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Nuclear News Archives – 2021

NM Archbishop Can’t Stay Silent on LANL’s Arms Work

“I believe strongly that Pope Francis is right. For peace to flourish, we have to lay down weapons,” [Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester] said, referring to Pope Francis’ statement that even the possession of atomic weapons of war was immoral.

“And any continuing development of nuclear weapons, and refining them, is going in the wrong direction.”

BY: T.S. Last / Journal North
Published: Wednesday, May 26th, 2021
Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester praises much of the work being done at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The lab’s expertise greatly contributes to developments in bioscience, computer science, engineering, medicine and modeling that helped the nation navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it also builds bombs – the kind capable of killing massive numbers of people. And that’s not an easy thing for him – and some Catholics working for the lab – to reconcile.

Wester says that as the archdiocese within which the lab operates, the Santa Fe Archdiocese has a “moral responsibility” to facilitate discussion about the lab’s national security mission, most of which is dedicated to weapons production.

“I believe strongly that Pope Francis is right. For peace to flourish, we have to lay down weapons,” he said, referring to Pope Francis’ statement that even the possession of atomic weapons of war was immoral. “And any continuing development of nuclear weapons, and refining them, is going in the wrong direction.”

Wester’s remarks come just as Los Alamos National Laboratory is expanding its national security mission through production of plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear warheads that detonate the bombs. As a direct result of the project, the lab has begun expanding into Santa Fe, the city named for St. Francis of Assisi.

The pope’s 2019 statement was the harshest condemnation of weapons of mass destruction to date from the church. He could have been speaking about LANL and its new mission to manufacture plutonium pits when he said, “In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered, and the fortunes made in the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.”

Meet the Senate nuke caucus, busting the budget and making the world less safe

These lawmakers represent states with a direct interest in pouring billions into modernizing and building new weapons.

By:  and  | responsiblestatecraft.org

Democrats might control the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government right now, but a small Republican-dominated Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Coalition exercises outsized influence in a frightening campaign for nuclear rearmament.

The coalition, comprising six senators from states that house, develop, or test underground land-based nuclear weapons, is pushing a wasteful and dangerous $1.7 trillion, decades-long plan to produce new nuclear weapons, some with warheads 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

While the 1980s witnessed the nuclear freeze and a mass movement to demand nuclear disarmament between the U.S. and Soviet Union, the 1990s gave birth to the missile caucus, the Congressional engine careening the U.S. into a renewed nuclear arms race.

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Santa Fe to exit Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

THANK YOU to everyone who contacted city officials in support of overturning the RCLC for good!

By: Sean P. Thomas sthomas@sfnewmexican.comSanta Fe New Mexican  

The Santa Fe City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday to pull the city from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, a consortium of local and tribal governments with economic ties to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Santa Fe’s resolution requests that the coalition return dues paid by the city and instructs city officials to begin exploring other ways to lobby the laboratory for economic opportunities and environmental cleanup.

The coalition’s board voted Friday to begin winding down the entity and close out debts, before paying back members their 2021 dues.

“I think it’s important to state while this process is going on that we approved this resolution withdrawing the city of Santa Fe from the RCLC,” said Councilor Renee Villarreal.

The coalition was formed in 2011 to advocate for sitewide cleanup and economic opportunities at the laboratory, but critics have said the coalition no longer achieves its original purpose.

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Surprise! Upgrading America’s Nuclear Arsenal Will Be Stupefyingly Expensive

The cost jumped $140 billion in just 2 years. Here’s why.

BY: | popularmechanics.com

  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now says the cost of updating the U.S.’s nuclear weapons is $140 billion more than it estimated just 2 years ago.
  • The increase is largely due to inflation and the inclusion of new, expensive projects the CBO didn’t cover 2 years ago.
  • The new estimate comes as a proposal in Congress seeks to trim the nuclear budget.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate of nuclear weapon expenditures over the next decade has jumped a staggering $140 billion in just 2 years.

The estimate, which the agency provided to Congress to give an idea of how much it will take to build new missiles, ships, and planes, as well as revamp America’s vast nuclear infrastructure, comes as key members of the legislature are pushing to cut nuclear weapons spending over the next 10 years.

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Estimated Cost of US Nuclear Modernization Jumps 28 Percent

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate puts the price tag at $634 billion as some lawmakers try to bring it back down.

BY PATRICK TUCKER | defenseone.com May 24, 2021

The estimated cost of replacing America’s nuclear bombers, missile submarines, and ICBMs just jumped again—from $315 billion in 2015 to $494 billion in 2019 and now to $634 billion, a 28 percent increase, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday.

The report identifies a $140 billion increase in the cost of nuclear delivery systems and weapons, such as ICBMs, as the largest contributor to the jump. “Projected costs for command, control, communications, and early-warning systems have also increased substantially,” it says, adding that if full costs of B-52 and B-21 bombers were included, “the total costs of nuclear forces, with cost growth, would be $711 billion.”

It’s the second time CBO has raised their projections for the costs of modernizing U.S. nuclear forces.

Some lawmakers have balked at what they perceive as the steep price tag for modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has called for a debate specifically on the high cost of replacing the intercontinental leg of the triad. On Monday, he unveiled a new bill, dubbed the SANE act, to cut $73 billion from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.

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Department of Energy seeks to modify N.M. plant’s nuclear waste permit

Dragging out WIPP’s operations decades past the original 20-year agreement violates the social contract made with New Mexicans, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

WIPP is being equipped to take the waste that will be generated from production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads, Kovac said.

“It [WIPP] was never really suppose to do that,” Kovac said.

Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com | Santa Fe New Mexican May 17, 2021

Federal officials say a new air shaft is needed at the nuclear waste disposal site in Southern New Mexico to keep workers safe and run more efficiently.

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WIPP- When is a Shaft More Than a Shaft?

Watch this video from the Stop Forever WIPP coalition: “When is a shaft more than a shaft?” dispelling the idea that an expansion of WIPP will mostly impact the South Eastern part of New Mexico; The new waste targeted for WIPP would be re-processed at Los Alamos. It also dispels the idea that targeting NM for waste disposal has nothing to do with our minority majority population.

The U.S. Government Hides Some Of Its Darkest Secrets At The Department Of Energy

The Department of Energy controls many ‘black projects’ that live outside of the limelight that is intrinsic to the DoD and the intel community.

BY BRETT TINGLEY | thedrive.com May 13, 2021

When it comes to discussions of government secrecy, much of the conversation tends to revolve around the Department of Defense (DOD) or the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). After all, the U.S. military develops many of the United States’ most sensitive weapon systems used to defend America and project its power globally, and the IC gathers and analyzes sensitive information on foreign threats and external national security matters. Each year, the budget requests from the U.S. military are packed with classified and Special Access Programs, or SAPs, sporting vague code names, many of which never see the light of day. When we talk of the “black world,” most often that conversation centers around these programs and technologies suspected to be housed deep within the classified ends of the Pentagon and its various service branches.

Often left out of this conversation is the fact that there is a wholly separate cabinet-level department of the U.S. government that is arguably even more opaque in terms of secrecy and oversight than the Department of Defense. Over the last few years, allegations of secret, exotic technologies have reinvigorated claims that the DOD may be concealing scientific breakthroughs from the American public. However, if the U.S. government, or some faction within it, hypothetically came across a groundbreaking development in energy production or applied physics, a very strong case could be made that such a revolution would likely be housed deep within the Department of Energy (DOE) rather than DOD.

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County Commission votes to exit Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

The exodus from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities continued Tuesday.

“Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, agreed, adding he believed the coalition effectively stood in the way of site cleanup by supporting a 2016 consent order.”

By Sean P. Thomas sthomas@sfnewmexican.com | Santa Fe New Mexican

The Santa Fe County Commission voted unanimously to ditch the coalition after some commissioners voiced concerns that the body was no longer the proper vehicle to advocate for site cleanup and mission diversification at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The mission of the RCLC and the attempt of the collaboration is admirable,” said commission Chairman Henry Roybal, who stepped down as chairman of the Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities this year. “However with the progress, it does not seem like this vehicle is the best avenue to express this collaborative voice. There are so many things that just aren’t where they need to be.”

The coalition was formed in 2011 and consists of local and tribal governments. It was created to provide local governments an opportunity to advocate for jobs, environmental cleanup and other priorities at the laboratory.

Each member organization pays annual dues to be a member, with Santa Fe County at $10,000.

Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

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LANL’s move to Santa Fe means jobs, and controversy

By: Editorials / ABQJournal

Santa Fe’s relationship with Los Alamos National Laboratory has been rocky for years. The City Council, with some regularity, has passed resolutions of concern about the nuclear weapons lab’s environmental impact and radioactive materials safety lapses, the production of weapons parts in Los Alamos and the proliferation of nuclear weapons in general.

ILHAN OMAR SIGNS ICAN PLEDGE

April 30, 2021: Representative Ilhan Omar today submitted her signed ICAN Pledge to ICAN, becoming the eleventh member of the US Congress to sign the Pledge. Rep. Omar represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives. Rep Omar also co-sponsor the H.R.2850 Nuclear Abolition and Economic Conversion Act of 2021 that Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced on April 26, 2021.

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Regional Coalition Of LANL Communities Struggles To Survive

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico complained that the RCLC main selling point was to lobby for mission diversification and accelerated cleanup and said he would argue that the Coalition has been a spectacular failure on both counts.

“When the Coalition was founded in 2011, LANL’s nuclear weapons budget was $1.9 billion. A decade later that budget is $2.9 billion and the total spending on core nuclear weapons research and production has risen year after year to where now it’s a full 70 percent of all funding and all of the remaining 30 percent either directly or indirectly supports those nuclear weapons,” Coghlan said.

By: MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.com | losalamosreporter.com May 3, 2021

The next couple of months may determine the demise of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. The City of Santa Fe opted last month not to approve the RCLC’s amended and restated joint powers agreement which has been hanging out there waiting for the City’s decision since March 2019. The City is slated to decide whether to withdraw completely from the RCLC later this month.

The Taos County Commission is slated to decide Tuesday whether it wishes to continue as a member and Santa Fe County Commissioners have the same decision to make at their May 11 meeting.

Los Alamos County Council is expected to discuss its RCLC status in June which will be the first time the Council will have had an agenda item on the RCLC since it approved the amended JPA in July of 2020. The discussion is at the request of Council Vice Chair James Robinson. Councilor David Izraelevitz, who serves as RCLC treasurer, has been a strong advocate of the RCLC and has recently addressed several meetings of members of the Santa Fe City Council at the behest of Councilor Michael Garcia to encourage them to approve the amended JPA. City of Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez also attended a Santa Fe City Council meeting to advocate and answer questions.

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NNSA approves Critical Decision 1 for Los Alamos Plutonium Pit Production Project

“Recommended approach to producing 30 plutonium pits per year identified”

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) announced the approval of the Critical Decision 1 (CD-1) milestone for the Los Alamos Plutonium Pit Production Project (LAP4) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

CD-1 approval marks the completion of the project definition phase and the conceptual design as part of DOE’s Order 413.3B process for the acquisition of capital assets. NNSA identified its recommended approach to produce at least 30 plutonium pits per year to meet national security needs.

The CD-1 cost estimate for LAP4 is $2.7-$3.9 billion, with an overall project completion range of 2027-2028. Critical equipment is scheduled to be installed in time to achieve the 30 pits per year production capacity in 2026. The CD-1 cost estimate and project completion date ranges are preliminary estimates that will be refined as the project conceptual design is matured to the 90% design level required to achieve CD-2 (approval of the performance baseline). Consistent with industry best practices and DOE policy, NNSA will set the performance cost and schedule baseline at CD-2, which is expected in 2023.

NNSA leadership and LANL will continue to review this project to improve the fidelity of the current price estimate and schedule.

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Los Alamos lab sees two mishaps in a week

The water spill should be a reminder that the plutonium facility’s work is done by people, and people make mistakes, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“Pit production will place a real time-pressure crunch on the workers and lead to more accidents,” Kovac said.

“It should lead us to consider the consequences if someone left a plutonium furnace on or something that could endanger the public…these kinds of missteps are likely to increase as the lab ramps up production of plutonium pits used to trigger nuclear warheads. Current plans call for the lab to make 30 of the nuclear bomb cores a year by 2026,”

| santafenewmexican.com April 26, 2021

Los Alamos National Laboratory had two mishaps in one week: a glove box breach that contaminated workers’ protective equipment and a spill of 1,800 gallons of water into a vault corridor after an employee left a valve open.

The incidents were the latest in a series of accidents in recent months at the lab, as reported by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

In the board’s most recent report, an alarm sounded March 29 when a worker tore a protective glove attached to a sealed compartment known as a glove box while handling a piece of plutonium.
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Sleepwalking into Nuclear War?

“People like to think that every nuclear-armed country has only one “button”, with which a president could consciously choose to start a nuclear war, after careful deliberation. But in fact there are thousands of people in the world controlling different parts of different arsenals who could independently initiate a nuclear war.” – Caitlin Johnstone 

JONATHAN POWER | indepthnews.net

LUND, Sweden (IDN) — Last week on Tuesday (April 20), US Strategic Command, the part of the military responsible for nuclear weaponry and its use, posted an official Tweet that read, “We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option”.

This came just as Russia was pulling back its large deployment of troops on Ukraine’s border which, in turn, was triggered in part by President Joseph Biden’s decision to ship for the first time sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.

The crisis has now passed but the lesson lingers. Arguably we are closer to war with Russia than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 (which I wrote about last week, April 20).

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CHERNOBYL: 35 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE WORLD’S WORST NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

Women mourn near a tomb of a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster at the Mitino cemetery in Moscow...
Women mourn near a tomb of a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster at the Mitino cemetery in Moscow. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CLICK ON THE PHOTO ABOVE FOR A GALLERY OF CHERNOBYL: 35 YEARS LATER, FROM THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

ON THIS DAY in 1986, workers ran a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine. But the test went awry, starting a fire in a reactor and leading to one of the largest nuclear disasters in history. Smoke from the fire and a second explosion launched radioactive elements into the atmosphere, scattering them over the surrounding fields and towns.

Chernobyl is generally recognized as the worst nuclear accident on record, directly killing 31 people and causing widespread contamination in Eurasia. It’s estimated that thousands of people will eventually die earlier than they would have due to the cancers caused by their exposure.

Today, 35 years later, scientists are still uncovering the extent of the damage and starting to answer questions about the long-term legacy of radiation exposure on power plant workers, the people in the nearby community, and even their family members born years later.

READ: New studies highlight the possible impact of Chernobyl on genes
  • Published on Science Daily, the studies—both conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH)—sought to find what kind of changes the exposure to carcinogenic ionizing radiation had on those who came into contact with the explosion.

WIPP completes maintenance outage, intends to up shipments of nuclear waste post-pandemic

Reinhard Knerr, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office said WIPP will resume accepting shipments of low-level transuranic waste from DOE sites around the country and will continue to emplace the waste for final disposal in WIPP’s underground mine.

By:  | currentargus.com April 26, 2021

Shipments and disposal of nuclear waste resumed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a two-month pause in the repository’s primary operations to allow personnel to complete several maintenance projects underground and on the surface.

WIPP completed 97 projects during the maintenance outage which ran from Feb. 15 to April 15, upgrading infrastructure throughout the facility.

The work involved mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, ground control, safety and engineering, and the break included a site-wide power outage to allow electrical work to be completed safely.

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The Nuclear Bomb Is Ready: In Italy Soon. The B61-12 has a Nuclear Warhead with 4 “Selectable Power Options”

“It has been officially announced that the new nuclear bomb series production  will begin in the fiscal year 2022, beginning October 1, 2021. It is  unknown the number of B61-12 bombs that the US will  deploy in Italy, Germany, Belgium and Holland to replace the B61s, whose actual number is secret. Satellite photos show renovations that have been carried out at Aviano and Ghedi bases in preparation for the new nuclear bombs’ arrival, the US Air Force F-35A,  and Italian Air Force F-35A under US command will be armed with these bombs.”

BY: Manlio Dinucci | globalresearch.ca April 24, 2021

First published on December 3, 2020

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A video was released on November 23 2020 by Sandia National Laboratories that shows a US F-35A fighter flying at supersonic speed  3000 meters above sea level, launching a B61-12 nuclear bomb (non-nuclear warhead equipped). The bomb did not fall vertically but glided until the tail section rocket ignition gave a rotational motion and the B61-12 (satellite-guided system) headed for the target and hit 42 seconds after launch. The test was carried out on August 25 at the Tonopah shooting range in the Nevada desert.

An official statement confirmed its full success: it was a real nuclear attack, proof that the fighter carried out at supersonic speed and in stealth attitude (with  nuclear bombs placed in its internal hold) has the capability to penetrate through enemy defenses.

The B61-12 has a nuclear warhead with four selectable power options at launch depending on the target to  hit. It has the ability to penetrate underground, exploding deep to destroy command center bunkers and other underground structures. The Pentagon’s program foresees the construction of about five hundred B61-12 with an estimated cost of roughly 10 billion dollars (so each bomb will cost double what it would cost if it were built entirely of gold).

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Minorities threatened by atomic weapons plants in S. Carolina and NM, groups say

“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 SAMMY FRETWELL| April 22, 2021 thestate.com

A mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years. But the project has been scrapped and the federal government is looking to convert the site into a plutonium pit factory COURTESY HIGH FLYER

A coalition of environmental groups from the southern and western United States is threatening to sue the federal government over plans for plutonium pit factories in South Carolina and New Mexico that would produce components for additional atomic weapons.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a non-profit law firm said the government should prepare an extensive environmental study before deciding to establish pit production factories at the Savannah River Site near Aiken and the Los Alamos site near Santa Fe, N.M.

African American and Native American communities have been hurt by past activities at the nuclear sites, and President Joe Biden’s administration should consider how the production factories would add to that burden, according to the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a non-profit legal service in South Carolina.

Nine environmental groups, including SRS Watch, the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition, Tri-Valley Cares of California and Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are among those seeking more study.

The law project’s letter also was sent to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the energy department.

“The plans of DOE and NNSA to expand this production program will saddle the already-burdened communities represented by these groups with a significant amount of nuclear waste and pollution,’’ the letter from lawyer Leslie Lenhardt said.

Her letter said the pit production efforts are in “complete contravention’’ to an executive order by President Biden that federal agencies weigh the impact their policies and plans have on disadvantaged communities.

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South Carolina Environmental Law Project logo

Groups Notify Biden Admin of Impending Lawsuit Over Nuclear Bomb Core Plans

Multi-state coalition says DOE’s plans to massively expand plutonium pit production violate a major environmental law and constitutes an environmental injustice.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico commented, “Instead of maintaining the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, NNSA may actually undermine it because all future pit production is for speculative new-design nuclear weapons. This is a colossal and unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money on top of already wasted taxpayers’ money.”

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A coalition of public interest organizations notified (PDF below) the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) urging a comprehensive review of plans to vastly ramp up production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

In Tuesday’s letter to department officials, the groups say this lack of review violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would saddle already-burdened communities nearby the two DOE sites with significant quantities of toxic and radioactive waste, contravening President Biden’s executive order of making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency.

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Sparks flying from nuclear waste barrel prompt investigation

Flawed packing of radioactive waste caused sparks to fly from a container at Los Alamos National Laboratory, prompting evacuation of the work area and later the underground disposal site near Carlsbad where two similarly packed canisters were stored.

| santafenewmexican.com April 15, 2021

The sparking caused no injuries, damage or radiation to be released, according to a letter the lab wrote to the New Mexico Environment Department.

But any combustion involving transuranic nuclear waste is deemed dangerous and calls up memories of the 2014 incident in which a ruptured container from Los Alamos closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico for three years and cost almost $2 billion to clean up.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Environment, Public Health On The Way To Better Protection As Environment Department Receives Budget Increase

“After a decade of budget cuts, the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) base budget will increase by 21.3% for the upcoming state fiscal year starting July 1, 2021. The additional $2.8 million will be a recurring increase to NMED’s operating budget. NMED’s overall operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year is approximately $93.4 million.”

NMED NEWS | LOS ALAMOS REPORTER April 14, 2021

“Starting in July, the New Mexico Environment Department will expand its efforts to safeguard communities and our environment,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Budget is policy and this is a clear investment in the health of New Mexicans and their environment.”

NMED’s budget is a combination of state general fund, federal funding, and revenues collected for various permits and licenses. Starting July 1, 2021, the general fund portion of NMED’s budget will increase from $13.1 million to $15.9 million – an increase of $2.8 million. The remainder of NMED’s budget is $77.5 million (federal funding and revenues collected for permits/licenses).

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Offline Iowa Nuclear Plant Eyed as Site of Solar Project

AP News | apnews.com

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A decommissioned eastern Iowa nuclear plant could become the site of a new massive solar energy project.

NextEra Energy of Florida on Tuesday laid out plans in a meeting with nearby landowners to build a solar farm near the now-idle Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported.

The company said the project could bring in a $700 million capital investment and about 300 construction jobs. The solar farm would stretch across 3,500 acres near the plant and would produce up to 690 megawatts of solar energy — more than the nuclear plant had generated.

“We’re also hoping to accompany that solar project with up to 60 megawatts of AC-coupled batteries,” project manager Kimberly Dickey said in the meeting. Battery storage allows a company to store energy for use during peak energy-use times.

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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant aims to expand underground facility to hold nuclear waste

“WIPP is supposed to be limited. The state did not agree to 12 panels.”

By:  | currentargus.com April 15, 2021

A plan to build two new areas to dispose of nuclear waste began taking shape at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after the U.S. Department of Energy published a report on the feasibility of adding an 11th and 12th waste panel to the underground nuclear waste repository.

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Japan To Dump Wastewater From Wrecked Fukushima Nuclear Plant Into Pacific Ocean

Japan’s government announced a decision to begin dumping more than a million tons of treated but still radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years.

 | npr.org April 13, 2021

The plant was severely damaged in a 2011 magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people in northeast Japan dead or missing.

Despite Tokyo’s assurances that discharging wastewater will not pose a threat to people or the environment, the decision was roundly criticized by the local fishing community, environmental groups and Japan’s neighbors. Within hours of the announcement, protesters rallied outside government offices in Tokyo and Fukushima.

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster


Fukushima Wastewater Will Be Released Into the Ocean, Japan Says

 | beyondnuclear.org April 13, 2021

The government says the plan is the best way to dispose of water used to prevent the ruined nuclear plant’s damaged reactor cores from melting.

As reported by the New York Times.

The New York Times also ran a companion piece, focused on the official international protest of the ocean dumping, as by the neighboring governments of South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

The Washington Post has also reported on this story.

Thom Hartmann interviewed Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps on his national radio show (“Fukushima Nuclear Fish Coming to Your Plate, Happy?”). Here is the write up:

More nuclear waste is about to be released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima. Where it will be absorbed by plants, eaten by small fish, who are eaten by bigger fish, and concentrated through a process called “bioaccumulation.” Pretty soon those fish end up on your plate… Looking forward to a swim off the west coast? Enjoying your fish?

Here is the link to the recording of the interview.

[Corrections: The actual volume of radioactive wastewater to be dumped in the ocean is currently enough to fill around 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools; the dumping is not set to begin until a couple years from now, not before the Tokyo Olympics.]

Environmental Racism, Environmental Justice

“When uranium mining occurred in white communities, the waste it produced was removed from the proximity of the residents. This level of clean-up did not take place when uranium mining occurred close to low-income communities of color”

By: | snakeriveralliance.org April 10, 2021

Those living near Nuclear Power Plants (NPP’s) face extreme health risks. Blood, thyroid, breast, and other forms of cancer have the potential to form due to the various types of radioactive emissions that escape the NPP’s through the air, water, and soil.

The World Nuclear Association and The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claim that exposure to low-level radiation is undetectable and not unsafe, yet countless studies confirm the danger of the radiation that occurs during normal operation at an NPP. According to Dean Kyne and Bob Bolin, Children are especially vulnerable to this exposure.

Toxic incinerators, uranium mines, atomic reactors, and other nuclear dumping sites are generally located on cheap land where there are limited resources and little organized opposition (Jantz, p. 249). Unfortunately, because of this, they are often located in Black, Indigenous, and low-income communities that suffer the devastating consequences of improperly handled nuclear waste and pollution.

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DOE Planning to Increase Down-Blended Plutonium Shipments to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Savannah River Site is the third largest shipper of waste to WIPP, with 1,679 as of April 3, per the latest records from WIPP.

By:  | currentargus.com April 7, 2021

Federal nuclear waste managers are planning to ramp up shipments of plutonium from a site in South Carolina for final disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) began preparing equipment at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina used to package and inspect drums of the waste before shipping to WIPP where it will be permanently disposed of in the repository’s underground salt formation.

The plutonium waste will be inspected to verify that it meets the criteria required for emplacement at WIPP, which is used to dispose of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste – mostly clothing items and equipment radiated during nuclear activities.

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Scotland Reaches Green Landmark – Scotland generated 97.4% of its electricity demand from renewables last year

By: Juan Cole | scheerpost.com

In 2011, Scotland’s government, urged on by visionaries like Richard Dixon, set itself the ambitious goal to get 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. At that time, it only only got about a fourth from clean energy sources, and a lot of that was hydro.

The report card is in for 2020 and Scotland generated 97.4% of its electricity demand from renewables last year, just a whisker less than the 100% goal.

Scotland will host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in a few months, and is well placed to assert climate leadership.

Scotland no longer has a coal plant, and its one natural gas plant is under-utilized and seems likely to close in a few years.

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DOE’s NNSA Reveals it’s Out of Money. Flat Broke. Busted. Nothing Left for Beneficial Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program to Convert Reactor from Weapon-Grade Uranium Fuel

By: SRS Watch | srswatch.com

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has revealed that it has spent all of our money. Busted flat. Nothing left. Nada. Zilch. Nichts.

Well, that’s what it seems like at the NNSA has notified GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy that there are no funds available to convert a test reactor in Vallecitos, California from weapon-grade uranium (highly enriched uranium, HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU), as part of an nuclear non-proliferation effort.

On March 25, 2021, NNSA told GE Hitac hi Nuclear Energy: “you are hereby notified that Department of Energy funding will not be available in fiscal year 2021 to complete the conversion of NTR to LEU fuel.” And GE subsequently told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that ” DOE funding is not currently available for conversion of the NTR fuel.”

See: “GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, LLC – Annual Statement of Non-availability of Federal Government Funding for Conversion from HEU to LEU for VNC Nuclear Test Reactor (NTR) at https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML21084A808

BUT WAIT!  NNSA continues to front for boosters and contractors engaged in project to convert the abandoned plutonium fuel (MOX) plant at the Savannah River Site into the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at a cost of $4.6 billion (add higher number if you wish) by 2030 (add any date you wish).  So, there seems to be money available for projects dangerous to our national security – making plutonium pits for unneeded and provocative new nuclear weapons – but not a penny left to get HEU out of commerce. This confirms that the priorities of NNSA are totally screwed up and that it’s placing contractor enrichment and parochial politics above national security.  Congress must make sure that the HEU conversion program is fully funded and that the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (with W87-1 warhead) and the new SLBM (with W93 warhead) – the first new weapons to get new plutonium pits – are terminated and funded halted.  As in nada, zilch, nothing.

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The New Shaft Permit Modification Part 3: Your Comments and the May 17th Public Hearing

As demanded by organizations and individuals, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has scheduled a public hearing on adding a New Utility Shaft to the WIPP permit. The hearing will start at noon on Monday, May 17, 2021. Hundreds of people commented on the proposed new shaft in 2019 and 2020, 97 percent of whom objected to WIPP expansion and the new shaft.

NMED allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to bypass the public process and start digging the new shaft with just a Temporary Authorization. But after receiving so many public comments in 2020 against the new shaft and against the Temporary Authorization, NMED stopped the construction of the shaft until after the public hearing. Public comments do make a difference!

You can comment now on the proposed new WIPP shaft, which is part of DOE’s plan to expand WIPP and operate it forever, rather than developing new repositories. The plan violates existing limits set in federal law, state agreements, the WIPP Permit, and DOE’s decades-old social contract with New Mexicans.

Your comments and participation can help stop the new shaft and DOE’s WIPP expansion plan!

The Figure shows the existing WIPP underground on the right side, the proposed New Utility Shaft “Shaft #5” in the center, and the proposed new underground disposal space on the left side. Graphic by Steven Zappe.

SAMPLE COMMENTS

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Santa Fe City Council rejects LANL coalition agreement

sfnewmexican.com March 31, 2021

The Santa Fe City Council has rejected an amended joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities over concerns about the organization’s impact and one councilor’s plan to introduce a measure removing the city from the group.

“I don’t think we should just approve an updated JPA because we want to go along to get along,” said City Councilor Renee Villarreal, who noted she intends to propose the city end its affiliation with the coalition. “Some of my colleagues say we should have a seat at the table, but I think we should have it at the right table.”

The council voted 5-3 against the agreement, with Mayor Alan Webber and Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth and Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez voting in favor. City Councilor Michael Garcia, the city’s representative on the coalition, abstained.

Rejecting the agreement does not pull the city out of the organization.

Villarreal has been the loudest critic of the coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory more of a voice in its job development and cleanup. She questioned in previous committee meetings how the city stood to benefit.

