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Nuclear News Archives – 2021

Stop Nuclear Waste Site Expansion Before it’s Too Late

Many New Mexicans are aware that Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Southern New Mexico is the nation’s sole repository for radioactive weapons waste, but did you know that WIPP has surpassed its authorized capacity and that the federal Department of Energy has given it a new mission: to build a new shaft and more than double its capacity?

The resulting increased amount of radioactive plutonium being transported through the Santa Fe area should worry us all. You might assume that nuclear experts have the storage and transportation situation well in hand, but the Los Alamos National Laboratory and WIPP have dismal safety records.

If the powder form of plutonium being carried by tractor-trailers on N.M. 599, Interstate 25, and U.S. 285 is accidentally released into the air, even minuscule doses are 100 percent carcinogenic, especially to children, and cleanup is virtually impossible. And it is our local jurisdictions that respond first to highway accidents. To better understand the danger, see stopforeverwipp.org.



Fortunately there is something citizens can to do try to stop this dangerous expansion. Contact Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has to approve such a change. Tell her to tell the Energy Department to stop digging a fifth shaft at WIPP. You can use governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor.

John Watson-Jones

Galisteo

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The Secret ‘White Trains’ That Carried Nuclear Weapons Around the U.S.

For as long as the United States has had nuclear weapons, officials have struggled with how to transport the destructive technology.

The epicenter of nuclear transit was the Pantex Plant, about 17 miles outside of downtown Amarillo, Texas, a maze-like complex of dozens of buildings located on 10,000 acres of land. Amarillo was the final destination for almost all of America’s nuclear trains and the Pantex Plant was the nation’s only assembly point for nuclear weapons, a role it maintains to this day.

BRIANNA NOFIL | UPDATED: MAY 6, 2021, ORIGINAL: MAY 31, 2018 history.com

At first glance, the job posting looks like a standard help-wanted ad for a cross-country trucker. Up to three weeks a month on the road in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, traveling through the contiguous 48 states. Risks include inclement weather, around-the-clock travel, and potentially adverse environmental conditions. But then the fine print: Candidates should have “experience in performing high-risk armed tactical security work…and maneuvering against a hostile adversary.”

The U.S. government is hiring “Nuclear Materials Couriers.” Since the 1950s, this team of federal agents, most of them ex-military, has been tasked with ferrying America’s roughly 6,000 nuclear warheads and extensive supply of nuclear materials across the roads and highways of the United States. America’s nuclear facilities are spread out throughout the country, on over 2.4 million acres of federal real estate, overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE)—a labyrinth of a system the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called “highly scattered and fragmented…with few enforceable rules.”

Some sites are for assembly, some are for active weapons, some are for chemicals, some are for mechanical parts. What this means in practice is that nuclear materials have to move around—a lot.

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Staffers see little interest or action on nuclear waste issues

“The Town of Vernon supports a repository site or sites under the following conditions: Approval by the Federal Government, DOE, Congress, and the NRC. Deemed/tested safe by engineering and environmental experts by known and reasonable standards. Received approval/consent from the state, territory, town, or country chosen to be the repository/repositories. This includes one single repository, multiple repositories, or interim storage,”

Demolition of the stack that handled the release of radioactive gases from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant site was completed last month.
Photo provided by NorthStar

BRATTLEBORO — The 117th Congress has introduced few bills this session dealing with nuclear power and nuclear waste, staffers for Vermont’s congressional delegation told a Vermont committee studying federal nuclear waste policies Monday.

The committee, an arm of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, is investigating whether it should take a stand on what happens to the high-level radioactive waste currently stored at the Vermont Yankee site in about four-dozen stainless steel and concrete casks.

Two companies, including the parent company of NorthStar Decommissioning, which owns the Vermont Yankee plant and is demolishing it, want to build interim storage facilities for high-level waste — one in west Texas and the other in New Mexico. Interim storage would hold radioactive waste until a federal depository is built.

The two congressional staffers who met with the committee, Haley Pero, from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., office, and Thea Wurzburg of Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.’s office, both said they have seen little interest from the Biden administration in taking on the difficult issues of nuclear power and its nuclear waste.

The administration of former President Donald Trump tried to revive funding for the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste facility in Nevada, but made no progress, Pero said. Not as many bills have come up this year, Pero said.

Congress’ attention is elsewhere, the two staffers said.

The Vermont panel last year backed off an earlier endorsement of interim waste storage, like the facilities proposed by NorthStar in Texas and Holtec International in New Mexico.

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Cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford: Secrecy, delays and budget debates

A plan to turn radioactive waste into glass logs has raised a lot of questions, many of which don’t appear to have public answers.

“It’s not clear whether the high-level waste plant will ever operate,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, a watchdog organization.

“We need to get some stuff out of here, or we’ll end up with it permanently staying here…This is a generational problem,” Stephen Wiesman said.

Ultimately, this project, originally scheduled to be finished this decade, will likely be completed in the latter half of this century. In other words, it could take 70 to 75 years (mid-1990s to 2069) to deal with the 56 million gallons of radioactive tank waste created by 42 years of manufacturing plutonium.

By John Stang, Crosscut columbian.com August 23, 2021

The Hanford Vit Plant covers 65 acres with four nuclear facilities in southeastern Washington state. (Bechtel National)

Stephen Wiesman has worked for about three decades on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s project to convert the radioactive waste in its huge underground tanks into safer glass logs.

A Hanford engineer since 1980, Wiesman helped create the Office of Protection, the Department of Energy’s unit in charge of dealing with the nuclear waste stored in those tanks, serving as a senior technical adviser since the late 1990s.

Now 75 and retired since 2012, Wiesman is on the Hanford Advisory Board, which represents environmentalists, Tri-Citians, tribes, health officials, business interests and governments from across the Northwest. Currently, Wiesman is the board’s chairman.

Hanford dates back to late 1942, when it became a super-secret World War II site to create plutonium for the first atomic bomb exploded — in New Mexico and later over Nagasaki, Japan. The nuclear reservation continued that mission during the Cold War and through 1987.

During four decades of production, uranium rods and other nuclear waste were stored in 149 single-shell tanks, of which at least 68 have since sprung leaks. Hanford added 28 safer double-shell tanks and transferred the liquid wastes into them.

Hanford has 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in those 177 underground tanks at this remote decommissioned nuclear production site near the Columbia River in Benton County.

Those leak-prone tanks are arguably the most radiologically contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere.

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New criminal charges filed against Westinghouse official in SC’s nuclear plant failure

“As construction problems mounted, costs rose, and schedules slipped, (and) defendants hid the true status of the project,” the indictment said.
“…Delays and cost overruns — hidden by SCANA officials from the public and state regulators — eventually doomed the effort, making it one of the largest business failures in South Carolina history.”

BY JOHN MONK | August 19, 2021 thestate.com

Acting United States Attorney Rhett DeHart pledges continued efforts in prosecuting those responsible for the failed nuclear site in Fairfield County. BY TRACY GLANTZ


A second high-ranking employee of Westinghouse Electric Corp. is facing criminal charges in connection with the multi-billion dollar failure of the doomed nuclear project in Fairfield County.

Jeffrey Benjamin, a former Westinghouse senior vice president of new plants and projects, faces multiple counts of fraud, according to an 18-page indictment made public Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Columbia.

It is the latest criminal charge in a four-year federal investigation of what went wrong at the highest levels of two substantial American companies — Westinghouse and the former SCANA Corp.

The charges against Benjamin are “for his role in failing to truthfully report information regarding construction of new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant,” Acting U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart said in a press release.

Benjamin’s alleged cover-up of billions of dollars in losses at Westinghouse’s troubled nuclear plants in South Carolina and Georgia were part of a series of events leading to the company’s bankruptcy in March 2017, according to the indictment.

“The defendant’s misrepresentations and omissions, as well as the associated cover-up, resulted in billions of dollars in losses to (SCANA), ratepayers and investors,” the indictment said.

Benjamin, who was responsible for Westinghouse’s worldwide construction of nuclear reactors, is the fourth person to face criminal charges in connection with the SCANA scandal. The three others — another former Westinghouse employee and two top SCANA officials — all have agreed to plead guilty to various counts of fraud but have not yet been sentenced.

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Top Westinghouse Nuclear Executive Charged with Conspiracy, Fraud in 16-Count Federal Indictment

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Columbia, South Carolina — Acting United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina M. Rhett DeHart announced today that a Federal Grand Jury has charged former Westinghouse Electric Company Senior Vice President Jeffrey A. Benjamin for his role in failing to truthfully report information regarding construction of new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant.

Benjamin, who served as Senior Vice President for New Plants and Major Projects and directly supervised all new nuclear projects worldwide for Westinghouse during the V.C. Summer project, is charged in a federal indictment with sixteen felony counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, and causing a publicly-traded company to keep a false record.

The charges Benjamin faces carry a maximum of twenty years imprisonment and a $5,000,000 fine.

The indictment alleges that Benjamin was personally involved in communications between Westinghouse and its owners, SCANA and Santee Cooper, regarding the status of the V.C. Summer project.

The indictment further alleges that, throughout 2016 and into 2017, when Westinghouse had direct control over the construction and schedule of the project, Benjamin received information that the V.C. Summer units were materially behind schedule and over budget.  Nevertheless, at various times from September 2016 through March 2017, the indictment alleges that Benjamin assured the owners that the units would be completed on schedule and took active steps to conceal from the owners damaging information about the project schedule.  During this time period, the owners paid Westinghouse over $600,000,000 to construct the two V.C. Summer units, both of which were ultimately abandoned.

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Critics Decry $12 Billion for Nuclear in Infrastructure Bill

Smith in his Monday missive warned a bevy of NNSA endeavors, like pit production and the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility before it, “have seen massive cost increases, schedule delays, and cancellations of billion-dollar programs. This must end.” Two things, Smith wrote, are vital to the successful modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons: affordability and executability.

By Eric Tegethoff, Producer | August 12, 2021 publicnewsservice.org

Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls study nuclear energy. (Sam Beebe/Flickr)

BOISE, Idaho — The U.S. Senate has passed a massive infrastructure bill, and buried within the package is $12 billion for the nuclear industry, but critics said the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Half of the money is reserved for nuclear facilities under threat of shutting down due to economic factors. The other half is for research and development, such as on the small modular nuclear reactor model being built in Idaho.

Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said the industry as a whole is struggling, with even the Idaho project being scaled back.

“By propping up the existing reactors and preventing them from being replaced with renewable energy, the nuclear industry’s essentially trying to keep sort of a foothold in the energy system until they can try to ram some of these new reactor projects like the one in Idaho through, if it ever happens,” Judson asserted.

He hopes the U.S. House makes changes to the investments in nuclear. The industry and some environmental groups have touted nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels as the country moves toward clean energy sources.

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How the nuclear weapons industry is dominating think tank research

A recent study finds that all major institutions working on nuke policy are getting funds from companies with a vested interest in it.

By (former Nuclear Watch New Mexico Intern) and | July 28, 2021 responsiblestatecraft.org

If you read a report about nuclear weapons, odds are it was published by a think tank funded by a company producing nuclear weapons. In our recent study of global nuclear weapons spending, we found that almost all major think tanks working on nuclear weapon issues took money from companies involved in the nuclear weapons industry in 2020 — raising questions about their intellectual independence and moral integrity.

In the report, we include 12 think tanks, picked from the Global Think Tank Index’s top foreign policy think tanks that also publish regularly on nuclear weapons from France, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We found the 21 companies that received nuclear weapon contracts gave $10 million in grants to these think tanks in just one year, as reported in the think tanks’ own annual reports and on their websites. This is a systemic issue. It’s not just one think tank, or a few $100,000 grants. Half of the profiled think tanks received up to well over one million dollars in one year from at least nine different companies working on nuclear weapons.

These companies don’t just donate money; key executives also oversee and advise several of these think tanks. Three CEOs of nuclear weapons-producing companies — Guillaume Faury (Airbus), Gregory J. Hayes (Raytheon), and Marillyn A. Hewson (until recently Lockheed Martin) — sit on the advisory board of the Atlantic Council. The Center for New American Security has a similar story: up to $1.8 million received from companies working on nuclear weapons and five board seats for those whose livelihoods are tied to nuclear weapon production.

These links are a problem for two reasons: it raises questions about the think tanks’ independence, and it ties them to companies engaging in immoral activities banned under international law.

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Northern New Mexico Activists Hold Events Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On August 6th and 9th, 1945, the U.S. Government dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  Over 200,000 people died instantly, while survivors suffered radiation exposure.  The harm that was done is formally acknowledged every August at commemoration events around the world.  This year, commemoration events were held in Los Alamos on Saturday, August 7th and in Taos on Sunday, August 8th.

On Saturday, at Ashley Pond in Los Alamos, Ken Mayers, chair of the Joan Duffy Santa Fe Chapter of the Veterans for Peace, led a two-hour vigil, “In Remembrance: Hiroshima and Nagasaki – 1945.”  http://www.vfp-santafe.org/home.html

The program included Judith Rane reading a series of haiku that she had written.  Her haiku, a short form of Japanese poetry, recalled the plans for and the disaster that resulted from bombing Japan.  https://www.taosnews.com/tempo/film/pilgrimage-of-peace/article_d9de4599-f6e5-5c0d-83cb-525894fb6208.htmlThen came songs from the Albuquerque Raging Grannies, a chapter of an international organization that has a wide repertoire of songs with anti-war lyrics set to familiar tunes. https://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/485700nm08-21-06.htm

After the program, there was consensus that the New Mexico Congressional Delegation needs to know that many people continue to oppose the Department of Energy (DOE) plans to increase the production of plutonium pits, or triggers, for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Rep. Smith presses Biden to audit pit production as Nuclear Posture Review progresses

Smith in his Monday missive warned a bevy of NNSA endeavors, like pit production and the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility before it, “have seen massive cost increases, schedule delays, and cancellations of billion-dollar programs. This must end.” Two things, Smith wrote, are vital to the successful modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons: affordability and executability.

By

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Monday urged President Joe Biden to include an audit of plutonium pit production plans and costs in his administration’s broader assessment of U.S. nuclear policy and capabilities.

Writing about the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, Rep. Adam Smith pressed the president to closely examine pit production — the crafting of nuclear weapon cores, namely in South Carolina and New Mexico — and to “ensure it is both necessary and achievable within the announced cost and schedule.”

“As we near the budgetary heights of the ‘nuclear modernization mountain’ we can ill afford further delays and cost overruns,” wrote the Washington Democrat, who time and again has expressed reservations about pit production in the Palmetto State. He continued: “It is simply acknowledging reality that we must make hard choices.”

Federal law mandates production of 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 — a rate and date motivated by military demand.

But while National Nuclear Security Administration officials believe production benchmarks in 2024, 2025 and 2026 can be met in New Mexico, at Los Alamos National Laboratory, they do not think a 2030 production target in South Carolina, at the Savannah River Site, is achievable.

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered

We must speak out and call for action, to ensure that the horrific events witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are never repeated

BY: Chris McDonnell | United Kingdom

Two aerial photos of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, over two Japanese cities in 1945 (Left photo: Hiroshima / Right photo: Nagasaki) From Wikimedia Commons.

It was just after breakfast time on August 6, 1945 when a single B29 super fortress bomber plane of the US Air Force appeared in the clear blue sky above the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

It was about to unleash the most destructive weapon of war yet developed by mankind on the unsuspecting population going about their business in the streets below.

