapons Out Of Turkey

BLOG BY HANS M. KRISTENSENfas.org

A US Navy aircraft flies over Incirlik airbase in Turkey.

Should the U.S. Air Force withdraw the roughly 50 B61 nuclear bombs it stores at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey? The question has come to a head after Turkey’s invasion of Syria, Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian leadership and deepening discord with NATO, Trump’s inability to manage U.S. security interests in Europe and the Middle East, and war-torn Syria only a few hundred miles from the largest U.S. nuclear weapons storage site in Europe.

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The US is rethinking the 50-plus nuclear weapons it keeps in Turkey

“The US is storing perhaps 50 air-dropped thermonuclear bombs at its Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey, less than 100 miles from the Syrian border where this conflict is taking place.”

BY: TIM FERNHOLZ | qz.com

Turkish forces are pushing into northern Syria, replacing and sometimes even firing on the US troops retreating at Donald Trump’s orders.

The question of whether Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is really a US ally was put to US defense secretary Mark Esper on Fox television this morning. “No, I think Turkey, the arc of their behavior over the past several years has been terrible,” he said.

The nuclear stockpile dates back to the Cold War, when the US sought to keep a sufficient supply of atomic weapons deployed in Europe to deter potential Soviet aggression. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy also host similar arsenals, and the US trains the participating nations in the use of the doomsday devices.

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Turkey Troubles

October 15 Heather Hurlburt, director of the New Models of Policy Change project at New America’s Political Reform program, joins Michelle Dover for a discussion on US national security and foreign policy under President Donald Trump. She is the co-author of The Consensual Straitjacket: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security.

News analysis with Michelle Dover, John Carl Baker and Geoff Wilson of Council for a Livable World focuses on the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw US troops from the Turkey-Syria border. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Johnny from Massachusetts.

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What if We Nuke a City?

“The world has changed in the past few years with world leaders again explicitly and publicly threatening each other with nuclear weapons. Many experts think the danger of a nuclear strike is higher than it has been in decades.

Governments tell their citizens that it’s good that we have nuclear weapons, but bad when others have them; that it’s somehow necessary to threaten others with mass destruction to keep us safe. But does this make you feel you feel safe? It only takes a small group of people in power to go crazy or rouge, a small misstep or simple misunderstanding to release a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Video Description: “Until we did the research. It turned out we were a bit oblivious off the real impact of nuclear weapons in the real world, on a real city. And especially, how helpless even the most developed nations on earth would be if an attack occurred today. So hopefully this video demonstrates how extremely non fun a real world nuclear attack would be, without being too gruesome.”

SOURCES

DOE Order 140.1: DNFSB Response, Oct. 11

Chair Hamilton responds, “Pursuant to our enabling legislation, we have directed our staff to attend all phases of the NES study process. Should you wish to prohibit our access to a particular study, we respectfully request written communication to the Board.”
[NES = the nuclear explosive safety (NES) elements of DOE O 452.1E, Nuclear Explosive and Weapon Surety Program]

Oct. 11, 2019DOE Order 140.1 DNFSB Responds Oct. 11
The Honorable James Richard Perry Secretary of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20585-1000

Dear Secretary Perry:

We have received NNSA’s response dated August 9, 2019, concerning Board access to all phases of the nuclear explosive safety study process. We respectfully disagree with the justification offered for continued exclusion of our staff from NES study deliberations. NNSA’s response notes deliberations as collaborative efforts where participants consider all sides of identified issues, requiring free and open communication. Our staff’s observation of this interaction provides them with an understanding of the bases of the safety decisions being taken.

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

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

BACKGROUND

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

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

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Udall pushes to expand Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

When Talking About the Climate Crisis, We Can’t Forget About Nuclear Weapons

Both are existential threats, but only one is getting the attention it deserves.