“Our values have not aligned,” Villarreal said. “I’m trying to understand changing the JPA, what does that change? How does our voice actually get heard since it hasn’t been heard the last 10 years?”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trinity Downwinders: 75 Years And Waiting

Excerpt from Rep. Hank Johnson’s closing comments:
“I heard the figure $2.5 billion in claims have been paid out thus far to 37,000 claimants. The cost of maintaining our nuclear weapons over the next 10 years will be $494 billion, almost $50 billion a year.
So, $50 billion a year to take care of our nuclear weapons, and over the time that this act has been in place we’ve spent $2.5 billion to compensate folks who have been adversely impacted by radiation.
That’s just a pittance, and its pathetic that our values are more towards protecting and taking care of our weapons than we are with taking care of the people who were adversely impacted.”
Watch the Hearing with the House Judiciary Committee below, which occurred 3/24/21. Click HERE to visit the website. Click HERE to read the Santa Fe New Mexican article written about the hearing. See Hearing below:
Examining the Need to Expand Eligibility Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

‘Sparking’ nuclear waste drum at Los Alamos National Lab leads to evacuation at WIPP

“A sparking drum of nuclear waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) led to a temporary evacuation of a section of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s underground repository as officials investigated if any other drums of waste emplaced at WIPP posed a similar threat.”

By:

Investigators later found no one was hurt and no radiation was released, according to a March 12 letter from the lab to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Hazardous Waste Bureau.

The lab reported it happened as workers packed a drum of low-level transuranic (TRU) waste on Feb. 26 for delivery and disposal at WIPP.

TRU waste is equipment, clothing materials and other items radiated during nuclear activities.

During the packing process, two high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters were placed into a drum, followed by a “metal waste item,” read the letter from the lab.

The item tore the bag containing the HEPA filters, and sparks were observed coming out of the container when the item contacted the filters.

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People downwind of atomic blasts renew push for US payout

“Officials say the team at Sandia is working with researchers from Australia as well as particle-technology researchers who are building a second concentrating solar power facility in Saudi Arabia to test variants of key components.”

By: The Associated Press / March 24, 2021 | apnews.com

The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)
The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In the desert northeast of Las Vegas, residents living along the Nevada-Arizona border would gather on their front porches for bomb parties or ride horses into the fields to watch as the U.S. government conducted atomic tests during a Cold War-era race to build up the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

About 100 of those tests were aboveground, and U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona testified during a congressional subcommittee hearing Wednesday that residents at the time marveled at the massive orange mushroom clouds billowing in the distance.

“They had no idea. They were never told that they were being exposed to dangerous cancer-causing radiation,” Stanton said. “As a direct result of the radiation exposure from these tests, thousands of Arizonans have suffered from cancer, entire families have suffered from cancer and far too many have died.”

He and others testified as part of a renewed push for compensation from the U.S. government following uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Sandia Labs to build solar power testing center in New Mexico

“Officials say the team at Sandia is working with researchers from Australia as well as particle-technology researchers who are building a second concentrating solar power facility in Saudi Arabia to test variants of key components.”

By: The Associated Press / March 26, 2021 | kob.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Sandia National Laboratories has been awarded a $25 million contract to build, test and operate a new solar power test facility on its campus in New Mexico.

Using a concentrated beam of sunlight to heat up sand-like particles, lab officials say the system will be able to produce thermal energy for thousands of hours and will have the capacity to store six hours of energy. This heat can be used to spin a turbine or power an engine to generate electricity.

The contract was announced Thursday by the lab and the U.S. Energy Department. The goal of the federal agency is to develop technology that can make concentrating solar power plants more reliable and easier to build using fewer high-cost materials so that they can be more widely commercialized.

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Critique of the RCLC Amended Joint Powers Agreement

The Santa Fe City Council will vote on March 31 to adopt or not the Amended Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) among seven local governments and two Pueblos to continue the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC). Separately, at a date yet to be determined, the City Council may consider whether or not to continue participation in the Coalition.

The City of Santa Fe should reject the Amended Joint Powers Agreement because the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has wholly failed to live up to the stated goals of the original JPA.

  • The RCLC was first formed in 2011. Local governments bought into it on the premise that the Coalition would successfully lobby for mission diversification and accelerated cleanup. After spending two million taxpayer dollars on itself the Coalition has been a spectacular failure in both.
  • The Amended JPA states: the Parties share a common interest in assuring that LANL’s missions remain sustainable and diversified…” The Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos County have provided 80% of RCLC’s funding. The County specifically cites the “interdependent needs of LANL and Los Alamos County.” DOE and Los Alamos County explicitly seek expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores, in which the City of Santa Fe does not share a common interest. Expanded pit production is LANL’s overwhelming growth area (270% increase from $308 million in FY 2020 to $847 million in FY 2021). Concerning “common interests,” DOE completely ignores City resolutions calling for resolution of nuclear safety problems before pit production expansion, comprehensive cleanup and a new site-wide environmental impact statement (particularly important for wildfire protection).

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Newly Released Documentary Film on Santa Susana Field Lab Airing Nationwide Nov. 14 at 10 pm ET

Variety article variety.com
MSNBC trailer msnbc.com
MSNBC promo msnbc.com

In the Dark of the Valley is the first feature film to focus on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former nuclear and rocket-engine testing site near Los Angeles. The film is an in-depth exploration into the site’s long history of cover-ups and negligence by site owners Boeing, NASA, and the Department of Energy. It also tells the harrowing story of how a community of mothers, led by Melissa Bumstead, have dealt with the struggles of childhood cancer and their new found life of environmental advocacy.

ICBM Information Project – View the Interactive ICBM Timeline

The Pentagon is currently planning to replace its current arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a brand-new missile force, known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD.

The GBSD program consists of a like-for-like replacement of all 400 Minuteman III missiles that are currently deployed across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, and will also include a full set of test-launch missiles, as well as upgrades to the launch facilities, launch control centers, and other supporting infrastructure. The GBSD program will keep ICBMs in the United States’ nuclear arsenal until 2075, and is estimated to cost approximately $100 billion (in Then Year dollars) in acquisition fees and $264 billion (in Then Year dollars) throughout its life-cycle.

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Examining the Need to Expand Eligibility Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties

When:   Wednesday, March 24, 2021, at 2 pm EDT, noon MDT

Where:  https://judiciary.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=4479

At the invitation of Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Tina Cordova, Co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), will provide written and oral testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties this week to urge the members to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to include the Trinity Downwinders.

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Transcript of interview with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Washington’s top diplomat holds roundtable with Japanese media in Tokyo

By: ERI SUGIURA| asia.nikkei.com

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters during an online group interview in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy)

TOKYO — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a virtual roundtable with Nikkei Asia and other Japanese media in Tokyo on Wednesday, a day after he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met for “two-plus-two” talks with Japanese counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi.

Here is an edited transcript of the group interview with Blinken:

— Opening remarks

The partnership between the United States and Japan is absolutely vital. I think it’s vital to our country’s respective citizens to the region, and in so many ways to the world. It really starts with our common commitment to democracy. And I think that’s especially significant today because democracy is under challenge and under threat in ways that it hasn’t been before, certainly not in recent years, particularly from autocratic countries were on the rise around the world.

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Explosively Entertaining: Nuclear Weapons on TV

Books, Films & Art of NoteBeyond the Bomb: Maria Diaz-Islas, March

1. Jericho (2006-2008)

This show’s passionate fanbase fought tooth and nail to keep it running before CBS canceled it after only two seasons (sounds a lot like some nuclear weapons manufacturers I’ve heard of…). It follows the story of the fictional Kansas town, Jericho, after a nuclear attack on nearby Denver turns the characters’ worlds upside down. The citizens of Jericho struggle as they avoid nuclear fallout, determine how to communicate with the outside world, and try to restore life back to the way it was before the explosion. The post-apocalyptic plot is also riddled with drama, as the characters’ near-death experiences and the loss of loved ones force them to question whether they were truly happy with their former ways of life, reminiscent of living through the COVID-19 pandemic today.
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BACK FROM THE BRINK: ENDING NUCLEAR WEAPONS BEFORE THEY END US

Opportunities Under the Biden Administration to Take Action

EVENT VIDEOS AND RESOURCES: Click below to view video recordings, learning resources and actions you can take to eliminate nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war.

preventnuclearwar.org/enw-resources

Former Nuclear Watch New Mexico Intern Alicia Sanders-Zakre Presentation on What the Entry into Force of the TPNW Mean in the United States:

The US Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force: A Post-Cold War INTERACTIVE Timeline

The Pentagon is currently planning to replace its current arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a brand-new missile force, known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD); it is estimated to cost approximately $100 billion in acquisition fees and $264 billion throughout its lifecycle until 2075 (in Then-Year dollars).

Click the link below to find a comprehensive timeline of all relevant actions taken relating to the ICBM force since the end of the Cold War, including force posture alterations, international treaties, congressional efforts, government studies, and milestones in the GBSD acquisition process.

The US Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force: A Post-Cold War Timeline

 

Links between Box Elder landfill, California business charged in radioactive waste scandal emerge

“[Bradley] Angel, with Green Action, says his organization is relieved that Tetra Tech EC has been taken off the Hunter’s Point cleanup but still worries about all projects Tetra Tech is involved in.

“Promontory Point Resource’s application in Utah stresses the convenient value of superfund cleanup sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tetra Tech, which designed the Promontory landfill, has also been deeply invested in other northern California superfund projects. Besides Hunter’s Point, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency and news accounts show the company is actively involved in cleanups at other Bay Area superfunds like the Alameda Naval Air Station and McLellan Air Force Base. All these sites contain radioactive contaminants.”

By: Eric Peterson / Special to the Standard-Examiner | standard.net March 19, 2021

Promontory Point Resources landfill is again seeking out-of-state waste and is eyeing superfund sites in northern California for waste to bring in. Photo supplied, The Box Elder News Journal

After sitting empty for years on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County, Promontory Point Resources is trying once again to receive out-of-state waste for its landfill after abandoning a previous attempt in 2018.

In its new Class V landfill application with the state Department of Environmental Quality, the company talks about the lucrative market in contaminated soils from superfund cleanup sites in northern California.

“The full market demand for excavated soil disposal from just counties around the San Francisco Bay appears to have an average in the range of 250,000 to 350,000 tons per year,” the document states.

The report does not mention many sites by name, although they are very well known in California.

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Cap on Trident nuclear warhead stockpile to rise by more than 40%

Boris Johnson announcement on Tuesday will end 30 years of gradual disarmament

By: Tricia Ennis | 13abc.com

The increased limit, from 180 to 260 warheads, is contained in a leaked copy of the integrated review of defence and foreign policy. Photograph: Tam McDonald/MoD/EPA

Britain is lifting the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads it can stockpile by more than 40%, Boris Johnson will announce on Tuesday, ending 30 years of gradual disarmament since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The increased limit, from 180 to 260 warheads, is contained in a leaked copy of the integrated review of defence and foreign policy, seen by the Guardian. It paves the way for a controversial £10bn rearmament in response to perceived threats from Russia and China.

The review also warns of the “realistic possibility” that a terrorist group will “launch a successful CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear] attack by 2030”, although there is little extra detail to back up this assessment.

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Santa Fe’s benefit from LANL coalition questioned

“We have RCLC, which is funded primarily by the Department of Energy funds, yet DOE doesn’t necessarily listen to the resolutions that we put forward about reducing plutonium pit production. They don’t ask us what we think as city of Santa Fe residents.”

sfnewmexican.com March 18th, 2021

Mar. 18—Concerns from City Councilor Renee Villarreal over how the city of Santa Fe would benefit by remaining in an amended joint power agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities continued during Wednesday night’s Quality of Life Committee meeting.

Santa Fe is one of nine cities, counties, towns and tribal governments that make up the regional coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities in Northern New Mexico more say in decision-making related to job development and cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Villarreal, however, questioned how the coalition advocates for city policy stances on requests for expanded cleanup at the site and the reduction of plutonium pit production.

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THE UK TO INCREASE NUCLEAR CAPABILITY BY 40%: British Defense Review Ends Nuclear Reductions Era

 fas.org March 17th, 2021

The United Kingdom announced yesterday that it has decided to abandon a previous plan to reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile to 180 by the mid-2020s and instead “move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads.”

The decision makes Britain the first Western nuclear-armed state to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile since the end of the end of the Cold War. In terms of numbers, it takes Britain back to a stockpile size it had in the early-2000s. The change is part of “a shift to a more robust position on security and deterrence.”

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Nuclear News Archives – 2020

Catholics Against Nukes: Archbishop Wester’s Hiroshima Vigil

As long as nuclear deterrence, that most unmeasured of strategies, remains, it keeps company with the prospect of use and annihilation. Coghlan, in his rebuke to the editors also penned in the Albuquerque Journal, gave an acid summation: “the US arsenal has always been about nuclear war fighting, starting with the simple fact that we were the first to use it.” Only “sheer luck has kept us from nuclear catastrophe.”

BY: Binoy Kampmark | scoop.com/nz

In what is a turn-up for the books, a senior voice of the Catholic Church made something of an impression this month that did not incite scandal, hot rage, or the commencement of an investigation. It did, however, agitate a few editors. Archbishop John C. Wester of San Fe, in speaking at the online Hiroshima Day vigil, had put up his hand to defy the validity and morality of nuclear weapons and, along with them, the idea of nuclear deterrence. One of the organisers of the event, the veteran peace activist Rev. John Dear, claimed it had “never happened before.”

Dear had a point. There has been a shift within Catholic ranks urged along by Pope Francis on that most fatuous of strategic doctrines, nuclear deterrence. Before the United Nations General Assembly in June 1982, Pope John Paul II chose to argue that nuclear “‘deterrence’ based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable.”

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America’s Ageing Nuclear Fleet Underprepared For Climate Change

Last year, Bloomberg conducted a review of “correspondence between the commission and owners of 60 plants” and made some terrifying discoveries. According to their own risk assessments, “54 of their [60] facilities weren’t designed to handle the flood risk they now face.”

oilprice.com

The United States is not only one of the first and foremost nuclear powers of the world, it has also long been the nuclear powerhouse of the planet, being responsible for a whopping two thirds of global nuclear energy production. Domestically, the United States’ nuclear power plants account for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity and produce over 50 percent of the entire country’s carbon-free energy generation.  But these superlatives, both global and domestic, won’t last. As nuclear energy grows around the world, the industry is in deep trouble in the U.S., where the aging nuclear fleet has been battered by a flood of cheap shale oil and natural gas, and is now barely clinging to life thanks to hefty government subsidies and leaving the shockingly high cost of radioactive waste maintenance to the taxpayers.

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New Video Shows Largest Hydrogen Bomb Ever Exploded

A Russian nuclear energy agency released formerly classified footage of the Soviet Union’s 1961 Tsar Bomba test.

BY:  | nytimes.com

A still image from a 30-minute, previously secret documentary on the largest hydrogen bomb ever detonated. Credit: Rosatom

Hydrogen bombs — the world’s deadliest weapons — have no theoretical size limit. The more fuel, the bigger the explosion. When the United States in 1952 detonated the world’s first, its destructive force was 700 times as great as that of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

And in the darkest days of the Cold War, the Soviets and the Americans didn’t only compete to build the most weapons. They each sought at times to build the biggest bomb of all.

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Don’t Preach Nuclear Arms to Archbishop

“That $2 trillion nuclear weapons modernization will do nothing to protect us against the global pandemic impacting Americans now. Further, the Sandia and Los Alamos labs may actually degrade national security with planned new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested because of the global testing moratorium. Or worse yet, this may prompt the U.S. back into testing, throwing more gas on the fire of the new nuclear arms race.”

BY: JAY COGHLAN / NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO, SANTA FE
Monday, August 24th, 2020 at 12:02am

In response to (the Aug. 13) editorial “Archbishop’s nuclear weapons view needs a homily on reality,” I was one of the speakers at the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, organized by Fr. John Dear, at which Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester eloquently spoke. The editorial declared “neither Wester nor Dear appear to accept the premise there is any deterrent benefit to the nuclear arsenal.”

To the contrary, the Journal perpetuates the delusion that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is just for deterrence, a premise fed to American taxpayers since the beginning of the Cold War. Instead, the U.S. arsenal has always been about nuclear warfighting, starting with the simple fact that we were the first to use it. This continues to this day, as the Pentagon made clear in a 2013 nuclear policy declaration: “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.”

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NOTE: This study has notable implications since the New Mexico congressional delegation touts expanded nuclear weapons programs as an economic engine for northern New Mexico.

Study: Neighboring counties lose money due to LANL

BY: Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — A study conducted by University of New Mexico researchers found that Los Alamos National Laboratory has a negative economic impact on nearby communities, despite employing many people in the area.

Of the seven counties included in the study, governments in six of them were found to be losing money due to LANL’s impact, with the exception of Los Alamos. Those counties include Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Miguel, Taos and Mora.

The study, conducted by UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, found Los Alamos County gained $13 million from economic activity created by the lab, while all other counties lost an average of $1.25 million.

Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties, home to 40% of the Lab’s employees, had the largest losses, at more than $2 million.

In a Friday presentation of the findings to the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, Bureau Director Jeff Mitchell said his team calculated how much revenue LANL employees produce for an area versus what it costs a local government to provide services for them.

The study, Mitchell said, found that LANL and its employees tend to spend their money in only a few places.

Thirty-eight percent of the Lab’s spending actually goes to Bernalillo County, with another 42% staying within Los Alamos County, according to the study.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trump Administration Sends Mixed Signals on Nuclear Weapons Budgeting

“A Senate-passed proposal would grant the Nuclear Weapons Council new authority to edit NNSA’s budget request after the Energy Department crafts it and before the request is submitted to the White House budget office.”

BY: &

WASHINGTON ― Defense hawks in Congress are pushing a contentious plan to give the Pentagon a stronger hand in crafting nuclear weapons budgets, but the Trump administration has been sending mixed messaging over recent weeks about whether the change is needed.

The Senate-passed version of the annual defense policy bill would give the Pentagon-led Nuclear Weapons Council a say in the budget development of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy that’s responsible for the stockpile’s safety, security, and effectiveness.

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NOTE: This article is illustrative of the absolutely key role New Mexico plays in the new nuclear arms race, far beyond just the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center is on Kirtland Air Force Base which shares runways with the Albuquerque, NM airport. The new nuclear arms race will be increasingly dangerous with likely hypersonic and cyber weapons.

US Air Force May Have Accidentally Revealed Interest in Hypersonic Nuke

BY:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has issued, and quietly revoked, a solicitation to industry seeking technologies that would support a hypersonic glide vehicle capable of traversing intercontinental ranges, potentially signaling the military’s interest in a hypersonic nuclear weapon.

According to an Aug. 12 request for information first reported by Aviation Week, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center sought ideas for potential upgrades to intercontinental ballistic missiles, including a “thermal protection system that can support [a] hypersonic glide to ICBM ranges.”

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USAF Rethinks Relationship Between Conventional, Nuclear Weapons

“What we’re trying to prepare ourselves to do is to respond with whatever force is necessary in a nuclear environment. It’s not so much to fight tactically. Really, the ultimate goal here is to deter. We want to raise that threshold of using nuclear weapons, whether strategic or non-strategic … to the highest level possible.”
To do that, Clark argues the Air Force needs ways to stop others from using nuclear weapons in the first place, and options to retaliate if deterrence fails. Technology, training, and command-and-control requirements all need to be updated to support that approach.

BY: Rachel S. Cohen

The Air Force is crafting new policy that envisions more fluidity between conventional and nuclear weapons, as well as a broader range of options to keep others from using their own nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has long treated conventional and nuclear warfare as separate concepts, but that’s beginning to change, said Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration.

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DOE Issues Draft RFP for the Oak Ridge Reservation Cleanup Contract

Cincinnati – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) issued a Draft Request for Proposals for the Oak Ridge Reservation Cleanup Contract (ORRCC) procurement at the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR), in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Media Contact:
Toni Rutherford
(513) 246-1374
Toni.Rutherford@emcbc.doe.gov

The purpose of the Draft RFP is to solicit input from interested parties to assist DOE in developing a Final RFP for this procurement. DOE invites all interested parties to thoroughly examine the Draft RFP and the accompanying procurement website in their entirety and to submit comments to DOE.

DOE anticipates an Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract with a ten-year ordering period from which Firm-Fixed-Price and/or Cost-Reimbursement-type task orders may be issued, with an estimated contract ceiling of approximately $8.3 billion over the ordering period. It is anticipated that task order performance may extend up to five years beyond the end of the ordering period.

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OREPA challenges NNSA’s “Final Supplement Analysis.”

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, along with Nuclear Watch New Mexico, has challenged the National Nuclear Security Administration’s latest justification for the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant under construction at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In a letter to the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the NNSA, OREPA and NWNM pointed out that the Final Supplement Analysis, released in July, falls far short of the “hard look” required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

See OREPA Comments

The Final Supplement Analysis is NNSA’s attempt to comply with the order of the federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee. The court, in September of last year, ruled in favor of OREPA, NWNM, the Natural Resources Defense Council and four individual plaintiffs who argued that NNSA is in violation of NEPA, the law that requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of their actions.

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SEE ALSO:


[ILLINOIS] ComEd, Madigan Sued for $450M in Racketeering Suit

Illinois electric customers filed a federal civil racketeering lawsuit against ComEd and state House Speaker Michael Madigan, seeking more than $450 million in damages.
Breaking news update: Today, August 10, a putative class of Commonwealth Edison customers filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, Commonwealth Edison Company (“ComEd”), ComEd’s parent Exelon Corporation, and several other defendants. Read all the details here.

BY: Michael Yoder | rtoinsider.com

The recent Illinois lobbying corruption scandal involving Exelon Corporation, its subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and Democratic House Speaker, Michael Madigan, demonstrates the extent to which nuclear “power” is about more than electrons.

The FBI arrests of the Ohio House Speaker and five others in a $60 million bribery/corruption scheme; the $10 billion Exelon nuclear bailout in New York; the questionable circumstances surrounding Exelon’s 2016 PepCo merger; and the South Carolina $9 billion SCANA fraud case, suggest that this may be a national pandemic.

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Public Interest Group Requests DOE Prepare “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” on Plutonium Disposition, in Support of Recommendation by National Academies of Sciences Pane

Plutonium Disposition via “Dilute & Dispose” to Bring at Least 22.5 Metric Tons More of Plutonium to Savannah River Site, On Top of 11.5 MT of Pu Already at SRS, Must Not be Stranded if Project Changes

Link to SRS Watch’s August 11 Letter to DOE on Plutonium Disposition and Need for PEIS

Savannah River Site Watch
https://srswatch.org/
Columbia, South Carolina
For immediate Release
August 12, 2020
 
Contact: Tom Clements, Director, SRS Watch, tel. 803-834-3084, cell 803-240-7268

Columbia, SC – The U.S. Department of Energy must prepare an overarching environmental analysis of slow-moving plans to process and dispose of surplus weapons plutonium at Savannah River Site and other DOE sites, according to a request made by Savanna River Site Watch, a public interest group providing oversight of SRS and DOE.

The August 11, 2020 letter to key DOE officials highlights reasons for preparation of a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements” (PEIS) on plutonium disposition and affirmed support for a recent recommendation by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS).  A PEIS, prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act, would review the need for the project, assess DOE system-wide plutonium-disposition impacts and would analyze various sites to be utilized, including SRS, Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and the Pantex site in Texas (where more than 15,000 plutonium pits removed from weapons are stored).

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New Mexico is still waiting for justice 75 years since the Manhattan Project

The state also faces coronavirus on this anniversary.

BY: Bernice Zamora Gutierrez & Paul Lopez Pino | thehill.com

While our nation struggles to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexicans are already engaged in a deadly health crisis that has cost the lives of thousands of our beloved family and community members for the past 75 years. This crisis is the overexposure to radiation from the world’s first nuclear bomb detonation at Trinity Site in south central New Mexico on July 16, 1945. In the process it made many New Mexicans the first “Downwinder” communities exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons. The Trinity test in New Mexico was followed by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki three weeks later and we are all memorializing our dead on this 75th anniversary of the nuclear age. And just as the country is waiting for a pandemic recovery plan, New Mexicans are still waiting to be included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) found in U.S. House Bill 3783.

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Obscure agency writing off state politician’s debt

““…Romero and various board members charged taxpayers for lunches in and around Santa Fe. These meals for a select group in no way furthered the public interest. They only benefited coalition insiders.”

BY:  | santafenewmexican.com

You miss a few payments on the $7,800 you owe on your car. A repo agent will take away your ride and your pride while the neighbors watch.

You fail to make payments on a years-old $7,800 credit card bill. The lender will make certain you suffer from the worry of being sued. All the while your debt will balloon with interest charges and late fees.

That’s the real world. Life isn’t as hard in the echelon of state Rep. Andrea Romero and her former employer, the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

The coalition’s board claims Romero still owes it $7,800 for impermissible expenses accrued during her tenure as its executive director from March 2016 to February 2018. It asked Romero in May to pay the bill.

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Nuclear Power goes South in South Carolina

“It looks like crime might well pay after all.”
That was the weary and only slightly tongue-in-cheek conclusion drawn by longtime anti-nuclear campaigner, Tom Clements recently, after a former South Carolina nuclear utility executive pled guilty to fraud in federal court.

BY: Linda Pentz Gunter | beyondnuclear.org

Photo: Since cancelled V.C. Summer Unit 3, by NRC/Flickr.

Clements is the director of Savannah River Site Watch, but his activism has, for decades, extended well beyond the perimeter of that vast nuclear site.

For years, Clements and others have followed — and attempted to stand in the way of — the forced march of South Carolina ratepayers toward nuclear fiasco. When it finally unraveled in late July, there was only cautious cause for celebration.

On July 23, Stephen Byrne, the former COO of SCANA, the South Carolina utility originally in charge of the construction of two new nuclear reactors in the state, pled guilty in a massive nuclear conspiracy that defrauded ratepayers, deceived regulators and misled shareholders.

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Hiroshima survivor Dr. Hideko Tamura Snider, August 9, 2020

Hiroshima survivor Hideko Tamura Snider, August 9, 2020

On August 9, 2020, Dr. Hideko Tamura Snider, author of “One Sunny Day” and “When A Peace Tree Blooms,” joined WILPF US Disarm/End Wars Committee and #HiroshimaNagasaki75 in describing her experiences before, during and after the Hiroshima bomb, and appealing to us all, “I depend on all of your energy, please continue what you are doing to rule out violent means, especially this inhumane, horrible weapon…. We are not barbarians, we are humans, and let us be truly and fully human….”

https://youtu.be/KYzuoGuqg34
75th Anniversary Timeline webinars at the WILPF US Disarm Committee YouTube channel – https://bit.ly/wilpfus-disarmyoutube

Anti-nuclear protests at Kings Bay

“Our mission is to stop the arms race…it’s a security risk and phenomenally expensive. This has become a business model and it’s deadly.” – Glenn Carroll, coordinator of Nuclear Watch South

thebrunswicknews.com

Anti-nuclear protesters hold signs near the entrance to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay on the 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Gordon Jackson/The Brunswick News

ST. MARYS / Organizers of an annual protest against nuclear weapons at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay expected a large crowd to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, to help hasten the end of World War II.

Five people ended up standing outside a base gate Thursday holding signs with anti-nuclear weapons messages.

Glenn Carroll, coordinator of Nuclear Watch South, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic compelled many who were planning to attend to stay home for health concerns. But Carroll said her trip from Atlanta to join others with concerns about nuclear weapons Thursday was worth the time.

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How New Tech Raises the Risk of Nuclear War

75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some experts believe the risk of the use of a nuclear weapon is as high now as it has been since the Cuban missile crisis.

BY: BRYAN WELSH | axios.com

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The big picture: Nuclear war remains the single greatest present threat to humanity — and one that is poised to grow as emerging technologies, like much faster missiles, cyber warfare and artificial intelligence, upset an already precarious nuclear balance.

What’s happening: A mix of shifting geopolitical tensions and technological change is upsetting a decades-long state of strategic stability around nuclear weapons.

  • Strategic stability is when no country has an incentive to launch a first nuclear strike, knowing that doing so would inevitably lead to a catastrophic response. It’s the “mutual” in “mutually assured destruction.”
  • Arms control deals like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are collapsing, while faster hypersonic missiles are shrinking the already brief minutes available to decide how and whether to respond to a potential nuclear attack, meaning “the possibilities of a miscalculation are unfortunately higher than they have been in a long, long time,” says former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
  • As concerning as rising tensions are between the U.S. and Russia, or between the U.S. and a more assertive China, experts worry even more about the destabilizing effect of emerging technologies like cyber warfare and AI.
  • “The black box of AI in the future of war makes it almost inherently unpredictable,” says P.W. Singer, a strategist at New America and author of “Burn-In” — and unpredictability is anathema to a nuclear balance held in place by predictability.

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75 years after Hiroshima, should U.S. president have authority to launch nuclear attack?

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Seventy-five years later, [PBS] NewsHour revisits how the president became the sole authority on when nuclear weapons are used. Nick Schifrin reports and talks to former Secretary of Defense William Perry, co-author of “The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump.”

BY: Nick Schifrin | pbs.org

Judy Woodruff:

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. In the coming days, we will examine this 75th anniversary, the bomb’s immediate aftermath and its lasting legacy. Today, Nick Schifrin looks at the president’s sole authority to launch such a weapon and how that authority came to be.

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The 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Renewed Call for Our Day

“A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions … ” — Pope Francis, Address at Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park (Nagasaki), November 24, 2019.

PEOPLE OF GOD – Santa Fe Archdiocese, August 2020

PRAY

Pray with your community for the causes of peace and nuclear disarmament to be made a reality.

LEARN

Learn about what the Church teaches regarding nuclear weapons.

ACT

Put what your faith into action by raising your voice to support nuclear disarmament.