Piloted by Paul Tibbets, the B29 bore the name of his mother on its fuselage nosecone — Enola Gay. Its payload bomb known as Little Boy was the result of years of nuclear research in the United States under the code name of the Manhattan Project. It was the start of the Atomic Age.

In the middle of July the first experimental atomic weapon was detonated at the Alamogordo test range in New Mexico. It created a crater 300 metres in width. It was ironically given the code name “Trinity”. The scene was set for the first use of nuclear weapons in the theatre of war.

Preparations went ahead on the Pacific island of Tinian for the first attack, the city of Hiroshima, with a population well over a quarter of a million people, the designated target.

The bomb was released over the city at 8.15 am that Monday morning and exploded at an altitude of just under 2,000 feet.

The blast equivalent was estimated to be the equivalent of 13 kilotons of TNT, destroying an area of just under 5 square miles. It is likely that 90,000 people lost their lives…

Report: Some Los Alamos nuclear waste too hazardous to move

“In the October report, the safety board said lab personnel had failed to analyze chemicals present in hundreds of containers of transuranic nuclear waste, making it possible for incompatible chemicals to cause a container to explode. Crews also never sufficiently estimated how much radiation would be released by such an event.”

BY: Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com August 2, 2021

Los Alamos National Laboratory has identified 45 barrels of radioactive waste so potentially explosive — due to being mixed with incompatible chemicals — that crews have been told not to move them and instead block off the area around the containers, according to a government watchdog’s report.

Crews have worked to ferret out drums containing volatile compounds and move them to a more secure domed area of the lab after the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board issued a scathing report last year saying there were possibly hundreds of barrels of unstable nuclear waste.

The safety board estimated an exploding waste canister could expose workers to 760 rem, far beyond the threshold of a lethal dose. A rem is a unit used to measure radiation exposure. In its latest weekly report, the safety board said crews at Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos, also known as N3B — the contractor in charge of cleaning up the lab’s legacy waste — have pegged 60 barrels with volatile mixtures and have relocated 15 drums to the domed area.

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Energy Department: Cap rather than clean up Los Alamos lab waste site

A watchdog group called the plan an attempt to save money without considering the potential long-term hazards of keeping highly toxic, slow-decaying waste buried in unlined pits roughly 1,000 feet above a vital groundwater source.
“The aquifer — that’s our main concern,” said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “If climate change does affect us and things start drying out, then our aquifer is going to be even more important than it already is. We have to do everything to protect our aquifer that we can.”

Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com | Santa Fe New Mexican July 31, 2021

Radioactive trash is dumped into Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Disposal Area C, Pit 6, in 1958. U.S. Department of Energy officials propose installing a 2-foot-thick, dirt-and-rock cover over Area C, which was shut down in 1974.
New Mexican file photo

One of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s older nuclear waste disposal sites — a Cold War relic — would be capped and covered rather than cleaned up under a plan put forth by federal officials.

Known as Area C, the 73-year-old dumpsite was shut down in 1974 after taking radioactive waste, caustic chemicals, treatment-plant sludge and a variety of trash, according to records.

U.S. Department of Energy officials propose installing a 2-foot-thick, dirt-and-rock cover they say will safely contain the waste, prevent toxins from leaching into soil and groundwater, and avoid the hazards that excavating the waste would pose to workers and the environment. It also would save hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Petition calls for A-bomb victims to be remembered during Olympics

“The moment of silence will also express a commitment to making world peace a reality through the abolition of nuclear weapons.” 

 KYODO NEWS – Jul 22, 2021 | kyodonews.net

A former mayor of Hiroshima has launched an online petition calling for a moment of silence to be observed during the Tokyo Olympics at the time the atomic bomb was dropped on his western Japan city on Aug. 6.

Tadatoshi Akiba, 78, launched the Change.org campaign on the day International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach visited Hiroshima on July 16, amid opposition from some A-bomb survivors who said the visit ahead of the Tokyo Games starting Friday was politically motivated.

“He should have no objections to how important it is to spread the message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the world,” Akiba said, noting that Bach came to Hiroshima in spite of the coronavirus pandemic and opposition from many people.

The petition proposes that athletes and people from around the globe observe a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6 to remember not only those who perished in the atomic bombings of the two cities, but all victims of war.
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Carbon-Free Power Project: Don’t Continue To Delay The Inevitable

“Disclosure of these would go a long way toward improving the credibility of NuScale, UAMPS, and the community boards who are putting their own credibility on the line by subscribing to this project.

We must not forget that our ratepayer and taxpayer monies are being used to underwrite this ambitious project. We are owed transparency in return.”

BY GEORGE CHANDLER, Los Alamos

Los Alamos County Councilors,

I hope you will choose to take this unexpected off-ramp rather than continue to delay the inevitable.  The UAMPS CFPP project looks to be slowly dying, apparently because not enough communities believe it to be a viable project, or perhaps because of a lack of transparency.  If you choose to continue, then you can make this a better project.

I submitted the questions below to the Utilities Board prior to their July 21 meeting.  The Director of the Utilities Department asked CFPP to address these questions at the July 21 meeting, and Mr. Baker and Mr. Hughes did address most of them during their presentation and under questioning by Ms. Walker.  Their responses were  incomplete, contradictory, and generally unsatisfying.  The three of most  importance are the Economic Competitiveness Test (ECT), the work on the reactor core being done by Fromatome and Enfission, and the rather curious explanations of the 54% change in output with no design changes.

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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant needs more space to dispose of nuclear waste, officials say

“..A 10-year renewal of the permit itself was underway after expiring last year and Don Hancock, nuclear waste program manager at watchdog group Southwest Research and Information Center said any modifications to the permit should be included in the full renewal or wait until after its approval.

He said the DOE aimed to “piecemeal” an expansion of WIPP operations and its lifetime to avoid a discussion on broadening the facility’s purpose and keeping it operational indefinitely.

The current permit called for WIPP to be closed by 2024, but officials speculated it could take as long as until 2050 to complete its mission.”

BY: Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus

More underground space is needed to complete the mission at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to dispose of nuclear waste, contend WIPP officials during a Monday public meeting.

The U.S. Department of Energy was underway with a permit modification request (PMR) that would amend the DOE’s permit with the State of New Mexico to allow for the mining of two new panels where waste would be disposed of along with drifts connecting the panels to the rest of the underground repository.

At WIPP, transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste consisting of clothing items and equipment irradiated during nuclear activities at DOE sites across the country is disposed of via burying in an underground salt deposit.

To achieve this, panels consisting of seven rooms each are mined about 2,000 feet underground where drums of the waste are emplaced, and the salt gradually collapses to permanently entomb the waste.

But due maintenance issues and a three-year shutdown of underground operations in 2014 following an accidental radiological release, portions of three of panels were left unusable and the DOE hoped to mine new panels to finishing burying the waste.

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America’s Nuclear Waste Has Nowhere to Go and More Is Coming

Nuclear power isn’t a silver bullet for our climate problems and there’s a host of issues with constructing new plants. The biggest of which is what to do with the waste. One of the most frequently proposed long term solutions is a geologic repository, a specially designed hole in the ground with thick barriers where large amounts of toxic waste can slowly degrade over hundreds of years.

The problem is that no one can ever agree on where to build a giant and expensive hole to dump nuclear waste that will render the site unusable for generations.”

BY Matthew Gault VICE News

Outside the sleepy Maine town of Wiscasset (population 3,700), armed guards patrol a slab of concrete surrounded by a chain link fence. On the slab is 60 cement and steel canisters containing 550 tons of nuclear waste with nowhere to go according to the Bangor Daily News.

It’s a problem across the country. Nuclear power plants produce waste that’s stored on site in what’s billed as a temporary solution. After decades of promising to move the waste, the Department of Energy (DOE) hasn’t found a more permanent solution. And now, the Pentagon is moving forward with plans to increase the production of plutonium pits, a core component of nuclear weapons, which will produce more highly toxic and radioactive waste.

Nuclear power is incredibly efficient and produces little carbon. A move towards a world based on nuclear power would dramatically cut down on emissions that lead to climate change. But nuclear power produces nuclear waste, a variety of highly toxic substances that will take hundreds of years to become inert.

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Nuclear Officials Discuss Modernization of Arsenal in Online Forum

“Officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration have said the earlier estimate of Savannah River meeting its pit production target in 2030 was unrealistic and that it could take until 2035.

Meanwhile, the most recent cost estimate for bringing Savannah River’s pit plant online has swelled to $11 billion from $4.6 billion.”

BY: Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com Jul 20, 2021

A group of nuclear weapons managers agreed Tuesday that making more plutonium cores for warheads will be key to modernizing the nation’s arsenal as a deterrent against rival countries.

But during an online forum, a few of the managers who work at facilities with nuclear weapons programs also delved into a military leader’s assertion in recent months the U.S. is unable to produce a brand-new nuclear weapon, unlike Russia and China.

Peter Heussy, a defense consultant, asked the panel to interpret the comments by Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, based on their work in the field.

“My thinking is: By policy we’re not supposed to be designing new [weapons]. We’re not being asked to do it, either,” said Mark Martinez, who oversees mission support and testing at the Nevada National Security Site.

The current focus is on life extension, Martinez said, referring to the program to replace or upgrade aging components, including the softball-sized plutonium cores — or pits — that detonate warheads.

Plans call for Los Alamos National Laboratory to produce 30 pits by 2026 and Savannah River Site in South Carolina to make 50 pits in the 2030s.

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Eastern Idaho nuclear reactor project downsized

Others who support the project worry about its incomplete financial support. All but one council member that day voted to continue Idaho Fall’s 5 MW commitment. But two voiced direct concern over the project not having full subscriptions. Council member Jim Francis was the sole nay vote.

“If this project works out, it’ll be great. I just wish there was a slight bit more security,” he told the Post Register in a phone interview.

BY:

A project to build a first-of-its-kind nuclear reactor in eastern Idaho has been significantly downsized.

The initial plan for the Carbon-Free Power Project was to build 12 interconnected miniature nuclear reactor modules to produce a total of 600 megawatts. It would be the first small modular reactor in the United States. After the company tasked with manufacturing the plants said it could make the reactors more power-efficient, planners reduced the project down to six module reactors that could produce 462 MW total.

“After a lot of due diligence and discussions with members, it was decided a 6-module plant producing 462 MW would be just the right size for (Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems) members and outside utilities that want to join,” said LaVarr Webb, UAMPS spokesman.

The decision was made in late June, Webb said.

The project between UAMPS and Portland-based reactor producer NuScale received $1.4 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy last year. The reactor is planned to be built on the DOE’s 890-square mile desert site west of Idaho Falls at Idaho National Laboratory. The plant is expected to be running by 2029.

“A 6-module plant allows us to get to full subscription faster, but we would have reached full subscription regardless,” Webb said of the project’s ability to achieve full financial commitment from partners. “Before joining a next-generation, first-of-a-kind nuclear plant, utilities obviously want to be certain the plant is feasible and will be built. Now that we have made significant progress, including a large cost-share award from the Department of Energy, and NuScale has received design approval from the (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), we’re seeing more and more utilities express interest in the plant.”

So far, Webb said 28 participants have committed to a total of 103 MW. But, he said, “all are currently evaluating whether to increase or decrease” their commitments. He also said “a number of utilities outside of UAMPS are considering” making a commitment.

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‘Downwinders’ To Hold Candlelight Vigil In Remembrance Of Trinity Test

BY:  

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Southern New Mexicans will hold their 12th candlelight vigil in Tularosa Saturday commemorating the 76th anniversary of the Trinity Test, and remembering the suffering and deaths they believe it caused. The test was history’s first detonation of a nuclear device.

KSFR’s Dennis Carroll talks with Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, about progress she and supporters have made in their quest for acknowledgement and justice.

Latinos Still Coping with the Fallout of 1st Nuclear explosion

Russell Contreras | axios.com

The 1945 Trinity Test in New Mexico of the world’s first atomic bomb explosion. Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in New Mexico this month are marking the anniversary of the 1945 Trinity Test — an experiment resulting in health problems for generations living near the site of the world’s first atomic bomb explosion.

Why it matters: Descendants of those families use the July 16 anniversary to pressure lawmakers to compensate those who have suffered rare forms of cancer ever since the explosion.

The big picture: Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders, tells Axios that the overlooked residents of southern New Mexico finally are closer to being included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

  • The act is scheduled to sunset on July 15, 2022, but the Hispanic village of Tularosa and the Mescalero Apache Reservation were never included in the law to compensate Americans who lived near and suffered from nuclear testing.
  • Cordova said the Tularosa Basin Downwinders expect the U.S. Senate this year to consider a bill to extend the law and include southern New Mexico residents, in addition to Navajo uranium miners and some Idaho residents near other sites.
Tina Cordova speaking about the Trinity Test and its effects on her family.
Tina Cordova speaking about the Trinity Test and its effects on her family. Photo: Russell Contreras

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) plans on introducing a bill later this month that would extend the radiation act and include those forgotten residents, Crapo spokeswoman Melanie B. Lawhorn confirmed to Axios.

What happened: On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert, the U.S. Army detonated an atomic bomb developed through the Manhattan Project by scientists at the then-secret community of Los Alamos.

  • The bomb exploded at 5:29 a.m., and its thunderous roar during the rainy season knocked people from breakfast tables in Tularosa and sent others on the Mescalero Apache reservation into hiding.
  • The Army publicly attributed the sound to a mere ammunition explosion.
  • Residents reported black rain and burned cows that passed on radiation poisoning through milk to unsuspecting residents.
  • No one told residents of the site’s dangers, and they often picnicked there and took artifacts, including the radioactive green glass known as “trinitite.”

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In Memoriam: Priscilla Johnson McMillan, 1928–2021

A longtime supporter and friend of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, nuclear historian Priscilla Johnson McMillan passed away at 92 on July 7, 2021.

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

“Priscilla was generous with her time and intelligence. She was astonishingly knowledgeable about Russia as it emerged from the Cold War and equally modest. She will be greatly missed,” — Kennette Benedict

A 2013 article from the Cambridge Chronicle states, “Since high school, McMillan had been active in politics and supported strengthening the United Nations in the hopes of controlling nuclear weapons.

‘It was the early post-war generation,’ she recalled. ‘We were trying to strengthen the UN so nuclear weapons wouldn’t belong to one country or another.’”

Feds face suit over plan to build atomic weapons component factory in SC

VIEW NEWS CONFERENCE & PRESS RELEASE ABOVE

(also archived on the Facebook page of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project: https://www.facebook.com/scelp.org)

BY: SAMMY FRETWELL

The government never finished this mixed oxide fuel plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This site would be converted to a pit plutonium factory, according to plans. COURTESY HIGH FLYER

Four public interest groups said Tuesday they are suing the federal government, seeking to stop construction of multi-billion dollar nuclear production factories in South Carolina and New Mexico that would make components for new atomic weapons.

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri Valley CARES and the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition are seeking an extensive study, known as a programmatic environmental impact statement, to weigh the effects of new pit plants on the environment and people who live near them.

Federal officials have sought the new plants to update the nuclear arsenal, a prospect that project boosters say could provide 1,000 jobs at the Savannah River Site, the Aiken area weapons complex where a pit factory would be located.