BY: MATT KORDA | thenation.com

When Talking About the Climate Crisis, We Can’t Forget About Nuclear Weapons, The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)
The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)

“The current attention gap between the climate crisis and nuclear weapons is bizarre, given their common existential stakes and challenges. Climate change and nuclear weapons have a symbiotic relationship: Each threat exacerbates the other. Climate change is setting the stage for conflict between nuclear-armed states, and a recent study suggests that even a regional nuclear war would cool the planet by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius and cause mass starvation for over a decade. Not to mention the fact that even during peacetime, decades of uranium mining, nuclear testing, and nuclear waste dumping have contaminated some of our planet’s ecosystems beyond repair, displacing entire communities—often communities of color—in the process.

The flip side of this symbiosis, however, means that climate change and nuclear weapons also share a common solution. A progressive nuclear policy should be based upon four core principles of the Green New Deal—international cooperation, reductions, transparency, and justice. Only by challenging the nuclear-industrial complex in its entirety—in a way akin to how the Green New Deal challenges the carbon economy in its entirety—can a progressive nuclear policy pull us back from the brink of atomic and environmental catastrophe. Progressive climate change policies should include demilitarization and disarmament provisions, and progressive nuclear policies should address the climate and humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Similarly, nuclear activists and climate change activists are natural allies in the fight against existential risk, and both causes would benefit from a more robust partnership.

To that end, the significant attention imbalance between climate change and nuclear weapons must be urgently corrected; keeping them siloed reinforces an incomplete narrative about the nature of these existential threats.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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US, critics split on whether tech made nuke shipments safer

“There’s enough high-level nuclear waste awaiting disposal in the U.S. to fill a football field 65 feet (20 meters) deep. Few states want to house it within their borders.”

“The public defines ‘safe’ as zero risk…the technical community defines ‘safe’ as complying with regulatory standards.” – Robert Halstead, head of the Agency for Nuclear Projects, is currently fighting plutonium shipments to Nevada and spent nuclear fuel transfers to the proposed Yucca Mountain dump.

BY: SCOTT SONNER | phys.org

The era of significant rail transport of weapons, which occurred from roughly 1975 to 1992, was perhaps the most publicly visible period for OST. There were numerous anti-nuclear protests associated with rail transportation during that time. Credit: DOE

The plutonium core for the first atomic weapon detonated in 1945 was taken from Los Alamos National Laboratory to a test site in the New Mexico desert in the backseat of a U.S. Army sedan.

Officials put other bomb parts inside a metal container, packed it into a wooden crate and secured it in the steel bed of a truck under a tarp, the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration says in a historical account.

Grainy black-and-white photos show special agents and armed military police accompanying the shipment nearly 75 years ago.

An Atomic Energy Commission courier in the late 1950s armed with an M3 submachine gun at the cab of a bobtail truck that carried high explosives. Behind the truck is a Ford ranch wagon used as an escort vehicle. Credit: DOE

“Nuclear materials transportation has evolved since then,” the department posted online last year.

Today, radioactive shipments are hauled in double-walled steel containers inside specialized trailers that undergo extensive testing and are tracked by GPS and real-time apps.

But whether shipping technology has evolved enough to be deemed safe depends on whom you ask.

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New research: regional nuclear war will cause catastrophic global consequences, Pakistan, india

New research: Regional nuclear war will cause catastrophic global consequences

Two scientific studies modelling the effects of nuclear war released in the past few weeks have revealed some terrifying figures:

  • 91.5 million deaths in a matter of hours, if nuclear conflict breaks out between the United States and Russia,
  • 125 million deaths in case of a week-long conflict between India and Pakistan using 100 kilotonne nuclear warheads,
  • A 30% reduction in surface sunlight due to the 36 teragrams of black carbon released into the atmosphere after the India-Pakistan conflict,
  • Two billion people at risk of famine.

The two studies, Princeton’s Science and Global Security programme “Plan A” [ 1] and Science Advances’ Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe [ 2], show that there is no such thing as a contained nuclear conflict.