 JOIN OUR COMMEMORATION EVENT AUGUST 6

On 75th Anniversary of Japan Nuclear Bombings, Sierra Club Continues Calls for Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Today, the Sierra Club rises with the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in continuing our call for an elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide. The creation and storage of nuclear weapons is inherently risky, and accidents, testing, and use of nuclear weapons are recklessly and unnecessarily dangerous for communities — particularly low income and communities of color — and our environment. 
“The Sierra Club calls on Congress to resist the current renewal of the nuclear arms race and to ban the use of nuclear weapons.”

cindy.carr@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the WW II nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Sierra Club has joined with the Hibakusha Survivors in calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons globally. Since 1945, nearly 100,000 nuclear weapons have been manufactured, costing trillions of dollars and destroying communities and the environment through the mining, refining, and weaponizing of uranium.

The Sierra Club opposes the creation and testing of nuclear weapons and supports the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

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Urgency to bear witness grows for last Hiroshima victims

“We must work harder to get our voices heard, not just mine but those of many other survivors,” Lee [ Jong-keun] said in an interview Tuesday at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. “A nuclear weapons ban is the starting point for peace.”

| santafenewmexican.com

HIROSHIMA, Japan

For nearly 70 years, until he turned 85, Lee Jong-keun hid his past as an atomic bomb survivor, fearful of the widespread discrimination against blast victims that has long persisted in Japan.

But Lee, 92, is now part of a fast-dwindling group of survivors, known as hibakusha, that feels a growing urgency — desperation even — to tell their stories. These last witnesses to what happened 75 years ago Thursday want to reach a younger generation that they feel is losing sight of the horror.

The knowledge of their dwindling time — the average age of the survivors is more than 83 and many suffer from the long-lasting effects of radiation — is coupled with deep frustration over stalled progress in global efforts to ban nuclear weapons. According to a recent Asahi newspaper survey of 768 survivors, nearly two-thirds said their wish for a nuclear-free world is not widely shared by the rest of humanity, and more than 70 percent called on a reluctant Japanese government to ratify a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

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Atomic-bomb survivors seek new ways to keep their memories alive

Around the world, non-proliferation efforts are faltering

THEECONOMIST.COM

For seventeen year-old Takeoka Chisako, August 6th, 1945 was supposed to be a day off. She had planned to meet two girlfriends at 8:15 that morning, at a train station on the west side of Hiroshima. She was running late, and as she stepped outside her house she lifted a pocket mirror to her face. Then she saw a flash and heard a bang. When she regained consciousness she found herself lying in a potato field 30 metres away, a mushroom cloud rising in the sky. People with charred skin dangling from their arms came rushing over a nearby hillside. They cried for help, but were too feeble to speak their names and too weak to drink the water Ms Takeoka brought them. “Then one by one, they died,” says Higashino Mariko, Ms Takeoka’s daughter.

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Hiroshima after 75 years: Walking the path of the atomic bomb

74-year-old [Kosei Mito] turns to a page in one of his binders with a large quote Pope John Paul II made during a visit to Hiroshima in 1981, one that’s inscribed on a memorial inside the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
“To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future.”

BRAD LENDON | CNN.COM

Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands (CNN) — It’s a discolored concrete slab, molding in the tropical humidity. But on this slab, not much bigger than the footprint of a beach cabin, history changed. What was once a doorway is obvious, as are the bases for a couple interior walls and an opening for a larger garage-like entrance. I walk through the doorway, through the interior and out the garage. As I do, my guide puts these few steps in extraordinary perspective.
“You’re walking the path of the atomic bomb.”
This slab is where the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago were put together. It’s the assembly point for the dawning of the atomic age. Now it sits, essentially ignored, on the Pacific island of Tinian, from where the US Army Air Force B-29 bombers that performed those atomic strikes on Japan departed.

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Unlike the pandemic, nuclear war can be stopped before it begins

Seventy-five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the anti-nuclear movement is taking big steps toward abolition.

BY: MARINA MARTINEZ | wagingnonviolence.org

Nuclear weapons have been posing a threat to humanity for 75 years — ever since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

These days, our focus is understandably on the COVID-19 virus and the threat it poses to human life. But as we commemorate the anniversary of these bombings, it is important to acknowledge that unlike the coronavirus, nuclear weapons can only be remediated with prevention. Millions of people could be killed if a single nuclear bomb were detonated over a large city, and the added threats of radiation and retaliation could endanger all life on Earth.

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U.S. LAUNCHES MINUTEMAN III MISSILE TEST LESS THAN 48 HOURS BEFORE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIROSHIMA ATOMIC BOMBING

“The unnecessarily provocative test by the U.S. today is an important reminder that the nuclear threat remains very real, and that there are people in this country – along with a few other countries – who are willing to sacrifice us all in a battle that can never be won and must never be fought.”

For Immediate Release Contact: Sandy Jones (805) 965-3443; sjones@napf.org
Rick Wayman (805) 696-5159; rwayman@napf.org  ragingpeace.org

Santa Barbara, CA – The U.S. Air Force launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday morning, August 4, at 12:21 a.m. PDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The missile traveled over 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

While Air Force Global Strike Command asserts that missile tests are scheduled years in advance, it is difficult to ignore the timing of this test – less than 48 hours before the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Rick Wayman, CEO of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a non-profit based in Santa Barbara committed to solving the most dangerous technological, social, and psychological issues of our time, including the abolition of nuclear weapons, commented on the missile test. He said, “This week, the majority of the world is solemnly remembering the 75th anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and vowing that such a thing will never happen again. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings were indiscriminately slaughtered by two primitive U.S. atomic bombs in August 1945. The weapon that was tested this morning is designed for far greater damage.”

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Trump team’s case for new nuke cites risks in current arsenal

The administration justified new atomic weapons by citing rarely acknowledged vulnerabilities in U.S. nuclear arsenal

BY: JOHN M. DONNELLY | rollcall.com

Just one of America’s 14 Ohio-class submarines — like the USS Maine, above — could deliver explosive power nearly 10 times that of all the bombs dropped in World War II. (Andrea Perez/U.S. Navy photo)

The Trump administration, in a closely held memo to lawmakers this spring, justified developing the first new U.S. atomic weapon since the Cold War by citing vulnerabilities and risks in the current nuclear arsenal that are rarely or never acknowledged in public.

In an unclassified five-page white paper sent to Congress in May, the Pentagon and the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, affirm a point they have long minimized: the dangers of land-based missiles ready to launch minutes after a warning of enemy attack.

They also discuss threats to U.S. nuclear missile submarines that have previously been depicted as all but undetectable. They say, too, that a new class of ballistic missile submarines lacks the firepower of its predecessors, creating a need for a lighter and more powerful type of warhead — in addition to the two existing types. As for the current two sets of warheads, they say they have too few of the most destructive kind and too many of the less forceful variety — and excessively rely on the latter.

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Gov. argues against Holtec nuclear storage site

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, arguing against a proposed nuclear waste interim storage facility in southeast New Mexico.
“The proposed (facility) would join the ranks of uranium mining, nuclear energy and defense-related programs that have long created risks to public health and the environment in the state of New Mexico that are disproportionately greater than such risks to the general population of the United States,” she wrote.

BY: THERESA DAVIS, JOURNAL STAFF WRITER | Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The proposed Holtec International site would store 500 stainless steel canisters of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel on 1,000 acres between Carlsbad and Hobbs, with a full storage capacity of 10,000 canisters.

“New Mexico has grave concerns for the unnecessary risk to our citizens and our communities, our first responders, our environment, and to New Mexico’s agriculture and natural resource industries,” Lujan Grisham wrote in the letter.

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LANL trolley that carries radioactive material broken down

“If LANL can’t drive a trolley or clean up old stuff without exposing people, how can they safely expand plutonium pit production?” asked Scott Kovac, research and operations director for nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

An internal trolley that carries radioactive material to several glove-box areas at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium facility has been broken for almost two months, hindering operations at the site, a federal watchdog report said.

The trolley became disabled in early June, and its bucket is stuck with a container of nuclear material inside, according to a report issued by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

“However, the location is not creating any radiological exposure concerns,” the report said.

The report noted the idled trolley has hampered the internal transfer of radioactive material to the sealed containers with protective gloves attached, but it didn’t say to what extent.

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“F-35s Don’t Help Families Pay Their Bills”: GOP Slips Pentagon Into COVID Bill

“People are dying, or worried about keeping a roof over their families’ heads, or cutting hours because their kids’ schools are closed,” said Anthony Weir, a lobbyist on nuclear disarmament and Pentagon spending at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “And this is the time to jam some military procurement into this year that you didn’t get last year?”

BY: JAKE JOHNSON | truthout.org

The GOP’s HEALS Act is replete with massive gifts to the Pentagon and defense contractors, including $686 million for F-35s.
SAMUEL KING JR. / U.S. AIR FORCE

In a floor speech late Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the GOP’s newly released coronavirus stimulus package as a “carefully tailored” plan to provide financial relief to desperate Americans.

But a look at the legislative text (pdf) released by Senate Republicans shows the HEALS Act is replete with massive gifts to the Pentagon and defense contractors that would do nothing to aid the unemployed, provide nutrition assistance to hungry children, prevent an avalanche of evictions, or stop the spread of coronavirus.

“Last time I checked F-35s don’t help families pay their bills,” Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.) tweeted in response to the GOP’s proposal of $686 million in spending on new fighter jets.

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Pending Energy Spending Bill Mixed Bag for INL

“We all know major change takes time, and we know that it is difficult to turn this ship, but we are doing it in our time…We can and must do better than refight a tired old battle on Yucca Mountain.” – Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio

By: | postregister.com

Idaho National Laboratory

The Energy and Water appropriations bill Congress is expected to take up next week represents a mixed bag for Idaho National Laboratory, with spending on some priorities kept flat and slight increases for others.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines earlier this month, with the Democrats in favor and the Republicans opposed, to advance the bill. At $49.6 billion in the regular budget, it represents a $1.26 billion increase over this year’s spending, according to a committee reporting summarizing the bill. However, on top of this it also includes an additional $23.5 billion in emergency one-time funding meant to bolster various clean energy projects and aid in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that has led to pushback from Republicans. It and six other spending bills are expected to be considered by the full House this week, according to a news release from the committee.

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Rebuts U.S. Claim that Marshall Islands Nuclear Waste Site is Safe

“The U.S. government is responsible for this storage site and must ensure the protection of the people and our environment from the toxic waste stored there,” Gabbard said in a news release announcing her amendment to the defense bill.

BY: SUSANNE RUST | latimes.com

Graffiti in May 2018 is written on Runit Dome, in Enewetak Atoll of the Marshall Islands, urging the United States to take responsibility for the radioactive waste encapsulated inside the concrete structure. The U.S. government paid a contractor to remove the graffiti from the dome’s surface. (Mika Makelainen / Yle)

One of Hawaii’s high-profile politicians has dismissed a recent Department of Energy report concluding that a leaking U.S. nuclear waste repository in the Marshall Islands is safe for people there.

She called for the department to convene a more independent assessment of the waste site.

“I think it’s time the Department of Energy relied on someone with fresh eyes to examine the situation,” said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of Hawaii’s two Democratic House members, in a recent interview with The Times.

Gabbard, who gained national attention by launching what some called a quixotic campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has been outspoken in Congress on behalf of the Marshall Islands, which the United States used as a testing site for scores of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

She’s pushed to reinstate Medicaid eligibility to people from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau who are working and living in the United States but lack access to healthcare. She also was instrumental in requiring the Department of Energy to reexamine the safety of Runit Dome, a leaking nuclear waste repository in the Marshall Islands, as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Novel gas-capture approach advances nuclear fuel management

“If one day we want to treat the spent fuels, which in the U.S. are currently stored in pools and dry casks at the nuclear power plant sites, we need to handle the volatile radionuclides.” explains Ju Li, MIT’s Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering. “Physisorption of krypton and xenon is a good approach, and we were very happy to collaborate with this large team on the MOF approach.”

By: PETER DUNN, MIT | phys.org

Separation of 85Kr from spent nuclear fuel by a highly selective metal organic framework. Credit: Mike Gipple/NETL

Nuclear energy provides about 20 percent of the U.S. electricity supply, and over half of its carbon-free generating capacity.

Operations of commercial nuclear reactors produce small quantities of spent fuel, which in some countries is reprocessed to extract materials that can be recycled as fuel in other reactors. Key to the improvement of the economics of this fuel cycle is the capture of gaseous radioactive products of fission such as 85krypton.

Therefore, developing efficient technology to capture and secure 85krypton from the mix of effluent gasses would represent a significant improvement in the management of used nuclear fuels. One promising avenue is the adsorption of gasses into an advanced type of soft crystalline material, metal organic frameworks (MOFs), which have extremely high porosity and enormous internal surface area and can incorporate a vast array of organic and inorganic components.

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Top Ex-SCANA Official Stephen Byrne Pleads Guilty in SC Nuclear Fiasco Fraud Case

Stephen Byrne, a top executive of the now-defunct SCANA electric utility, pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal conspiracy fraud charges in federal court in Columbia.

BY: John MonkJoseph Bustos | thestate.com

Byrne’s guilty plea showed that SCANA’s downfall — triggered by a failed $9 billion effort to build two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County — was the result of not just mismanagement or incompetence, but criminal conduct at the company‘s highest levels.
SCANA, a Fortune 500 publicly traded company whose business lineage traced back to 1846, was one of the crown jewels of South Carolina’s economy. But the failure of its effort to build two nuclear reactors at its plant in Jenkinsville led to multiple lawsuits and mounting financial troubles. Eventually the company was absorbed by Dominion Energy. SCANA’s downfall is perhaps the most costly business failure in state history.
Byrne was part of a conspiracy that engineered a “cover-up” to hide the extent of the publicly traded company’s financial problems caused by the nuclear project’s difficulties, according to charging documents in his case. “Through intentional misrepresentations,” Byrne and others deceived regulators and customers, documents said.
Byrne, 60, who appeared with his lawyers, Jim Griffin and Maggie Fox of Columbia, said little during Thursday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Mary Lewis. He will be sentenced at a later date and, as part of a plea bargain, could testify against any alleged co-conspirators.

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White House held talks over resuming US nuclear tests, John Bolton says

Ex-Trump adviser and testing advocate tells Guardian ‘certainly it was discussed’ but no decision was made by the time he left

BY: JULIAN BORGER | theguardian.com

John Bolton acknowledged that there was resistance to testing from other officials in the Trump administration. ‘I think different people have different views,’ he said.

White House officials held a series of discussions over the past two years on the possibility of resuming US nuclear testing, according to the former national security adviser John Bolton.

“Certainly the subject was discussed,” Bolton, a fierce advocate of testing, told the Guardian. However, there was opposition from some in the administration who felt current computer-based testing of US warheads was sufficient, and no decision was made by the time Bolton left the White House last September.

When the prospect of the first US underground nuclear test in nearly three decades came up at a White House meeting in May, it triggered an outcry from arms control advocates and a Democratic amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, blocking funding for preparations for a test.

Bolton, who has published a memoir on his time in the Trump White House titled The Room Where It Happened, said the issue was discussed in general terms on a number of occasions while he was national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019. However, the discussions did not become “operational” as his priority had been to take the US out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

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Ohio Nuclear Power Scandal

As [David] DeVillers described it at a press conference: it was the “largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of Ohio.”

BY: KARL GROSSMAN | counterpunch.org

 

Photograph Source: David_Besse_NPP.jpg: Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Original uploader was Theanphibian at en.wikipedia – Public Domain

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI this week charged the speaker of the Ohio House of Representative and four others in a $61 million scheme to use $1 billion in ratepayers money to keep two decrepit nuclear power plants operating.

And, said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers, at a press conference after the arrests Tuesday: “This is by no means over. We are going to continue with this investigation.”

Those charged were involved in a “Conspiracy to Participate, Directly or Indirectly” in the scheme “through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity,” declared the “Offense Description” that headed an 81-page federal “Criminal Complaint.”

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A Dirty Battle for a Nuclear Bailout in Ohio

“It has been known since the late 1970s that the cost of constructing nuclear plants in the United States is very high, but the cost gap between nuclear electricity and other alternatives has increased dramatically in the last decade. In its most recent estimate, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimated that a new nuclear plant will generate electricity at an average cost of $155 per megawatt hour, nearly four times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per megawatt hour each for new wind and solar energy plants. The average cost for natural gas plants is $56 per megawatt hour.
The gap will only grow larger. While the costs of nuclear power have been increasing, the costs of wind and solar power have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last decade.”

BY: Shakiba FadaieM. V. Ramana | thebulletin.org

mailer sent to thousands of Ohio residents falsely linked the Chinese government to anti-bailout activists. Image credit: WTOL Toledo, via Twitter.

Last July, Ohio’s governor signed House Bill 6 (HB6) to provide FirstEnergy (now Energy Harbor), a large electric utility, with subsidies of nearly $150 million per year to keep its Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants operating. Ohio is only the fifth US state to offer such subsidies; other states include New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Although the subsidies are justified by some as necessary for climate mitigation, in the latter four states, electricity generation from natural gas, which results in greenhouse gas emissions, has increased since 2017, when these subsidy programs started kicking in. Moreover, in Ohio, subsidies are also being extended to coal power plants, providing the clearest illustration that what underlies the push for subsidies to nuclear plants is not a result of a real commitment to climate mitigation but a way to use climate concerns to bolster the profits of some energy corporations.

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Inhofe, Reed Praise Senate Passage of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

The United States Senate today passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, 86-14.

Thursday, July 23, 2020 PRESS RELEASE: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/press-releases/inhofe-reed-praise-senate-passage-of-national-defense-authorization-act-of-fiscal-year-2021

Excerpt below from pages 416-417 includes review of transferring plutonium oxide production from Los Alamos to SRS, despite the fact that SRS already stores 11.5 MT of plutonium that South Carolina wants out of the state, and no more plutonium to come in until the current stockpile is gone.

Responsibility for Los Alamos Plutonium Facility 4 and Technical Area 55
Plutonium Facility 4 (PF–4) at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technical Area 55 is the primary plutonium handling facility within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). PF–4 is currently undergoing major modifications to produce war reserve plutonium pits, with a production goal of 30 pits per year by 2026.Continue reading

Bribed Ohio’s $60 Million Radioactive Uproar Rocks the 2020 Vote

“Ohio is in election-year turmoil over a Trump-supported nuke bailout bought with bribery. Whether public fury will kill the handout and affect the fall presidential election remains to be seen…But Bribed Ohio 2020 has clearly gone radioactive.”

BY: Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman | readersupportednews.com

Ohio’s biggest-ever bribery case is rocking America’s reactor industry … and the fall election.

Full details of the shocking arrest of Ohio’s powerful Speaker of the House are still unfolding.

But on Monday, the FBI charged Larry Householder and four associates with taking $60 million (that’s NOT a typo) in bribes from “Company A,” suspected to be the Akron-based nuke utility FirstEnergy. The company has not been formally named as the source of the bribe, but FE’s stock has since plummetted.

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Former SCANA Executive Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges Tied to Failed SC Nuclear Project

“I’m glad there is going to be a little bit of justice and that Mr. Byrne is now pleading guilty to his crime, so it’s a matter of holding others accountable who were former executives of SCANA,” Tom Clements said. “I would anticipate that Kevin Marsh and Jimmy Addison are probably next in the queue to be charged, and hopefully others.”

BY: Andrew Brown & Avery G. Wilks | postandcourier.com

COLUMBIA — Federal prosecutors locked in a valuable witness on Thursday that will give them insights and advantages as they continue to bring charges against the leaders of a failed $9 billion nuclear expansion project in South Carolina.
Steve Byrne, the former vice president of Cayce-based SCANA Corp., pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding electric customers and lying about construction progress as the company tried to build two new nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.
The guilty plea requires Byrne, 60, to cooperate with federal prosecutors, who have spent three years investigating the project’s sudden abandonment in July 2017. That project’s failure cost South Carolina electric ratepayers billions of dollars in higher power bills. SCANA’s shareholders also suffered huge losses when the company’s stock value tanked.

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Nuclear News Archives – 2019

Say “No” to More Nuclear Weapons:

Comments are Needed on Proposed Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab and at The Savannah River Site.

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Radioactive pollution leaked through floor of South Carolina nuclear fuel plant

Westinghouse Nuclear fuel factory southeast of Columbia.
(Photo: Courtesy of High Flyer/The State)

BY SAMMY FRETWELL | greenvilleonline.com

Radioactive uranium has leaked through the floor at Westinghouse’s Bluff Road fuel factory, contaminating the soil in an area of Richland County with a nearly 35-year history of groundwater pollution from the plant.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the uranium, a toxic substance used to make nuclear fuel rods, seeped through a 3-inch hole in a concrete floor in part of the factory where an acid is used. The hole extends 6 feet into the ground, according to the NRC. The NRC learned of the leak July 12.

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Are We Headed for Another Expensive Nuclear Arms Race? Could Be.

United States soldiers after conducting military exercises in the West Philippine Sea in April.CreditCreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

BY STEVEN ERLANGER | nytimes.com

BRUSSELS — After the recent death of the treaty covering intermediate-range missiles, a new arms race appears to be taking shape, drawing in more players, more money and more weapons at a time of increased global instability and anxiety about nuclear proliferation.

The arms control architecture of the Cold War, involving tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, was laboriously designed over years of hard-fought negotiations between two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union. The elaborate treaties helped keep the world from nuclear annihilation.

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Pakistan downgrades diplomatic ties, suspends trade with India over Kashmir

Kashmir in lockdown as India plans to change state’s status

BY JESSIE YEUNG & SOPHIA SAIFI | cnn.com

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) Pakistan has announced it will downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India after New Delhi stripped the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. India’s High Commissioner will also be removed from the country, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday. It added that Islamabad will not send its own ambassador to New Delhi.

The series of announcements came after a National Security Committee meeting on Wednesday, where the office of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Islamabad would also review bilateral agreements with India and take the issue up with the United Nations and the UN Security Council.

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TPNW is now officially halfway towards entry into force!

On August 6th, 1945 at 8:16 am, a nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, killing over 140,000 people and wiping out most of the city. 74 years later, the bomb’s catastrophic consequences are still affecting people’s lives.

TPNW is now officially halfway towards entry into force! Bolivia’s ratification on Hiroshima Day brings Nuclear Ban Treaty halfway to entry into force
Bolivia’s ratification on Hiroshima Day brings ICAN’s Nuclear Ban Treaty halfway to entry into force.

Today, tens of thousands of people have gathered  in Hiroshima, and around the world, to commemorate the victims and echo the call of the Hibakusha – the survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that such a thing must never happen again. And at the UN in New York, one such commemoration took a very special form today:  Bolivia has just marked Hiroshima Day by depositing its ratification instrument for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). With this ratification, TPNW is now officially halfway towards entry into force!
Read more about this special moment

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The Human Cost of the Hiroshima Bombing

PODCAST: Listen to the story of Kathleen Burkinshaw, the daughter of a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. Kathleen reminds us that she and her mother are among the tens of thousands of people who view nuclear weapons in terms of the friends and family members they lost.

First Instagram post | First Facebook post

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“For this week’s Press the Button, we mark the 74th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing with a special edition episode.”
Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

August 6th —  Two interrelated issues are discussed: Should US policy today still reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first, and what happened when we did go first nearly three quarters of a century ago?
“To help answer these questions, we bring you the very best from a multitude of our earlier interviews. You’ll hear from nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein, former Obama deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, former RAND analyst and releaser of the Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg, founding director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights Carol Cohn, and Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Also featuring special guest Kingston Reif from the Arms Control Association, to discuss recent nuclear news on the Early Warning segment. Kingston talks about the INF Treaty withdrawal, no-first-use, and the latest from Iran..

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Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

The Democratic Debates Need More Questions About Nuclear War

There is a remarkable incongruity between the existential danger of nuclear war and the absence of public discussion about preventing it. This disconnect is all too apparent today, as arms control and disarmament treaties are scrapped, nations embark on vast nuclear weapons buildups, and governments threaten nuclear war against one another.

The Democratic Debates Need More Questions About Nuclear War, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker speaks while Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former housing secretary Julian Castro, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, former tech executive Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio listen during Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker speaks while Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former housing secretary Julian Castro, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, former tech executive Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio listen during Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan.
SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

BY LAWRENCE WITTNER |truthout.org

Meanwhile, the mass media routinely avoids these issues but, instead, focuses on movie stars, athletes, and President Donald Trump’s latest tweeted insults.

Do I exaggerate? Consider the following.

In May 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the laboriously constructed Iran nuclear agreement that had closed off the possibility of that nation developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. pullout was followed by the imposition of heavy U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, as well as by thinly veiled threats by Trump to use nuclear weapons to destroy that country. Irate at these moves, the Iranian government recently retaliated by exceeding the limits set by the shattered agreement on its uranium stockpile and uranium enrichment.

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Arms Control Association – Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

“The loss of the landmark INF Treaty, which helped end the Cold War nuclear arms race, is a blow to international peace and security.”

Statement from Daryl G. Kimball, executive director | armscontrol.org | Media ContactsDaryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104

“Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But President Trump’s decision to terminate the treaty will not eliminate Russia’s noncompliant 9M729 missiles — and is a mistake.

“Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute arms control plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

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Communities in the American Southwest Were Exposed to Nuclear Fallout. Can They Get Compensated?

Radiation epidemiology is a science of uncertainty.

BY:  | motherjones.com

The atomic bomb was born in the desert. In the early hours of July 16, 1945, after a spate of bad weather, a 20-kiloton plutonium-based nuke referred to as “the gadget” detonated near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Firsthand testimonies of the test, codenamed Trinity, converge on the uncanny axis of awe and dread.

The Manhattan Project’s Chief of Field Operations, General Thomas Farrell, wrote that “the strong, sustained, awesome roar…warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous.”

The bomb produced a massive cloud column that drifted in several directions, dusting large swaths of the surrounding region with radioactive snow—fallout that settled on buildings, plants, and animals, and that continued to permeate the air as invisible particulate in the weeks and months that followed. Five years later, the Nevada Test Site was established to continue the work that Trinity set alight.

Although the mushroom cloud became the icon of American nuclear activity in the 20th century, the harms of these bombs did not fade with their dimming fireballs. No group in the US understands this better than the downwinders, communities throughout the American Southwest and beyond who were exposed to the fallout of the military’s domestic nuclear test program.

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The INF Treaty Officially Died Today

Six months after both the United States and Russia announced suspensions of their respective obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the treaty officially died today.

Federation of American Scientists | Posted on Aug.02, 2019 in Arms ControlNuclear WeaponsRussiaUnited States by 

The Federation of American Scientists strongly condemns the irresponsible acts by the Russian and US administrations that have resulted in the demise of this historic and important agreement.

In a they-did-it statement on the State Department’s web site, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo repeated the accusation that Russia has violated the treaty by testing and deploying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the treaty.

“The United States will not remain party [sic] to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” he said.

By withdrawing from the INF, the Trump administration has surrendered legal and political pressure on Russia to return to compliance. Instead of diplomacy, the administration appears intent on ramping up military pressure by developing its own INF missiles.

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INF Treaty Collapse

Today, 2 August 2019, the governments of the US and Russia have missed a troubling deadline: the end of the six-month notice period that began when both countries announced their withdrawal from the INF Treaty earlier this year. During this period, the decision could still be reversed if both parties went back to the negotiating table. Now that the deadline has passed, and both states can produce even more nuclear weapons, this time enabled to hit targets in the range of 500 and 5,500 kilometres. These weapons, optimised to destroy cities and wipe out civilian populations, put the whole world – and Europe in particular – at risk.

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A nuclear treaty is about to vanish. Its demise should teach a lesson.

On Friday, a pillar of global security will expire.

BY EDITORIAL BOARD | washingtonpost.com

Perhaps no one will notice when the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 slips into oblivion; the threat of nuclear attack in just minutes that seemed so unnerving during the late 20th century has now faded into a distant memory, lost to complacency at the Cold War’s end. But the demise of the INF Treaty should teach a lesson.

Arms control, creating verifiable treaties to limit and reduce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, had its mystique: obtuse concepts, exotic hardware and mind-bending negotiations. But at its core, arms control was about political willpower. In the case of the INF Treaty, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev summoned enough of it to eliminate an entire class of deployed weapons, the ground-based missiles with a range of between 300 and 3,400 miles, and their launchers. The treaty made the world safer not only by removing a nuclear threat to Europe but also by introducing novel measures such as intrusive verification and on-site inspections.

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If New START Dies, These Questions Will Need Answers

There’s little public indication that the Trump administration is thinking about several things that will happen if the last strategic arms agreement is allowed to expire.

BY VINCENT MANZO & MADISON ESTES | defenseone.com

U.S. AIR FORCE / SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER QUAIL  AA FONT SIZE + PRINT A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept 23, 2018.
U.S. AIR FORCE / SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER QUAIL
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept 23, 2018.

The Trump administration has articulated an ambitious new vision for nuclear arms control, one that includes China and seeks to limit more types of Russian systems. This vision appears to have little room for the New START agreement, which helped to cap U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and which is due to expire in 2021. And yet there is little in the public record to indicate how the administration would deal with various problems that would surface if New START is left to die.

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Did Trump Just Threaten to Attack Iran With Nukes?

He said he could destroy Afghanistan but was signaling elsewhere. The scary part is there’s already a plan.

Did Trump Just Threaten to Attack Iran With Nukes? He said he could destroy Afghanistan but was signaling elsewhere. The scary part is there's already a plan.
(By KREML/Shutterstock)

BY SCOTT RITTER | theamericanconservative.com July 25, 2019

On Monday during a press conference between Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump spoke rather casually of having reviewed plans to annihilate Afghanistan.

“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said. “I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth, it would be gone. It would be over in, literally, in 10 days. And I don’t want to go that route.”