But critics say the promise of jobs isn’t worth the risk of environmental contamination or the cost, now estimated to be about $15 billion for the two plants. 

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7-acre desert site building at Idaho National Laboratory emptied, awaiting destruction

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) collects waste from across the country. WIPP is the nation’s only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic, or TRU, waste. Most of the waste slated for WIPP disposal comes from the remediation of sites used to produce atomic weapons during World War II and through the Cold War. WIPP’s original planned closure date was 2024.

BY: JOHN ROARK

The Transuranic Storage Area/Retrieval Enclosure at the desert site of Idaho National Laboratory has been emptied and is awaiting demolition according to a Fluor press release. This will be the first building closed as part of a three phase closing of the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Projects complex.

The TSA/RE, part of the AMWTP complex, was built over an above-ground waste storage pad which housed Cold War weapons waste. Once covered, Fluor used the facility to characterize, treat, repackage, certify, and ship the waste out of Idaho.

Barrels and boxes of waste, heavy equipment, and metal debris were removed. Over the last 20 years more than 100,000 waste containers have been removed from the facility. Fluor personnel are removing the asphalt floor of the building and will dispose of the material at an on-site landfill, the release said.

Cleanup of the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Unit, including solid waste such as trash, tools, and clothes, is part of the 1995 settlement agreement to clean up waste from the Manhattan project and Cold War-era.

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The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program Left ‘a Horrible Legacy’ of Environmental Destruction and Death Across the Navajo Nation

Navajo uranium miners have died of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. They weren’t told of the risks, and they want compensation for radiation exposure continued.

BY: Cheyanne M. DanielsAmanda Rooker

Phil Harrison views a uranium loading bin left behind from the mining era, which stretched from the 1940s to the 1980s. Credit: Cheyanne M. Daniels/MNS

COVE CHAPTER, Ariz.—Phil Harrison walks the Lukachukai mountain range that towers over the Cove Chapter of the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona. The mountains rise against a clear blue sky, and the red sand is dotted with sagebrush and flowers.

On a clear, warm day in May, he pauses, picks up a sprig of sagebrush and rubs it between his hands. “This is good medicine; it restores your brain,” he says.

He brings the crushed sage to his nose and inhales the sharp scent, holding out his hand and showing the green leaves in his palm. “Boil it, run it through a filter and you can drink that and it restores your memory, provides youth,” he says, then drops the sage and adds, “but I don’t know if this is contaminated.”

He shakes his head and moves on.

Despite the stunning beauty of the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which encompasses parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the land is marred by a toxic history: a “horrible legacy” of uranium mining and processing that began in 1944, with the U.S. nuclear weapons program and has slowly killed Navajo miners and their families, littered the land with 523 abandoned mines and tainted pristine aquifers with radioactive ore and the dry air with radioactive dust.

It’s a legacy Harrison is intimately familiar with.

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Washington’s Dangerous New Consensus on China

Don’t Start Another Cold War

“Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with China will not be easy. But we can do better than a new Cold War.”

BY:

The unprecedented global challenges that the United States faces today—climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, massive economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, authoritarianism—are shared global challenges. They cannot be solved by any one country acting alone. They require increased international cooperation—including with China, the most populous country on earth.

It is distressing and dangerous, therefore, that a fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle. The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve.

It is quite remarkable how quickly conventional wisdom on this issue has changed. Just over two decades ago, in September 2000, corporate America and the leadership of both political parties strongly supported granting China “permanent normal trade relations” status, or PNTR. At that time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the corporate media, and virtually every establishment foreign policy pundit in Washington insisted that PNTR was necessary to keep U.S. companies competitive by giving them access to China’s growing market, and that the liberalization of China’s economy would be accompanied by the liberalization of China’s government with regard to democracy and human rights.

This position was seen as obviously and unassailably correct. Granting PNTR, the economist Nicholas Lardy of the centrist Brookings Institution argued in the spring of 2000, would “provide an important boost to China’s leadership, that is taking significant economic and political risks in order to meet the demands of the international community for substantial additional economic reforms.” The denial of PNTR, on the other hand, “would mean that U.S. companies would not benefit from the most important commitments China has made to become a member” of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Writing around the same time, the political scientist Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute put it more bluntly. “American trade with China is a good thing, for America and for the expansion of freedom in China,” he asserted. “That seems, or should seem, obvious.”

Well, it wasn’t obvious to me, which is why I helped lead the opposition to that disastrous trade agreement. What I knew then, and what many working people knew, was that allowing American companies to move to China and hire workers there at starvation wages would spur a race to the bottom, resulting in the loss of good-paying union jobs in the United States and lower wages for American workers. And that’s exactly what happened.

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China’s nuclear leak no Chernobyl; we should still worry

The Taishan incident “should be an awakening for China to learn the lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima, and do some soul-searching.”

BY DAVID FICKLING | BLOOMBERG OPINION (TNS)

Is a nuclear power plant on the edge of China’s 60 million-strong Pearl River Delta megalopolis on the verge of an emergency? It doesn’t look like it — but that doesn’t mean there’s no cause for concern.

The U.S. government has been assessing a report of a leak at the Taishan No. 1 nuclear power plant west of the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, CNN reported Monday, adding that the situation doesn’t pose a severe safety threat to workers at the plant or the wider public.

A separate statement from Electricite de France SA, or EDF, which owns 30% of the facility and controls Framatome, the company responsible for its maintenance, said there had been an “increase in the concentration of certain noble gases in the primary circuit” of the plant, adding this was a “known phenomenon.”

Don’t fret. There’s nothing in the reports so far to suggest Taishan is anywhere near turning into a Chernobyl, Fukushima or Three Mile Island.

Still, the manner in which the news has emerged suggests a deeper problem that China’s nuclear industry will need to rectify in the years ahead.

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Cardinal Cupich: A world without nuclear weapons is ‘not some utopian dream’

“Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to all life on Earth,” Cupich wrote. “Working toward a world without nuclear weapons, in which vigorous international monitoring and enforcement mechanisms verify compliance, is not some utopian dream. It is, rather, a practical and moral necessity.”

catholicnewsagncy.com  June 15, 2021

Ahead of important international meetings this week, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago urged President Joe Biden and other world leaders to work for “a world without nuclear weapons” as a “moral necessity.

Cardinal Cupich wrote an op-ed published in The Hill on June 11, before Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet on June 16 in Geneva. American and Russian diplomats are expected to begin negotiations on eventually replacing the 2010 New START nuclear arms control treaty, according to Politico. The two nations each control around 6,000 nuclear weapons each – about 90% of the world’s total stockpile.

Cupich wrote that at Thursday’s summit between Biden and Putin, “top on the agenda should be establishing a climate in which the Review Conference can succeed in reducing the nuclear threat.” He argued that the moment “could not be more urgent.”

“Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to all life on Earth,” Cupich wrote. “Working toward a world without nuclear weapons, in which vigorous international monitoring and enforcement mechanisms verify compliance, is not some utopian dream. It is, rather, a practical and moral necessity.”

The United States and Russia, as the two countries controlling most of the world’s nuclear weapons, “have unique responsibilities in taking the lead to eliminate the nuclear threat,” he said.

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Biden Is Going “Full Steam Ahead” on Trump’s Nuclear Weapons Spending Plans

FROM TRUTHOUT truthout.org  June 10, 2021

“As President Biden prepares for the G7 and NATO summits and a meeting with Vladimir Putin, we look at how the United States, Russia and other nuclear-armed nations continue to spend billions on nuclear weapons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite President Biden’s criticisms of the Trump administration’s nuclear policies during his candidacy, his administration is continuing initiatives to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is seeking $43 billion for nuclear weapons in his new budget. This comes as a new report from the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons reveals global spending on nuclear weapons increased during the pandemic, and found the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.6 billion on nuclear weapons in 2020, with the United States alone spending $37 billion.

“We’ve been seeing, from year to year, the spending on nuclear weapons has been increasing,” says Alicia Sanders-Zakre, ICAN’s policy and research coordinator (and former Nuclear Watch New Mexico 2019 summer intern). “Despite Biden’s campaign promises of wanting to work for arms control, wanting to work for disarmament, we’re seeing that in reality he’s going full steam ahead with Trump’s legacy nuclear weapons programs and continuing to spend more money on these weapons of mass destruction.”

U.S. must pledge ‘No First Strike’

“The Savannah River pit plant will cost about $11 billion to build, the NNSA said in its latest budget request: nearly two-and-a-half times as much as a preliminary estimate dating back at least to 2018. The Los Alamos pit plant will cost about $4 billion to build, the NNSA estimated in April, quoting figures from the project’s critical decision 1 review. It will cost some $30 billion to operate both plants for about 50 years, the NNSA has estimated.”

By Mary Burton Riseley | Santa Fe New Mexican

A spate of feel-good public relations articles and editorials have been published in the newspaper lately about all the beneficial work Los Alamos National Laboratory does — for example, analyzing the climate effects of wildfire smoke, helping plot the COVID-19 virus response, the economy-boosting relocation of over 500 LANL employees into otherwise unrented, empty office buildings in Santa Fe, and most recently, exploring the use of AI to predict earthquakes. With the exception of the move to Santa Fe, all of these aspects of the lab’s work are welcome.

Thanks especially to Rod Borup for the LANL work on hydrogen engines for commercial trucking.

But I, for one, cannot forget the lab’s core mission confirmed by a public presentation by its director, Thom Mason, on April 29. Always it is nuclear weapons design and development. From 100 percent of its budget in 1945, nuclear weapons work is still 79 percent. Since Rocky Flats has been closed, LANL’s mission has stretched to weapons production.

LANL’s “Central Mission”- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications

There have been better times. At the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidential term, nuclear weapons accounted for only 55 percent of LANL’s work, but Ronald Reagan quickly canceled extensive solar and geothermal energy programs. Many of us old-timers remember the vast quantities of expensive experimental solar equipment the late Ed Grothus sold from his lab outlet store, The Black Hole.

Despite the impression given by recent articles, LANL’s fiscal year 2021 budget of $3.68 billion allocates only meager amounts for nonnuclear weapons programs: 8.6 percent for nonproliferation, an estimated 6.8 percent work for others (whatever that may be), 3.1 percent for environmental cleanup, 1.7 percent for science programs, 0.1 percent for renewable energy and zero percent for energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, plutonium from past work continues to contaminate the Pajarito Plateau, as do radioactive chromium, cesium and other toxic radionuclides. This contamination is close to and upstream from Santa Fe. Why was Rocky Flats closed? Because it had so poisoned the earth and water under it that it threatened the well-being of thousands of Colorado residents.

DoE Nuclear Agency Can’t Fully Meet Production Deadline for Warhead Cores, Agency Official Tells Lawmakers

“The Savannah River pit plant will cost about $11 billion to build, the NNSA said in its latest budget request: nearly two-and-a-half times as much as a preliminary estimate dating back at least to 2018. The Los Alamos pit plant will cost about $4 billion to build, the NNSA estimated in April, quoting figures from the project’s critical decision 1 review. It will cost some $30 billion to operate both plants for about 50 years, the NNSA has estimated.”

By: Dan Leone | defensedaily.com

The National Nuclear Security Administration cannot meet a legal requirement to make at least 80 new plutonium cores for intercontinental ballistic missile warheads in 2030, the agency’s acting boss told lawmakers Thursday.

With the planned Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SPPPF) up to five years behind scheduled, “based on our latest information we assess that meeting the 2030 [deadline] … is not going to be achievable,” Charles Verdon, the acting administrator of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), said in the final minutes of a hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

That cat had been part way out of the bag since late May, when Jill Hruby, the Biden administration’s nominee to be the NNSA’s permanent administrator, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that SRPPF at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., would be as many as five years late.

Verdon’s testimony Thursday, however, clarified that without the SRPPF — to be built from the partially constructed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility in Savannah River’s F-Area — the NNSA’s other planned pit plant, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, cannot shoulder the load on its own by 2030.

Both pit plants are eventually supposed to be capable of surging their manufacturing capacity and staff to single-handedly produce the needed 80 pits annually, but the NNSA has not said when that might be possible. The agency did not reply to a request for comment on Thursday.

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Biden aims to boost LANL cleanup cash

“That’s good news,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said of the plan to get rid of the 35-year-old facility. “Demolishing that building will save the public costs and reduce risks.”

Coghlan at first said he was “pleasantly surprised” to see such a large increase in the budget for cleanup.

“Perhaps better put, flabbergasted,” he added, noting the $107.5 million increase in spending on the task compared to the current fiscal year.

He also noted that the Trump administration had proposed a $100 million decrease in spending on cleanup a year ago, but Congress ultimately kept cleanup spending at LANL at $226 million.

In a news release, Coghlan praised Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Environment Secretary James Kenney for suing DOE over a “continuing pattern of delay and noncompliance” with a 2016 consent order that provided benchmarks for cleanup that LANL has failed to meet.

By T.S. Last / Journal North | Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal June 9, 2021

Los Alamos Lab May Face Greater Demand for Plutonium Pits

“In the end, more than five times could be spent on that building than was spent constructing the $4 billion One World Trade Center — all to manufacture bomb cores, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Extending renovations by several years is bound to put pressure on the lab to ratchet pit production beyond the current goal, Coghlan said.”

By Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com Jun 8, 2021 | Santa Fe New Mexican

The plutonium pit factory at Savannah River Site in South Carolina will take years longer and cost billions of dollars more to ramp up than previously planned, which could push Los Alamos National Laboratory to make more nuclear bomb cores to fill the gap, watchdog groups say.

For the past three years, plans have called for the Los Alamos lab to produce 30 plutonium warhead triggers by 2026 and Savannah River to make 50 by 2030, but the latter is proving much more costly and nettlesome than anticipated.

Jill Hruby, the nominee to head the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a U.S. Senate hearing last week that Savannah River might not fully operate until 2035.

And a recently released budget proposal for the country’s nuclear weapons program going into 2022 shows the estimated cost of converting Savannah River Site into a pit plant ballooning to $11 billion from $4.6 billion. A budget note said the estimate could go up.

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Rep. Chris Chandler and NMED Sec. James Kenney Unhappy With Progress Of Waste Shipment From LANL

“The poor performance at LANL I think is exactly why we sued the Department of Energy because we believe the DOE and contractor are in violation of the Consent Order, we need to correct that and from a policy perspective, the Department of Energy has prioritized over New Mexico, cleanup at Savannah River, cleanup at Idaho National Labs, cleanup at all these other places and that is unacceptable to the state of New Mexico since we are the only state that holds the geologic repository known as WIPP,” – New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney

BY MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.com | The Los Alamos Reporter June 8, 2021

District 43 Rep. Christine Chandler and New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney on Monday both criticized the Department of Energy’s lack of progress in shipping waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad. Their comments were made during the Legislative Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee meeting. Chandler is the vice chair of that committee.

Eletha Trujillo, Bureau Chief of the Hazardous Waste Planning Division at the state Energy, Minerals and National Resources Department, earlier in the meeting noted that there are two groups from LANL that ship waste – the DOE Environmental Management group and the DOE National Security Administration group.

“The DOE NNSA group had some safety violations back in February – the spark incident that occurred with a barrel at Los Alamos and so they have not been able to do any shipments. They do have material, but they’re not able to ship anything because they’re under a safety hold by the NRC. When they complete their plan and they get approval again from the NRC then the NNSA will be able to ship again. We don’t know when that’s going to happen. Typically the NNSA tends to have more safety violations than Environmental Management,” Trujillo said.