These are not farfetched scenarios. This new research comes out as tensions are increasing between India and Pakistan, and four of the nine nuclear-armed states have tested nuclear missiles in just the past two weeks. [3, 4] You can read more about this new research here.

The science is clear: we need to eliminate nuclear weapons, before they are used again.

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

BY: MIKE HARRISvcstar.com

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

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

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

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Expanding nuclear weapon production is reckless

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

BY: MARYLIA KELLEY &  JOSEPH RODGERSthehill.com

© Getty Images

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

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

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

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

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | carlsbadcurrentargus.com

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

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

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

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

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

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US official: Research finds uranium in Navajo women, babies

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

MARY HUDETZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS jhnewsandguide.com

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

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

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

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

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An evolving nuclear agenda spurs plutonium pit production at LANL

A ‘dirty, dirty process’

BY: KENDRA CHAMBERLAINE | nmpoliticalreport.com

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

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

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

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

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

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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

BY: STEVE LIEWER | OMAHA WORLD HERALD omaha.com

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

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

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

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

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The Nuclear Philanthropist

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

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

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

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

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

Count the Nuclear Weapons Money

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

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

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

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

BY breakingdefense.com

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

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

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

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

BY: GEORGE BEEBE | politico.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlos Barria/Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY STUART H. SMITH | stuarthsmith.com

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

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IG: Embattled coalition should return up to $300K to DOE

ARTICLE BY: T.S. LAST | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The U.S. Department of Energy’s inspector general is recommending that the department seek reimbursement of up to $300,000 in DOE grant money that a coalition of local governments in northern New Mexico didn’t properly account for.

“The Regional Coalition is not the effective lobbying voice for clean up at Los Alamos that it claims to be because it condones DOE’s plan for cleanup on the cheap that will leave the vast majority of radioactive and toxic wastes permanently buried above our groundwater,” Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Coalition should pay the American taxpayer back whatever it improperly spent and be terminated. At a minimum, the City of Santa Fe should resign from this discredited Coalition right away.”

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

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

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Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

BY THAD MOORE tmoore@postandcourier.com

About this series

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

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


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

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

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

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Nuclear weapons: Explained in numbers


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

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

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

Is it time to ditch the NPT?

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

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

BY JOELIEN PRETORIU & TOM SAUER | thebulletin.org

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

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

page1image19099216

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

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

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

BY AARON MEHTA | defensenews.com

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

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

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

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

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Federal Court Vacates former Y-12 Bomb Plant Ruling

ARTICLE FROM HUNGTINGTON NEWS huntingtonnews.net

“With this ruling,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, “the NNSA no longer has any legal authority to continue construction of the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant.” The decision may have ramifications for NNSA’s efforts to expand nuclear weapons production at other sites, too, including Los Alamos, NM and Savannah River, SC, where environmental scoping is underway for a new plutonium pit manufacturing facility.

Jay Coghlan, director of co-plaintiff Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “Uranium and plutonium components manufacturing are two sides of the same coin of expanding nuclear weapons production in an escalating arms race. The Department of Energy should take this court ruling against its Uranium Processing Facility as a warning that it must also comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements while ill-advisably expanding the production of plutonium pits, the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.”

The ruling also points out the crucial role the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board plays in monitoring safety issues at Y-12 and across the nuclear weapons complex. Since last year, the Department of Energy has worked to reduce the Safety Board’s access to some nuclear facilities, even issuing a revised Order to limit the information available to the Board and the restricting who the Board can and cannot speak to directly.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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

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

The five nations that ratified during the ceremony are:

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

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

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

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

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

ICAN meets Irish President Michael Higgins

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

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

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

Join the movement to end nuclear weapons

The full ceremony can be viewed here:

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

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

BY HEIDI HUTNER & ERICA CIRINO | aeon.co 

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

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

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

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Nuclear Abolition: The Road from Armageddon to Transformation

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

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

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

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

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Judge voids UPF decision, requires more seismic hazard analysis

BY:  oakridgetoday.com

Structural steel installation is under way on the eastern half of the Main Process Building of the Uranium Processing Facility, the Y-12 National Security Complex said Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy CNS Y-12)

A federal judge in Knoxville on Tuesday said a critical decision made in 2016 for enriched uranium operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex, including for the $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility, violated a national environmental law, and she ordered the decision vacated, or set aside.