Trump’s seemingly blasé reference to a hypothetical mass murder on a scope and scale never seen in the history of mankind (it took Nazi Germany more than four years to kill six million Jews) was stunning. We know, given the state of play in Afghanistan, that it will never happen. But it wasn’t offhand. Such a policy of total destruction could also be seen as applying to Iran, and the potential for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a U.S.-Iranian conflict is far from hypothetical. He knew exactly what he was doing.
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460,000 Premature Deaths: The Horror That Was Nuclear Weapons Testing -As we mark the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in a handful of days, we will rightly remember the horrors of nuclear war.

As we mark the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in a handful of days, we will rightly remember the horrors of nuclear war.

BY ZACK BROWN & ALEX SPIRE

For a brief fraction of a second on an early March morning in 1954, the United States summoned a second sun into existence above Bikini Atoll.

As the four-mile wide fireball bathed the Pacific seascape in its angry, white-red light, onlookers recognized something nearly divine—and unquestionably ominous. “It was a religious experience, a personal view of the apocalypse or transfiguration,” said one observer. Another remembered feeling “like you stepped into a blast furnace,” even though he was over thirty miles away.

This was the Castle Bravo thermonuclear test, one of several dozen nuclear detonations the United States carried out in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. At 15 million tons of TNT—one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima—it was the largest explosion ever set off by Americans. 

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Yukiya Amano, Head of the I.A.E.A. Nuclear Watchdog Group, Dies at 72

Yukiya Amano, Head of the I.A.E.A. Nuclear Watchdog Group Dies at 72 -Yukiya Amano in Vienna in November. Before his death, he was apparently preparing to step down as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.CreditCreditChristian Bruna/EPA, via Shutterstock
Yukiya Amano in Vienna in November. Before his death, he was apparently preparing to step down as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.CreditCreditChristian Bruna/EPA, via Shutterstock

BY MEGAN SPECIA & DAVID E. SANGER | nytimes.com July 22, 2019

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat who played a central role in inspecting Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, has died, the organization announced on Monday. He was 72.

The agency, part of the United Nations, did not cite a cause of death or say when and where he died, but word had begun to spread last week that Mr. Amano had planned to step down from his position as director-general after nearly a decade because of an unspecified illness. He was two years into a third term as the agency’s leader.

His death left the agency leaderless at a critical moment: just as Iran is edging away from the nuclear agreement and beginning carefully calibrated violations of the limits on how much nuclear material it can produce, and at what level of purity.

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Inside the Secret Campaign to Export U.S. Nuclear Tech to Saudi Arabia

Industry coalition’s push to win over the Trump administration is concerning officials on Capitol Hill who are fearful that it could threaten U.S. national security.

Inside the Secret Campaign to Export U.S. Nuclear Tech to Saudi Arabia - Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

ERIN BANCO | thedailybeast.com

When President Donald Trump took the stage in the East Room of the White House earlier this month to give his first speech on the environment, nuclear energy executives and industry leaders held their breath. They exchanged text messages with fellow colleagues during the speech’s broadcast, wondering aloud to one another if Trump had taken the bait.

Since the fall of 2016, the executives have built an underground coalition along with academics, technology experts and well-connected politicos, including some lobbyists, to get the president and his administration to support—even promote—an American nuclear energy comeback. The industry has declined in recent years due mostly to the closing of critical nuclear infrastructure and plants. Between 2010 and 2018, only one new nuclear power plant came online in the United States.

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Thank you to those who submitted comments in the NNSA’s EIS “scoping” for the proposed Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at the Savannah River Site.  The PBP remains unauthorized and unfunded.

“Despite requests by many, NNSA denied extending the comment period.  Though the comment period ended on July 25, there is still time to submit late comments. (See Federal Register notice of June 10.)

Special thanks are due to the experts at Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley CAREs and the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) for submitting extensive comments pertaining to the question of “need” for new pits for new nuclear weapons.

It is of note that we enlisted groups that don’t traditionally work on nuclear weapons or DOE issues to engage the scoping process, including the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.  Plus, there were a flurry of individual comments in the last few days.

Comments included the lack of need for new pits for the W87-1-style warhead, the issue of pit reuse and the need for a “nuclear non-proliferation risk assessment” on the production of new pits for new nuclear weapons.

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Sheep Fire Burns on Idaho National Laboratory Land

The Sheep Fire was sparked by a lightning strike around 6:30 p.m. Monday near Idaho Falls, in the southeastern part of the state, and grew quickly, said the Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) emergency Joint Information Center.

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Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

July 22 — This episode features Alex Wellerstein, historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology and creator of NUKEMAP – a website that allows you to  simulate the effects of a nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. He talks in depth about the decision to drop the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence, on the debate about the Bomb’s use after Trinity and much more.
Also featuring a guest appearance by WAND’s Caroline Dorminey.

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Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

In Budget Deal, White House And Congress Overpay For The Pentagon

The newly proposed two-year budget deal between the White House and Congress has one major flaw.  It vastly overpays for the Pentagon.

WILLIAM HARTUNG. | forbes.com

At $738 billion for Fiscal Year 2020 and $740 billion for Fiscal Year 2021, the agreement sets the table for two of the highest budgets for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy since World War II. The proposed figures are higher than spending at the height of the Vietnam and Korean Wars, and substantially more than the high point of the Reagan buildup of the 1980s. And the Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021 numbers are only slightly less than spending in 2010, when the United States had 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly nine times the number currently deployed.

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A Path Toward Renewing Arms Control

A path toward renewing arms control
Rocket models are stuck in a bucket during a February protest action in Berlin against the imminent withdrawal of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the USA. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa

LAWRENCE J. KORB | thebulletin.org

At the late June G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, US President Trump and Russian President Putin met to discuss a number of issues, including Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, and arms control. While all of these are important, none is more urgent at the current time than arms control because we are on the brink of a new arms race that could be an existential threat not only to these two nuclear super powers but to humanity.

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Fewer Inspections for Aging Nuclear Plants, Regulators Propose

Steam escapes a nuclear plant in Byron, Ill., one of 59 such plants nationwide. Many of them are reaching the end of their licensed operating lives.CreditCreditRobert Ray/Associated Press
Steam escapes a nuclear plant in Byron, Ill., one of 59 such plants nationwide. Many of them are reaching the end of their licensed operating lives.CreditCreditRobert Ray/Associated Press

BY CORAL DAVENPORT | nytimes.com

WASHINGTON — A new report by staff members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the safety of the nation’s 59 aging nuclear power plants, recommends that the commissioners significantly weaken or reduce safety inspections of the plants.

Edwin Lyman, the acting director of nuclear safety programs for the Union of Concerned Scientists, was highly critical of the proposal. “That’s bad because it could impair the ability of the N.R.C. to see larger patterns of violations at a plant,” he said, and called the proposal “a PR stunt. They’re doing it to make these things sound better.”

The report, published Tuesday, comes after a yearlong consultation and public meeting process, including views from the Nuclear Energy Institute, which lobbies on behalf of the nuclear power plant industry and has long sought weaker safety rules. It also comes amid a broader push by the Trump administration for reduced regulations on industry.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation technicians test drums of hazardous and radioactive waste for signs of leakage Oct. 16, 2003, on the reservation near Richland, Wash., in preparation for transport of the material to a storage facility in New Mexico. The waste had been buried during decades of producing nuclear material for the nation's atomic arsenal. The technicians are not identified. (AP Photo/Fluor Handford, Ho) - – Files/The Associated Press A sign warns of radiation on the Hanford nuclear reservation, which houses Washington’s only operating nuclear power plant. – -

When Radioactive Wastes Aren’t Radioactive Wastes

With Congress Limiting What Can Be Dumped at Nuke Sites, the Energy Department May Just Redefine What It’s Dumping

JILLIAN S. AMBROZ. | dcreport.org

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to redefine what constitutes high-level radioactive waste, cutting corners on the disposal of some of the most dangerous and long-lasting waste byproduct on earth—reprocessed spent fuel from the nuclear defense program.

The agency announced in October 2018 plans for its reinterpretation of high-level radioactive waste (HLW), as defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, with plans to classify waste by its hazard level and not its origin.  By using the idea of a reinterpretation of a definition, the DOE may be able to circumvent Congressional oversight. And in its regulatory filing, the DOE, citing the NWPA and Atomic Energy Act of 1954, said it has the authority to “interpret” what materials are classified as high-level waste based on their radiological characteristics. That is not quite true, as Congress specifically defined high-level radioactive waste in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and any reinterpretation of that definition should trigger a Congressional response.

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Lawmaker: Expand compensation from nuclear weapons testing

Original Article: apnews.com | BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A compensation program for those exposed to radiation from years of nuclear weapons testing and uranium mining would be expanded under legislation that seeks to address fallout across the western United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan rolled out the measure Tuesday on the 74th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

As part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, government scientists and the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945. Nearly 200 atmospheric tests followed. Uranium mining persisted even after the tests ceased.

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The Pentagon has more money than it can spend. Both Democrats and the GOP are to blame.

“To save taxpayer money and increase U.S. national security, the first step must be to reconceptualize U.S. strategy. That means abandoning the military-first approach that has governed U.S. security policy during this century.”

The Military-Industrial Drain | Robert Reich

ARTICLE BY BEN FREEMANWILLIAM D. HARTUNG | newsweek.com 

The bid from the Republican controlled Senate is $750 billion. The just passed bid from the Democratic controlled House is $733 billion. Both have radically overbid on the price of the Pentagon.

The real cost of the prize that is America’s security is significantly lower than what either party is currently bidding. As the Sustainable Defense Task Force—a group of ex-military officers, former White House and Congressional budget experts, and non-governmental analysts convened by the Center for International Policy which we co-chair—has found, America can be made more secure through less, not more, Pentagon spending. This is possible by rethinking U.S. defense strategy, taking a sober and fact-based assessment of the enormous amount of money already flowing to the Pentagon, and rigorously cutting waste and inefficiencies from the Pentagon bureaucracy.

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Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

July 15 — In this episode, Michelle Dover, Abigail Stowe-Thurston and Tom Collina deliver a wonderful, incisive news segment summarizing the major gains and debates in the NDAA (and how the Kardashians are getting involved in nuclear issues!).

Suzanne DiMaggio is featured delving deep into the dynamics of the crises with Iran and North Korea. Suzanne also presents her powerful rationale for the new Quincy Institute, where she is chair of the board.

“Looking at the catastrophic failures in foreign policy over the past decades, it is clearly time for something new,” Suzanne says, “The times demand it…We have to change the narrative in this town.”

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Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

Zakaria: The cancerous consensus in today’s politicized Washington

The United States’ defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding… “We never expected to pass [a financial audit],” admitted then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

BY FAREED ZAKARAIA | trib.com

You often hear that in these polarized times, Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked on almost everything. But the real scandal is what both sides agree on. The best example of this might be the defense budget. Last week, the Democratic House, which Republicans say is filled with radicals, voted to appropriate $733 billion for 2020 defense spending. The Republicans are outraged because they — along with President Trump — want that number to be $750 billion. In other words, on the largest item of discretionary spending in the federal budget, accounting for more than half of the total, Democrats and Republicans are divided by 2.3 percent. That is the cancerous consensus in Washington today.

America’s defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding.

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Lindsey Graham joins legal fight to restart SC nuclear fuel plant (MOX)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is urging the nation’s highest court to take up what appears to be South Carolina’s final push to resuscitate a shuttered nuclear facility at the Savannah River Site and bolster federal rules tied to plutonium processing and long-term storage.

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in April 2018. High Flyer/Provided
The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in April 2018. High Flyer/Provided

BY COLIN DEMAREST | postandcourier.com 

Graham, a South Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, argues that the federal government walked away from its obligation to address the plutonium stored in the Palmetto State. He addressed these concerns in a brief filed July 11 with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The federal government previously made legally binding commitments to the state of South Carolina in recognition of its sovereign status and its proprietary interests,” Graham argued in the brief. “It has now breached those commitments, causing injury to the state that a court may redress.”

The brief describes Graham as “personally familiar” with the matters at hand and profoundly interested in the federal government’s promises to the state, which he was involved in negotiating.

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Class Action Suit Draws Big Crowd – Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant

“DOE is simply not to be trusted. Period.”

— Carlos Williams speaking about local cancer concerns.
He has lived for thirty years five miles from the Portsmouth, Ohio uranium enrichment plant.

BY TOM CORRIGAN | PORTSMOUTH DAILY TIMES © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Their stories were extremely varied. But many had one unfortunate commonality: cancer.

A small portion of the crowd which lined up and waited hours Tuesday in the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon.
A small portion of the crowd which lined up and waited hours Tuesday in the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon.

Larry and Janie Williams describe themselves as being fence line neighbors of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant since 1972. When she began to fall ill somewhat over four years ago, Larry said his wife’s doctor asked how she had come to be exposed to radiation. Janie never worked at the Portsmouth plant but spoke of daily hearing the ongoing construction of the decommissioned plant’s controversial on-site waste disposal facility. Janie said she developed a type of cancer that attacked her blood. Treatment included extremely expensive stem cell transplants. The transplants did buy her some time, though she added doctors gave her three to five years of life.

“I’m in year four,” said Janie, who clearly is accepting of her situation and spoke of her story unabashedly. She is 63.

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Why SC is likely stuck with a stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear materials

POST & COURIER SPECIAL REPORT: LETHAL LEGACY

BY THAD MOORE & COLIN DEMAREST | postandcourier.com

South Carolina could be stuck with a massive stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear material for decades, despite a federal mandate and years of promises that the state wouldn’t become America’s plutonium dumping ground.

A restricted internal report obtained by the Aiken Standard and The Post and Courier suggests that the state is likely to become a long-term repository for enough plutonium to build the bomb dropped on Nagasaki nearly 2,000 times over.

South Carolina faces this prospect despite a federal law that gives the U.S. Department of Energy just 2½ more years to remove its plutonium from the Savannah River Site, a huge swath of federal land along the Georgia border.

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Hundreds gather in Piketon for town hall on alleged radioactive contamination

“[I] wanted to see what information is available,” Brandon Moore said. “What are we doing to help all these folks that are impacted or that may be impacted in the future?”

BY BRYANT SOMERVILLE. | 10tv.com

PIKETON, Ohio – People stood in line for hours, Tuesday, wanting to make sure they and their families were safe.

“I just want to make sure what’s going on if there was any contamination there or where we’re at,” Steve Copper said. “I want to make sure we got everything taken care of.”

“These materials are ounce-for-ounce the most dangerous materials known to man,” Stuart Smith said.

Smith is with Cooper Law Firm out of New Orleans. It was his firm that filed the lawsuit in May alleging Ohio residents near a former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon were exposed to radioactive contaminants that spread to other properties but were never informed.
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Congress Introduces Legislation to Expand Compensation for Radiation Exposure

Luján, Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Expand Compensation for Individuals Impacted by Radiation Exposure

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, introduced legislation to expand compensation for individuals exposed to radiation while working in and living near uranium mines or downwind from nuclear weapon test sites.
Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.

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Trinity: “The most significant hazard of the entire Manhattan Project”

“New Mexico residents were neither warned before the 1945 Trinity blast, informed of health hazards afterward, nor evacuated before, during, or after the test. Exposure rates in public areas from the world’s first nuclear explosion were measured at levels 10,000- times higher than currently allowed.”

Final Report of the Los Alamos Historical Document and Retrieval and Assessment Project, Prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 2010, pp. ES-34-35. VIEW HERE

Victims of the Trinity Test remain uncompensated, yet the Los Alamos Lab continues to expand plutonium pit production.

BY KATHLEEN M. TUCKER & ROBERT ALVAREZ | thebulletin.org

For the past several years, the controversy over radioactive fallout from the world’s first atomic bomb explosion in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945—code-named Trinity—has intensified. Evidence collected by the New Mexico health department but ignored for some 70 years shows an unusually high rate of infant mortality in New Mexico counties downwind from the explosion and raises a serious question whether or not the first victims of the first atomic explosion might have been American children. Even though the first scientifically credible warnings about the hazards of radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion had been made by 1940, historical records indicate a fallout team was not established until less than a month before the Trinity test, a hasty effort motivated primarily by concern over legal liability.

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Peace Activists Cut into Nuclear Weapons Base, Foiling Increased Security

International peace activists cut through new “security” fencing meant to keep nuclear weapons under control.
International peace activists cut through new “security” fencing meant to keep nuclear weapons under control.
BÜCHEL, Germany — Calling themselves “Treaty Enforcement Action,” four peace activists (from the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands) cut through two perimeter fences and quickly entered the Büchel Air Base here around 4 p.m. July 10, 2019, carrying banners declaring the US and German Air Force’s planned use of nuclear weapons here makes the base a “crime scene.” While posing for photographs, the four were detained by air base security personnel, and later taken to jail in Koblenz and held overnight. All eight were released early Thursday.Continue reading

Wyoming lawmakers quietly explore storing spent nuclear fuel

Management Council votes by email to study housing spent nuclear fuel at Gas Hills, Shirley Basin to bring what a state senator says could be $1 billion a year.

Massive containers hold spent nuclear fuel at a dry storage facility. This photo shows, at right, a dry cask recently loaded with spent fuel being lifted from a horizontal transporter to be placed verticlaly on a specially designed storage pad. (Flickr Creative Commons/Sandia National Laboratories)

ANGUS M. THEURMER JR. | wyofile.com

A legislative committee has appointed six of its members to investigate the idea with the U.S. Department of Energy, Sen. Jim Anderson (R-Casper) told WyoFile on Friday. Anderson is co-chairman of the Joint Minerals Business and Economic Development Committee which received approval and funding from the Legislative Management Council in an unannounced vote to study the issue before the next legislative session begins in early 2020.

Wyoming’s dependence on an ailing coal industry spurred talk about pursuing the temporary storage idea, Anderson said. Fuel rods would be housed in casks with two-foot-thick walls, he said.

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US suspends low-level radioactive waste shipments to Nevada

BY SCOTT SONNER | time.com

(RENO, Nev.) — A Nevada congressman called for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s resignation Wednesday after the department acknowledged multiple shipments of low-level radioactive waste to a site north of Las Vegas may have been mislabeled and out of compliance with safety regulations for years.

The department had announced earlier that shipments of the waste from Tennessee to Nevada have been suspended while it investigates whether the materials were “potentially mischaracterized” as the wrong category of low-level waste. Low-level waste can include equipment or worker’s clothing contaminated by exposure to radiation, while mixed low-level waste can include toxic metals.

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America’s Indefensible Defense Budget

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images President Trump after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant, Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images President Trump after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant, Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019

BY JESSICA T. MATTHEWS | nybooks.com

The sheer size of the military establishment and the habit of equating spending on it with patriotism make both sound management and serious oversight of defense expenditures rare.

As a democracy, we are on an unusual and risky path.

For several decades, we have maintained an extraordinarily high level of defense spending with the support of both political parties and virtually all of the public. The annual debate about the next year’s military spending, underway now on Capitol Hill, no longer probes where real cuts might be made (as opposed to cuts in previously planned growth) but only asks how big the increase should be.

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NMED won’t move LANL Oversight Bureau office from Los Alamos

“New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Secretary James Kenney and other members of the department’s staff held a public meeting July 8 to address fears that NMED would move the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) Oversight Bureau field office out of Los Alamos.

In June, the department announced a proposal to move the field office to a Santa Fe location. The news was met with immediate backlash from LANL watchdog groups such as Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Watch New Mexico.”

By  | nmpoliticalreport.com

The department held the meeting, the first of a series of public outreach events the department plans to hold this year throughout the state, in part to assuage public concerns around the future of the Oversight Bureau’s field office in Los Alamos.

In June, the department announced a proposal to move the field office to a Santa Fe location. The news was met with immediate backlash from LANL watchdog groups such as Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Kenney, along with Resource Protection Division director Stephanie Stringer and Administrative Services Division director Michelle Desmond, explained some of the factors behind the contemplated move in a short presentation to audience members.

“[There] was never the intent to decrease oversight, or lessen any compliance or enforcement [over LANL],” Stringer told audience members.

“A lot of people [thought] when they heard we were moving off the hill, that it meant less oversight. There is no doubt in my mind that Secretary Kenney has made it my job to absolutely make sure compliance and enforcement and oversight of these facilities are top priority,” she said.

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Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Breaks Nuclear Deal Limit. Here’s What That Means

An Iranian security official in protective clothing walks through a uranium conversion facility in 2005. Iran says it is now enriching uranium above the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal. Vahid Salemi/AP
An Iranian security official in protective clothing walks through a uranium conversion facility in 2005. Iran says it is now enriching uranium above the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal.
Vahid Salemi/AP

BY GEOFF BRUMFIEL | npr.org July 7, 2019

Iran has crossed another line set in the 2015 nuclear deal between it and major world powers.

According to state media, Iran has begun enriching uranium above levels enshrined in the agreement. The move sends a signal that Iran is losing patience with a deal that has not provided the economic relief promised, more than a year after the United States withdrew from the agreement.

By Monday, Iran had reached levels of around 4.5% enrichment, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the semiofficial Fars news agency. He warned that Iran could go as high as 20% in the future, though that level is “not needed now.”

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has crossed the line.

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What public engagement?

This article was originally published July 6, 2019 in the Santa Fe New Mexican

Article Written by NukeWatch NM Volunteer: ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

The Department of Energy’s new attempt at “enhanced public engagement” on legacy nuclear waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory failed both its stated objectives to consider public input and provide public education. To turn things around, officials should actually listen to public attendees and provide complete information at future meetings.

In the two-hour June 26 forum in Los Alamos, officials from the department’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, alongside N3B, the contractor tasked with implementing the cleanup, repeatedly proclaimed their interest in hearing from the public and pledged total transparency, but they didn’t give anyone in the packed room a chance to speak.

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Renewables Catching Nuclear Power In Global Energy Race

Renewables Catching Nuclear Power In Global Energy RaceROBERT RAPIER | forbes.com

Coal is still the dominant source of electricity around the world, although natural gas has taken over the top spot in the U.S. But, renewables have grown rapidly over the past decade, and are on the cusp of overtaking nuclear globally.

From 2007 to 2017, the Renewables category grew at an average annual rate of 16.4%. But within that category, power from geothermal and biomass grew at an annual average of 7.1%. Wind and solar power, by contrast, grew at an annual average of 20.8% and 50.2%, respectively, over the past decade.

In 2018, nuclear power was responsible for 2,701 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity generation, compared to 4,193 TWh for hydropower and 2,480 for renewables.

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2018

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LANL Estimate of $2.9 Billion for “Remaining” Cleanup Leaves Nuclear & Toxic Wastes Behind and Kills Needed Jobs

 

For immediate release July 28, 2016

 

LANL Estimate of $2.9 Billion for “Remaining” Cleanup

Leaves Nuclear & Toxic Wastes Behind and Kills Needed Jobs

 

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will cost $2.9 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year.

That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump. Those wastes sit in unlined pits and trenches, 800 feet above groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande (plutonium contaminants have been detected 200 feet below Area G). During this same period of time the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with will cost ten times as much, even before expected funding increases for expanded production of plutonium bomb core “pits” and increasingly aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities.

DOE’s announcement also pegs the cost of past cleanup at LANL at $3.2 billion to date, raising the question of what has been and will be accomplished with precious taxpayer dollars. The answer is not much for the money. According to DOE’s own data, for the next couple of years only around a sixth of LANL’s “cleanup” funding will actually go to cleanup. Approximately one-third will be used to catch up on worker pensions and another third to babysit improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. More than half of the remaining one-third for real cleanup goes to LANL’s notoriously high overhead.

DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” Despite repeated requests, DOE refused to estimate cleanup costs at LANL until a new Consent Order was finalized with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).  Both agencies recently signed it, creating a giant loophole in which the Lab can claim that cleanup is too expensive or impractical to achieve. This is the exact opposite of the original 2005 Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL ask Congress for additional cleanup funding. Subsequently, funding for LANL cleanup has fallen from $224 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017.

Under the Gov. Martinez Administration, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at the Lab’s request and then claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed suit against DOE and LANL for missing compliance milestones under the original Consent Order, with potential fines of more than $300 million. NMED explicitly absolves those violations and fines through the new Consent Order and has intervened in the lawsuit against NukeWatch. This raises the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case, a $2.3 billion per year nuclear weapons facility)?

DOE and NMED kill the chance for serious job creation at the Los Alamos Lab with a deceptive plan for so-called cleanup that leaves tons of radioactive and toxic wastes in the ground that will permanently threaten northern New Mexico’s precious water resources. In addition to the environmental and safety threats and contamination, nuclear weapons programs are not big producers of new jobs. For example, the environmental impact statement for a planned $6.5 billion plutonium facility for expanded nuclear weapons production explicitly stated that not one new Lab job would be created because it would merely relocate existing jobs. In contrast, a LANL study of full cleanup of Area G assumed that around 40% of the total cost would go to labor. Thus, as a rough approximation, for every additional billion dollars put into cleanup, another 3,000 years of cleanup work could be created for one hypothetical worker (in other words, hundreds of high paying jobs for the regional economy).

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department deal New Mexicans a bad hand by pushing a plan that blocks genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab. We need real cleanup that protects our precious water resources for future generations, not more nuclear bombs that cause the mess to begin with.”

#  #  #

DOE’s presentation on its cost estimate for future LANL cleanup is available at

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/EMLA_Los_ALamos_LCB_Estimate_NNMCAB_Presentation_07272016.pdf

Nuclear Watch NM Amends LANL Cleanup Lawsuit – Claims New Consent Order To Be Invalid

Nuclear Watch NM Amends LANL Cleanup Lawsuit – Claims New Consent Order To Be Invalid

Nuclear Watch New Mexico has amended its federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) that alleges twelve violations of a 2005 Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Those violations could result in potential penalties of more than $300 million dollars that would go to the state, if only the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) were to enforce them.

Nuclear Watch now asks the court to declare the new 2016 Consent Order to be invalid because the requirement for the opportunity of a public hearing was not met.

NMED intervened in the case on June 23, 2016. The next day, NMED and DOE signed the 2016 Consent Order after a 60-day comment period, during which over 40 citizens, nonprofit organizations, public officials, and two Pueblos provided comments. Lack of enforceability and lack of concrete long-term schedules were common major foci of the comments. Despite that, “No change” without any further explanation was NMED’s overwhelming response to specific public comments as the two agencies moved from the draft to final Consent Order.

The finalized new Consent Order surrenders enforceability by creating a giant loophole where DOE and LANL can avoid cleanup by claiming that it is either too expensive or impractical. This is clearly the opposite of what is needed, when nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the mess to begin with are receiving increased taxpayer funding, while cleanup programs are being cut.

In addition, NMED’s new Consent Order explicitly absolves DOE and LANS of past violations. In response, Nuclear Watch has added to its lawsuit this request for declaratory judgment by the court that DOE and NMED violated the public’s right for the opportunity of a formal hearing, explicitly required by the 2005 Consent Order.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “We will not let the public’s right for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab be papered over by DOE and NMED. Both agencies agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, which included rigorous public participation requirements and a detailed the cleanup schedule, including a final compliance date. We will continue to push for the public to have a true voice in these important matters. ”

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Attorney John E. Stroud are representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce timely cleanup at LANL.

###

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s 1st amended complaint is available here

NMED’s Final Consent Order and the “response” to comments matrix are available here

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s original lawsuit complaint is available here

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here

 

 

 

NM Environment Dept Finalizes Consent Order on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup Surrenders Enforcement to Nuclear Weaponeers

NM Environment Dept Finalizes Consent Order

on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Surrenders Enforcement to Nuclear Weaponeers

 

Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move to avoid publicity, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) announced late Friday afternoon June 24 that it had finalized a new “Consent Order” to replace a 2005 Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Environment Department’s brief press release headlined “Agreement Focuses on Cleanup & Supporting Stronger Federal Funding Requests.” This is doublespeak, as the new Consent Order is a giveaway to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. The new Order is also clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup. In contrast, the new Consent Order allows them to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up.

The nuclear weaponeers are now openly talking about the “The Second Nuclear Age” before cleaning up form the first nuclear age. They are actively seeking to expand nuclear weapons production that caused the widespread contamination to begin with, particularly plutonium pit production at LANL.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs. But yet the Environment Department fails New Mexicans by failing to enforce cleanup at Los Alamos.”

When NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn announced a draft new Consent Order on March 30, he claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch agrees, but that’s because Secretary Flynn granted more than 150 compliance milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating the old Consent Order. While finalizing the new Consent Order NMED ignored the explicit public participation requirements of the old Order, which among other things requires a public hearing on major modifications. Instead, NMED rammed through the final Consent Order, largely brushing aside the formal comments of some 40 concerned citizens and the Santa Clara Pueblo.

LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup has been cut to $189 million for FY 2017 (down from $225 million in FY 2014), with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguard improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).

The original 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. Instead, the Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

 

A few of the serious deficiencies of the new Consent Order are:

[Quotes are from the new Consent Order followed by page numbers]

• “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…”  P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department.

• “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order will be held hostage to DOE’s budget, which recently cut LANL’s cleanup funding.

• “… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.

• “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

• The new draft Consent Order explicitly states that public participation requirements do NOT apply to future modifications of the Order. P. 25. This is the opposite of what the original Consent Order required, which made a point of incorporating the public process requirements of federal environmental law. Nuclear Watch New Mexico maintains that full public participation requirements apply to the new Consent Order as well, including its very formulation as a major modification of the old Consent Order. That full public participation process requires a public hearing if there are unresolved issues, which NMED has rejected, a position that may be of questionable legality.

 

On May 12, 2016, Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a lawsuit against LANL and DOE for failing to meet compliance milestones in the old Consent Order. These violations incur around $300 million dollars in potential penalties, which NMED shows no sign of enforcing. To the contrary, NMED has filed a motion to intervene against Nuclear Watch New Mexico in its lawsuit, raising the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case a for-profit nuclear weapons lab)?