She added that EM has shipped their material and does not have enough material for a full load.

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$72.6 billion. That’s how much the nine nuclear-armed states spent on their nuclear weapons in 2020…

during the worst pandemic in a century and when the treaty banning nuclear weapons became law, according to a new ICAN report. It’s an inflation-adjusted increase of $1.4 billion from last year.

ICAN (@nuclearban) |

But that’s not all. The report, “Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” dug through thousands of pages of contracts and annual reports to bring you the full picture of nuclear weapons spending. Because it’s not just countries’ governments that are responsible for wasting resources on weapons of mass destruction. Companies, lobbyists and think tanks are all complicit in 2020 spending on nuclear weapons.

In 2020, the report finds that less than a dozen companies got $27.7 billion contracts to work on nuclear weapons. Those companies then turned around and spent $117 million lobbying decision makers to spend more money on defense. And they also spent upwards of $10 million funding most of the major think tanks that research and write about policy solutions about nuclear weapons.

This spending is immoral and contrary to international law. Every actor in the circle is complicit. It’s time to speak up. Tell your country to stop spending money on nuclear weapons and join the TPNW. Protest a company that’s building these weapons near you. Ask think tanks to stop accepting money from the companies building nuclear weapons.

Business as usual? This is how much they spent on nuclear weapons in 2020...

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New company sought to operate Waste Isolation Pilot Plant under $3 billion contract

Little change to workforce, operations expected

Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus |

A new primary contractor could be coming to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant as the U.S. Department of Energy sought bids from prospective contractors for the management and operations of the nuclear waste site near Carlsbad.

The current holder of the contract Nuclear Waste Partnership began its work at WIPP in 2012 and its contract will expire in September 2021, with an extension carrying the contract through September 2022.

At that point, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Amentum – NWP’s parent company – Keith Wood said the contractor’s lifetime would end.

“NWP was established to perform the current mission for the current contract,” Wood said. “That company will not be bidding on the next contract. Their sole mission was to perform the work under the current contract.”

Wood declined to comment on if any Amentum-led subsidiaries would bid on the new contract to operate WIPP.

The four-year contract will include six, one-year extension options and was valued at $3 billion over a 10-year performance period.

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U.S. Plutonium Pit Costs Rise

“In addition, the Government Accountability Office GAO noted in a report published last September that the NNSA has been unable to plan for and complete major construction projects on time and, over the past two decades, Los Alamos has twice had to suspend laboratory-wide operations after the discovery of significant safety issues.”

By: Kingston Reif | armscontrolnow.org

The Energy Department’s cost to build the infrastructure to produce new plutonium cores for U.S. nuclear warheads could be as high as $18 billion, according to a department estimate and yet-to-be-released internal estimates detailed to Arms Control Today by a congressional source.

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico manipulates plutonium as part of the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program in 2005. Current plans call for expanding the production of plutonium pits at both Los Alamos and at the Savannah RIver Site in South Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico manipulates plutonium as part of the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program in 2005. Current plans call for expanding the production of plutonium pits at both Los Alamos and at the Savannah RIver Site in South Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)

The updated price tag is nearly two and half times larger than earlier projections and is likely to raise fresh doubts about the affordability of the department’s aggressive plans to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.

The updated estimates are not reflected in the budget plan for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that the Trump administration bequeathed to the Biden administration. That means future NNSA weapons program budget requests will require significant increases beyond current plans just to accommodate the growth in the projected cost of pit production.

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Plain Talk: On this Memorial Day, consider getting rid of instruments of death

The sad fact is that if the world’s inclination to settle disputes by going to war — whether it be in Iraq or in Israel and Palestine or any of the other dozens of places that teem with hate — results in the use of a nuclear weapon, we won’t have enough people to decorate all the graves.

BY:

Dale-Harriet Rogovich, with husband Paul, places a rose on the grave of an unknown Union soldier after a Memorial Day ceremony at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison last year.
AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Today’s the day we pause to remember the tens of thousands of men and women who paid the ultimate price in service to their country.

When I was a kid this day was known as “Decoration Day.” I remember my grandparents taking us kids to the old cemetery in New Glarus to place flowers and flags, decorations if you please, on the graves of their own departed family members. Two of them had served in the Civil War.

Other folks placed memorials on the gravestones of relatives who had served in World War I, and still others paid their respects to those who gave their lives in the most recent world conflict at the time, World War II.

Today thousands of Americans will also be remembering loved ones killed in Vietnam, then Iraq and Afghanistan and countless other “skirmishes” where our leaders chose to place our young people in harm’s way. Sometimes the cause was good, more often, not so good.

A couple of weeks ago Buzz Davis, a tireless advocate for peace from Stoughton who’s now retired in Arizona, sent along a column he had written that once again calls on all of us to work harder for peace than we consistently do for war.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Davis was a founder of our local Vietnam Veterans for Peace and is still active in the national organization Vets for Peace that spreads the message that we need to find ways to solve our conflicts other than killing each other and filling cemeteries with gravestones to decorate on what we now call Memorial Day.

“Humans have been alive for 200,000 to 300,000 years,” he points out. “Nearly every major discovery has been used to ‘improve’ our ability to kill others.

“From learning how to sharpen sticks, to metal instruments, to explosive power, boats, airplanes, guns, germs and now nuclear reactions — inquisitive men and women ‘discover’ these and, mostly boys, use them to kill others,” he adds.

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Biden Proposes $1 billion for Nuclear Weapons Work

If Savannah River is delayed in reaching its pit-making goal, Los Alamos lab could be pressured to produce more than 30 pits a year.

“All of this may boomerang on Los Alamos lab, which has been incapable of making a pit for the nuclear weapons stockpile since 2011,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Coghlan was referring to a contract in which the lab made 11 pits in one year for Navy missiles a decade ago. That was the lab’s highest pit production, which soon ceased.

BY: Scott Wyland | © Santa Fe New Mexican

Los Alamos National Laboratory would receive about $1 billion for plutonium operations at the heart of its effort to produce 30 nuclear bomb cores by 2026, according to a partial budget the White House released Friday.

The amount would be more than a 20 percent jump from the $837 million being spent this year on the lab’s plutonium work, a clear signal that President Joe Biden will echo his predecessors’ calls to modernize the nuclear stockpile to deter China, Russia, Iran and other adversaries that have growing first-strike abilities.

The lab’s $837 million plutonium budget this year was 2.7 times larger than the prior year’s allocation of $308 million.

The lab’s plutonium funding was part of the draft budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The budget also requests $603 million — a 37 percent increase — to move the Savannah River Site in South Carolina toward producing 50 pits a year.

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Next Steps Following Public Hearing on New Shaft for WIPP Expansion

Last week the New Mexico Environment Department virtual public hearing on the new shaft to expand the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) took place over four days, from Monday through Thursday.  The public comment period ended on Friday.

[A special shout out to all those who submitted public comments.  THANK YOU!!!] 

The hearing process continues until at least October with the filing of post-hearing documents by the Parties supporting the expansion, including the Hazardous Waste Bureau of the Environment Department https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/ , the Department of Energy (DOE), and Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, the contractors at WIPP.  https://wipp.energy.gov/

The Parties opposing the expansion are:  Southwest Research and Information Center http://www.sric.org/ ; CCNS http://nuclearactive.org/ ; Nuclear Watch New Mexico https://nukewatch.org/ ; and individuals, including longtime activist Deborah Reade; former Environment Department Regulator for WIPP, Steve Zappe; and a former Environmental Evaluation Group (EEG) scientist, George Anastas.  Dr. James Channell, another former EEG scientist, testified in opposition to the new shaft and WIPP’s physical expansion.  http://www.sric.org/nuclear/eeg.php

CCNS anticipates the Hearing Officer’s report and the Parties’ comments will end up on the Environment Department Secretary’s desk in mid-September.

Read the whole story and more at nuclearactive.org

Regional Coalition Of LANL Communities Board Unanimously Passes Resolution To Dissolve

THANK YOU to everyone who contacted city officials opposing the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities!

BY MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.comlosalamosreporter.com  

Members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board voted Friday afternoon to approve a resolution authorizing the direction of the winding down of the RCLC at the point of its termination. The resolution also directs legal counsel Nancy Long, treasurer Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz and Los Alamos County as the fiscal agent to take all actions necessary and warranted to see that the termination and all matters that need to be attended to upon that termination, are taken care of in an orderly way and ratifies actions that have been taken to this point to accomplish that.

Long said the resolution is the beginning of the process and that the resolution expresses the will of the board that the RCLC be wound down and terminated officially with the actions that are necessary to accomplish that.

“We foresee that there will be matters relating to payment of invoices and completing the audit for the fiscal year and we’re hoping to accomplish all those in short order if the board decides this is the direction it wants to take with the organization,” she said.

Ironically, the motion to proceed with the resolution for the disbandment and dissolution of the Coalition was made by Rio Arriba County Commissioner Christine Bustos who later said it was her first and last meeting. Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia seconded the motion. Garcia had abstained during voting with his own government in decisions regarding the Coalition.

Only five member entities were represented at the meeting and all five voted in favor of the resolution. Absent were Santa Fe County, Taos County, Jemez Pueblo and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

Garcia thanked the community members for their constant engagement in the RCLC process.

“I think its critical that in the RCLC or any other entity community engagement is critical and I believe that as we move forward through this process we still need to continue to keep our community members engaged and make sure we are working towards our best interests,” he said.

Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez said he learned a lot in terms of what Espanola needs to do in terms of advocacy and what need to be done to champion issues improve the lives of constituents.

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Nuclear News Archives – 2020

India Successfully Tests Nuclear-Capable Shaurya Missile

“’This kind of demonstration of capability/power is extremely important to give a loud message to another nuclear-powered country that they should not take us for granted. This will bring in inherent dissuasion that will further discourage our adversaries from using nuclear weapons (against us),’ said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd).

Debabrata Mohanty, Rahul Singh | Edited by Sparshita Saxena Bhubaneshwar/New Delhihindustantimes.com

India on Saturday successfully test-fired a new version of the nuclear-capable hypersonic Shaurya missile with a range of 750 kilometres from a defence facility off the Odisha coast on Saturday, officials said. The launch is the latest in a string of recent weapons tests amid military tensions with China in the Ladakh sector.

The launch came three days after India test-fired an extended-range BrahMos surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore in Odisha. The cruise missile can hit targets 400 kilometres away – its range increased from the existing 290 kilometres.

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Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance: Response to NNSA issuing Amended Record of Decision on EU operations at Y-12 Plant

GOVERNMENT ISSUES RECORD OF DECISION TO CONTINUE NUCLEAR WEAPONS PRODUCTION AT Y-12 COMPLEX IN OAK RIDGE, DOWNPLAYING RISK TO WORKERS AND PUBLIC CITIZENS SAY, “A BEGINNER’S CLASS IN DISSEMBLING”

The National Nuclear Security Administration issued an Amended Record of Decision for the Continued Operation of the Y-12 National Security Complex* on September 30, 2020. NNSA says the new decision updates its October 2019 AROD.

The AROD dismisses risks from earthquakes and declares that NNSA will continue to conduct nuclear weapons manufacturing operations in facilities that do meet environmental and safety codes for at least 20 more years under its Enriched Uranium program. This AROD is the result of a federal court decision in September 2019 in a case brought by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the Natural Resources Defense Council and four individual plaintiffs. In that decision, Chief Judge Pamela Reeves ruled NNSA had not met the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Judge Reeves vacated two Supplement Analyses and one previous AROD and ordered NNSA to conduct further analysis on the risks of earthquakes.

“The new Amended Record of Decision is a pretty respectable beginner’s class in dissembling,” said OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison. “The first lie is a big one, and easily disproved. NNSA says ‘The court further held that NNSA is not required to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the UPF Project or the Extended Life Program.’ This is simply not true.

“The court explicitly did not make that finding; it would have been inappropriate. What the court did was tell NNSA they didn’t have to prepare a new or Supplemental EIS due to changed circumstances. Instead, they had to prepare a Supplement Analysis—one step earlier in the process—to determine whether or not a new or Supplemental EIS was required. That is the only purpose of an SA, and NNSA knows it. They just tried to spin it. Either that, or they think the court didn’t understand what it was saying.

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SC Judge Freezes Federal Funds From $600 Million Plutonium Settlement

“A former Democratic state legislator, Sellers said that from his experience, he knows if the $600 million — or however much money there is — goes into the general fund, the money will not be spent on the counties impacted by the storage of plutonium.

BY: JOHN MONK | thestate.com

The K Area Complex at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina is used to store excess plutonium and other special nuclear materials.
Credit SAVANNAH RIVER SITE / SRS.GOV

BARNWELL, SC – A state circuit judge on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction freezing $600 million in federal funds that came to South Carolina as a result of a political settlement in a long-running dispute over what to do with some 11 tons of deadly plutonium now stored at the Savannah River Site in Barnwell County.

Judge Clifton Newman issued the injunction against State Attorney General Alan Wilson shortly before noon Wednesday in response to a motion by State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, who represents Barnwell County, Allendale County and five other counties in the area.

Newman’s injunction, issued from the bench in a Barnwell County courtroom, is temporary and within a month he is expected to hold another hearing that will fully air differing sides on what to do with the $600 million.

“All federal funds received by the state must be appropriated by the state in accordance with the federal purpose for which it was intended,” Hutto told the judge. Since the funds in the settlement were given by the federal government as compensation for the plutonium stored in their geographic area, they should generally be spent there in those impacted counties along the state’s southwestern boundary, Hutto argued.

It is essential that the “identity” of the federal funds be preserved before Wilson routes the money into the state’s general fund, where other lawmakers might seek to spend it for purposes outside those South Carolina counties Hutto represents, Hutto told the judge.

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Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is ‘Very Likely to Work,’ Studies Suggest

“…the hurdles to building a machine that can create and control a fusion plasma — a roiling ultrahot cloud of atoms that will damage or destroy anything it touches — are enormous.”

BY: HENRY FOUNTAIN | nytimes.com

Scientists developing a compact version of a nuclear fusion reactor have shown in a series of research papers that it should work, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change.

Construction of a reactor, called Sparc, which is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is expected to begin next spring and take three or four years, the researchers and company officials said.

Although many significant challenges remain, the company said construction would be followed by testing and, if successful, building of a power plant that could use fusion energy to generate electricity, beginning in the next decade.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

DOE Activities Raise Safety Concerns about Plutonium at Three Facilities

“The DOE proposal to dispose of the useless MOX fuel pellets is unprecedented, but has been subjected to only a brief mention in an environmental analysis on pit production. Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, says, “The analysis conducted on the disposal of the plutonium fuel is totally inadequate and a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be conducted before any repackaging and shipment to WIPP. ”

September 30, 2020 | nuclearactive.org

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), plans are under way to remove unused plutonium fuel from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The uranium-plutonium fuel, containing around 26.4 kilograms (58.2 pounds) of weapon-grade plutonium, is called “mixed-oxide,” or MOX.  In a late-August document, DOE stated that the MOX fuel, produced in France for a program at the Savannah River Site (SRS), would be disposed of as transuranic waste and therefore go to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

At present the MOX fuel, in the form of pellets, is stored at LANL’s PF-4 plutonium facility.  DOE needs to empty PF-4 to have space for its planned annual production of up to eighty plutonium “pits”, or triggers, for nuclear weapons.