The UPF is already under construction, and Wedenesday morning, the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees work at Y-12, said construction will continue.

The 104-page opinion and order was filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday by Chief U.S. District Judge Pamela L. Reeves.

The lawsuit was initially filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, but it was later moved to the Eastern District of Tennessee. Besides OREPA, the plaintiffs included two other public interest organizations—Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and Natural Resources Defense Council of Washington, D.C.— and several individual plaintiffs.

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DOE for First Time Rejects Safety Board Recommendation – SRS Watch

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

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

Read Full Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2018

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.

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

Key Messages from the 2019 Doomsday Clock Announcement – ICAN

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

Topline

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

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

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

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

Beatrice Fihn – Executive Director
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

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

NukeWatch Joins Suit To Stop WIPP Expansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NNSA Plans to Replace the W78 Warhead

W78 Silo GAO-19-84

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

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

Read the report

Please Help Support NukeWatch

Dear Friends of Nuclear Watch New Mexico:

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

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Join In Giving Tuesday

Join In Giving Tuesday

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

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

Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation

Watch Dog

Belen passes resolution opposing nuclear waste transportation

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

Read more about it here

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

Read more about it here

LANL Ships Waste Offsite Illegally, Again and Again

LANL Ships Waste Offsite Illegally, Again and Again

Posted by Scott Kovac Nov 14, 2018

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

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

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Citizens Oppose Plans For New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump

Citizens Oppose New Mexico Nuke Dump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several Videos Are Here

Principles for Safe Management and Geological Isolation of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel

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

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

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

For Immediate Release


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See NukeWatch’s Amended Complaint here

See Judge Judith Herrera’s decision here

Contacts:
Jay Coghlan: Nuclear Watch New Mexico
989.7342

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

New Contractors Selected For Expanded Nuclear Weapons Production at Los Alamos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, according to Nuclear Watch. In fact, no pit production for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future. Up to 15,000 “excess” pits and another 5,000 in “strategic reserve” are already stored at DOE’s Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX. In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century[i] (they currently average 40 years old). A 2012 follow-on study by the Livermore Lab found that the “graceful aging of plutonium also reduces the immediate need for a modern high-capacity manufacturing facility to replace pits in the stockpile.” [ii]

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•  NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision did not mention that exact replicas of existing pits will NOT be produced. The agency has selected the W87 pit for the Interoperable Warhead, but its FY 2019 budget request repeatedly states that the pits will actually be “W87-like.” This could have serious potential consequences because any major modifications to plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested, or alternatively could prompt the U.S. to return to nuclear weapons testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

Albuquerque Complex Project authorized to begin construction

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

Call to action!

Comments on WIPP Expansion Needed By April 3rd

Informational Meeting Is March 8th

 

New Mexico is under growing nuclear attack.

·      Plutonium pit production increases are planned for Los Alamos.

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

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

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

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

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

“Clarification” of TRU Mixed Waste Disposal Volume Reporting

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

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

 

What to expect at this March 8 meeting:

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

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

·      A presentation of the proposed plan by DOE

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

·      No opportunity for formal public comments

 

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

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

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

The complete Permit Modification Request is here –

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

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

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

 

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

Mr. Ricardo Maestas

New Mexico Environment Department

2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Fax: 505-476-6030

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented,

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

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[Copying URLs into browsers is recommended.]

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

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

[3]     See https://rdcnm.org/vaf/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Budget Dramatically Increases Nuclear Weapons Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch commented,

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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