Moreover, when Nuclear Watch NM filed a notice of intent to sue on January 21, NMED Secretary Flynn sought to intimidate our lawyers by declaring “If a suit is filed, and the Environment Department becomes involved, we would insist on collecting any and all labor and legal costs from the (New Mexico Environmental Law Center) to reimburse New Mexico’s taxpayers for the costs resulting from this groundless and frivolous action.”

Far from being a frivolous action, Nuclear Watch and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center seek to compel full and genuine environmental restoration at the Los Alamos Lab, which the new Consent Order blocks by giving the nuclear weaponeers giant loopholes to avoid cleanup.

 

#  #  #

NMED’s June 24 press release and the new Consent Order are available here

Public comment on the draft Consent Order (including Nuclear Watch NM and Santa Clara Pueblo) is available here

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s lawsuit complaint, filed May 12, 2016, is available here

  • Our complaint alleged twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. At that time we calculated 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to $294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here

NMED Secretary Flynn’s quote is from “Nuclear Watch to sue over LANL cleanup problems”, Mark Oswald, Albuquerque Journal, January 21, 2016, is here.

 

Underground Pits and shafts at Area G
LANL Area G Underground Disposal Pits and Shafts

University of New Mexico’s growing involvement in nuclear weapons prograns

See Honeywell, UNM sign accord to pursue joint research

This is more evidence of the University of New Mexico’s deepening involvement in nuclear weapons programs. UNM recently announced that with Boeing, the U. of Texas and others that it was going to bid on the Sandia Labs management contract.

Honeywell runs the new Kansas City Plant, which is manufacturing and/or procuring ~100,000 nonnuclear nuclear weapons components every year for increasingly aggressive Life Extension Programs. These programs not only extend the service lives of nuclear weapons for up to 60 years, but also give them new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

UNM is also the host site for the June 21 Strategic Deterrence Symposium featuring top military and Energy Dept. nuclear brass. Nuclear Watch NM will be there to see what they are to.

Obama’s Speech in Hiroshima

Obama’s speech is  beautiful and very moving.

But he’ll be gone soon while the one trillion dollar modernization of U.S. nuclear forces that begins under him will go on for 30 years and then some (unless we stop it, that is).

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/28/world/asia/text-of-president-obamas-speech-in-hiroshima-japan.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

 

Text of President Obama’s Speech in Hiroshima, Japan

MAY 27, 2016

 

Sign the Petition – No Loopholes, No Excuses – Full Cleanup at Los Alamos!

Dear Friends,

Thanks to those who made it to the meeting last night!

 

NukeWatch has a new petition –

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has issued a proposed new “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of nuclear weapons.

We demand NMED close the giant loophole in the proposed Consent Order that would allow Los Alamos Lab and DOE to get out of cleanup by simply saying that they don’t have enough money.

And we demand NMED hold a public hearing on the proposed Consent Order, given the intense public interest in cleaning up the Lab.

For more info –

https://www.change.org/p/kathryn-roberts-no-excuses-no-loopholes-full-cleanup-at-los-alamos-lab

AND WE HAVE EXPANDED OUR SAMPLE COMMENTS FOR YOU TO USE AS YOU SEE FIT

Please let your voice be heard and turn in public comments.

Copy the sample comments below and paste into an email.

Please modify as you see fit, then email to the address below.

If you don’t mind, please cc: us at: info(at)nukewatch(dot)org

 

[date]

 

Ms. Kathryn Roberts

New Mexico Environment Department

Post Office Box 5469

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

 

Via email to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us 

 

Dear Ms. Roberts,

I urge the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to abandon the proposed 2016 Compliance Order on Consent, or Consent Order, for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), released for public comment on March 30, 2016.  It creates serious problems and represents a giant step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.

The Environment Department should keep the existing Consent Order that went into effect March 1, 2005, while modifying and updating a cleanup schedule that includes a realistic final compliance date.  I also formally request that NMED provide the opportunity for a public hearing on the revised cleanup schedule and new completion date, in accordance with the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act and the 2005 Consent Order.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

The opportunity for a public hearing must be provided

  • Any extension of a final compliance date must be treated as a Class 3 permit modification to the 2005 Consent Order and therefore requires a 60-day public comment period.
  • Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order can be implemented only after the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.
  • The Environment Department is legally required to follow these public participation requirements that explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order.

Withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order 

  • The proposed draft represents a big step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.
  • The Environment Department should keep the current 2005 Consent Order and revise the Section XII cleanup schedule and final compliance date.
  • I request that the Environment Department withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order.

The public deserves the opportunity to comment on all following drafts 

  • It seems likely that a later draft – after the Lab’s and public comments are incorporated into a revised draft – and after closed-door negotiations between the Environment Department and the Laboratory – could be substantially different from the current draft.
  • I request that the public have the opportunity to review and comment on any further drafts of a revised proposed 2016 Consent Order.

Public participation provisions in the existing 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order explicitly limits public participation requirements incorporated into the existing 2005 Consent Order.
  • I request that all notices, milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications require public review and comment, and the opportunity for a public hearing.

The current state of cleanup must be updated and next steps scheduled

  • Work under the existing 2005 Consent Order needs to be subject to public review.  In 2005 DOE agreed to complete cleanup under the Consent Order by December 6, 2015, which did not happen.  In order for the public to understand where the work under the existing Consent Order stands, LANL should be required to provide a current, publicly available list of the status of all cleanup projects under the 2005 Consent Order.
  • Further, I request that next steps for cleanup at every site listed in the 2005 Consent Order be documented in detail and given a scheduled completion date, or alternatively verified as already completed.
  • All documents submitted under the 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into any revised Consent Order.

All documents must be made public as required in the 2005 Consent Order

  • The State and the Lab must make all communications, documents, submittals, approvals, notices of deficiencies and denials under any revised Consent Order readily and electronically available to the public.
  • The State and the Lab must notify individuals by e-mail of all submittals, as required in the 2005 Consent Order.

The Environment Department must respond in writing to all public comments

  • I request that the State reply individually to each and every comment submitted.
  • The Lab’s comments and NMED’s response to comments must be made public.

All future work must have enforceable deadlines

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order proposes a “Campaign” approach with enforceable cleanup deadlines limited to the work scheduled only for that year.
  • I request that all anticipated cleanup projects have scheduled, enforceable cleanup deadlines from the beginning of any revised Consent Order.

The Consent Order cannot be open-ended

  • Any Consent Order for LANL cleanup must have a final compliance date to which the State and the Lab agree to and are so bound.
  • The public should be given an opportunity for a public hearing on the new final compliance date as required by New Mexico’s hazardous waste regulations.

 

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Extend the Original Final Compliance Date Without Required Public Participation

The proposed 2016 consent order would indefinitely extend the final compliance date for completing corrective action at the Laboratory, without the opportunity for a public hearing with formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses. Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.  The Environment Department is legally required to follow these procedural requirements.

The legal requirements that mandate a public hearing are clear. Section XII of the 2005 Consent Order establishes the compliance schedule for implementation and completion of corrective actions at specific sites at the Laboratory. This schedule is mandatory. The final report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order – therefore, the final compliance date – was the remedy completion report for the huge Area G waste dump, required to be submitted by December 6, 2015. The proposed 2016 Consent Order would indefinitely extend this final compliance date by not designating a specific final compliance date.

But this revision must be treated as a major Class 3 permit modification. Section III.W.5 of the 2005 Consent Order explicitly provides for the preservation of full procedural rights for the public as follows:

This Consent Order hereby incorporates all rights, procedures and other protections afforded the Respondents [DOE and UC, now LANS] and the public pursuant to the regulations at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42) and 20.4.1.901 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals concerning, for example, remedy selection decisions of the [Environment] Department.

Thus, extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Limit Other Public Participation Procedures

The proposed 2016 Consent Order expressly limits public participation requirements in a way that completely diverges from those provided in the 2005 Consent Order.  As explained above, the 2005 Consent Order explicitly protects procedural due process rights available to the public.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order explicitly removes these protections, as follows:

The Parties agree that the rights, procedures and other protections set forth at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42), 20.4.1.901 NMAC, and 20.4.1.902 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals, do not apply to modification of the Consent Order itself. [Emphasis added]

Thus, as proposed in the above language, the Parties (the Environment Department, Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC) have inappropriately agreed to remove the due process rights, procedures and other protections provided to the public under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  This provision must be stripped from the proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Eliminate Enforceable Deadlines

The proposed 2016 consent order would eliminate all the deadlines for completing cleanup under the 2005 Consent Order, and replace them with an open-ended and vague scheduling process, with limited enforcement opportunities.

The 2005 Consent Order, in Section XII, established dozens of deadlines for the completion of corrective action tasks, including completion of investigations at individual sites, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, submittal of groundwater monitoring reports, evaluation of remedial alternatives for individual sites, and completion of final remedies. These deadlines are enforceable under section III.G.

The proposed 2016 Consent Order would abandon the 2005 Consent Order provisions and replace them with a so-called “Campaign Approach” under Section VIII.  Under Section VIII.A.3, it would be up to the DOE, not the regulator at the New Mexico Environment Department, to select the timing and scope of each “campaign.”

Enforceable deadlines for cleanup tasks would apply no more than one year into the future. Deadlines would be based on “Campaigns” negotiated each year with DOE with no public participation and opportunity to comment on the schedule. To add insult to injury, the annual schedule would be determined by funding at DOE’s discretion, rather than the schedule driving the funding, which was the fundamental approach of the 2005 Consent Order.

All cleanup projects must mandatory completion dates scheduled from the beginning date of any revised Consent Order, and must be fully enforceable.

 

Existing Violations Must Not Be Eliminated

Section II.A of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would “settle any outstanding violations of the 2005 Consent Order.” This is a get out of jail free card.  Without enforceable schedules from the beginning, any consent order is not truly unenforceable, and the Environment Department would be abdicating its responsibility to protect human health and the environment as required by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  NMED must not surrender its regulatory and enforcement powers!

 

Attorney General Approval Must Be Obtained

The 2005 Consent Order was signed by the Attorney General of New Mexico for purposes of the Covenant Not to Sue (section III.) and the Reservation of Rights (section III.). As indicated on the draft signature page, there is no indication of the NM Attorney General plans to sign the proposed 2016 Consent Order. Yet it would provide the State of New Mexico with a covenant not to sue DOE on behalf of the State of New Mexico, not merely on behalf of the Environment Department. The Attorney General was an active participant, representing the People of New Mexico, in the 2005 Consent Order.  The Environment Department has a responsibility to ensure that the NM Attorney General is consulted, and his approval obtained, before any consent order is adopted.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Omit Detailed Requirements Found in the 2005 Consent Order

The 2005 Consent Order includes numerous detailed requirements for such things as well installation, sample collection, and preparation of work plans and reports. These ensure that the cleanup work is done properly, consistently, and according to standard industry practices.  They also ensured that work plans and reports were consistent, easy for the Environment Department to review, and easy for the public to understand.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order omits many such requirements, which should be corrected.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Allow Budget To Dictate Cleanup 

The proposed 2016 Consent Order allows DOE to provide cleanup priorities based on anticipated budget, which is backwards. . By the time NMED receives an estimated annual cleanup budget from DOE, the horse has left the barn. The original purpose of the 2005 Consent Order was to compel DOE and LANL to ask Congress for additional funds to accelerate cleanup. The giant loophole in the proposed 2016 Consent Order that allows DOE and LANL to say that they don’t have sufficient funding and therefore can choose to exempt themselves from cleanup should be eliminated.

 

Cleanup Levels Must Remain Strict

Section IX Cleanup Objectives and Cleanup Levels of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would allow DOE to “develop site specific ecological cleanup levels” to mitigate unacceptable ecological risk due to release of site-related contaminants. There is no mention of NMED’s role in this process. DOE would be allowed to demonstrate to NMED that any particular “cleanup objective is impracticable.” To do this, DOE may consider such things as technical difficulty, the cost of the project, hazards to workers or to the public, and any other basis that may support a finding of impracticability. If NMED approves the impracticability request, DOE can then propose alternative cleanup methods using site-specific risk assessments. All of this could take place behind closed doors, as there are no public participation requirements in this section. Please clarify what cleanup levels will be used and when and where they will be applied.

 

New Mexico deserves better

In closing, the Environment Department’s proposed 2016 Consent Order allows the federal government to leave Northern New Mexico contaminated if DOE believes that cleanup is too difficult or costly– a sorry situation indeed for a nuclear weapons facility that receives over 2 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department should implement a new revised Consent Order that is aggressive and enforceable and in which the State of New Mexico stays in the driver’s seat, not LANL and DOE. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, helping to permanently protect the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high-paying cleanup jobs. .

 

Sincerely,

Name

City

 

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 31, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

Public Meeting: Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads

Dear Friends,

Please join us for an informal public meeting Tuesday, May 24 at 6pm.

Main Library Community Room, 145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe, NM

Please remember that no refreshments are allowed at the Library.

See you there!

 

Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads
A Discussion on the Future of Cleanup at Los Alamos

 

We have opportunities to take new directions

How do we get to the Northern New Mexico we want leave for future generations?

Learn how your input can help make better cleanup decisions at Los Alamos National Laboratory

 

Join us for a
Public Meeting: Tuesday May 24, 2016, 6 – 7:30pm
at the
Main Library Community Room, 145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe

Topics to be Addressed
Los Alamos Cleanup Order

  • For “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy Cold War wastes
  • The 10-year trip since the original Consent Order was signed in 2005
  • New “Consent Order” Proposed by the NM Environment Department
    • Proposed changes from the existing
    • What can be improved?
    • Who is in the driver’s seat?
    • Just along for the ride, or will the public have real input?
    • Public comments due May 31

 

Department of Energy’s new Environmental Management at Los Alamos

  • Cleanup work no longer under nuclear weapons work
  • Looking for a new contractor
  • Can cleanup accelerate?

 

Nuclear Watch’s lawsuit

  • Alleging violations of the 2005 Consent Order

 

Questions, answers, and discussion

  • What’s on your mind
  • Your comments are important

 

Brought to you by Nuclear Watch New Mexico

(505) 989-7342

info@nukewatch.org

www.nukewatch.org

 

Materials Disposal Area B (MDA B) Contamination Excavation at LANL - Will removal of wastes continue?
Inside a protective enclosure, Cold War wastes are excavated at Los Alamos - Will it continue? (LANL photo)

 

Public Meeting, Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads, 6:00 pm Tuesday May 24

Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads

Public Meeting

 

6 – 7:30pm, Tuesday May 24, 2016

Community Room, Main Library,  145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe

Presentation on the Future of Cleanup at Los Alamos:

What the public needs to know and how to get involved and be informed

•     Focus on new cleanup order proposed by the NM Environment Dept. and its lack of enforceability.

•     Public comments due May 31

•     New Energy Dept. Environmental Management at the Lab – same as the old boss?

•     Nuclear Watch’s lawsuit

•     Questions and answers

Brought to you by Nuclear Watch New Mexico

              (505) 989-7342 info@nukewatch.org

www.nukewatch.org <http://www.nukewatch.org>  

Nuclear Watch NM Files Lawsuit Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab

May 17, 2016

Nuclear Watch NM Files Lawsuit

Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab;

NM Environment Dept. Forgoes Nearly $300 Million in Penalties

Santa Fe, NM – Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), the for-profit operator of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, over their failure to meet cleanup milestones under a 2005 “Consent Order” they agreed to with the New Mexico Environment Department. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce cleanup at LANL.

The suit was filed under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which the 2005 Consent Order explicitly incorporated. The law provides that any person who violates any requirement of RCRA is liable for a civil penalty up to $37,500 for each day of violation. Our suit claims twelve violations, which range in length of time of up to 675 days each. Our current cost estimate of the alleged violations approaches 300 million dollars and counting.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Executive Director, commented, “The federal government plans to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. We seek to make the for-profit nuclear weaponeers cleanup their radioactive and toxic mess first before making another one for a nuclear weapons stockpile that is already bloated far beyond what we need. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”

In 2005 the New Mexico Environment Department compelled DOE and the University of California (LANL’s manager at the time) to enter into a detailed Consent Order that mapped the way toward comprehensive cleanup at LANL. However, beginning in 2011 with Governor Martinez’s administration, the New Mexico Environment Department allowed LANL’s new contractor, the for-profit Los Alamos National Security, LLC, to stop virtually all cleanup, instead engaging in a “campaign” to move above ground, monitored radioactive transuranic wastes to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). That campaign ended in disaster when an improperly treated radioactive waste drum from LANL ruptured, contaminating 21 workers and indefinitely closing that multi-billion dollar facility.

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 also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. The Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “DOE and NMED agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, including the schedule. Then under the Martinez administration NMED granted more than 150 extensions requests, and DOE and LANS have still missed many of those deadlines. NukeWatch has taken this necessary step to enforce cleanup at LANL, to hold DOE accountable for protecting New Mexicans and make cleanup of legacy wastes the top priority. It’s ridiculous that we have to have this cleanup debate after 70 years of contamination from nuclear weapons research and production.”

The New Mexico Environment Department has issued a draft revised proposed Consent Order, for which the public comment period expires on May 31. The proposed new Consent Order specifically states that it “supersedes the 2005 Compliance Order on Consent (2005 Consent Order) and settles any outstanding alleged violations under the 2005 Consent Order.” (Sec. II.A.) This then would absolve DOE and LANS of nearly $300 million in potential penalties.

Moreover, the new draft Order puts DOE in the driver’s seat instead of New Mexico. It explicitly states that, “DOE’s project plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets” (p. 27) and “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels” (p. 31) Moreover, DOE can opt out of any cleanup because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup (p. 34) and that “DOE shall update the milestones…. [according to] changes in anticipated funding levels.” (p. 28). So the new Consent Order is made subordinate to DOE’s budget, which has been cutting cleanup while increasing funding for nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with. This is the opposite of the original Consent Order, whose intent was to make DOE and LANL get increased funding for cleanup.

The relief or remedy that Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks through its lawsuit is simple, asking the Court to enter a judgment “Enjoining the Defendants [DOE and LANS] to take action to come into compliance with the March 1, 2005 Consent Order, as amended on October 29, 2012, according to a reasonable but aggressive schedule ordered by this Court…”

With that, Nuclear Watch New Mexico hopes to get real, comprehensive cleanup back on track at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

# # #

 Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s lawsuit complaint is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-Complaint-Filed-20160512.pdf

Our complaint alleges twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. From there we calculate 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to $294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-2nd-NOI-DOE-LANS-5-5-16.pdf

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-NM-NOI-to-DOE-and-LANS-20160120.pdf

NMED’s revised Consent Order is available at http://energy.gov/em/nnmcab/downloads/nmed-revised-lanl-consent-order-draft-march-2016

 

 

Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC Performance Evaluation Report – Wrong B61-12 tail case?

Buried in the just released NNSA FY 2015 Performance Evaluation Report (PER) for Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (the combined contract for Pantex and Y-12 run by Lockheed Martin and Bechtel) is the remarkable note that Pantex sent to the Defense Department a Joint Test Assembly (JTA) of the B61-12 nuclear smart bomb with the wrong tail case. Generally, a  JTA is a full scale mock up of the nuclear weapon (just not nuclear armed), in this case for a real life drop test from an Air Force fighter at the Tonapah Test Range in Nevada (which is run by the Sandia Labs).

P. 5:  “CNS experienced several issues with the builds of the new B61 JTA Modernization configurations. CNS experienced quality issues on five of the six First Production Units. The most severe of which was the installation of an incorrect tail case on the JTA S/N 602 that was delivered to Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD chose not to proceed with the flight test and returned the unit to Pantex.” [S/N is the serial number of the particular unit.]   – End –

How do you put the wrong tail case on the mock bomb, especially given all the hoopla we’ve heard about the B61-12 and the rush to get it into production? Did this involve the now-well known tail fin kit that turns the “dumb” B61 bomb into the precision-guided B61-12?

A few other worthy items from the CNS PER:

•     p. 5: Pantex is falling behind in dismantlements, and this is before the announced planned 20% increase in dismantlements. “CNS achieved 101% of dismantlements related to secondaries and 66% of the revised Production Control Document (PCD) baseline schedule. The low performance against the revised PCD baseline schedule resulted in NNSA falling below the trajectory to achieve the 2022 dismantlement goal.”

Secondaries are dismantled at Y-12, with all of the rest of the nuclear weapon dismantled at Pantex. The 2022 dismantlement goal is to dismantle the ~2,500 nuclear weapons scheduled by 2009 for dismantlement. This does not include any weapons retired since then.

•     p. 7: “CNS did not meet the majority of the expectations for scheduled surveillance activities, deliverables, and requirements as documented within each applicable weapons system approved Integrated Weapon Evaluation Team (IWET) Plans and associated directive documents.”

Rigorous surveillance is the prerequisite for maintaining stockpile safety and reliability (the claimed rationale for the Stockpile Stewardship Program), but has chronically suffered lower prioritization.

• p. 10: “W76-1 LEP: CNS achieved 101% of the secondary production schedule, met the military shipment schedule, but only achieved 85% of the total FY15 delivery commitment to the Department of Defense.”

This doesn’t bode well for future Life Extension Programs that are growing only more complex and ambitious.

•     p. 11: “CNS is behind schedule on pit recertification projects and is working on recovery plans. The CNS delays have not adversely impacted the B61-12 schedule.  However, if delays continue the impacts to the B61-12 schedule are certain.”

•     p. 14: The future uranium casting process for the Uranium Processing Facility is still unproven.

“CNS did not fully meet expectations on the use of the production microwave caster in [Building] 9212 [at Y12]. This is partially due to equipment issues including the stack 11 filter issues and a failure in the microwave’s bottom lift assembly. Unfortunately, CNS was unable to recover the schedule. Running the microwave caster early and often is valuable since this technology represents the future Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) casting capability.”

•     p. 24: Pantex and Y-12 are beginning “additive manufacturing” (3-D printing) of nuclear weapons components. What are the future proliferation consequences of this?

“CNS began advancing manufacturing capabilities through additive manufacturing initiatives. CNS procured and received a Connex 500-UV Resin multi-color, large-scale plastic machine. This machine will be used for prototyping, proof of principle, displays and cutaways, and training aids. CNS also procured its first metal additive machine and installation will begin at Y-12 in July. Once R&D material testing is complete, the first area of focus will be tooling applications. A second, identical machine has been procured for Pantex and will be delivered late summer for similar applications.”

•     p. 35: CNS, composed of Lockheed Martin and Bechtel, gave the construction contract for the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 to Bechtel. There was no competition that I heard about.

Concerning Bechtel’s track record, it took the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at LANL from an original $600 million to $6 billion, and the Waste Treatment Facility at Hanford from $3.5 billion to $13 billion, and it may still never work.

•     p. 42: “While NNSA has noted the CAS [Contractor Assurance System] reports have gotten more self-critical over FY15, the CNS end of year self-assessment was not self-critical. Given all the issues this year that impacted mission, it was unusual that the report was not more introspective.”

In fact, CNS gave itself a glowing self-assessment, which NNSA did not agree with. In all, NNSA awarded CNS $11.3 million out of a possible $20 million in incentive fees, along with a fixed fee of $31 million. For NNSA, that’s a pretty big slap on the wrist.

The Performance Evaluations Reports are available at https://nnsa.energy.gov/aboutus/ouroperations/apm/perfevals

NukeWatch successfully sued in 2012 to get the reports publicly released, but NNSA was misbehaving again and did not release the FY 2015 PERs until now. These reports are invaluable for insight into what NNSA sites actually do and related contractor performance. The reports are also becoming increasingly critical of contractor performance ever since the major security incident at Y-12 and the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant caused by an errant radioactive waste drum from Los Alamos.

Comment Period Extended for Proposed Los Alamos Cleanup Order

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau is extending the public comment period on the proposed changes to the Draft Consent Order which governs legacy clean-up at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The public comment period now continues through May 31.  To obtain a copy of the documents or a portion thereof, visit the NMED website at https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html under Consent Order.

Written comments must be based on information available for review and include, to the extent practicable, all referenced factual materials.

NMED is scheduled to present on the public comments received to date at the May 18 Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting at the Cities of Gold Hotel, 10-A Cities of Gold Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.

 

AND WE HAVE EXPANDED OUR COMMENTS

Please let your voice be heard and turn in public comments. Copy the sample comments below and paste into an email. Please modify as you see fit, then email to the address below. If you don’t mind, please cc: us at: info(at)nukewatch(dot)org

 

[date]

 

Ms. Kathryn Roberts

New Mexico Environment Department

Post Office Box 5469

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

 

Via email to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

 

Dear Ms. Roberts,

I urge the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to abandon the proposed 2016 Compliance Order on Consent, or Consent Order, for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), released for public comment on March 30, 2016.  It creates serious problems and represents a giant step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.

The Environment Department should keep the existing Consent Order that went into effect March 1, 2005, while modifying and updating a cleanup schedule that includes a realistic final compliance date.  I also formally request that NMED provide the opportunity for a public hearing on the revised cleanup schedule and new completion date, in accordance with the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act and the 2005 Consent Order.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

 

The opportunity for a public hearing must be provided

  • Any extension of a final compliance date must be treated as a Class 3 permit modification to the 2005 Consent Order and therefore requires a 60-day public comment period.
  • Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order can be implemented only after the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.
  • The Environment Department is legally required to follow these public participation requirements that explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order.

 

Withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft represents a big step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.
  • The Environment Department should keep the current 2005 Consent Order and revise the Section XII cleanup schedule and final compliance date.
  • I request that the Environment Department withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order.

 

The public deserves the opportunity to comment on all following drafts

  • It seems likely that a later draft – after the Lab’s and public comments are incorporated into a revised draft – and after closed-door negotiations between the Environment Department and the Laboratory – could be substantially different from the current draft.
  • I request that the public have the opportunity to review and comment on any further drafts of a revised proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

Public participation provisions in the existing 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order explicitly limits public participation requirements incorporated into the existing 2005 Consent Order.
  • I request that all notices, milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications require public review and comment, and the opportunity for a public hearing.

 

The current state of cleanup must be updated and next steps scheduled

  • Work under the existing 2005 Consent Order needs to be subject to public review.  In 2005 DOE agreed to complete cleanup under the Consent Order by December 6, 2015, which did not happen.  In order for the public to understand where the work under the existing Consent Order stands, LANL should be required to provide a current, publicly available list of the status of all cleanup projects under the 2005 Consent Order.
  • Further, I request that next steps for cleanup at every site listed in the 2005 Consent Order be documented in detail and given a scheduled completion date, or alternatively verified as already completed.
  • All documents submitted under the 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into any revised Consent Order.

 

All documents must be made public as required in the 2005 Consent Order

  • The State and the Lab must make all communications, documents, submittals, approvals, notices of deficiencies and denials under any revised Consent Order readily and electronically available to the public.
  • The State and the Lab must notify individuals by e-mail of all submittals, as required in the 2005 Consent Order.

 

The Environment Department must respond in writing to all public comments

  • I request that the State reply individually to each and every comment submitted.
  • The Lab’s comments and NMED’s response to comments must be made public.

 

All future work must have enforceable deadlines

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order proposes a “Campaign” approach with enforceable cleanup deadlines limited to the work scheduled only for that year.
  • I request that all anticipated cleanup projects have scheduled, enforceable cleanup deadlines from the beginning of any revised Consent Order.

 

The Consent Order cannot be open-ended

  • Any Consent Order for LANL cleanup must have a final compliance date to which the State and the Lab agree to and are so bound.
  • The public should be given an opportunity for a public hearing on the new final compliance date as required by New Mexico’s hazardous waste regulations. 

 

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Extend the Original Final Compliance Date Without Required Public Participation

The proposed 2016 consent order would indefinitely extend the final compliance date for completing corrective action at the Laboratory, without the opportunity for a public hearing with formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses. Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.  The Environment Department is legally required to follow these procedural requirements.

The legal requirements that mandate a public hearing are clear. Section XII of the 2005 Consent Order establishes the compliance schedule for implementation and completion of corrective actions at specific sites at the Laboratory. This schedule is mandatory. The final report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order – therefore, the final compliance date – was the remedy completion report for the huge Area G waste dump, required to be submitted by December 6, 2015. The proposed 2016 Consent Order would indefinitely extend this final compliance date by not designating a specific final compliance date.

But this revision must be treated as a major Class 3 permit modification. Section III.W.5 of the 2005 Consent Order explicitly provides for the preservation of full procedural rights for the public as follows:

This Consent Order hereby incorporates all rights, procedures and other protections afforded the Respondents [DOE and UC, now LANS] and the public pursuant to the regulations at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42) and 20.4.1.901 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals concerning, for example, remedy selection decisions of the [Environment] Department.

Thus, extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Limit Other Public Participation Procedures

The proposed 2016 Consent Order expressly limits public participation requirements in a way that completely diverges from those provided in the 2005 Consent Order.  As explained above, the 2005 Consent Order explicitly protects procedural due process rights available to the public.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order explicitly removes these protections, as follows:

The Parties agree that the rights, procedures and other protections set forth at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42), 20.4.1.901 NMAC, and 20.4.1.902 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals, do not apply to modification of the Consent Order itself. [Emphasis added]

Thus, as proposed in the above language, the Parties (the Environment Department, Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC) have inappropriately agreed to remove the due process rights, procedures and other protections provided to the public under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  This provision must be stripped from the proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Eliminate Enforceable Deadlines

The proposed 2016 consent order would eliminate all the deadlines for completing cleanup under the 2005 Consent Order, and replace them with an open-ended and vague scheduling process, with limited enforcement opportunities.