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Four powerful players want a nuclear waste solution. What’s stopping them?

“The nuclear industry’s position in support of spent fuel legislation is tempered by a combination of reality and priorities. While the industry regularly testifies in favor of finding a long-term solution to the spent fuel problem, the reality is that state legislative prohibitions on the construction of new nuclear reactors are meaningless, given that no new reactors are planned in the foreseeable future. It is uneconomic and/or not politically viable to build a new reactor in the United States—even one of the small modular reactors under development.”

BY: JDAVID KLAUS | thebulletin.org

The 92-page platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention does not include a single sentence on the issue of how to manage the more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel sitting at 70 sites in communities across the country. The Republicans adjourned without adopting any new platform for 2020, leaving their 2016 platform in place—but it also did not address the nuclear waste issue.

Ironically, political interest in addressing the spent fuel issue is decreasing at a time when the number of closed nuclear plants in the United States is increasing—and it is common practice to level the plant and leave the spent fuel behind. If the issue had been as significant a political priority today as it was in the past, it would have been included in one or both of the platforms.

In its 2004 and 2008 platforms, the Democratic Party committed to “protect Nevada and its communities from the high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, which has not been proven to be safe by sound science.” Republicans,  in their 2012 platform, focused on how “[t]he federal government’s failure to address the storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel has left huge bills for States and taxpayers.”

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Trump Administration Orders Assessment on Bolstering Nuclear Warheads as Talks With Russia Stall

“U.S. diplomats are trying to play hardball with Russia in negotiations over whether to extend New START.

“It’s very stupid,” added a former GOP arms control official who declined to be identified because he still advises the government. “It makes absolutely no sense to threaten to upload. It becomes a valid leveraging point only if the other side can’t do it. The Russians can do it, too.” ”

BY: DANIEL LIPPMAN, BRYAN BENDERLARA SELIGMAN | politico.com

The Trump administration has asked the military to assess how quickly it could pull nuclear weapons out of storage and load them onto bombers and submarines if an arms control treaty with Russia is allowed to expire in February, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

The request to U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska is part of a strategy to pressure Moscow into renegotiating the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before the U.S. presidential election, the people said.

In making the request, the Trump administration wants to underscore that it is serious about letting the treaty lapse if Russia fails to meet U.S. demands. The negotiating team is leery that Russia is dragging out the talks in the hope that Joe Biden — who has pledged to extend New START under what Moscow believes will be more favorable terms than what this White House is offering — wins the election.

“It’s a clear signal that the costs for not negotiating before the election are going to go up,” said one of the people, who requested anonymity to relay sensitive discussions. The Trump administration is “trying to create an incentive, and it’s a real incentive, for the Russians to sit down and actually negotiate.”

The request for the assessment came in the last two weeks from a group of officials at the National Security Council and State, Defense and Energy departments that’s supporting Ambassador Marshall Billingslea in negotiations with Moscow to try to replace New START before it runs out in February.
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Kaysville Withdraws From Nuclear Power Project

“We just don’t want to take on the risk of being in the project at this point.” – Councilman Andre Lortz

NATHAN BROWNpostregister.com

One more Utah city has withdrawn from a project to build 12 small nuclear reactors west of Idaho Falls.

The Kaysville City Council voted unanimously a week-and-a-half ago to withdraw from the Carbon Free Power Project, although the resolution left the door open for the city to hold a special meeting to rejoin the project if anything changes.

“Kaysville City is still interested in being involved with the UAMPS project,” Mayor Katie Witt said in an email. “However, we did withdraw on Sept. 17 for the time being. We would like to participate if our concerns are mitigated.”

Councilman Andre Lortz said he believes in the project, calling it “an innovative project that’s going to be very important in the future” that could fill gaps wind and solar power can’t.

“We’d love to be in this project,” he said. “We just don’t want to take on the risk of being in the project at this point.”

Lehi and Logan have also withdrawn from the Carbon Free Power Project over the past month-and-a-half, citing potential risks to local taxpayers if costs go up. There are still more than 30 cities and power systems, including Idaho Falls, that are part of it, and the members have until Oct. 31 to recommit to the project’s next phase by approving the new budget. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is waiting for the U.S. Department of Energy to give final approval to a promised $1.4 billion to support the project.

Portland-based NuScale Power is designing the small modular reactors, which will produce 720 megawatts and which UAMPS plans to build at the DOE desert site west of Idaho Falls. The plant is expected to be operational in 2029.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

WORLD NUCLEAR INDUSTRY LOSES GROUND TO CHEAP RENEWABLES AS CANADA CONSIDERS SMALL MODULAR REACTORS

“The world nuclear industry “continues to be in stasis,” with power plants shutting down at a faster rate in western Europe and the United States, the number of operating reactor units at a 30-year low, and the few new construction projects running into “catastrophic cost overruns and schedule slippages,” according to the latest edition of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR), released last week.”

theenergymix.com

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission/wikimedia commons

“Some 408 nuclear reactors were in operation in 31 countries as of July 2020, a decline of nine units from mid-2019 and 30 fewer than the 2002 peak of 438,” Reuters writes, citing the report. “The slow pace of new projects coming onstream also increased the overall age of the global fleet to around 31 years.”

“Overall, in terms of the cost of power, new nuclear is clearly losing to wind and photovoltaics,” with the two renewable technologies now receiving about 10 times the investment, write Jungmin Kang, former chair of South Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, South Korea, and Princeton University Professor Emeritus Frank von Hippel, in their foreword to the 361-page report. That meant new nuclear projects “were struggling to secure finance amid competition from renewables, with reported investment decisions for the construction of new nuclear plants at around US$31 billion in 2019,” Reuters says.

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Biden would push for less US reliance on nukes for defense

“If future budgets reverse the choices we’ve made, and pour additional money into a nuclear buildup, it hearkens back to the Cold War and will do nothing to increase the day-to-day security of the United States or our allies,” Biden said in a Jan. 11, 2017, speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

ROBERT BURNSapnews.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden leaves little doubt that if elected he would try to scale back President Donald Trump’s buildup in nuclear weapons spending. And although the former vice president has not fully detailed his nuclear priorities, he says he would make the U.S. less reliant on the world’s deadliest weapons.

The two candidates’ views on nuclear weapons policy and strategy carry unusual significance in this election because the United States is at a turning point in deciding the future of its weapons arsenal and because of growing debate about the threat posed by Chinese and Russian nuclear advances.

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The State of New Mexico Objects to Nuclear Fuel Storage Plan

“New Mexico is strongly objecting to federal nuclear regulators’ preliminary recommendation that a license be granted to build a multibillion-dollar storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the U.S.”

BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS abqjournal.com

State officials, in a letter submitted Tuesday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that the site is geologically unsuitable and that technical analysis has been inadequate. They also say regulators have failed to consider environmental justice concerns and have therefore fallen short of requirements spelled out by federal environmental laws.

The letter also reiterates the state’s concerns that the storage facility would become a permanent dumping ground for the spent fuel, as the federal government has no permanent plan for dealing with the waste that has been piling up at nuclear power plants.

The officials pointed to a legacy of contamination in New Mexico that includes uranium mining and milling and decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at national laboratories, saying minority and low-income populations already have suffered disproportionate health and environmental effects as a result.

Given the concerns, state officials wrote that a draft environmental review of the project “fails to demonstrate that residents of New Mexico, including vulnerable populations, will be adequately protected from exposure to the radioactive and toxic contaminants that could be released to air and water by the proposed action.”

A group of Democratic state lawmakers also raised concerns.

Elected leaders in southeastern New Mexico support the project, saying it would bring jobs and revenue to the region and provide a temporary option for dealing with the spent fuel.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The WNISR2020 Assesses Challenges Nuclear Power is Facing in the Age of COVID‑19

“New renewable resources like wind and solar power increased by 184 gigawatts last year, while nuclear power grew by only 2.4 gigawatts. As a result — for the first time in history — renewable sources (excluding hydropower) generated more power than nuclear plants in 2019.”

“Nuclear energy has become irrelevant in the electricity generating technology market,” said Mycle Schneider, the coordinator of the report. “At the same time, COVID-19 puts additional stress on the sector.”

September 24, 2020 | worldnuclearreport.com

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR2020), released on 24 September 2020, assesses in 361 pages the status and trends of the international nuclear industry and analyzes the additional challenges nuclear power is facing in the age of COVID-19. For the first time we report includes as specific chapter analyzing nuclear programs in the Middle East as the first reactor started up in the Arab world.

Seven interdisciplinary experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Lebanon/U.S. and the U.K., from top think tanks like Chatham House in London and prestigious universities like Harvard in Cambridge, Meiji in Tokyo and Technical University in Berlin, have contributed to the report, along with a data engineer, numerous proofreaders and two artistic designers. The foreword was provided by Frank von Hippel, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, and Jungmin Kang, former head of the safety authority in South Korea.

The number of operating reactors in the world has dropped by nine over the past year to 408 as of mid-2020, that is below the level already reached in 1988, and 30 units below the historic peak of 438 in 2002.

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Ohio EPA: Plan for A-plant landfill to be issued

Piketon’s Chandler rips Ohio delegation; Pike Commissioner vows legal action

BY: RICK GREENE | southernohiotoday.com

COURTESY OF VILLAGE OF PIKETON
Piketon Councilwoman Jennifer Chandler criticized Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, along with U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, for what she calls a lack of engagement on the controversial issue of an On-Site Waste Disposal Facility at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon. “Now they can have the largest nuclear waste dump east of the Mississippi River,” Chandler said.

In a virtual meeting Tuesday, the Ohio EPA announced it plans to issue the Waste Acceptance Criteria Implementation Plan, which outlines the disposition process for materials allowed to be placed into the controversial On-Site Waste Disposal Facility at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon.

The announcement comes despite calls from officials with the Village of Piketon and the Pike County Board of Commissioners for more engagement from the public on the contaminants that will be permitted inside the radiological landfill.

During the meeting, the Ohio EPA explained the Waste Acceptance Criteria had been established in 2015 during the process that led to the Waste Disposition Record of Decision. Ohio EPA says the Implementation Plan deals primarily with the execution of the disposition of wastes previously determined by the 2015 Waste Acceptance Criteria.

Piketon Councilwoman Jennifer Chandler, a longtime critic of the U.S. Department of Energy and the landfill, asked multiple questions during the virtual forum. Afterwards, she said she remains frustrated by DOE, the Ohio EPA and Ohio’s federal delegation by what she calls a complete disregard for the people of Southern Ohio.

“I’m getting angrier and angrier as Ohio EPA continues to dodge questions and continues to suggest there was public involvement in this process,” Chandler said. “I do appreciate the forum and appreciate it was tough for some (Ohio EPA representatives) to say what they had to say. But it was very clear to all of us who is really in charge of this project, and that’s DOE and it’s going to have its way in Southern Ohio because Ohio EPA can’t do anything about it.”

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Why Does Missile Defense Still Enjoy Bipartisan Support in Congress?

“…Ending the defense contractor honey pot. Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative was a turning point because it provided substantial funding for missile defense research and design. It was as though the defense contractors who were engaged in this research had suddenly found gold in a Wild West landscape. The initiative became an uncontrollable and unaccountable program with lax oversight, resulting in wasted taxpayer money and virtually no advancement in missile defense technologies.”

BY: SUBRATA GHOSHROY | thebulletin.org

The program to develop a missile defense system to protect the United States mainland has existed in one form or another for nearly six decades. Though it was controversial from the beginning and faced nearly unsurmountable technical challenges, it has enjoyed bipartisan support and continued funding in Congress for more than 20 years.

In July, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed their own versions of a defense authorization bill for 2021. By a wide majority, both chambers authorized more than $740 billion for defense spending next year. Tucked away in the Senate bill was $20.3 billion for missile defense, and that funding could make it into the final version that lands on the president’s desk. While $20.3 billion may not seem significant in a $740 billion budget, it is nevertheless a startling figure. What’s more, US taxpayers have invested nearly $200 billion on missile defense in the past two decades and another $100 billion in the decade before, with little to show for it. Even under artificially easy tests conditions, the most modern missile defense system meant to protect the United States mainland has failed more times than it has succeeded often in highly scripted tests.

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U.S. scrambles to do nuclear deal with Russia before election, issuing ultimatum

Frustration is mounting inside the Trump administration as Russia gives little indication of whether it will agree to an arms control deal before President Trump faces reelection, according to senior U.S. administration officials, who are trying to secure the deal.

Paul Sonne & John Hudsonwashingtonpost.com

U.S. officials presented a proposal to the Russians two weeks ago in Vienna as part of negotiations that began in June. Under the deal, the United States and Russia would extend the soon-to-expire New START pact for a limited time while negotiating a replacement treaty. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would sign a political agreement outlining a framework for the replacement treaty and what it would cover.

The administration’s scramble to cut a deal with Russia before the election comes as the president’s top diplomats have been rushing to secure diplomatic achievements as U.S. voters begin going to the polls.

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‘Midnight Rockets’: Whistleblower lawsuit reveals toxic releases by Ohio nuclear plant

“According to the suit, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant “would regularly and purposefully vent raw UF6 [uranium hexafluoride], transuranics, heavy metals, and o’her toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.’”

BY: SEAMUS BRUNER | justthenews.com

A whistleblower lawsuit filed by former workers at an Ohio nuclear plant has revealed new details about disturbing practices during the plaintiffs’ tenures at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PORTS), including the alarming process — dubbed “midnight rockets” — of releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

According to the suit, “PORTS would regularly and purposefully vent raw UF6 [uranium hexafluoride], transuranics, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals into the atmosphere from the roof of the process buildings.”

Filed against U.S. Department of Energy nuclear fuel contractors on Sept. 3 in the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Walburn, et al, v. Centrus Energy Corp., et al   alleges criminal conduct, gross negligence, poisoning of nuclear workers, and contamination of Ohio communities in Pike, Scioto and neighboring counties with radioactive isotopes, causing cancer clusters, injuries, sickness and death, as well as loss of property values.

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LANL Could Put Weapons-Grade Waste in WIPP

Tom Clements, executive director of the nonprofit Savannah River Site Watch, said the unspent fuel rods at Los Alamos contain weapons-grade plutonium. He also contended the proposed disposal method is improper and potentially dangerous. The material could get in the wrong hands or a waste barrel could burst, he said

BY:  | santafenewmexican.com

The National Nuclear Security Administration plans to move weapons-grade plutonium from Los Alamos National Laboratory to an underground storage site in Southern New Mexico that nuclear watchdogs say is not intended to hold such high-level waste.

The plan could pose a security risk, argued the leader of one watchdog group, who believes officials should conduct more analysis before moving forward.

About 26.4 kilograms of unspent nuclear fuel rods, which have been stored at Los Alamos’ plutonium plant since 2005, must be cleared out to make room for the production of new pits, the softball-sized cores that trigger warheads, according to an August report.

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Former World Leaders Urge Ratification of Nuclear Arms Ban Treaty

“In an open letter, the onetime leaders implored their own governments to embrace an arms treaty negotiated at the U.N. three years ago. It is six ratifications short of the 50 needed to go into effect.”

24newsorder.com

Nonetheless, delegates from 122 nations — practically two-thirds of the U.N. membership — participated within the negotiations for the treaty, and 84 have signed it. As of Sunday, 44 of these nations had ratified the treaty, which might come into power 90 days after the 50th ratification. At least one or two extra nations might ratify it in coming days or even weeks.