The 2005 Consent Order, in Section XII, established dozens of deadlines for the completion of corrective action tasks, including completion of investigations at individual sites, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, submittal of groundwater monitoring reports, evaluation of remedial alternatives for individual sites, and completion of final remedies. These deadlines are enforceable under section III.G.

The proposed 2016 Consent Order would abandon the 2005 Consent Order provisions and replace them with a so-called “Campaign Approach” under Section VIII.  Under Section VIII.A.3, it would be up to the DOE, not the regulator at the New Mexico Environment Department, to select the timing and scope of each “campaign.”

Enforceable deadlines for cleanup tasks would apply no more than one year into the future. Deadlines would be based on “Campaigns” negotiated each year with DOE with no public participation and opportunity to comment on the schedule. To add insult to injury, the annual schedule would be determined by funding at DOE’s discretion, rather than the schedule driving the funding, which was the fundamental approach of the 2005 Consent Order.

All cleanup projects must mandatory completion dates scheduled from the beginning date of any revised Consent Order, and must be fully enforceable.

 

Existing Violations Must Not Be Eliminated

Section II.A of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would “settle any outstanding violations of the 2005 Consent Order.” This is a get out of jail free card.  Without enforceable schedules from the beginning, any consent order is not truly unenforceable, and the Environment Department would be abdicating its responsibility to protect human health and the environment as required by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  NMED must not surrender its regulatory and enforcement powers!

 

Attorney General Approval Must Be Obtained

The 2005 Consent Order was signed by the Attorney General of New Mexico for purposes of the Covenant Not to Sue (section III.) and the Reservation of Rights (section III.). As indicated on the draft signature page, there is no indication of the NM Attorney General plans to sign the proposed 2016 Consent Order. Yet it would provide the State of New Mexico with a covenant not to sue DOE on behalf of the State of New Mexico, not merely on behalf of the Environment Department. The Attorney General was an active participant, representing the People of New Mexico, in the 2005 Consent Order.  The Environment Department has a responsibility to ensure that the NM Attorney General is consulted, and his approval obtained, before any consent order is adopted.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Omit Detailed Requirements Found in the 2005 Consent Order

The 2005 Consent Order includes numerous detailed requirements for such things as well installation, sample collection, and preparation of work plans and reports. These ensure that the cleanup work is done properly, consistently, and according to standard industry practices.  They also ensured that work plans and reports were consistent, easy for the Environment Department to review, and easy for the public to understand.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order omits many such requirements, which should be corrected.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Allow Budget To Dictate Cleanup

The proposed 2016 Consent Order allows DOE to provide cleanup priorities based on anticipated budget, which is backwards. . By the time NMED receives an estimated annual cleanup budget from DOE, the horse has left the barn. The original purpose of the 2005 Consent Order was to compel DOE and LANL to ask Congress for additional funds to accelerate cleanup. The giant loophole in the proposed 2016 Consent Order that allows DOE and LANL to say that they don’t have sufficient funding and therefore can choose to exempt themselves from cleanup should be eliminated.

 

Cleanup Levels Must Remain Strict

Section IX Cleanup Objectives and Cleanup Levels of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would allow DOE to “develop site specific ecological cleanup levels” to mitigate unacceptable ecological risk due to release of site-related contaminants. There is no mention of NMED’s role in this process. DOE would be allowed to demonstrate to NMED that any particular “cleanup objective is impracticable.” To do this, DOE may consider such things as technical difficulty, the cost of the project, hazards to workers or to the public, and any other basis that may support a finding of impracticability. If NMED approves the impracticability request, DOE can then propose alternative cleanup methods using site-specific risk assessments. All of this could take place behind closed doors, as there are no public participation requirements in this section. Please clarify what cleanup levels will be used and when and where they will be applied.

New Mexico deserves better

In closing, the Environment Department’s proposed 2016 Consent Order allows the federal government to leave Northern New Mexico contaminated if DOE believes that cleanup is too difficult or costly– a sorry situation indeed for a nuclear weapons facility that receives over 2 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department should implement a new revised Consent Order that is aggressive and enforceable and in which the State of New Mexico stays in the driver’s seat, not LANL and DOE. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, helping to permanently protect the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high-paying cleanup jobs. .

 

Sincerely,

Name

City

 

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 31, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

Sample General Comments on the proposed new Los Alamos Cleanup Agreement

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has issued a draft revised Consent Order (CO), which was the agreement in 2005 between the State and the federal Department of Energy (DOE) for fence-to-fence cleanup of legacy Cold War wastes at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Consent Order was designed as a plan-to-make-a-plan with investigations of contaminated sites followed by cleanup decisions and remediation. Milestones and penalties were included to keep funding and cleanup on track.

Serious investigation and cleanup began under the 2005 Consent Order. From 2005 through 2010, DOE and its contractors, under NMED oversight, accomplished significant progressed towards cleanup of the Laboratory. Much investigation work was completed. A large plume of hexavalent chromium was discovered in groundwater. Remedies were completed at dozens of individual sites.

Little cleanup has been accomplished in the last few years. We fear that the new Consent Order, if adopted, would continue that downward trend. It does not have enforceable milestones for all cleanup projects from the beginning. Instead the new plan is for NMED and DOE to decide every 1 to 3 years which sites will be addressed for cleanup “Campaigns”. This may allow Los Alamos to never address all the sites, and revert cleanup back to the way it was done before the 2005 Consent Order with budget driving cleanup. This is contrary to the original purpose of the CO, which was to compel DOE and LANL to get additional money from Congress for cleanup.

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

 

Please let your voice be heard and turn in public comments. Copy the sample comments below and paste into an email. Please modify as you see fit, then email to the address below. If you don’t mind, please cc: us at: info(at)nukewatch(dot)org

The 45-day public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 16, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to:

kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

 

 

Ms. Katherine Roberts

Division Director

New Mexico Environment Department

Post Office Box 5469

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

Comments on the proposed new Consent Order

 

Withdraw this draft

  • This draft represents a big step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine, comprehensive cleanup of the Laboratory.
  • The Environment Department should keep the current 2005 Consent Order with necessary revisions to the cleanup schedule.
  • I request that the Environment Department withdraw this draft Consent Order.

 

A 45-day comment period on this first draft is inadequate

  • The March 30, 2016 draft document is a new Consent Order and, as such, thoroughly reviewing the document is a big task.
  • I request that at least another 15 days be added to the public comment period.

 

The public deserves the opportunity to comment on all following drafts

  • It seems likely that a later draft – after the Lab’s and the public’s comments are incorporated – could be substantially different from the current draft.
  • I request that the public have the opportunity to comment on any further drafts of the new Consent Order.

 

Public participation must be put back into the new Consent Order

  • The new Consent Order would expressly limit public participation requirements which would be opposite from the 2005 Consent Order.
  • I request that all milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications require the opportunity for public review and comment.

 

The current status of all areas of cleanup must be updated

  • A current list of the status of all cleanup at Los Alamos must be included in the new Consent Order.
  • I request that the next step for cleanup at every site be documented in detail.
  • All previous 2005 Consent Order documents must be incorporated in to the new Consent Order.

 

All documents must be made public

  • The State and the Lab must make all communications, documents, and submittals specified in this Consent Order readily available to the public.
  • The State and the Lab shall notify individuals by e-mail of all submittals as specified in this Consent Order.

 

All future work must have enforceable deadlines

  • The new Consent Order would institute a “Campaign” approach with enforceable cleanup deadlines for only one year at a time.
  • I request that all cleanup work items have scheduled, enforceable dates.
  • The new revised Consent Order creates a giant loophole for DOE and LANL to plead that they don’t have enough funding and therefore don’t have to do the cleanup. The original intent of the Consent Order was to make DOE and LANL get more funding for cleanup from Congress. The “I’m too poor” excuse should be eliminated from any final Consent Order.

 

The revised Consent Order cannot be open-ended

  • Any new Consent Order must have a detailed, enforceable schedule of genuine cleanup milestones.
  • I request that the public be given an opportunity for a hearing on the new Consent Order.

 

Sincerely,

Your name

City

State

 

 

 

 

NukeWatch NM Heads to DC To Stop U.S. Nuclear Weapons “Trillion Dollar Trainwreck”

NukeWatch NM Heads to Washington to Press Congress, Obama Officials

To Stop U.S. Nuclear Weapons “Trillion Dollar Trainwreck” —

LANL Whistleblower Chuck Montaño to Be Honored

 

Three members of Nuclear Watch New Mexico will visit Washington, DC from April 17 to April 20 to oppose U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons projects, which they say will lead to a “trillion dollar trainwreck” through out-of control spending, more radioactive waste generation, and weapons proliferation. The group will meet with the New Mexican congressional delegation, committee staffers, and administration officials with responsibility for U. S. nuclear policies to press for new funding priorities.

The Nuclear Watch NM delegation will be working with more than 50 colleagues from two dozen other states who are participating in the 28th annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability “DC Days.” They will distribute copies of the ANA’s new report “Trillion Dollar Trainwreck” a detailed analysis of the Obama Administration’s latest plans to spend more money on nuclear weapons without truly enhancing U.S. security.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch director and president of the ANA Board of Directors, said, “Massive spending on nuclear weapons ‘modernization’ creates potential catastrophic risks for U.S. taxpayers, the environment and world peace. We will press policy-makers to cut programs that fund dangerous DOE boondoggles. The money saved should be redirected to dismantling weapons and cleaning up the legacy of nuclear weapons research, testing and production.”

NukeWatch NM Steering Committee member Chuck Montaño will receive recognition during DC Days from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) at a reception on April 19, 2015, at the Hart Senate Office Building. He, along with California’s senior U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith (D.-WA), will be among those honored by ANA for their efforts to hold the nuclear weapons military-industrial complex accountable. Montaño is being recognized for his advocacy confronting whistleblower and employee abuse, managerial malfeasance and fraudulent activity, all of which he documents in his recently released book detailing the chain of events that led to him becoming a federally protected whistleblower.

Montaño commented that he wrote Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths, “so people can appreciate the Lab’s full impact and legacy, not just what institutional leaders want the public to remember. There are important events I document for posterity, which may otherwise be hidden or erased from memory, and I didn’t want that to happen.”

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch director, said, “I am very proud of Chuck Montaño, especially since he’s a Nuke Watch Steering Committee member as well. We depend on people like him with the inside story to help keep the Lab safe for communities and workers alike. It’s gratifying to see that the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and its many member organizations appreciate his efforts.”

Mr. Montaño, a lifelong Santa Fe area resident, was employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 32 years, until his forced retirement from the lab in 2010. He is also the former Director of Fraud and Special Audits for the Office of the New Mexico State Auditor.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) is a network of three-dozen local, regional and national organizations representing the concerns of communities downwind and downstream from U.S. nuclear weapons production and radioactive waste disposal sites.

 

# # #

 

Chuck Montaño’s book Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths

is available at www.losalamosdiary.com

 

 

 

Watchdogs Demand Expedited Release of Lab Evaluations to E-FOIA Reading Room

Watchdogs File Second FOIA Request for Los Alamos and Sandia Labs Evaluations,

Demand Expedited Release to E-FOIA Reading Room

 

Santa Fe, NM – Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed a second request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2015 Performance Evaluation Reports for the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. Nuclear Watch filed its first request on December 22, 2015, which has still not been fulfilled despite the law’s statutory requirement that FOIA requests be honored within 20 working days. Because of that, Nuclear Watch is demanding expedited processing and posting of these reports to an electronic FOIA reading room, as required by the 1996 E-FOIA amendments.

In 2009 the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began to withhold Performance Evaluation Reports without explanation. Accordingly, Nuclear Watch filed a FOIA request for the FY 2009 Los Alamos Lab Performance Evaluation Report that NNSA denied. Nuclear Watch appealed that decision to the Department of Energy’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, which upheld the denial on the basis that the reports contained proprietary information, contrary to the openness and transparency of previous years.

Since that time, the NNSA’s nuclear weapons complex has been rocked by constant cost overruns, security scandals, illegal lobbying and the closure of the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a faulty radioactive waste drum from LANL ruptured and contaminated workers. It is Nuclear Watch’s belief that American taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent on substandard performance by nuclear weapons contractors such as Bechtel, the University of California and Lockheed Martin.

In January 2012 Nuclear Watch filed a FOIA request for the FY 2011 Performance Evaluation Reports of all eight NNSA sites, which the agency again denied. However, rather than fruitlessly appealing to the DOE Office of Hearings and Appeals, the organization filed a lawsuit on March 28, 2012, and began to receive the PERs six days later. Since then the NNSA has publicly released its FY 2012, 2013 and 2014 PERs without having to be compelled by FOIA requests or citizen lawsuits.

However, the National Nuclear Security Administration has not released its FY 2015 Performance Evaluation Reports, which we know have been completed at least for the Los Alamos Lab. On December 17, 2015, LANL Director Charlie McMillan reported to his employees that the Los Alamos National Security, LLC management and operations contract would be put out to bid because of substandard performance as documented by the Performance Evaluation Report.

These reports have been of keen media interest. After its FOIA request was not honored the Albuquerque Journal recently editorialized:

Money to run the labs comes from U.S. taxpayers, who deserve to know how it is being spent and if contractors are doing their jobs in a timely and efficient manner. Past shoddy attention to detail by NNSA contractors and lackadaisical oversight by the U.S. Department of Energy are some of the reasons why the evaluations are critical to protecting national security. The potential search for new contractors makes the evaluations especially critical. They should be made public post haste.

Similarly a respected journalist with the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that his FOIA request was left unfulfilled, and noted that, “The performance reports contain valuable information on how the NNSA contractors are carrying out their missions involving billions of taxpayer dollars annually.” In addition, at least two other nonprofit watchdog organizations, the Oak Ridge Environmental and Peace Alliance and SRS Watch, have FOIAed for NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports without success.

These multiple requests by different entities are particularly important because according to the Department of Justice the 1996 E-FOIA amendments

create a new category of records that will be required to receive “reading room” treatment — a category consisting of any records processed and disclosed in response to a FOIA request that “the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records… Second, the amendments will require agencies to use electronic information technology to enhance the availability of their reading room records… To meet this new requirement through on-line access, agencies should have Internet or World Wide Web sites prepared to serve this “electronic reading room” function.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico director, commented, “It is unconscionable that the National Nuclear Security Administration withholds information from the American taxpayer on how fat contractors who constantly bust budgets are paid, especially when these same contractors always have their hands out for yet more taxpayer money for nuclear weapons forever. The question is, what do NNSA and its contractors have to hide? To answer that, Nuclear Watch will not only demand that the Performance Evaluation Report be publicly released, but that from this point on the reports be automatically posted to an electronic FOIA reading room as the law requires. The American taxpayer should not have to fight this battle year after year just to keep greedy nuclear weapons contractors accountable.”

# # #

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s second Freedom of Information Act request for the Los Alamos and Sandia Performance Evaluation Reports is available at

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NWNM-FOIA-FY15-PERs-4-6-16.pdf

 

The Albuquerque Journal March 24, 2016 editorial “Tardy posting of NNSA evaluations unacceptable” is available at

http://www.abqjournal.com/745237/opinion/tardy-posting-of-nnsa-evaluations-unacceptable.html

 

Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Frank Munger’s blog post is available at

http://knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/2016/03/14/what-to-think/

 

The Department of Justice quote is from FOIA Update, Vol. XVII, No. 4 1996

https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-update-congress-enacts-foia-amendments

 

NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports from 2007 to 2014 are available at

http://www.nukewatch.org/PERs-PEPs.html

Watchdogs Denounce New Consent Order on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

For immediate release March 30, 2016

Contacts:       Jay Coghlan, 505.989.7342,  jay[at]nukewatch.org

Scott Kovac, 505.989.7342, scott[at]nukewatch.org

 

Watchdogs Denounce New Consent Order on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

 

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued a new draft Consent Order that in theory will govern cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Instead, the new Consent Order is a giveaway to the Department of Energy and the Lab who are intent on creating yet more radioactive waste from expanded nuclear weapons production.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs. But yet the Environment Department fails New Mexicans by failing to enforce cleanup at Los Alamos.”

While announcing the new Consent Order NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn claimed that the old Consent Order process did not work. Nuclear Watch agrees that the old Consent Order failed, but that’s because Secretary Flynn granted more than 150 milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating it.

LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup has been cut to $189 million for FY 2017, with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguard improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).

The original 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. Instead, the Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

A few of the serious deficiencies of the new draft Consent Order are:

[Quotes are from the new draft Consent Order followed by page numbers]

•     “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 27. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…”  P. 31. 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. 28. Therefore the new Consent Order will be held hostage to DOE’s budget, which recently cut LANL’s cleanup funding. This is directly opposite to the intent of the original Consent Order, which was to compel DOE and LANL to get increased funding for accelerated cleanup.

•     “… [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. 29. 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. 33. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 34. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

•     The new draft Consent Order explicitly states that public participation requirements do NOT apply to future modifications of the Order. P. 24. This is the opposite of what the original Consent Order required, which made a point of incorporating the public process requirements of federal environmental law. Nuclear Watch New Mexico maintains that full public participation requirements apply to the new Consent Order as well, including its very formulation as a modification of the old Consent Order. That full public participation process requires a public hearing if there are unresolved issues, which NMED has preemptively rejected, a position that may be of questionable legality.

On January 20, 2016, Nuclear Watch New Mexico formally notified LANL and DOE that it intends to sue them for failing to meet compliance milestones in the old Consent Order. We still expect to take that action sometime after the required 60 day notice period, as in our view this new Consent Order does nothing to remedy those violations.

# # #

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The 45-day public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 16, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

Nuclear Watch New Mexico Action Alert – Release of Revised Los Alamos Cleanup Agreement

Nuclear Watch New Mexico Action Alert 

NM Environment Department Plans to Unveil Revised Los Alamos Cleanup Agreement

March 30, 2016, 1PM, Sandia Resort

Public Comment Is Invited

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads

NM Environment Department and officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory plan to roll out a draft of the revised Consent Order, which is the agreement for fence-to-fence cleanup of legacy Cold War waste from nuclear weapons production and research. The last compliance date of the original agreement was December 6, 2015, and although much investigation was completed, much more work is still needed.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes

  • A new schedule is mostly what is needed
  • Lack of budget cannot be an excuse for lack of cleanup
  • Particular items to keep – meaningful public comment and a final date

But we suspect big changes and not all for the better protection of Northern NM.

 

Your voice will be important! Please join us!

 

Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board Meeting

March 30, 2016

1:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Sandia Resort, Ballroom A

30 Rainbow Road

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113

DRAFT AGENDA

 

Time                         Action                                                                                     Presenter

1:00 p.m.             Call to Order                                                                         Lee Bishop, DDFO

Welcome and Introductions Doug Sayre, Chair

Approval of Agenda

Approval of Minutes of January 27, 2016

1:20 p.m.             Old Business

a. Written Reports – See Packet Enclosures (5 minutes)

b. Other items

1:30 p.m.             New Business

1:35 p.m.             Update from Deputy Designated Federal Officer(s)

Lee Bishop/Michael Gardipe

 

1:45 p.m.             Presentation on Revisions to Consent Order,

Upon Opening of Public Comment Period

NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn

 

3:00 p.m.             Break

 

3:20 p.m.             Presentation Continues

 

4:00 p.m.             Public Comment Period

 

4:15 p.m.             Update on FY 17/18 EM Budget                                     Genna Hackett

 

4:45 p.m.             Consideration and Action on Draft Recommendation 2016-02, Doug Sayre

“FY 2018 Budget Priorities”

 

5:00 p.m.             Wrap-up Comments from NNMCAB Members

a. Were your questions answered regarding the presentations?

b. Requests for future presentations or information

c. Proposed Recommendations

 

5:15 p.m.             Adjourn                                                                         Michael Gardipe

 

For more information:

 

This NNMCAB Agenda-

Click to access March_30_16_Draft_Agenda_R7.pdf

 

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads

New Cleanup Agreement Requires New Schedule and That Is About All

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2204

 

Baseless Claims?

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2186

 

Nuclear Watch NM Gives Notice of Intent to Sue Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2177

 

NukeWatch Calls for Public Seats at the Table in LANL Cleanup Negotiations

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2140

 

Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional 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.

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

903 W. Alameda, #325

Santa Fe, NM 87501

505.989.7342 – phone and fax

info(at)nukewatch.org

www.nukewatch.org

 

Complicated geology under Los Alamos shows what a bad location this is for a permanent radioactive dump

 

STAND AGAINST THE RUSH TO RE-OPEN AN UNSAFE WIPP

STAND AGAINST THE RUSH TO RE-OPEN AN UNSAFE WIPP 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it intends to re-open the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in December 2016. The nation’s only deep geologic repository, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, has been shut down since February 2014 because of two events – an underground fire and a radiation release.

DOE is in a rush to re-open WIPP even though the facility cannot meet the previous operational and safety standards, let alone more stringent requirements that are necessary to prevent future accidents. The WIPP underground remains contaminated, so operations have to be greatly changed, including workers being dressed in “ebola suits.” Ventilation will not be restored to the pre-2014 levels until 2021 or later – the new system is not designed and how much it will cost is unknown.

The transuranic (plutonium-contaminated) waste from manufacturing nuclear bombs can be in safe storage at the generator sites, so there is no emergency requiring the rush to re-open.

DOE is rushing to re-open WIPP and ALSO wants to expand WIPP to other missions that are prohibited by law, including:

  • Greater-Than-Class C waste from dozens of commercial power plants;
  • High-level waste from Hanford, WA;
  • Commercial waste from West Valley, NY;
  • Surplus weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site, SC.

DOE also is proceeding with finding a “volunteer” site for the nation’s high-level defense waste, and some officials in southeastern New Mexico say publicly that WIPP should be that repository!

The 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act explicitly PROHIBITS all high-level waste, all spent nuclear fuel, and all commercial waste. But DOE wants to ignore the law!

Those prohibitions resulted from many New Mexicans demanding them!

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Contact Senators Udall and Heinrich (and other elected officials) and ask them to stop the rush to re-open an unsafe WIPP. Ask them to require DOE to drop the expansion proposals and commit that WIPP will not be considered for high-level waste. Ask them to have Congress reiterate that the WIPP law is not being changed to allow those expansions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Southwest Research and Information Center, www.sric.org, 505-262-1862

Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, contactus@cardnm.org, 505-242-5511

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, www.nuclearactive.org, 505-986-1973

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, www.nukewatch.org, 505-989-7342

 

Here is a sample letter to use as-is or to modify. You can use the electronic message system at the Senators’ offices.

Senator Udall’s electronic message system: https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=contact

Senator Heinrich’s electronic message system: https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/contact/write-martin

 

Senator Tom Udall                                                            Senator Martin Heinrich

531 Hart Senate Office Building                                    303 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                                Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich:

I am very concerned about the Department of Energy (DOE) rushing to re-open WIPP this year despite unresolved public and worker safety issues and because of the many proposals to expand WIPP, if it is re-opened.

The WIPP underground remains contaminated, so operations have to be greatly changed, including workers being dressed in “ebola suits.” Ventilation will not be restored to the pre-2014 levels until 2021 or later – the new system is not designed and how much it will cost is unknown.

The transuranic (plutonium-contaminated) waste from manufacturing nuclear bombs can be in safe storage at generator sites, so there’s no emergency requiring the rush to re-open.

DOE recently announced that it wants to expand WIPP for commercial Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste from nuclear reactors and for tons of weapons-grade plutonium. DOE also wants to have a defense high-level waste repository and some people want to “volunteer” WIPP!

There is time for my requests to be fulfilled.  Please:

* Tell DOE to improve the ventilation and other safety requirements before WIPP re-opens

* Insist that DOE drop the expansion proposals

* Require DOE to affirm that WIPP will not be considered for the defense high-level waste repository

* Obtain additional congressional assurances that the WIPP law is not going to be changed to allow the proposed expansions.

WIPP is a public health and safety issue now and for many generations to come!

 

Thank you.

 

_______________________________________

Name

 

___________________________________________________________NM________________

Address                                                                        City                                   State                        Zip

 

 

WIPP site map

 

 

 

 

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads: Treat All Los Alamos Lab Radioactive Wastes Consistently

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads:

Treat All Los Alamos Lab Radioactive Wastes Consistently

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s role and responsibility includes gathering information regarding the hazards to the public and workers posed by the management of transuranic (TRU) wastes at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), as well as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plans to address those hazards. The Board will examine DOE’s actions taken or inadequacies addressed in the current safety policies of the various facilities that manage or store TRU wastes at LANL. The Board is also interested in understanding actions taken to improve TRU waste management at LANL after the improper handling and treatment of TRU wastes that resulted in a ruptured barrel that shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

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Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads – New Cleanup Agreement Requires New Schedule and That Is About All

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads

New Cleanup Agreement Requires New Schedule and That Is About All

Following protracted negotiations, threatened litigation, and claims of imminent and substantial endangerment, the New Mexican Environment Department (NMED), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) contractor agreed to sign the original Consent Order in March 2005. Its promise was fence-to-fence cleanup of Cold War legacy waste at Los Alamos. The 2005 Consent Order was designed as a plan-to-make-a-plan, with investigations followed by cleanup and with hundreds of specific milestones. The intent was to convince DOE to increase funding for LANL cleanup by making a complete cleanup schedule subject to enforcement. The original CO had a “final compliance date” scheduled for December 6, 2015.

However, in 2012, NMED signed a “Framework Agreement” with DOE that prioritized the transfer of 3,706 cubic meters of aboveground, “transuranic” (TRU) nuclear bomb production wastes from LANL to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico. This put Consent Order cleanup on the back burner. Approximately 150 milestone extensions of the 2005 CO were granted to LANL by NMED. In February 2014, WIPP was shut down by improper packaging at LANL of a drum of this waste. Dealing with the remaining “suspect” drums (packaged at the same time) at LANL is a major priority lately instead of cleanup. This has kept the Consent Order cleanup on the back burner.

 

  • Just change the schedule

So NMED and LANL could pick a new final cleanup date, say 2030, and work backwards. Or start by adding 4 or 5 years to the old schedule for some reports and work it out from there. The point is to keep the original 2005 Consent Order language, which is very protective of the health and environment of Northern New Mexico, and just change the schedule dates. However the work is rescheduled, all the work items in the old Compliance Schedule Tables need to be addressed in new Compliance Schedule Tables with new dates given for all the work.

Recent public presentations by NMED implied that cleanup milestones in a revised CO would be assigned annually based on the anticipated budget. This would leave hundreds of cleanup items with no target date for completion and would leave cleanup at the mercy of Congressional budget winds. Any cleanup item not on the list for any given year could be outside the scope of enforcement. LANL could be in the position to not put items on the annual list and to delay cleanup forever.

If the schedule must be rearranged into some sort of “Campaign Mode” in an attempt to make cleanup more “efficient”, completion dates must be kept for every step. Every item in the Campaign must remain enforceable with concrete milestones including a final compliance date. All other items not in a Campaign must remain scheduled.

 

  • Lack of budget cannot be an excuse for lack of cleanup

Taking cleanup dollar crumbs and sprinkling them annually over some perceived priority cleanup items is the least efficient way to address the fence-to-fence cleanup of Cold War wastes at Los Alamos. Cleanup of the 70 years worth of contamination will never again be cheaper than it is this year. It is imperative that ambitious schedule be made and that it be kept.

Every day of delay means another day of Cold War radioactive and hazardous wastes leaking into the environment of Northern New Mexico.

  • Particular items to keep –  meaningful public comment and a final date

NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn stated publicly (starting at 8:00 min) that the need for a final cleanup date at Los Alamos is critical to Congress for funding. He presented a map that showed that Los Alamos National Laboratory was the only DOE weapons site without final cleanup date. (Slide 4) Instead, cleanup at LANL is listed as “TBD” (To Be Determined).

The final compliance date for the last work item must keep the Class 3 permit modification language. Please see our earlier blog for more information. This will ensure that the public can be heard at the end of the next CO and requires the opportunity for a public hearing.

There must be meaningful public input for the revised CO. NMED must give response to all comments.

A well-planned schedule with concrete milestones and final compliance dates would get the work done faster and cheaper. Course corrections with schedule adjustments will have to be made along the way. This would be expected for such a complex task. Having to adjust the schedule is no reason to throw it out. Any major rewrite of the 2005 Consent Order may only leave the future of NM less protected.

Not keeping up with changes in the 2005 Consent Order schedule is the main reason that the CO needs to be revised today. We currently find ourselves with cleanup of legacy wastes in such disarray that it seems that the only fix is to start over. But there is no reason not to just update the original 2005 schedule. Secretary Flynn has stated that the 2005 Consent Order is still in effect.

Today we could be looking at a known Consent Order with a new schedule. Instead we may end up with NMED and DOE renegotiating some untried document with unknown benefits and an unknown schedule.

Cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory is too important to leave as TBD.

 

DOE Cold War Sites Closure Dates map
Current Estimated Dates for Final Cleanup of Cold War Nuclear Weapons Sites

 

 

 

 

ABQ Journal Article: Los Alamos lab would get $2.1 billion in proposed budget; officials discuss plans for making plutonium `pits’

This article has some details on future expanded plutonium pit production and related facility upgrades and new construction at the Los Alamos Lab.

1) Brig. Gen. S.L. Davis, NNSA acting deputy administrator for defense programs, explicitly ties future underground “modules” to the 50 to 80 pits per year production rate. That is the most explicit statement I’ve seen so far on that.  The admission that they can do up to 30 pits per year without the modules is also useful.

2) NNSA and LANL all talk about the statutory requirement for expanded pit production (from the FY 2015 Defense Authorization Act). That came from the nuclear neocons in the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee (one of the staff guys that wrote that legislation is originally from Sandia Labs). They required expanded production regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile.  It is worth noting that after LANL finished producing 29 W88 pits in 2011 for the stockpile, there has been no further pit production scheduled, essentially because the existing stockpile doesn’t need it.