Under the treaty, all nuclear-weapons use, risk of use, testing, growth, manufacturing, possession, switch and stationing in a special nation can be prohibited. For nuclear-armed nations that be part of, the treaty outlines a course of for destroying stockpiles and imposing the promise to stay free of nuclear weapons.

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These Russians aren’t going away

“Labeled “extremists” and “foreign agents”, Fedor Maryasov and Andrey Talevlin put country and courage first.”

beyondnuclearinternational.com

These Russians aren’t going away

The first time Fedor Maryasov realized that something might be very wrong in his community was as a teenager. Growing up in the uranium mining city of Zarafshan, Uzbekistan, young Fedor and his friends would swim in artificial ponds holding discharge water from the uranium mines. They fished there too, but they began to notice the fish were disfigured by genetic abnormalities, displaying red spots and growths. Still, the authorities were saying nothing. And the teenage boys, like most people in Zarafshan, knew little about how radiation affects living organisms.

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Ambassador: Time is right for new arms control agreement

“Arguing that its stockpile is small, China has said it would participate only if the U.S. agrees to nuclear parity among all nations. Russia has suggested that if China were part of the pact, other countries would need to be included as well.”

BY: The Associated Press, SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | apnews.com

Time is right for new arms control agreement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Trump administration has sketched out a framework that it hopes will avoid a three-way arms race as a deadline nears for extending the only remaining nuclear arms control deal with Russia and as China looks to expand its nuclear forces.

Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the special presidential envoy for arms control, spoke with The Associated Press about negotiations with Russia while touring some of the top nuclear research labs and production sites in the United States.

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Arizona’s ‘downwinders,’ exposed to Cold War nuclear testing, fight for compensation

“It’s a travesty, and the government should not be allowed to get away with it,” one Mohave County, Arizona, resident said.

BY: ANITA HASSAN | nbcnews.com

Arizona's 'downwinders' exposed to Cold War nuclear testing fight for compensation
Eddie Pattillo, 81, a retired construction manager pictured at his home in Kingman, Ariz., has had cancer twice since 1997. CREDIT: Joe Buglewicz / for NBC News

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Danielle Stephens ran her fingers down a long list of her relatives’ names and sighed.

All of them had been diagnosed with cancer. Most of them had died, many before they were 55.

Like Stephens, 81, they had all spent their lives in Kingman, Arizona, where during the Cold War they often watched the early morning sky lit up by orange flashes from atomic bombs detonated at a government testing site in the Nevada desert less than 150 miles north of the city.

“Back then, no one thought the tests were dangerous,” said Stephens, who ran a cattle ranch with her husband.

The list of her family members with cancer grew to 32 in July, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. It is the radiation exposure from those nuclear tests that Stephens believes caused her cancer and that of her family members and scores of others who lived in lower Mohave County in the 1950s and ’60s. Her relatives had breast, colon, thyroid and kidney cancer, all of which have been linked to radioactive fallout.

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Biden says US must maintain small force in Middle East, has no plans for major Defense cuts

“The former vice president said the largest readiness issue facing the military is America’s strained relationship with NATO. “They’re worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia diplomatically or other ways, and worried about ‘America First’ meaning ‘America Alone,’” he said.”

stripes.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic Party nominee for president, delivers his acceptance speech on August 20.
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he supports drawing down troops in the Middle East but if elected president would keep a small force there to prevent extremists from posing a threat to the United States and its allies.

“These ‘forever wars’ have to end. I support drawing down the troops. But here’s the problem, we still have to worry about terrorism and [the Islamic State],” Biden told Stars and Stripes in a telephone interview.

He also said he does not foresee major reductions in the U.S. defense budget as the military refocuses its attention to potential threats from “near-peer” powers such as China and Russia.

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Georgia: At crucial crossroads, nuclear plant must be stopped

“In 2001, 30 new reactors were ordered in the U.S., but the so-called “nuclear renaissance” rapidly fizzled leaving only Georgia Power and Vogtle. Meanwhile, renewable energy, in particular solar power, has become abundant and cheap, and solar and wind have been the fastest-growing energy sector for the past several years.”

BY: GLENN CARROLL | augustachronicle.com

Plant Vogtle. Photo courtesy of High Flyer 2019.

In 1977, a small group of thoughtful, committed Georgians started a grassroots anti-nuclear group to oppose nuclear power, nuclear weapons and radioactive waste and to promote alternative visions for renewable energy and world peace.

At the same time, Georgia Power was resuming construction of Vogtle 1 and 2, having nearly gone bankrupt three years earlier while attempting to build a four-reactor nuclear compound with a budget of $1 billion.

Only 10 weeks after breaking ground, incredibly, Vogtle construction ground to a halt with Georgia Power on the brink of bankruptcy. Georgia Power was saved by two emergency rate hikes thanks to the Georgia Public Service Commission and by selling shares of its hole-in-the-ground Vogtle to most of Georgia’s rural electric cooperatives and municipal power systems.

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How to Talk About Nuclear Weapons

Why getting people to care about nuclear policy matters.

BY: ZACK BROWN | nationalinterest.org

How to Talk About Nuclear Weapons

It’s a truism of the nuclear field that arms control advocates don’t always win the war of words with their opponents, said Lynn Fahselt, co-founder and executive director of the communications organization ReThink Media.KINGMAN, Ariz. — Danielle Stephens ran her fingers down a long list of her relatives’ names and sighed.

“The first media audit we did showed that, on the opinion pages, we were being beat three to one,” she said in an interview with the podcast, Press The Button. “For every one argument we made for arms control and disarmament, our opposition was making two and calling ours naive.”

At first glance, this editorial record might seem like a minor datapoint in the grand scheme of nuclear politics. But in a fast-moving democracy whose attention span is only as long as the shortest news cycle, wins in the court of public opinion—even small ones—can affect government policy in real ways.

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UPDATED: DOE INVOKED TECHNICAL STANDARDS

The following Directive has been added to the DOE Directives Portal:

 The Directives Review Board (DRB) has conducted a review of DOE Orders that invoke Technical Standards. The DRB determined which Technical Standards should be invoked; developed boilerplate language for the invoking of Technical Standards; and updated affected Orders for clarity and consistency.

The following Orders were updated to clarify which Technical Standards are invoked:

  1. DOE O 458.1 Chg 4 (LtdChg), Radiation Protection of the Public and the Environment
      1. To establish requirements to protect the public and the environment against undue risk from radiation associated with radiological activities conducted under the control of the Department of Energy (DOE) pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (AEA). Supersedes DOE O 458.1 Chg 3 (AdminChg), dated 1-15-2013.

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Take Action! LANL Plans to Release Radioactive Tritium

nuclearactive.org

On Wednesday morning, the public was notified by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that releases of radioactive tritium could begin as early as Friday, September 11th.  LANL tried to launch this plan last March.  Communities organized against it and the project was halted. 

https://tewawomenunited.org/2020/09/action-alert-stop-radioactive-releases-at-los-alamos-national-laboratory , http://nuclearactive.org/lanl-plans-to-release-twice-the-amount-of-tritium-allowed/ , and http://nuclearactive.org/lanl-postpones-tritium-releases-due-to-global-pandemic/

If you were not signed up to receive emails from LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room, you would not have received Wednesday morning’s notice.  https://eprr.lanl.gov/  [The subscribe button is on the lower left.]  The notice provided links to letters LANL submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency and the New Mexico Environment Department requesting permission to proceed with venting the four tritium containers.  The containers hold lead and an estimated 114,000 curies of radioactive tritium.

The tritium is in the form of tritiated water, which harms when it is inhaled or ingested.  https://ieer.org/article/energy-security/healthy-start-tritium-issue-38/

Now is the time of harvest.  People are outside and breathing deeply while they bring in the harvest.  The risk for breathing in particulates, pollutants, tritiated water, among other contaminants, has increased due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.  Smoke and ash from the Medio wildfire significantly contributed to poor air quality for weeks, which was finally knocked down on Tuesday night when the rain and snow arrived.  The link between increased COVID-19 death rates and air pollution are well known.

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Environment Secretary Says LANL Tritium Venting Project Puts New Mexico In Bad Situation

“Under the Triad contract, one of their performance requirements for this fiscal year is to vent five more containers that are larger, that contain more tritium, by Sept. 30. So we feel like they’re trying to get permission to vent these four containers on Friday so that they can vent the other five before the end of the fiscal year so that they can get their bonus…This is a pattern in practice by DOE – to do things in order to get the bonuses for their contractors.” – Joni Arends, executive director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety 

BY: | losalamosreporter.com

The planned venting of tritium from four Flanged Tritium Waste Containers at Los Alamos National Laboratory on or after Friday, Sept. 11 has placed the state of New Mexico in a bad situation, New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Sec. James Kenney told the Legislature’s Committee on Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Wednesday.

The Los Alamos Reporter previously published two stories on the venting project:

https://losalamosreporter.com/2020/03/23/lanl-to-conduct-tritium-venting-operation-beginning-in-april/
https://losalamosreporter.com/2020/04/03/lanl-tritium-ventilation-project-on-hold-due-to-covid-19-scope-of-work-amended-to-include-possible-secondary-venting/

“These containers have been neglected for so long by both DOE and the Environment Department. We’re in this position, which is do they vent those tritium drums, collect that emission to prevent it from being in the air and then move those drums offsite, or do we run the risk of leaving those drums onsite knowing that they are pressurized and could rupture meaning an uncontrolled amount of tritium would go out,” Kenney said. “I do not like the position our Department is in. I think this goes towards the fact that DOE did not do something sooner and it goes to the fact that our Department has been so underfunded that we don’t have the staff to go and hold people accountable to do those things in a timely manner, so we are in a very bad position.”

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Big audience for protest of race training

Petersen says he tried to point out to lab officials the “blatant lies and deep immorality” in the presentations. He says he tried to teach his own classes to counter the training Sandia offered but was denied.

RYAN BOETEL / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER abqjournal.com Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A series of forums on race offered at Sandia National Laboratories left at least one lab employee miffed enough to send an email blast to the entire staff voicing his displeasure.

And the upset electrical engineer appears to have caught the attention of the White House, which last week in a memo told all federal agencies to stop hosting similar training sessions.

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Trump Reportedly Claimed That The US Built a Secret Nuke. Here’s What He’s Probably Talking About

“In all likelihood, Trump is referring to the W76-2; then again, he’s also made outlandish claims regarding U.S. military tech that haven’t stood up under scrutiny, like that the F-35 is totally invisible.”

taskandpurpose.com

Forget the invisible F-35 and the super-duper missile: there’s apparently a brand new weapons system that’s captured the commander-in-chief’s attention — and it’s of the nuclear variety.

According to Rage — a new book published by legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward on the Trump administration — the president reportedly disclosed the existence of a new nuclear weapons system during a conversation about relations between the United States and North Korea.

“I have built a nuclear — a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” Trump reportedly said, according to the Washington Post.

“We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody — what we have is incredible.”

The disclosure from Trump came in “the midst of reflecting upon how close the United States had come in 2017 to war with North Korea,” according to the Washington Post.

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State Lawmakers: Tougher Tactics Needed to Speed Los Alamos Waste Cleanup

“The state must put teeth back into the consent order, its main source of leverage. I would like to see us rip up the [2016] consent order and become a tougher negotiator for New Mexico,”
– State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said the state is losing ground on cleanup because an agreement between the state and the Department of Energy was weakened four years ago, and now more waste will be generated with pit production.

BY: | santafenewmexican.com

The pace of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s legacy waste cleanup drew sharp criticism Wednesday from two state lawmakers who argued regulators should toughen oversight and consider suing federal agencies to spur quicker action.

The lab has made five shipments of higher-level nuclear waste this year to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad and hopes to move that number to 30 per year, with the aim of removing all of the lab’s legacy waste by 2027.

A U.S. Department of Energy official presented the figures to the state Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee on Wednesday.

“So we’re looking to greatly increase the rate of shipment,” said Steve Hoffman, who oversees the agency’s environmental management field office in Los Alamos.

But state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, called that volume far too low, especially when compared to Idaho sending 100 to 150 waste shipments to WIPP each year.

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New Mexico Frustrated With Slow Cleanup of Radioactive Waste

“We’re seeing more and more that we’re trending towards an impasse on the movement of legacy contamination from Los Alamos…If that’s our only option, then that’s an option we’re going to explore and we’re going to need to figure out how to do that in a way that yields a better result for New Mexico. Because right now we’re at the bottom of the list and that’s unacceptable.” – New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney

BY: The Associated Press, SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | krqe.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — There’s growing frustration among New Mexico lawmakers and environmental regulators about the U.S. government’s slow pace in cleaning up contamination from decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The officials shared their concerns during a legislative meeting Wednesday, saying New Mexico is taking a backseat to other states and that legal action might be their only leverage against the U.S. Energy Department as it sets priorities for the nation’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program for Cold War-era waste.

Since January, only five shipments of waste have been sent from Los Alamos to the government’s underground repository in southern New Mexico. Meanwhile, the Idaho National Laboratory is sending two to three shipments a week, or more than three times the goal environmental managers at Los Alamos have set for the coming year.

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Russia warns it will see any incoming missile as nuclear

“The policy document offered a detailed description of situations that could trigger the use of nuclear weapons, including the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies.”

BY: The Associated Press, VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV | apnews.com

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia will perceive any ballistic missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation, the military warned in an article published Friday.

The harsh warning in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) is directed at the United States, which has worked to develop long-range non-nuclear weapons.

The article follows the publication in June of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to what could be a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.

In the Krasnaya Zvezda article, senior officers of the Russian military’s General Staff, Maj.-Gen. Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin, noted that there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as a nuclear attack.

“Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead,” the article said. “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”

The argument reflects Russia’s longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons.

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Groups raise concerns about new shaft at WIPP

“The Southwest Research and Information Center is among those opposing the project. The group filed legal challenges, saying environmental officials ignored existing regulations, past agency practices and case law when giving temporary approval for contractors to begin working.”

BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | santafenewmexican.com

ALBUQUERQUE — Crews working at the U.S. government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico are starting a new phase of a contentious project to dig a utility shaft that officials say will increase ventilation at the site where workers entomb the radioactive remnants of decades of bomb-making.

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad said this week the $75 million project is a top priority and that work will be done around the clock five days a week, with an additional shift on Saturdays. The shaft will eventually span more than four-tenths of a mile and connect to an underground system of passageways.

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Surprising numbers in UNM report on lab’s impact

“BBER’s (UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research) director Jeffrey Mitchell said in an email to a Regional Coalition official that the county financial figures show “there are some winners and some losers. I suspect that LANL was less interested in presenting that.”

BY JOURNAL NORTH EDITORIAL BOARD | abqjournal.com

Surprising numbers in UNM report on lab’s impact
A recent UNM study calculates the local government cost of providing basic services to employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, such as these working in the lab’s plutonium facility, versus local tax revenue paid by lab workers and on LANL procurements. (Courtesy of the National Nuclear Security Administration/LANL)

A recent study by the University of New Mexico’s respected economic studies office details the huge economic impact of Los Alamos National Laboratory on New Mexico.