3) Nevertheless, LANL is tooling up to produce W87 pits for the Interoperable Warhead, which has been delayed for at least 5 years and which the Navy doesn’t want.  So the whole thing is a house of cards.  The real question is whether the appropriators will fund expanded plutonium pit production, and specifically where Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) will stand on that. He’s on the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Jay Coghlan

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

http://www.abqjournal.com/721642/news/los-alamos-lab-would-get-2-1-billion-in-obamas-proposed-budget.html
Los Alamos lab would get $2.1 billion in proposed budget; officials discuss plans for making plutonium `pits’
By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 10:57am
Updated: Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 5:40pm

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Obama adminstration’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget for the Department of Energy, released Tuesday, allocates $2.1 billion for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

That’s down from $2.2 billion that the new budget document says was “enacted” for the current fiscal year but up from $1.9 billion in Department of Energy funding that was included in the administration’s request for last year.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the new documents show an additional $200 million was added to the lab’s nuclear weapons program during FY 2016.

The budget, released Tuesday, also calls for $189 million for clean up of decades-worth of radioactive and hazardous materials at LANL, about the same as in recent years.

LANL is under a directive to resume production of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear weapons, as part of changes and upgrades to the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile.

Previous DOE documents have indicated that plans to add to new underground “modules” at Los Alamos for the plutonium work were planned, for a cost estimated at a whopping $2 billion or more.

The new budget request doesn’t advance the “module” idea, leaving the plans for pit production facilities open to interpretation. The budget request says that the “remaining mission need” can be met with other alternatives.

“A common interpretation from all this is that the administration has more time to think about it,” said Greg Mello of the anti-nuclear Los Alamos Study Group. “We think it’s great they should take the time to think more clearly… before plunking capital asset money on the table.”

LANL’s Radiological, Utility, and Office Building is now projected to be a $1.44 billion building. DOE recently endorsed plans to expand RLOUB’s plutonium handling capacity by more than 10 times to 400 grams, apparently as part of the pit production plan. Critics say the building was not built as a nuclear facility.

During a press briefing today (Wednesday, Feb. 10), a Journal reporter asked officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration about potential pit production facilities.

Brig. Gen. S.L. Davis, acting deputy administrator for defense programs, said, “Under the current capabilities we have in the projects we have going, we’re going to be able to do ten pits in 2024, 20 pits in 2025, and 30 pits in 2026.

“To get to the 50-80 pits dictated by statute we’d have to do additional construction. In the current budget, we have some money for design of a plutonium capability. We’re currently undergoing an analysis of alternatives to see if that would be, in fact, plutonium modules at Los Alamos or perhaps some other alternatives, but at this point there is no money for funding of the major construction item to do that in the current budget.”

NNSA administrator Frank Klotz, said that to make sure the agency has the capacity for plutonium operations, “we are undergoing several projects basically to move things out of the old chemical and metallurgy facility building by repurposing space” in the building known as Plutionium Facility-4 in and in RLUOB.

“We have some significant funding going to subprojects associated with that,” said Klotz. He said that in the fiscal year 2017 budget, there’s about $6 million “which will be used for the development of the conceptual design for an analysis alternatives for the additional capacity we need at Los Alamos to do pit manufacturing.”

“In the out years, we have put in $12 million per year for the plutonium modular approach,” Klotz said. “We recognize that is not nearly enough money to do that. However, until we go through the analysis alternatives and until we do our internal and external independent cost estimations and all of the environmental assessments and all the other things that needs to be done before we can come up with a realistic estimate in terms of what that we’ll be.

“We’ll be back in the FY 18 or 19 budget when we have done all that due diligence and have better figures for that.”

Nuke Watch’s Coghlan said of the overall DOE budget, with $9.3 billion for the weapons activities within the National Nuclear Security Administration: “Recall that President Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Instead, the last budget of his administrations sets an all time record for funding Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs. What this means at Los Alamos is that the Lab’s future is being increasingly tied to expanded production of plutonium pits, the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.”

Watchdogs Call for Renewed Investigation of Corruption at Los Alamos Lab

For immediate release February 2, 2016

Watchdogs Call for Renewed Investigation of Corruption at Los Alamos Lab and Questionable Suicide of Former Deputy Director

Santa Fe, NM – Today three well-known whistleblowers sent a certified letter to Mr. Damon Martinez, the US Attorney for the District of New Mexico, asking him to reopen an investigation into fraud and corruption at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the questionable suicide in 2002 of the then-recently retired Lab Deputy Director. Mr. Damon is the top federal law enforcement official in New Mexico, and also serves as the Chair of the National Lab/Research University Working Group for US Attorneys. Therefore, he should be uniquely qualified to address the whistleblowers’ concerns.

Glenn Walp and Steve Doran were hired in 2002 by LANL to investigate fraud at the Lab after it had been repeatedly rocked by security and corruption scandals. However, senior Lab officials summarily fired them without cause before they could complete their investigations. During their long careers in law enforcement they were respectively, among other things, Commissioner of Pennsylvania State Police and police chief of Idaho City, Idaho. The third whistleblower, Chuck Montaño, is a multi-credentialed auditor and investigator who worked at LANL for 32 years. He became a federally protected whistleblower after reporting accounting malpractice and abuses that he had witnessed for years, and for which Lab management retaliated against him.

In their letter to Mr. Martinez, the three whistleblowers state that their main concern is the need for law enforcement to fully investigate the claimed suicide in 2002 of LANL’s second-in-command, former Deputy Director of Operations Richard Burick. Specifically at issue was the gun found at the scene of his death, and the improbability of this particular type of handgun being left in the state and condition that it was found in if truly used in a suicide. Steve Doran, who is a highly qualified investigator, and other weapon experts have concluded that it is impossible that the gun in question would have landed where it did, with an open, undamaged chamber, had it been truly used in a suicide.

In the same period of time as Burick’s claimed suicide, the criminal investigation of major procurement fraud at LANL was derailed by the Lab’s hasty firing of Walp and Doran. This, in turn, prevented a congressional committee from learning the full scope of potential criminal activity. Since then, new information has emerged that possibly links the corruption to Burick’s suicide, which the three whistleblowers assert deserves serious investigation by federal law enforcement.

The whistleblowers are coming forth now with their letter to the US Attorney for New Mexico prompted in part by a recent article by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a respected national organization that investigates and publicizes government waste, fraud and abuse. The POGO article concluded that if there were ever to be full accountability at LANL, “a new investigation into Richard Burick’s alleged suicide would be a good place to start.”

Walp, Doran and Montaño are also motivated by the recent announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration that the LANL management contract will be competed in 2017. Their concern is that a full and complete investigation is needed in order to clean house and help ensure that one of the premier nuclear weapons labs, long plagued by scandal, is properly managed in the future, free of any possible reoccurrence of fraud and corruption. They believe that it is imperative that decision makers know the full extent of what transpired in order to know how best to proceed with the award of the new contract. Without a deeper understanding and accountability before the award is made, it is possible that the LANL management contract will end up in the hands of those largely responsible for the cover-up of past mismanagement at the Los Alamos Lab, or even worse the possible obstruction of justice that occurred.

Former Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Glenn Walp commented, “Unless the consortium contractors for the Los Alamos National Laboratory consciously and aggressively resolve their perpetual management and operational failings, the lab will remain a haven for crime, corruption and cover-ups; perhaps it is time to shut it down.”

Former Police Chief Steve Doran asserted, “Corruption at Los Alamos must be taken out at the roots and those responsible brought to justice. This will build a strong national laboratory system that can be both trusted and productive.”

Federally protected whistleblower Chuck Montaño added, “The Los Alamos Lab is a cash cow for the military-industrial complex, and because politicians are so beholden to these corporations, there’s zero accountability for the fraud, waste and abuse that keeps occurring in Los Alamos. We are seeking to end that by asking the US Attorney for New Mexico to intervene and go wherever the facts may take him. ”

# # #

 The Walp/Doran/Montaño letter to Mr. Damon Martinez, US Attorney for New Mexico, is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Letter-NM-US-Attorney-LANL-fraud.pdf

The Project on Government Oversight’s article Once Upon a Time in Los Alamos is available at http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/once-upon-a-time-los-alamos.html

Chuck Montaño’s book Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths chronicling his 32 years working at the Los Alamos Lab and becoming a federally protected whistleblower is available at http://losalamosdiary.com/index.html

Glenn Walp’s book Implosion at Los Alamos on his hiring and firing investigating corruption and fraud at the Los Alamos Lab is available at http://www.implosionatlosalamos.com/

Baseless Claims?

Baseless Claims?

In the January 20th, 2016 Albuquerque Journal article, Nuclear Watch to sue over LANL cleanup problems, by Mark Oswald, there is an interesting quote from New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Secretary, Ryan Flynn, in response to our notice of intent to sue DOE/LANL.

“Flynn said Wednesday, “These are nothing more than baseless claims being peddled by a radical group that insists on wasting everybody’s time with empty threats and manufactured disputes, which helps them grab headlines and juices their fundraising efforts.””

The main point in Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Notice of Intent to sue is based on the calendar. In particular, the mandatory final compliance report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order Compliance Schedule was to be submitted by December 6, 2015.

The report was not submitted by December 6, 2015.

It is now January 25, 2016, which is after December 6, 2015.

The final report is late – see calendar.

The federal law that was incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order, and the Consent Order itself, specify certain actions that must be taken when a deliverable does not meet its due date. For instance, DOE/LANL must request an extension. In the case of extending this final scheduled compliance deadline, there are “Class 3” permit modification requirements, like the opportunity for a public hearing, that are required.

Interestingly, because NukeWatch believes that the ball is DOE/LANL’s court to request an extension of time for the December 6, 2015 report, NMED is not named in our notice of intent to sue.

 

Nuclear Watch NM Gives Notice of Intent to Sue Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab

Nuclear Watch NM Gives Notice of Intent to Sue

Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab

Nuclear Watch New Mexico has notified the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that it will file a lawsuit over their failure to meet cleanup milestones under a “Consent Order” governed by the New Mexico Environment Department. Formal notice is required before a lawsuit can actually be filed, which NukeWatch intends to do within 60 days or less. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce cleanup at LANL.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Executive Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. We are putting the weaponeers on notice that they have to cleanup their radioactive and toxic mess first before making another one for a nuclear weapons stockpile that is already bloated far beyond what we need. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”

Last week Nuclear Watch NM broke a story  on how LANL and DOE have formally given the green light for new underground facilities to expand the production of plutonium pits (the fissile triggers of modern H-bombs) from the currently approved level of 20 pits per year to 80. In all, upgrades to existing plutonium facilities at LANL and the construction of two underground “modules” that can be added to later for yet more production will cost at least $4 billion. The environmental impact statement for a previously proposed Walmart-sized plutonium facility (canceled because of costs that exploded up to $6.5 billion dollars) documented that not a single new Lab job would be created because it would simply relocate existing jobs. Full cleanup, on the other hand, would be labor intensive and create hundreds of high paying jobs for several decades.

Every year the estimated cost of nation-wide “environmental liabilities” from past nuclear weapons research and production, currently $298 billion, outpaces the annual levels of environmental restoration funding actually spent, even though those estimated liabilities don’t include full cleanup to begin with. At the same time, one multi-billion dollar DOE cleanup project after the other fails, for example the $13.5 billion Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation, the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico (closed because of a ruptured radioactive waste barrel from LANL), and the estimated $2.6 billion spent to date for incomplete cleanup at LANL. As an example of local impacts, during major stormwater events the City of Santa Fe has to close water diversion on the Rio Grande that can supply up to 15 million gallons per day of drinking water because of plutonium contamination in Los Alamos Canyon. Meanwhile, nation-wide, thousands of sick Cold War workers and downwinders from nuclear weapons tests await long delayed health benefits and compensation.

LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for DOE nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup remains flat at around $185 million per year, with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguarding improperly prepared radioactive waste barrels destined for the now-closed WIPP). New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) officials have publicly stated that around $250 million per year is needed for effective cleanup at LANL.

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 also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. The Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

In the past the New Mexico Environment Department had repeatedly stated that it would release a revised Consent Order with new compliance dates before the end of 2015. Last November NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn said that a draft revised Consent Order would not be released until settlements were finalized over LANL violations of waste handling procedures that led to the closure of WIPP. Those settlement negotiations are still ongoing, leaving the Consent Order governing cleanup at the Lab in legal limbo.

Under typical hazardous waste handling permits, federal regulations require that an extension of a final compliance date include “an opportunity for a public hearing at which all interested persons shall be given a reasonable chance to submit data, views or arguments orally or in writing and to examine witnesses testifying at the hearing.” While the 2005 Consent Order is not a permit per se, it nevertheless explicitly incorporated the public process requirements of a federal hazardous waste permit. Therefore, Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes that any revised Consent Order requires an opportunity for meaningful public participation during its negotiation, leading to a public hearing should there be any unresolved issues, a position which so far NMED has opposed.

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch NM Research Director, said, “DOE, LANL and NMED have had four years to involve the public in revising Consent Order cleanup decisions and comnpliance dates at the Lab, but yet they seem to have ignored the final deadline. Northern New Mexicans want meaningful input into cleanup decisions at LANL. NukeWatch believes that a rigorous cleanup schedule must be stipulated from the beginning in any revised Consent Order, and that the Lab must be held accountable every step along the way for getting the necessary funding and doing the work on time. We insist upon meaningful public participation and dates certain for compliance milestones. Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab cannot be open-ended or it will never be accomplished.”

# # #

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Notice of Intent to Sue is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-NM-NOI-to-DOE-and-LANS-20160120.pdf

Budget data are from the Department of Energy’s annual Congressional Budget Requests.

The current estimate of $298 billion to cleanup past nuclear weapons research and production comes from the DOE Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2014. Even that figure does not come anywhere close to full and complete cleanup, but instead often involves “cap and cover” and leaving nuclear wastes permanently in place.

The quote concerning the need for a public hearing was incorporated into New Mexico state law NMSA 1978, §74-4-4.2(H) (2006).

National Nuclear Security Administration Gives Green Light For Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at Los Alamos

 For immediate release January 15, 2016

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

National Nuclear Security Administration Gives Green Light

For Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at Los Alamos

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent agency commissioned by Congress, posted a weekly report that makes explicit a decision by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Plutonium pits are the fissile cores or “triggers” of modern two-stage thermonuclear weapons, but they are also atomic weapons in their own right (a plutonium bomb incinerated Nagasaki in August 1945). Plutonium pit production has always been the chokepoint preventing industrial-scale U.S. nuclear weapons production ever since a FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the notorious Rocky Flats Plant near Denver in 1989.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab is really all about future new-design nuclear weapons with new military capabilities produced through so-called Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons.” The relevant case-in-point is that LANL is now tooling up to produce pits for one type of warhead (the W87) to use in an “Interoperable Warhead” that will combine two other warheads (the W78, a land-based ICBM warhead, and the W88, a sub-launched warhead), clearly a radically new design even if as claimed only existing nuclear weapons components are used.

Coghlan further commented, “The real irony is that this Interoperable Warhead has been delayed for at least five years, if not forever, because of its enormous estimated expense and Navy skepticism. Yet this doesn’t keep LANL and the NNSA from spending billions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade existing and build new production facilities for unnecessary and provocative expanded plutonium pit production.”

Specifically, NNSA and LANL seek to raise the administrative limit on plutonium in the existing Radiological Lab (“RLUOB” in the Safety Board report below) from an original 8.4 grams to 400 grams, and proceed with the “Plutonium Modular Approach project.” In 2012, in the face of exploding costs and rising citizen opposition, NNSA dropped its proposal to build a $6.5 billion Walmart-sized “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project-Nuclear Facility” for expanded plutonium pit production of up to 80 pits per year. There was no technical justification for this expanded production, other than unspecified “Department of Defense requirements.”

These new moves by NNSA and LANL, which will cost around $4 billion before the usual cost overruns, are just another way to achieve their goal of raising plutonium pit production to up to 80 plutonium pits per year. Raising the amount of plutonium in the Radiological Lab will enable LANL to conduct all needed analytical chemistry quality control samples of new pits, as the Safety Board memo says to “primarily support the increased capacity required for larger pit manufacturing rates.” The Plutonium Modular Approach project will be newly constructed underground facilities for hot operations such as a plutonium foundry, likely beginning with two modules at a billion dollars each. It should be noted that proposed major federal actions require the opportunity for public review and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act, which has not been done for what NNSA calls this alternative plutonium strategy. Nevertheless, increased funding for LANL’s plutonium infrastructure will be likely included in the pending federal budget for FY 2017, scheduled to be released Monday February 9.

There is no need for expanded plutonium pit production to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, but it is vital for future new-designs that the nuclear weaponeers want. In fact, the U.S. government is planning to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” and completely rebuild its nuclear forces, despite its pledge in the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty to enter into serious negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.

Background

In 1996 the plutonium pit production mission was formally relocated to LANL, with an approved upper limit of 20 pits per year. NNSA has tried four times since then to expand plutonium pit production. This started with a proposed “Modern Pit Facility” capable of producing up to 450 pits per year, with no justification of why that Cold War-like level of production was needed. In all four cases, in response to successful citizen activism, Congress either rejected or NNSA dropped efforts to expand production, in large part because of a pit life study that New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman required at Nuclear Watch’s request. That 2006 study by independent experts found that plutonium pits last at least 100 years (with no proscribed end date), more than double NNSA’s previous estimates of 45 years.

Nevertheless, NNSA now seeks for the fifth time to expand plutonium pit production beyond the currently approved level of 20 pits per year at LANL. After having produced 30 pits for the W88 sub-launched warhead (which was in production when the Rocky Flats Plant was shut down), there are no current requirements for plutonium pit production to maintain stockpile safety and reliability.

In the meanwhile, funding for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab is being cut, while nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with are thriving. As a final irony, these plans to expand plutonium pit production are now being implemented, despite the fact that 1) major operations at LANL’s main plutonium facility have been suspended since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns; and 2) the Los Alamos Lab has no place to send its radioactive plutonium pit production wastes ever since it sent a drum that ruptured and closed down the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is confident that this latest attempt to expand plutonium pit production will fall apart as well, but only as a result of continuing strong citizen activism.

# # #

•           Relevant excerpt from Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Weekly LANL Report:

http://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/Board%20Activities/Reports/Site%20Rep%20Weekly%20Reports/Los%20Alamos%20National%20Laboratory/2015/wr_20151218_65.pdf
Los Alamos Report for Week Ending December 18, 2015

MEMORANDUM FOR: S.A. Stokes, Technical Director FROM: R.K. Verhaagen and J.W. Plaue

DNFSB Staff Activity: R. L. Jackson was onsite to plan oversight activities associated with Plutonium Infrastructure Strategy. Accordingly, he met with key project staff and walked down the Plutonium Facility, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building, and the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB).

Plutonium Infrastructure Strategy: Late last month, the Deputy Secretary of Energy approved a restructuring of the subprojects covered under the CMR Replacement project. There are now four subprojects: (1) RLUOB Equipment Installation, Phase 2; (2) Plutonium Facility Equipment Installation, Phase 1; (3) Plutonium Facility Equipment Installation, Phase 2; and (4) Re- categorizing the RLUOB to Hazard Category 3 with a material-at-risk limit of 400 g plutonium- 239 equivalent. The first two subprojects enable LANL to cease programmatic activities in the CMR by 2019, while the latter two subprojects primarily support the increased capacity required for larger pit manufacturing rates. The memo requests an updated project execution plan within 90 days and indicates approval authority will remain with the DOE Deputy Secretary for subprojects 2–4 and with the NNSA Administrator for subproject 1.

In a separate action, the DOE Deputy Secretary also approved the mission need Critical Decision (CD)-0 for the Plutonium Modular Approach project. This project addresses life extension needs for the existing Plutonium Facility in support of Department of Defense requirements and Congressional Direction. The CD-0 schedule range for project completion is December 2025 to December 2027.

 

•           For an extensive history of successful citizen activism against plutonium pit production see http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Pit-Production-History.pdf

LANL In No Hurry With Emergency Response Plans

LANL In No Hurry With Emergency Response Plans

In the recent letter, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board told DOE that they were concerned with the pace and completeness of the emergency preparedness and response efforts at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  The Board is an independent organization that provides recommendations and advice regarding public health and safety issues at Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities.

After LANL recently confessed “[a] sustainable, comprehensive, and coordinated training and drills program has not been fully implemented as required” per DOE requirement Comprehensive Emergency Management System,  the Board staff made some preliminary observations indicating weaknesses in emergency preparedness and response at LANL. And the Safety Board plans to perform a comprehensive review of emergency preparedness and response programs at LANL in early 2016.

 

Some of the preliminary observations were –

  • The emergency response plans that involve the inappropriately remediated nitrate salt drums, like the one that exploded and shut down WIPP, have not been updated to reflect the current understanding of the release hazards. Consequently, pre-planned evacuation zones may be not be large enough for members of the public in the event of an accident.
  • Planning and conduct of emergency drills and exercises do not ensure that scenarios are sufficiently challenging and minimize artificiality and simulation and do not represent the full spectrum of credible accident types.
  • Exercises show the inability to effectively shelter laboratory workers in place during a release of hazardous materials.
  • Radios don’t work much of the time.

 

These types of problems should not consistently be showing up where safety is a priority. It will be interesting to see how much of a factor these emergency preparedness issues played in LANS, the current Lab for-profit management contractor, losing its job.

We hope the new LANL contractor can keep safety first.

 

 

Federal Nuclear Safety Oversight at LANL Remains Drastically Understaffed

Federal Nuclear Safety Oversight at LANL Remains Drastically Understaffed

A recently released report, Office of Enterprise Assessments Targeted Review of Work Planning and Control and Biological Safety at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), December 2015, explains nuclear safety oversight staffing shortages.

The Office of Enterprise Assessments (EA) is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) organization responsible for assessments of nuclear and industrial safety, and cyber and physical security. DOE has regulatory authority over the radiologic facilities, operations, and wastes of the nuclear weapons complex. (Whereas the State of New Mexico has regulatory authority over non-radiological, hazardous operations and wastes.)

LANL is managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC with oversight by DOE’s Los Alamos Field Office (NA-LA). On a good day, NA-LA, with around 100 total on staff, would have their hands full providing oversight for LANS’ 13,000 employees and contractors scattered over nearly 40 square miles.

Lack of Safety Oversight Staff, with No Help in Sight

But the recent report (which was investigated in June and July, 2015) explains that NA-LA has funding for only 6 out of the 12 (at the least) required Facility Representative (FR) positions. An FR is defined as an individual assigned responsibility by the local field office for monitoring the safe and efficient performance of a facility and its operations. This individual is the primary point of contact with the contractor for operational and safety oversight.

DOE has a process to determine adequate Facility Representative staffing. The NA-LA FR staffing analysis for 2015 indicated that 17 FRs are needed to cover 13 Hazard Category 2 nuclear facilities, 4 Hazard Category 3 nuclear facilities, 11 High Hazard facilities, 12 moderate hazard facilities, and 7 low hazard facilities. NA-LA figured that only 12 FRs were needed and that 10 were on board. However the current NA-LA organization chart shows 7 FRs, one of whom has been on detail as the acting chief of staff for over a year and has not maintained his FR qualifications. There are no current plans to fill the vacancies. Due to staffing shortages, FR oversight is limited to the nuclear facilities. The bottom line is that the current NA-LA staffing level is 6 FRs fewer than the requirement of 12 stated in the Work Force Analysis and Staffing Plan Report. (Pg. 25)

This staff shortage is exacerbated by the fact that NA-LA has not approved LANS’ contractor assurance system (CAS), which is required by DOE orders. DOE’s version of Contractor Assurance is a contractor-designed and utilized system to manage performance consistent with contract requirements. The system provides transparency between the contractor and DOE to accomplish mission needs, and for DOE to determine the necessary level of Federal oversight.

A rigorous and credible assessment program is the cornerstone of effective, efficient management of programs such as environment, safety, and health; safeguards and security; cyber security; and emergency management.

The NA-LA oversight processes include an evaluation of the CAS primarily through staff assessments. Also, NA-LA annually approves the annual performance evaluation plan, which is an element of the CAS system.

It is NA-LA’s oversight of the 2015 Performance Evaluation Report (which has not yet been publically released) that lead to DOE ending LANS’ contract at LANL in 2017. We give a tip of the hat to NA-LA for being so diligent about poor LANL performance while being so short-handed. It makes me wonder what other problems may be as yet undiscovered. Would the LANL waste drum packing mistake, which shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), have been caught if NA-LA was fully staffed? The estimated cost of reopening WIPP is $.5 billion and climbing.

It is irresponsible for DOE not to provide its Los Alamos Field Office with its required staffing and resources. The lack of oversight is not only dangerous. It can be expensive.

NukeWatch insists that Federal safety oversight of DOE nuclear and hazardous activities be the first priority. Fully staffed oversight is essential for worker and public safety. This will be especially important as the new contractor takes over operations of LANL in 2017.

Taxpayers con not afford to have any less in place.

 

 

Governor Udall?

Governor Udall?

Michael Coleman had an interesting article for the Albuquerque Journal – Does New Mexico’s future lie in D.C.?

Coleman relates a conversation with NM Senator Tom Udall that made it clear the Senator isn’t ruling a gubernatorial run out.

It’s not surprising to think that Udall – who has been in Washington as a congressman and U.S. senator since 1998 – might want to come home to beautiful Santa Fe and take up residence in the governor’s mansion as a coda to his long political career.

Just two years into his second six-year term in the Senate, Udall could run for governor without giving up his Senate seat, which doesn’t expire until 2020. If he won the 2018 governor’s race, he would appoint his Senate replacement. That kind of power is alluring to any politician.

But as Coleman says, “it’s all just a parlor game at this point.”

Despite Uncertainty of When/If WIPP Will Reopen, DOE Hatches Plan to Send More Waste

Despite Uncertainty of When/If WIPP Will Reopen,

DOE Hatches Plan to Send More Waste

In a recent  Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board Editorial: Another WIPP delay spells more tax dollars wasted, we are reminded of the delays affecting the reopening  of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which has not been disposing radioactive waste since February 2014 when an improperly packed drum from Los Alamos exploded.

Almost two years later, the WIPP contractor struggles to figure out how to clean and reopen the underground repository. Serious concerns revolve around the ventilation system, which not cannot supply the required amount of air now because it must be operated in filter mode ever since WIPP was contaminated.

As the Journal editorial explains,

So while the delays pile up, so do cleanup and reopening costs, which may exceed $500 million.

With bumbling progress like this, it remains to be seen if WIPP will ever reopen.

Yet surprisingly, DOE just released a plan to send MORE waste to WIPP.

A Federal Register notice announces the DOE selection of a Preferred Alternative to prepare 6 metric tons (MT) of surplus non-pit plutonium for eventual disposal at WIPP.

In the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), issued to the public in May 2015, DOE describes the potential environmental impact from alternatives for safe and timely disposition of 13.1 metric tons (14.4 tons) of surplus plutonium for which a disposition pathway is not yet assigned. When the Final EIS was issued, DOE had no Preferred Alternative for the disposition of the 6 metric tons (6.6 tons) of surplus non-pit plutonium.

The Federal Register Notice for DOE/NNSA’s Preferred Alternative for Disposition of Surplus Non-pit Plutonium for the Final Surplus Plutonium Supplemental EIS is expected to be published in the Federal Register by Thursday, December 24, 2015.  The Final SPD Supplemental EIS and related information, including the Federal Register notice will also be available on the SPD Supplemental EIS website, and the DOE National Environmental Policy Act website.

Since WIPP doesn’t have capacity (even if it re-opens) for this additional waste, putting it into WIPP would, among other things, displace waste from other site(s) – Idaho, Hanford, Los Alamos, or Oak Ridge.

The Record of Decision will not be released for at least 30 days. Comments are not requested, but can be made, regarding the notice.

Our friends at Southwest Research and Information Center will be making additional comments about this proposed expansion of WIPP.

The WIPP contractor has much to do before the repository can safely reopen. The task may be unachievable. But in the meantime, expanding WIPP’s mission can only make reopening WIPP more schedule driven instead of safety driven.

If DOE wants to make useful plans, how about plans for WIPP’s replacement?

Four Strikes and You’re Out

Four Strikes and You’re Out

In stunning news on December 18, Justin Horwath of the SF New Mexican reported that the management and operating contractor of Los Alamos National Laboratory will not have its contract renewed after it ends Sept. 30, 2017. This is stunning because LANS LLC, the M&O contractor, could have potentially run the Lab until for 20 years until 2026, had it not had so many problems.

The annual contract for FY 2016 was over $2.2 billion. This means that Los Alamos National Security (LANS) left upwards of $20 billion (9 years of lost contract) on the table. It’s not often that a company gets the opportunity to make mistakes that costs them $20 billion worth of contracts. 

The management of the Lab was privatized when LANS was awarded the contract in 2005. LANS is a partnership between the University of California, Bechtel Corp., Babcock & Wilcox Co., and AECOM (formerly URS). Before 2005 the University of California exclusively managed LANL as a non-profit. The for-profit experiment for managing the Lab will hopefully be reconsidered. 

As a reminder, Nuclear Watch NM, along with our friends at Tri-Valley CARES, submitted a bid to manage the Lab back in 2005We thought the management should be non-profit and that nuclear weapons research should be phased out.

The overall direction of future missions at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) – We propose to downgrade the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs and subordinate them under a new Associate Directorship of Nuclear Nonproliferation so that it can be better assured that national and international obligations under the NonProliferation Treaty are met.