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NCI Virtual Briefing on results from the Study to Estimate Radiation Doses and Cancer Risks Resulting from Radioactive Fallout from the Trinity Nuclear Test

UPDATE FROM THE NCI SUMMARY:

“The data suggest that perhaps several hundred cancers, primarily thyroid cancer, have already occurred over the 75 years since the test and a small number are projected to occur in the future that would not have occurred in the absence of radiation exposure from Trinity fallout. Most of the excess cancers are projected to have occurred or will occur among residents living in Guadalupe, Lincoln, San Miguel, Socorro, and Torrance counties in 1945. Significant uncertainty in dose estimation had a substantial impact on the total uncertainty around these estimates. Most cancers that have occurred or will occur among the 1945 residents of New Mexico are likely to be cancers unrelated to exposures from Trinity fallout. Finally, with the data available, it is not possible to definitively identify the specific individuals whose cancers might be due to the radiation exposure.

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Former employees, families sue companies working on Piketon-area nuclear plant

Former employees, families sue companies working on Piketon-area nuclear plant

“The lawsuit, filed last week, alleges workers and their families became ill due to the actions of U.S. Department of Energy contractors. The suit seeks a medical monitoring program to evaluate the multi-generational impact of radioactive contamination.”

Columbus, OH | Columbus Dispatch newsbreak.com

A lawsuit filed on behalf of former nuclear employees and their families accuses U.S. Department of Energy contractors of “poisoning workers and the people, land, air and water for miles” around the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant that was in southern Ohio.

The actions of DOE’s contractors released radioactive isotopes that “have created a situation akin to a creeping Chernobyl” and resulted in “injuries, sickness, disease, including cancers, damage to DNA, death, loss of and damages to property, and reduction in property values,” according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Columbus.

The contamination likely spread in Pike, Scioto, Lawrence, Vinton and Adams counties in Ohio, according to the lawsuit.

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Study: Cancer cases likely in those exposed to atomic test

“’The nuclear detonation exposed residents of New Mexico to varying levels of radiation from radioactive fallout, depending, in part, on where they lived in the state, how much time they spent inside protective structures in the immediate months after the test, and how much radiation entered their bodies through contaminated food and water,’ a summary of the research states.”

Trinity Test - Alamogordo, NM - July 16, 1945. The early fireball at 62 milliseconds
Trinity Test – Alamogordo, NM – July 16, 1945

BY: | apnews.com

 

 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — After years of study, the National Cancer Institute said Tuesday that some people probably got cancer from the radioactive fallout that wafted across New Mexico after the U.S. government detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945. However, the exact number is unknown.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Energy Dept. Taking Bids for Nationwide Waste Treatment Services

Energy Dept. Taking Bids for Nationwide Waste Treatment Services

The Energy Department on Monday issued its final request for proposals (RFP) for nationwide low-level and mixed low-level waste treatment services. The agency could award more than one basic ordering agreement (BOAs) for the work, according to the document.

exchangemonitor.com

The objectives of the BOAs are to provide Low Level Waste and Mixed Low Level Waste (including reactive metals such as lithium batteries, sodium bearing waste) Treatment services; Bulk Survey for Release Services (BSFR) services in accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or Agreement State requirements; Development and assessment of alternative disposition strategies; Low Activity Waste (LAW) services; and Ancillary services that aid in the treatment and processing of waste, such as transportation and packaging from the point of origin to the destination (treatment facility, disposal site, or return to the generator) creating a turnkey service.

Up to 1,000 Downwinders Likely Got Cancer From First Atomic Test, Study Says

As many as 1,000 New Mexicans living in communities near Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated 75 years ago, might have developed cancer from the radioactive fallout, says a long-awaited Cancer Institute report released Tuesday.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Up to 1,000 Downwinders Likely Got Cancer From First Atomic Test, Study Says
Rosalie Cordova joins more than two dozen protesters along U.S. 380, just outside the White Sands Missile Range, in this 2011 photo. Cordova lost her husband and her sister to cancers that she believes were caused by radiation. Natalie Guillén/New Mexican file photo

The institute’s findings were based on a six-year study that involved computer modeling, researching historical data and interviewing 210 elderly “downwinders” who lived close enough to the blast to suffer internal radiation exposure by ingesting contaminated milk and food.

The number of cancer victims could be less than 1,000 but is unlikely to be more, the study says.

There’s also no clear evidence the radiation was severe enough to cause genetic abnormalities that could be passed by birth to subsequent generations, the study says.

The study’s authors concede there’s much uncertainty in the report because so many years have passed since the test, the government didn’t conduct public studies of the test’s potential impacts on communities — due to the Manhattan Project’s secrecy — and cancer cases weren’t tracked nationally until the 1960s.

The report comes after decades of criticism from downwinder advocates, who have accused the federal government of refusing to acknowledge affected residents to avoid liability.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Some U.S. cities turn against first planned small-scale nuclear plant

“[Two] cities, Logan and Lehi, Utah have walked away from the project, and a third is now considering dropping its support because of risks and a lack of backers, according to officials.”

BY:  | reuters.com

An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s small modular nuclear reactor plant. Courtesy NuScale/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The first U.S. small-scale nuclear power project, grappling with cost overruns and delays, faces another challenge: the defection of cities that had committed to buying its power. The more than 30 members of the public power consortium Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) have until Sept. 30 to decide whether to stick with the project and devote more funds to NuScale Power LLC’s first-of-a-kind reactor.

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SC Gov. McMaster objects to plutonium settlement and the $75 million in attorneys fees

BY JOHN MONKSAMMY FRETWELL thestate.com

The day before South Carolina’s attorney general announced a settlement that will bring $600 million to the state and start the process of removing deadly plutonium stores, Gov. Henry McMaster said he couldn’t support paying private lawyers in the deal $75 million or waiting two decades for the waste to be gone.

In a letter to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson written Sunday, McMaster said the roughly $75 million in fees the state will pay four S.C. law firms that worked on the deal — orchestrated by Wilson, the state’s members of Congress and Trump administration lawyers — is grossly excessive for the work they did.

“I simply cannot endorse the payment of $75 million in attorneys’ fees under the circumstances,” McMaster, a former state attorney general, told Wilson in a letter written Sunday.

In his letter, McMaster also said Wilson’s settlement agreement doesn’t give enough assurances that the U.S. Department of Energy will remove the deadly plutonium from South Carolina “in a timely manner.” The plutonium is stored at the Savannah River Site.

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SC settles lawsuit over plutonium waste for record $600M

“According to a release, under the terms of the settlement, the Dept. of Energy remains obligated to remove the plutonium by 2037.”

BY: Alexx Altman-Devilbiss | wpde.com

SC settles lawsuit over plutonium waste for record $600M
FILE – In this Sept. 29, 1994 file photo, a CSX Train with spent nuclear fuel passes through Florence, S.C., on its way to Savannah River Site Weapons Complex near Aiken S.C. Nevada and South Carolina are jostling for a home-field advantage of sorts in a federal court battle that could result in a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium being stored 70 miles from Las Vegas. (Jeff Chatlosh/The Morning News via AP, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C (WPDE) — Attorney General Alan Wilson Monday announced the federal government will pay South Carolina $600 million and clean up weapons-grade plutonium to end six years of litigation.

“This settlement is the single largest settlement in South Carolina’s history. It is important to me that the people of South Carolina know of our long-term commitment to preventing South Carolina from becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste,” said Wilson. “Additionally, the more than half a billion dollars in settlement money could not come at a better time as our state government and economy work to overcome the revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a long, difficult road but I am proud of the leadership displayed by our state’s elected officials and the expertise of my legal team.”

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Nuclear War Makes a Comeback

It’s time to revisit the old fear that kept your parents up at night

sierraclub.org

Nuclear War Makes a Comeback
PHOTO BY KREMLL/ISTOCK

On websites where policymakers, scholars, and military leaders gather, concern about the possibility of nuclear war has been rising sharply in recent months as China, the United States, and Russia develop new weapons and new ways of using old ones. 

On War on the Rocks, an online platform for national security articles and podcasts, Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, reported August 11 on public calls in China “to quickly and massively build up its nuclear forces” on the theory that only a “more robust nuclear posture” would prevent war with the United States.

The biggest nuclear arms budget ever is nearing approval in the US Congress, and the Trump administration has raised the possibility of resuming nuclear tests. President Trump has pulled the United States out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, while the New Start Treaty capping Russian and US nuclear warheads and delivery systems is set to expire next February if the two countries don’t agree to extend it.

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Vatican representative calls on U.S. to sign nuclear-test-ban treaty

“The treaty is a critically important step toward creating a world without nuclear weapons…Each of the remaining eight states should strongly back up its words in favor of peace by being the first to sign.”

BY: Cindy Wooden | catholicnews.com

Pope Francis delivers a message about nuclear weapons at Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki, Japan, Nov. 24, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the absurdity of “pouring valuable resources into the maintenance of weapons of destruction while so many on this planet are struggling to survive,” a Vatican representative told a U.N. meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.

It is impossible to make a moral case for continued nuclear weapon testing,” said Msgr. Fredrik Hansen, charge d’affaires at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

“There should never be another nuclear test explosion,” he told the online meeting Aug. 26.

The United Nations has designated Aug. 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, and Msgr. Hansen used the occasion to call on China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

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Smith and Menendez Statement on the Immense Costs of Allowing the New START Treaty to Expire

Already exorbitant nuclear weapons costs will only go up if the New START treaty expires.
“Extending the New START Treaty for a full five years is clearly the right financial and national security choice. America cannot afford a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race, particularly in the middle of our current economic, political, and health crises.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 26, 2020
Contact:
Smith: Monica Matoush // 202-226-5048
Menendez: Juan Pachon // 202-224-4130

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a new report regarding the potential costs of expanding U.S. strategic nuclear forces if the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) Expires:

“CBO’s nonpartisan report is clear: The Trump administration’s unwillingness to continue the decades of strategic arms control by failing to extend the New START Treaty is driving the United States toward a dangerous arms race, which we cannot afford. While this report only begins to account for the costs of the Administration’s preposterous claims that we can ‘spend the adversary into oblivion,’ it is further proof of why New START is essential to U.S. and international security.

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Nuclear News Archives – 2019

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.

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · YouTube · Google Play · Sticher
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Groups threaten to sue over nuclear weapons work at US labs

ORIGINAL: WASHINGTON POST

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

In Memoriam: Peter Stockton

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

WRITTEN BY: KEITH RUTTER pogo.org

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

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

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

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Senate panel wants probe into nuclear weapon glitches

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Interest Groups Challenge Plans to Fabricate Plutonium Pits for New, Unjustified Nuclear Weapons, at Los Alamos National Lab and Savannah River Site

COLUMBIA, SC, USA, September 17, 2019 /EINPresswire.com/

Abandoned plutonium fuel (MOX) buiding at Savannah River Site, coutersy High Flyer to SRS Watch

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

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico director, noted, “The Los Alamos Lab has a long track record of nuclear safety problems that must be resolved before expanded plutonium pit production is even considered. The government’s claimed need for expanded production needs to be critically examined in a new nation-wide supplemental PEIS for its environmental impacts, costs and potentially adverse national security impacts. Following that, given the massive changes proposed for LANL due to expanded pit production, NNSA will also have to prepare a new site-specific site-wide environmental impact statement for the Los Alamos Lab.”

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Pelosi Names Conferees to National Defense Authorization Act Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

European Leadership Network Group Statement on Nuclear Arms Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Catastrophic Tenure Of John Bolton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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California lawmaker aims to stop closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump fires John Bolton

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

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

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

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

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

BY GREG WALTERS | vice.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LISTEN HERE:

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

9 LANL waste containers denied shipment to WIPP

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

BY TRIS DEROMA | lamonitor.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Younger retiring as director of Sandia Labs

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY GREG WALTERS | vice.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pakistan ups nuclear rhetoric, carries out launch of ballistic missile

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

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

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

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

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France Is Still Cleaning Up Marie Curie’s Nuclear Waste

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

BY TARA PATEL | bloomberg.com

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

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

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

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

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

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Women’s Equality Day 2019: Diversity Encourages Innovation

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

nuclear diplomacy needs more women

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

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

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

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

Trump Wanted to Nuke Hurricanes to Stop Them From Hitting U.S. Coast: Report

“I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” [Trump said] according to one source who was there.

It makes sense that the president doesn’t like heavy winds. Photo: AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

BY MATT STIEB | nymag.com August 26, 2019

The president’s understanding of the natural world isn’t particularly deep. He thinks that the noise from wind turbines causes cancer. He’s called climate change a hoax and thinks that cold weather in the winter disproves global warming. He might not get how rivers work, and he definitely doesn’t understand how to stop a forest fire: Last year, he suggested a proper raking could have stalled the disastrous Camp Fire, which killed 83 Californians.

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How Congress Can Prevent a Meltdown of Global Nuclear Arms Control

The end of the INF Treaty was a mistake but building new low-yield nukes and leaving New START would be disastrous.

BY TOM COUNTRYMAN & LAURA KENNEDY | nationalinterest.org

How Congress Can Prevent a Meltdown of Global Nuclear Arms Control
Image: Reuters

The Trump administration’s nuclear weapons policy has eroded decades of agreed-upon norms. An important arms control agreement with Russia was already shredded, and another is on the brink of being abandoned. Instead of adhering to its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which calls for good-faith steps towards the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament, the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released last year called for, among other things, new “low-yield” nuclear weapons that are considered likely to lower the nuclear threshold. Fortunately, Congress now has an opportunity to push back on these damaging departures from long-standing policies that have so far prevented nuclear annihilation.

House and Senate negotiators will soon meet to begin reconciling major differences in their versions of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Among the many issues that must be addressed, that of nuclear weapons is poised to be one of the most controversial.

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August 27 Lynn Rusten of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), sits down with Joe Cirincione to discuss the history of arms control between the United States and Russia, and how the Trump administration’s actions have put the New START treaty in danger.

Michelle Dover hosts Early Warning with Roger L. Hale Fellow Catherine Killough and Matt Korda, Research Associate at the Federation of American Scientists. Also, Michelle Dover and Joe Cirincione answer a question from Henry about US-North Korea relations.

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Total eclipse: Nuclear power regulation slips deeper into the shadows

Total eclipse by O’Dea for WikiCommons

BY PAUL GUNTER | beyondnuclearinternational.org

On July 17, 2019, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held its regularly scheduled information exchange meeting with the nuclear industry’s Institute for Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) at NRC Headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.

INPO is a secretive industry task force headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, led by the nation’s senior nuclear utility executives. Industry watchdogs often refer to INPO as “the shadow regulator” of the U.S. atomic power industry.

It is significant that NRC management chose this brief hour-long meeting in July with INPO to make a public announcement that the nation’s federal regulatory agency is proposing to dramatically cut back its “Regulatory Oversight Process” in what is being called a “transformative process.”

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The Waste that Remains

Los Alamos Labs hit with $222,313 fine for safety violations. Meanwhile, clean-up of legacy sites may permanently seal waste in the ground.

BY LEAH CANTOR | sfreporter.com

The Waste that Remains - Workers excavating a waste disposal site | US Department of Energy
Workers excavating a waste disposal site | US Department of Energy

Even as Los Alamos National Labs takes on contracts for new weapons manufacturing, taxpayers are still shelling out for the clean-up costs of contamination dating back to atomic bomb testing. The latest clean-up proposals will likely leave hazardous waste in the ground. Meanwhile, recent hazardous waste safety violations add up to $222,313.

N3B, the company recently contracted by the US Department of Energy to complete a significant portion of remaining clean-up efforts, gave a presentation to the public at the Santa Fe Community College on Thursday as part of a series of community meetings leading up to the process to decide methods for cleaning up several contaminated legacy waste sites around LANL.

…The DOE reported that 1,168 of 2,123 contaminated sites have been cleaned and 10,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste removed, leaving 5,000 cubic meters of waste remaining identified for clean-up. Yet, according to watchdog group Nuke Watch New Mexico, that leaves 690,251 cubic meters of waste permanently buried on-sight in unlined pits and shafts above a regional aquifer that provides drinking water for San Ildefonso Pueblo, Española, Los Alamos and Santa Fe, among other communities. Nuke Watch Executive Director Jay Coghlan tells SFR this number is from analysis of publicly available LANL documents and data.

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Russian Nuclear Blast Theories Hint at No-Holds-Barred Arms Race

Amid the mysteries surrounding a deadly blast at a Russian military facility that killed at least five researchers and caused a brief radiation spike, one thing is clear: the new arms race is going full speed.

BY JAKE RUDNITSKY & ILYA ARKHIPOV | bloomberg.com

Burevestnik/SSC-X-9 Skyfall missile. Source: Russian Ministry of Defence

The Aug. 8 explosion at a remote testing facility in the White Sea has remained a tightly guarded secret by the military, with Russian radiation-monitoring stations suddenly failing to send their data to international agencies in the days that followed. President Vladimir Putin would say only that the accident involved “work on promising weapons systems” that Russia is developing in response to “what our partners, including the Americans, are testing.”

President Donald Trump was more forthcoming in a tweet on the mishap, saying it involved a new nuclear-powered cruise missile known in the West as “Skyfall” but adding that the U.S. version is better. Putin’s spokesman insisted Russia’s is superior.

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New Mexico has enough nuclear waste

We cannot not let the U.S. Department of Energy and the out-of-state nuclear waste generators turn New Mexico into the nuclear waste capital of the United States.

BY GEORGE ANASTAS & LOKESH CHATURVEDI | santafenewmexican.com

Nuclear waste sites in New Mexico are prolific. The Department of Energy and the nuclear industrial waste complex want to further thrust the nuclear waste sword into the heart of New Mexico.

Congratulations to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for standing up for New Mexico. It is time for all New Mexicans to raise their voices and say, “Enough is enough.”

Read on to learn about the many nuclear waste sites in New Mexico:

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Pakistan Leader Vents Frustration at India: ‘No Point in Talking to Them’

“My worry is that this [the crisis in Kashmir] can escalate and for two nuclear-armed countries, it should be alarming for the world what we are facing now.” — Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan

BY SALMON MASOOD & MARIA ABI-HABIB | nytimes.com

Pakistan Leader Vents Frustration at India: 'No Point in Talking to Them' Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said he warned President Trump of a “potentially very explosive situation.” Credit: Saiyna Bashir for The New York Times
Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said he warned President Trump of a “potentially very explosive situation.” Credit: Saiyna Bashir for The New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan intensified his criticism of India on Wednesday over its Kashmir crackdown, saying he would no longer seek dialogue with Indian officials and raising the threat of a military escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Khan complained bitterly about what he described as repeated rebuffs from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at his entreaties for communication, both before and after the Aug. 5 crackdown on the disputed territory of Kashmir.

“There is no point in talking to them. I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfortunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, I think they took it for appeasement,” Mr. Khan said during the interview, at the prime minister’s office in Islamabad. “There is nothing more that we can do.”

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U.S. tests first intermediate-range missile since withdrawing from treaty with Russia

“This is a very clear sign that the United States and Russia are on the verge of a new missile race,” — Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

BY MISSY RYANwashingtonpost.com

U.S. tests first intermediate-range missile since withdrawing from treaty with Russia A cruise missile launches off the coast of California on Aug. 18. (Scott Howe/Department of Defense/AP)
A cruise missile launches off the coast of California on Aug. 18. (Scott Howe/Department of Defense/AP)

The U.S. military has conducted a test launch of an intermediate-range cruise missile for the first time since withdrawing from a Cold War-era arms-control pact with Russia earlier this month, the Pentagon said Monday.

The conventional missile, which was fired from a mobile ground launcher and flew more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) before hitting its target, launched off the coast of California on Sunday afternoon, the Pentagon said in a statement.

“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the statement said.

The test follows the Trump administration’s formal withdrawal Aug. 2 from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a 1987 agreement that banned Washington and Moscow from testing, producing or deploying missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400 miles).

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More nuclear weapons — less cleanup

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

Jay Coghlan, Director – Nuclear Watch New Mexico

BY JAY COGHLANsantafenewmexican.com

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

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

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August 20 William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, sits down with Joe Cirincione to discuss the corporate connection to US arms sales abroad, and whether or not companies manufacturing weapons of war should bear responsibility for the casualties incurred as a result of their use.

Joe Cirincione hosts Early Warning with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Jessica Lee, Senior Director at Council of Korean Americans. Also, Michelle Dover and Joe Cirincione answer a question from Melissa about the differences in US policy toward Iran and North Korea.

U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: The Corporate Connection, William Hartung’s new report: static.wixstatic.com/ugd/fb6c59_7fa…0227cc59fb.pdf

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August 20 William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, sits down with Joe Cirincione to discuss the corporate connection to US arms sales abroad, and whether or not companies manufacturing weapons of war should bear responsibility for the casualties incurred as a result of their use.

Joe Cirincione hosts Early Warning with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Jessica Lee, Senior Director at Council of Korean Americans. Also, Michelle Dover and Joe Cirincione answer a question from Melissa about the differences in US policy toward Iran and North Korea.

U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: The Corporate Connection, William Hartung’s new report: static.wixstatic.com/ugd/fb6c59_7fa…0227cc59fb.pdf

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IPPNW warns of dire consequences of military escalation in Kashmir

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is calling on the Indian government to restore immediately all communications and freedom of movement in Kashmir and Jammu, and urging all states in the disputed border regions to initiate new diplomatic talks aimed at reducing tensions and negotiating a peaceful settlement to the long-standing conflict.

IPPNW is deeply concerned that deteriorating humanitarian and political conditions in Kashmir, after the Indian government put the area in lockdown earlier this month, are increasing significantly the risk of military escalation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Three of the four wars fought between India and Pakistan have started in Kashmir.

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The nuclear arms race is back … and ever more dangerous now

Donald Trump has increased spending on America’s arsenal while ripping up cold war treaties. Russia and China are following suit.

BY SIMON TISDALL | theguardian.com

A missile test launch by North Korea on 25 July this year. Photograph: AP

Imagine the uproar if the entire populations of York, Portsmouth or Swindon were suddenly exposed to three times the permissible level of penetrating gamma radiation, or what the nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford termed gamma rays. The outpouring of rage and fear would be heard across the world.

That’s what happened to the roughly 200,000 people who live in the similarly sized northern Russian city of Severodvinsk on 8 August, after an explosion at a nearby top-secret missile testing range. Russia’s weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded radiation levels up to 16 times higher than the usual ambient rate.

Yet the incident has been met with surly silence by Russia. It was five days before officials confirmed a blast at the Nyonoksa range had killed several people, including nuclear scientists. No apologies were offered to Severodvinsk residents. There is still little reliable information. “Accidents, unfortunately, happen,” a Kremlin spokesman said. That callous insouciance is not universally shared. According to western experts, the explosion was caused by the launch failure of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, one of many advanced weapons being developed by Russia, the US and China in an accelerating global nuclear arms race.

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RCLC Does Not Represent The Taos Constituency

La Jicarita

BY KAY MATTHEWSlosalamosreporter.com

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has ties to some of the same people and businesses as that of the Rocky Flats Coalition, and this connection may well influence on-going cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the transfer of contaminated lands from Department of Energy responsibility, some of which has already occurred.

David Abelson of Crescent Strategies, brought in to facilitate the LANL Coalition back in 2011, was the executive director of the Rocky Flats Coalition of Local Governments, and several Washington-based D.C. businesses that advised the Rocky Flats Coalition are working with the LANL Coalition. They all assisted in the effort to convert Rocky Flats to a wildlife refuge, an outcome which required much lower standards for clean-up than, for example, human residency. This created a credibility gap that the mission of the RCLC is to lobby for cleanup of LANL.

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Nuclear weapons are spreading. This plutonium scientist is trying to stop that

Siegfried Hecker serves as a scientific shuttle diplomat, building ties with rival nuclear researchers the world over.

BY STEPHEN SHANKLAND | cnet.com

CC: STEPHEN SHANKLAND/CNET

When you think of efforts to pare down the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles, maybe you imagine heads of state and uniformed generals sternly staring down their military rivals across a huge table.

Reality, though, looks very different.

Picture instead a white-haired, US weapons scientist sidestepping the summit meetings and heading directly to research labs in Russia, China, Pakistan and even North Korea to chat about physics and build the direct ties that may be more effective at establishing trust than edicts from the top brass.

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Native American tribe claims nuclear waste can’t be stored on its land

To the Western Shoshone, most of Nevada isn’t Nevada. At least not in the current sense.

BY JOHN SADLER | lasvegassun.com

Corbin Harney, an elder with the Western Shoshone Tribe, beats a drum during a May 2002 tribal protest near the planned Yucca Mountain national nuclear waste dump.

More than 150 years after the first treaty between the Western Shoshone and the federal government was signed, the two nations disagree on the outcome—the Shoshone say they never turned over their land.

The majority of the land in Nevada falls under the Shoshone’s historical claim. It includes the Nevada National Security Site (formerly Nevada Test Site), which has released hundreds of tons of fallout in its operational history. It also includes Yucca Mountain, which has been the center of a decades-long argument centered on the long-term storage of the nation’s nuclear waste.

The plan to turn the mountain into a nuclear waste facility drums up memories of past nuclear use of the land, and some members of the tribe are pushing back.

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August 13 Robert Malley, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, sits down with Joe Cirincione to discuss the current situation in Iran, which he sees as a 21st century ‘Guns of August.’

Robert served in the Obama administration as Special Assistant to the President, Senior Adviser to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign, and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region. Michelle Dover hosts Early Warning with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Jessica Sleight, Program Director at Global Zero.

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · YouTube · Google Play · Sticher
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

Church Rock, America’s Forgotten Nuclear Disaster, Is Still Poisoning Navajo Lands 40 Years Later

Residents say they’ve been ignored even as they struggle with contaminated water and worry about having children.

BY SAMUEL GILBERT & RAMSAY DE GIVE | cnn.com

A BARBED-WIRE FENCE IN CHURCH ROCK, NEW MEXICO.

Early in the summer of 1979, Larry King, an underground surveyor at the United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock Uranium mine in New Mexico, began noticing something unusual when looking at the south side of the tailings dam. That massive earthen wall was responsible for holding back thousands of tons of toxic water and waste produced by the mine and the nearby mill that extracted uranium from raw ore. And as King saw, there were “fist-sized cracks” developing in that wall. He measured them, reported them to his supervisors, and didn’t think anything more of it.

A few weeks later, at 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1979, the dam failed, releasing 1,100 tons of uranium waste and 94 million gallons of radioactive water into the Rio Puerco and through Navajo lands, a toxic flood that had devastating consequences on the surrounding area.

“The water, filled with acids from the milling process, twisted a metal culvert in the Puerco,” according to Judy Pasternak’s book Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and the Betrayal of the Navajos. “

Sheep keeled over and died, and crops curdled along the banks. The surge of radiation was detected as far away as Sanders, Arizona, fifty miles downstream.” According to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report, radioactivity levels in the Puerco near the breached dam were 7,000 times that of what is allowed in drinking water.

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See NukeWatch’s 22-page formal comments on expanded plutonium pit production

(63 pages with attachments)

“Until NNSA fully complies with the National Environmental Policy Act through the preparation of a programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production, Nuclear Watch believes that any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources to either the expansion of pit production at the Los Alamos Lab or to the repurposing of the MOX Facility at the Savannah River Site is unlawful.

READ FULL DOCUMENT

NRDC Comments on NNSA’s Draft SA of 2008 CT PEIS

These comments by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reiterate two fundamental points I have already made with co-counsel William N. Lawton of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP in our May 17, 2019 letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary James Richard Perry and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Lisa Gorden-Hagerty

1) Given NNSA’s May 10, 2018 decision to expand plutonium pit production, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearly requires the agency to prepare a new programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to supplement the 2008 Complex Transformation PEIS; and

2) Even if NNSA does not agree with the above, there is a 1998 court order that requires DOE to prepare a supplemental PEIS in the event NNSA’s proposed plans for future plutonium pit production extend beyond fabrication at LANL of 50 pits per year under “routine conditions,” or 80 pits per year under “multiple shift operations.”

READ FULL DOCUMENT

The Ongoing Call for Nuclear Abolition at Los Alamos

The sick people who prevent gun control and support AK47s are the same people who support the building and maintenance of nuclear weapons, which put millions of people at risk from some unimaginable massacre to come.

AUGUST 9, 2019 | BY REV. JOHN DEAR | commondreams.org

The Ongoing Call for Nuclear Abolition at Los Alamos Remember Hiroshima no nukes
The sickness of our widespread gun violence epidemic is connected to the sickness of the nuclear weapons industry, and the numbness and despair among us allow these lethal epidemics to threaten us all. (Photo: John Dear)

REFLECTING ON THE 74th ANNIVERSARY OF HIROSHIMA

This week, we drove back up the remote New Mexico mountains to the “atomic city” for our annual peace vigil, sit in and rally. This was our 16th year in a row.

Jay Coghlan of NukeWatch New Mexico talked about the seriousness and stupidity of the Trump Administration’s decision last week to pull out of the Arms Control Treaty, a decision that has gotten lost in all the other bad news (see: www.nukewatch.org). Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety New Mexico spoke of the latest shenanigans by the Labs, to bypass the legal oversight of its water purification system so that plutonium contaminated water can continue to poison the land (see: www.nuclearactive.org). Alicia from NukeWatch explained the latest progress with the U.N. treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, organized by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (see: www.icanw.org).

VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

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2018

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

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.

###

Follow NNSA News on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

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

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

Call to action!

Comments on WIPP Expansion Needed By April 3rd

Informational Meeting Is March 8th

 

New Mexico is under growing nuclear attack.

·      Plutonium pit production increases are planned for Los Alamos.

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

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

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

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

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

“Clarification” of TRU Mixed Waste Disposal Volume Reporting

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

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

 

What to expect at this March 8 meeting:

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

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

·      A presentation of the proposed plan by DOE

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

·      No opportunity for formal public comments

 

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

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

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

The complete Permit Modification Request is here –

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

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

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

 

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

Mr. Ricardo Maestas

New Mexico Environment Department

2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Fax: 505-476-6030

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

New Radiation Symbol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented,

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

# # #

[Copying URLs into browsers is recommended.]

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

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

[3]     See https://rdcnm.org/vaf/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Media excerpts (copying URLs into browser is recommended):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detailed NNSA Budget Documents Accelerates Nuclear Weapons Arms Race

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

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

Some selected NNSA FY 2019 nuclear weapons budget highlights are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The increase represents the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Budget Dramatically Increases Nuclear Weapons Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch commented,

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

# # #

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.

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