LANS lost the M&O contract because they failed to earn the “award term” 4 times. The award term is simply another year added to the contract. Section H-13(f) of the current contract states, ‘If the Contractor fails 4 times to earn award term, the operation of this Award Term clause will cease.” 

LANS lost award term in 2013.

Then, LANS lost award term in 2014 AND had one extra award term that was previously earned taken away because of improperly packing the radioactive waste drum that shut down WIPP.

And LANS lost this award term for 2015. LANL may be negotiating this, but they got a waiver in 2012 that granted them an award term when they didn’t actually earn it. They were told that was their last waiver.

That’s four.

These award terms are based on the Lab’s Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs), which thanks to a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by NukeWatch, are available onlineWe wonder if having these available to the public could have helped the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in any way to not give the award terms. 

We do thank NNSA and the DOE LA Field Office for sticking to their guns by providing genuine oversight of the Lab this go-around. But the past few years serve as a reminder of the dangerous and difficult side of nuclear weapons work, the continuing health impacts to workers, and the impossibility of isolating the radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years. When will the US decide that it’s just not worth it?

The SF New Mexican also tells that NM Congressional delegation has weighed inWe agree with the joint statement issued by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján that, “DOE must hold all of its contractors accountable and be responsible stewards of federal funds.”

But we have some questions about this statement:

“Los Alamos National Laboratory employs some of the best and brightest minds in the country whose contributions are indispensable to our national security. The lab also strengthens our economy by providing quality jobs, and we will always fight to protect its mission. As DOE prepares a new contract proposal, assuring continuity for the employees at LANL and the high-quality scientific, energy, and security contributions they make to our nation will be paramount. We are confident that Los Alamos will continue to have a critical role in national and international security, research and science. We expect to receive further details and regular briefings from NNSA as the process moves forward in the new year.”

The delegation’s joint letter seems to demonstrate how overly concerned they are with LANL’s “mission” of nuclear weapons production and with the institutional benefit of profit-making national security contractors. The Lab’s actual contributions to energy research and basic science are also a small proportion to the taxpayer dollars expended there.

A major rewrite of the Lab’s missions is needed where true national security is not based on nuclear weapons.

LANL contract up for bid after 2017

NukeWatch comment:

As the trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces moves forward, note how hollow the Department of Energy infrastructure is because of contractor greed, incompetence and waste. While that alone won’t win the day for us, I do expect it to limit the scale and timing of “modernizing” the DOE nuclear weapons complex (“modernization” means the indefinite preservation of the nuclear weapons stockpile and its supporting research and production infrastructure, contrary to official U.S. policy that endorses a future world free of nuclear weapons). This includes Life Extension Programs that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities despite denials at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and new production facilities such as the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, TN and plutonium facilities at Los Alamos which face constant cost overruns.

There could also possibly be developments in the first quarter of next year related to its illegal lobbying activities that would shake up Lockheed Martin’s grip on the Sandia Labs (the Sandia contract is also scheduled to be put up for bid). In short, 2016 could be a very fluid and unstable year for the DOE nuclear weapons complex, even as it seeks to put the B61-12 smart nuclear bomb into production and move forward aggressively on a nuclear warhead for a new first-strike air-launched cruise missile.

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director

***********

LANL contract up for bid after 2017

By Mark Oswald / Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

Friday, December 18th, 2015 at 11:40pm

SANTA FE – The National Nuclear Safety Administration has informed
Congress that the Los Alamos National Laboratory contract will be put
out for competitive bidding sometime after 2017, the Journal has learned.

It would be only the second time the contact has been put out to bid
since the lab was created to develop the atomic bomb during World War II.

LANL’s most recent federal government performance evaluation is better
than last year’s, but not good enough for the lab’s private-sector
operator to earn the award of an extra year on its contract, the lab’s
director informed LANL workers this week.

And continuation of Los Alamos National Security LLC holding the
contract was contingent on it being granted the “award term.”

LANL director Charles McMillan said in his Thursday email to lab
employees that he was “deeply disappointed that we did not meet NNSA’s
expectations in a manner sufficient to net another year of award term”
on the contract that runs through fiscal year 2017.

“Nevertheless, the federal government has offered Los Alamos National
Security, LLC (LANS) an extension to the contract to manage the
Laboratory beyond FY17; I will provide additional details about that at
a later date after there has been more discussion between the federal
government and LANS,” McMillan said in a copy of his message obtained by
the Journal.

An extension as described by McMillan is not the same thing as the
merit-based award of an additional contract year that LANS missed out on
this year. It’s unclear from McMillan’s statement whether the extension
he mentioned is intended as merely a holding pattern but, under its
contract, LANS needed to earn an award year this time around to keep the
contract going.

The contract with LANS provides for vacating the contract, awarded in
2006, if the consortium doesn’t earn a series of one-year term awards.
Last year, the Department of Energy – NNSA’s parent organization –
warned that LANS was under the gun to earn an award term for its work in
fiscal 2015.

“Having failed to earn contract term extensions for fiscal years 2013
and 2014,” and with the revocation of a previous extension, “LANS must
earn (an) award term in every future performance period to keep the
contract in force beyond fiscal year 2017,” said a statement provided by
the DOE last December.

On Friday, an NNSA spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on ongoing
assessments.”

Contract over $2 billion

LANS – a consortium that includes the Bechtel corporation, the
University of California, Babcock and Wilcox, and URS Energy and
Construction – won the LANL contract in 2006. The contract now amounts
to about $2.2 billion a year, plus a fee based on performance.

The University of California, on its own, had previously held the Los
Alamos contract since the lab’s beginnings developing the atomic bomb
during World War II. The contract was put out for competition about a
decade ago after a series of security and property management problems
at the lab.

Last year, LANS also didn’t earn an “award term” and even lost a year it
had previously been granted as NNSA hit the lab hard for failures that
led to a radioactive leak at the nation’s nuclear waste repository near
Carlsbad from a drum packaged at Los Alamos. The Waste Isolation Pilot
Plant has been shut down since the leak in February 2014.

The federal government cut the performance-based management fee for LANS
by nearly 90 percent, down to $6.25 million, for fiscal 2014. That
compared with $59 million-plus paid to the LANS consortium the previous
two years. No information on the 2015 fee award has been released.

McMillan’s Thursday message to employees said that, in order to earn an
award year, the lab had to score better than “satisfactory”in all of
six evaluation categories. “We did not accomplish this,” McMillan said,
despite getting high scores in four of the six areas.

NNSA rated LANS only satisfactory for operations and infrastructure, the
same category in which the lab got a crucial “unsatisfactory” grade last
year. LANS this year was rated “very good” in two categories – its
missions to manage nuclear weapons and reduce global nuclear security
threats – and excellent in two others, missions for science technology
and engineering, and for a “DOE and Strategic Partnership Project.” The
NNSA rated LANS’s leadership as “good.”

Despite his disappointment over failing to net an award term, McMillan
wrote, “I am pleased to note that our federal partners once again
acknowledged our strong performance in the areas of mission and science.
We continue to provide strong value to the national security missions
and Los Alamos continues to be regarded highly for the quality of its
science.

‘Shortcomings’ noted

“Our federal partners made it clear that shortcomings in our work
planning and work controls related to safety events, project
performance, cybersecurity, the earned value management system (EVMS)
and continued weaknesses in criticality safety all weighed heavily in
the evaluation of our performance. These are areas we must – and will –
improve going forward,” said McMillan.

He also wrote, “I remain committed to the long-term sustainability of
the Laboratory and to each of you. I am scheduling an all-employee
meeting shortly after the New Year to hear and address your thoughts,
concerns, and questions. Los Alamos will continue to have a valued role
in protecting the nation and the world. It is incumbent upon us during
the remainder of the contract period to deliver mission success through
operational effectiveness and scientific excellence.”

Jay Coghlan of the Nuclear Watch New Mexico watchdog group said the
situation as described by McMillan, with LANS getting an extension
despite failing to earn an award term, was “deja vu all over again,”
similar to a later-rescinded waiver that granted LANS an award year for
fiscal 2012, although it hadn’t met all the performance criteria. “It
seems awfully premature for director McMillan to indicate there’s going
to be a contract extension before it’s actually finalized by the U.S.
government,” Coghlan said. “He’s putting the cart before the horse,
maybe putting on a happy face for his employees before they leave for
Christmas.”

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/feds-won-t-renew-contract-for-private-lanl-operator/article_fa11e970-8bc2-530a-8d22-6e50626e6dcd.html

Feds won’t renew contract for private LANL operator

Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015 9:30 pm | Updated: 10:24 pm, Fri Dec 18, 2015.
By Justin Horwath

The New Mexican | 0 comments

The private consortium that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory will not have its contract renewed after it ends Sept. 30, 2017, The New Mexican has learned. The consortium is currently in negotiations with the federal government that could extend the $2.2 billion annual contract beyond 2017, even as the contract is put back up for bid, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The decision not to renew the contract follows a blistering series of federal investigations and performance evaluations involving the lab’s safety record after a drum from the lab burst and leaked radiation at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 near Carlsbad, shutting down the nation’s only underground nuclear repository indefinitely.

The Department of Energy notified staffers with the New Mexico congressional delegation about the decision to put the contract up for bid on Friday, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. Members of the delegation were not available for comment Friday evening.

Lab officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday evening.

The lab has been run since 2006 by Los Alamos National Security, which took over operations after years of accounting scandals, security lapses and other management issues. The company is made up of a partnership between the University of California, Bechtel Corp., Babcock & Wilcox Co., URS Corp. and AECOM.

But the consortium repeatedly has run into its own problems over the past several years. In 2013, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, the arm of the Department of Energy that oversees the lab’s contract, denied LANS a one-year extension of its contract to operate the lab because it fell short of its goals for repairing and reopening some weapons facilities. Still, the NNSA awarded LANS about $52 million in performance fees, or 87 percent of the full amount possible in 2013.

Then, last December, the NNSA issued a stinging performance evaluation in the wake of the WIPP leak. In that evaluation, the lab received grades of “unsatisfactory” in key areas that cost the consortium a year on its contract and about $57 million in incentives.

The lab has received the results of its latest performance evaluation for 2015, according to an internal memo obtained byThe New Mexican. The results, though better, were not good enough to earn a “unilateral” addition of another year in what is known in the contract as an “award term.”

“While I am deeply disappointed that we did not meet NNSA’s expectations in a manner sufficient to net another year of award term, I am extremely proud of our accomplishments,” lab Director Charles F. McMillan wrote in the Thursday, Dec. 17, memo to lab employees.

In the memo, McMillan focuses on the positives and does not mention that the contract will be up for renewal, but the language underscores the gravity of the situation.

“Understandably, this news is sure to generate questions for each of you,” McMillan wrote. “Nevertheless, I once again express my deeply held belief that the Laboratory’s greatest asset continues to be its people.”
A few paragraphs later, he writes, “I am scheduling an all-employee meeting shortly after the New Year to hear and address your thoughts, concerns, and questions.”

The new evaluation is not expected to be released publicly for a few weeks. But the memo purports to show substantially better results than in 2014. The memo says the lab received high scores in four of six categories, including management of the nuclear weapons mission and its mission of reducing global nuclear security threats. But it received only a “satisfactory” in the category of “operations and infrastructure.”

The lab needed to receive better than “satisfactory” in all six categories to qualify for an additional year in its contract.
“We did not accomplish this,” McMillan wrote. He added, however, that the NNSA has offered the consortium an extension. “I will provide additional details about that at a later date after there has been more discussion between the federal government and LANS,” he wrote.

“Our federal partners,” he added, “made it clear that shortcomings in our work planning and work controls related to safety events, project performance, cybersecurity, the earned value management system (EVMS), and continued weaknesses in criticality safety all weighed heavily in the evaluation of our performance,” McMillan wrote. “These are areas we must — and will — improve going forward.”

Justin Horwath can be reached at 986-3017 orjhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.

SF New Mexican – LANL misses cleanup deadline set in 2005 for largest waste site

There are a couple of minor inaccuracies in this story, for instance – “which blazed through waste dump site “Area R.” Nor sure what this refers to.
And – “ the lab has missed several milestones, including a June 2014 deadline to remove above-ground radioactive waste — delayed due to last February’s leak at WIPP.” Technically, removing the TRU is not part of the Consent Order.
~S

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lanl-misses-cleanup-deadline-set-in-for-largest-waste-site/article_188344ac-0fb9-50a6-9ec1-fa2979a0d9b2.html

LANL misses cleanup deadline set in 2005 for largest waste site

Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 6:45 pm | Updated: 10:41 pm, Mon Dec 7, 2015.
By Rebecca Moss
The New Mexican

A significant deadline to remove all major waste from a key Los Alamos National Laboratory site by Dec. 6 went unmet this weekend.

The deadline Sunday was set in 2005 as part of an agreement between the lab, the state Environment Department and the U.S. Department of Energy. However, officials have said the initial guidelines for cleaning up waste from decades of nuclear weapons production are no longer realistic within the time frame, following the burst of a LANL drum at a waste repository in Southern New Mexico in 2014. That caused a radiation leak that shut down a significant portion of the repository.

The shutdown of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad has pushed back the completion of the cleanup project — estimated to cost more than $1 billion.

A revised cleanup agreement is anticipated for 2016, although a release date has not been scheduled.

Allison Majure, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Environment Department, said despite delays, the intent of the consent order for the LANL cleanup has not changed. “Just because the milestone passed does not mean the consent order is not in effect,” she said Monday.

She said public opinion has been solicited on the revised order.
Representatives for Los Alamos National Laboratory said they were unable to provide comment on the status of the order Monday.

Sunday’s deadline focused on “Area G,” LANL’s largest waste deposit site. A local watchdog group, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said comprehensive cleanup for the site “is still decades away.”

In a statement released Monday, Nuclear Watch stressed the need for public participation in the revised cleanup order, including a public hearing, and condemned a plan proposed by LANL to “cap and cover” waste in Area G.

“Cleanup just keeps being delayed. If not corrected, cleanup simply won’t happen,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch.

“Nobody ever thought cleanup would be fully completed by the end of 2015; nobody is under any illusions about that,” he added.

The 2005 consent order came in response to a lawsuit between the Energy Department and the state Environment Department following several events that triggered federal pressure, including the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos in 2000, which blazed through waste dump site “Area R.” Officials at the time feared the fire could spark an explosion.

Since the consent order was issued, however, the lab has missed several milestones, including a June 2014 deadline to remove above-ground radioactive waste — delayed due to last February’s leak at WIPP.

During a meeting in November, state Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said remaining cleanup costs under the 2005 order have been estimated at $1.2 billion by the federal government, but that these projections are too low; he said additional funds would be needed to meet cleanup targets, as well as the reappraisal of “unrealistic” milestones.

Below are the underground units at Area G –

Underground Pits and shafts at Area G
LANL Area G Underground Disposal Pits and Shafts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More from the SF New Mexican at:

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lanl-misses-cleanup-deadline-set-in-for-largest-waste-site/article_188344ac-0fb9-50a6-9ec1-fa2979a0d9b2.html

NukeWatch Calls for Public Seats at the Table in LANL Cleanup Negotiations

For immediate release December 7, 2015

Contacts: Jay Coghlan, jay[at]nukewatch.org

Deadline for Last Cleanup Milestone of LANL Consent Order Passes

NukeWatch Calls for Public Seats at the Table in Negotiations

Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, December 6, was the deadline for the last compliance milestone in the Consent Order between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the Department of Energy (DOE) that governs cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Ironically, that last milestone required the submittal of a report by the Lab on how it successfully completed cleanup of Area G, its largest waste dump. Real comprehensive cleanup is decades away at current funding levels. One of the purposes of the 2005 Consent Order was to prod Congress to increase funding for cleanup of 70 years of neglected Cold War contamination at the Lab.

NMED has the final decision on what form cleanup of hazardous wastes takes at LANL. But any revised Consent Order is still off in the future, and the degree of public participation in its formulation yet to be determined by NMED. Meanwhile, LANL plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, 4 miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

Following protracted negotiations and threatened litigation by DOE against NMED, the Environment Department succeeded in getting DOE and the LANL contractor to sign the original Consent Order in March 2005. However, beginning in 2012, NMED signed a “Framework Agreement” with DOE that prioritized the transfer of 3,706 cubic meters of aboveground, monitored “transuranic” (TRU) wastes from nuclear bomb production at Area G to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico.

The stated rationale of this so-called 3706 Campaign was to minimize the risk from wildfire following the 2010 Las Conchas Fire that burned within 3.5 miles of Area G. However, if those TRU wastes were really at risk from wildfire, they would have burned during the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire that came within a half-mile of Area G. The Framework Agreement allowed LANL to discontinue most legacy cleanup to concentrate on TRU shipments that should have already been completed.

Moreover, the 3706 Campaign itself ended in disaster in February 2014 when an improperly treated radioactive waste drum from LANL ruptured at WIPP, contaminating 21 workers and indefinitely closing down that multi-billion dollar facility. Dealing with the 59 similarly treated “suspect” drums still at LANL will use a substantial amount of scarce cleanup funding for at least the next two years. Combined with the need to address a large chromium groundwater plume discovered after the original Consent Order went into effect, cleanup of buried mixed radioactive wastes will remain on the back burner, if ever addressed.

Further, since 2011 LANL has requested and NMED perfunctorily granted more than 150 milestone extensions, thus effectively eviscerating the Consent Order without public comment and consent. Which brings us to today, after the last compliance milestone deadline has expired, with little cleanup actually accomplished since 2012. A new schedule of cleanup is on hold until a revised Consent Order is negotiated.

Previously NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn has said that a draft revised Consent Order would be released for a 60-day public comment period before the end of 2015. But as of mid-November negotiations had not started. More recently Secretary Flynn has said that a draft renewed Consent Order would be released only after the schedule of payments is finalized for a $73 million settlement over WIPP violations. WhileNuclear Watch New Mexico appreciates NMED’s firmness on the WIPP settlements, we would like to see the same amount of zeal applied to enforcing cleanup at LANL through the Consent Order.

NukeWatch strongly believes that much more vigorous public participation steps, including the opportunity for a public hearing, are legally required by the existing Consent Order. Specifically, the March 2005 Consent Order incorporated the full public participation requirements applicable to hazardous waste permits. Federal environmental regulations, which are incorporated into New Mexico state regulations, establish the public participation procedures for various types of permit modifications, including extending final compliance dates. These are deeper levels of public participation than the 60-day public comment period that NMED is currently contemplating. In our view, a 60-day public comment period on a draft Consent Order is tantamount to commenting on a done deal already negotiated between DOE and NMED.

Scott Kovac, Research and Operations Director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico, stated, “The requirements are clear for deep and meaningful public participation in LANL cleanup decisions, including the opportunity for the interested public to have a seat at the negotiating table and the possibility for a public hearing. NMED must make Cold War legacy cleanup a priority at LANL and should start by prioritizing full public participation while negotiating the revised Consent Order.”

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Executive Director, added, “Ultimately this is all about the future of cleanup at LANL, which is receiving less federal funding while the nuclear weapons programs that created the mess to begin with are getting more money. We want nothing short of comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and the environment while creating hundreds of high-paying jobs.

# # #

Read much more background.

Nuclear Watch’s letter to Secretary Flynn – on Consent Order public participation requirements.

The existing Consent Order governing cleanup at LANL 

 

Area G at LANL

Important Public Meeting On the Future of Cleanup At Los Alamos – Join Us on November 12

Important Public Meeting On the Future of Cleanup At Los Alamos – Join Us on November 12

The future of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes is being evaluated now. Will Northern New Mexico be turned into a permanent nuclear waste dump?

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been revising the 2005 Consent Order (CO), which is the agreement between the State and the Feds for fence-to-fence cleanup of legacy Cold War wastes. The work in the CO, was supposed to be completed by December 2015. It was designed as a plan-to-make-a-plan with investigations of contaminated sites followed by cleanup decisions and remediation. Milestones and penalties were included to keep funding and cleanup on track.

What have LANL and NMED come up with to replace the 2005 Consent Order? Looks like we’ll have to wait until Thursday November 12th to find out. NMED and LANL have announced a public meeting to explain their ideas for the revised CO. There is an opportunity for public comments at the special meeting and we need you there. But it is unclear what NMED will do with any comments made. The public has been left out so far. Nuclear Watch New Mexico is pressing for meaningful responses to all comments and for actual inclusion of the public’s wishes into the revised CO.

In particular NukeWatch will be pushing for concrete milestones that are set from the beginning for all actions, for penalties when deadlines are not met, and for a new final end date. The revised Consent Order cannot be open-ended.

Northern New Mexico has been waiting long enough for cleanup at Los Alamos. Much of the waste buried in unlined dumps perched above our aquifer has been slowly releasing into the ground and heading towards our aquifer since the 1950s and 1960s. The Cold War ended in the early 1990s. Enough is enough.

We hope to see you at the meeting on November 12.

Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board Meeting

Revised NMED/ LANL Consent Order Special Meeting

Thursday, November 12, 2015

1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cities of Gold Conference Center

10-A Cities of Gold Road

Pojoaque, New Mexico 87506

 

DRAFT AGENDA

1:00 p.m. Call to Order – Lee Bishop, DDFO

Welcome and Introductions  – Doug Sayre, Chair

Approval of Agenda

Opening Remarks

1:15 p.m. New Mexico Environment Department Perspective on Revised Consent Order – Secretary Flynn

1:30 p.m. Department of Energy Perspective on Revised Consent Order – Doug Hintze

1:45 p.m. History of Work Already Completed – Doug Hintze

2:00 p.m. Campaign Approach – Doug Hintze

2:30 p.m. Break

2:45 p.m. Campaign Approach (continued) – Doug Hintze

3:30 p.m. Schedule of Actions – NMED

3:45 p.m. Public Comment Period

4:30 p.m. Adjourn – Lee Bishop

 

Underground Pits and shafts at Area G

Op-ed: B61 bomb is fuel for new arms race

Op-ed: B61 bomb is fuel for new arms race

By Jay Coghlan / Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, October 25th, 2015 at 12:02am

http://www.abqjournal.com/665029/opinion/b61-bomb-is-fuel-for-new-arms-race.html

The article “‘New’ U.S. nukes are anything but” should be judged more by
its omissions than its contents.

While arguing that the soon-to-be rebuilt B61 bomb won’t be a “new”
nuclear weapon, the Heritage Foundation omits mentioning that it is
being retrofitted with a tail fin kit that will give it precision
guidance. In effect, once completed, the B61 bomb will be the world’s
first nuclear “smart” bomb, to be delivered by the new super-stealthy
(but problem-plagued) $1 trillion F-35.

If that’s not a new military capability – which the U.S. government
denies – then I don’t know what is.

The Heritage Foundation also bemoans Russia’s 2-to-1 advantage in
tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. It omits mentioning that the new B61
bomb modification will meld three tactical variants and one strategic
version of the same bomb, in effect wiping out the distinction between
tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.

The new B61 will be a precision-guided, selectable yield, multi-purpose
nuclear weapon with relatively less fallout and collateral damage. It
will lower the threshold for potential use of nuclear weapons because it
will be arguably more usable.

I am no Putin apologist – I personally know Russian activists persecuted
by his regime. But don’t be fooled by the Heritage Foundation’s
one-sided narrative that helps propel the new Cold War.

The Russians are paranoid, perhaps deservedly so, starting with Genghis
Khan and on through Napoleon and Hitler. Relentless expansion of NATO
fuels that paranoia.

While offering a laundry list of alleged treaty violations by Russia,
the Heritage Foundation fails to mention how George W. Bush unilaterally
tore up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty for “Star Wars” defenses that
still don’t work after hundreds of billions of dollars, and if they did
would create enhanced nuclear war-fighting capabilities.

The Heritage Foundation warns of Moscow’s “time-honored technique of
denial and deception,” but we as Americans must guard against our own
government’s use of the same that got us into disastrous wars like
Vietnam and Iraq.

Cool heads are needed to avoid a new nuclear arms race, not the
cherry-picked narrative of the Heritage Foundation.

That narrative will profit the war contractors who in turn support the
Heritage Foundation. Among them is Lockheed Martin, who illegally
lobbied to extend its for-profit Sandia Laboratories management contract
and is profiting on both ends with the B61 bomb.

Lockheed runs the program through Sandia to transform the B61 into the
world’s first nuclear smart bomb, and is building the way-over-budget
F-35 to deliver them.

As Pope Francis recently warned us, “Many powerful people don’t want
peace, because they feed off war. It is the industry of death!”

Concerning the B61 smart nuclear bomb, Lockheed Martin and the Sandia
Labs are in the business of megadeath, which the Heritage Foundation
seeks to aid and abet.

NukeWatch Pushes Environment Department for More Public Input in Los Alamos Cleanup

NukeWatch Pushes Environment Department for More Public Input in Los Alamos Cleanup

An in-depth article, Consent order facing changes, by Mark Oswald in the Albuquerque Journal (October 9, 2015) lays out how legacy waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is being negotiated between DOE and the NM Environment Department (NMED) without the fully required public participation. The 2005 Consent Order (CO), which addresses the fence-to-fence cleanup of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of Cold War legacy radioactive and hazardous waste in the ground at the Lab, was due to reach it’s final milestone this December. For many reasons, including the closure of WIPP due to improper radioactive waste drum packing practices at LANL, the December 2015 deadline will not be meet.

Please don’t think that, just because deadlines were not reached that it was a failure. Much progress on cleanup at LANL was made under the 2005 Consent Order. About 2,100 cleanup sites were originally identified, ranging from small spills to large landfills. Cleanup of about half of the sites has been completed. Initial investigation of about 90 percent of the remaining sites has been completed. Many cleanup alternatives were also investigated at the remaining sites and options have been presented. A groundwater monitoring well infrastructure was installed, with more monitoring wells on the way.

In Oswald’s article, NMED’s Kathryn Roberts stated that, “The 2005 deal was focused on investigative work and characterization of LANL’s legacy waste.” We at NukeWatch, feel that the goal of the 2005 Consent Order was always the cleanup of LANL and that the investigations and characterization of the many waste sites were just the first steps. There are milestones in the CO, with dates, for the actual cleanup of all the legacy waste sites at Los Alamos. The lab’s final “milestone” from the 2005 Consent Order was supposed to be a “remedy completion report,” due on Dec. 6, on how Area G, the Lab’s largest waste site, had been cleaned up.

NMED and DOE/LANL are negotiating the new CO now and have publically stated plans to rollout the draft for the new CO this November for a 60-day public comment period. Nuclear Watch NM believes that these negotiations must have public input.

This gets us to one of our main reasons why we feel the need for more public input. We are concerned that the new CO will not have enforceable milestones for all cleanup projects from the beginning. Deciding every 1 to 3 years which sites will be addressed for a cleanup ‘campaign’ and then what that schedule should be will insure that Los Alamos never addresses all the sites. This would revert cleanup back to the way it was done before the 2005 Consent Order with budget driving cleanup. But the purpose of the CO is to have cleanup drive the budget.  A schedule for all cleanups must be set from the beginning and the Lab must be held accountable every step along the way by getting the money and doing the work on time.

We will insist on a new final compliance date for the last milestone of the last legacy cleanup project. Cleanup at Los Alamos cannot be open-ended.

NukeWatch’s September 21 letter to NMED that explains our position that a “Class 3 Permit Modification” is required is here.

The 2005 Consent Order, as modified, is here.

 

Public Meeting to Discuss Chromium From Los Alamos That Has Reached Our Aquifer

Public Meeting to Discuss Chromium From Los Alamos That Has Reached Our Aquifer

 

DOE/LANL sponsored Public open house and poster session

Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Time: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Cities of Gold Conference Center

10-A Cities of Gold Rd. Pojoaque, NM  87506

 

Sampling from monitoring wells at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) indicate the presence of chromium contamination in our regional aquifer resulting from historical use of a corrosion inhibitor that was discharged to an outfall as part of operational activities. Concentrations of chromium within the groundwater plume beneath Mortandad Canyon exceed the New Mexico groundwater standard of 50 parts per billion (ppb) near the property boundary between LANL and the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and are as high as 1,000 ppb in the plume center. Recent groundwater monitoring well sampling data show increasing chromium concentrations on the plume edges, which is indicative of plume migration. The LANL management and operating contractor is required to assess, identify, clean up, and otherwise address contamination at LANL.

Chronic human exposure to high levels of chromium (VI) by inhalation or oral exposure may produce effects on the liver, kidney, gastrointestinal and immune systems, and possibly the blood.

DOE’s proposed action is to control plume migration and maintain the 50 ppb and greater chromium contamination level within the LANL boundary while long-term corrective action remedies are evaluated and implemented. In other words, LANL will first focus on trying to keep the chromium from reaching our aquifer under San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Groundwater extraction would occur at up to three extraction wells, in addition to small volumes periodically extracted at monitoring wells. The total groundwater extraction volume would be up to 230 million gallons (707 acre-feet) annually over the approximately 8-year duration of the project. That’s a proposed total of 1.8 billion gallons.

DOE also proposes to conduct field-scale studies to further characterize the plume center to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing a final remedy for the chromium plume.

 

Public Comment Opportunities

The 30-day public comment period for the Draft EA begins September 23, 2015, and ends on October 23, 2015. Comments on the Draft EA can be submitted via the following methods:

Email: CRProjectEA@em.doe.gov

By mail: Department of Energy, Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, 3747 West Jemez Road MS-A316, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544

By fax: (505) 606-2132

By phone: (800) 342-5363

The DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, in conjunction with the Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board, is hosting a public meeting for comment on the Chromium Project. Join us to learn more about the Chromium Project and to comment on the Laboratory’s proposed actions.

All interested parties are encouraged to attend

 

EA-2005: DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Chromium Plume Control Interim Measure and Plume-Center Characterization, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM