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Nuclear News Archives – 2021

Consequences of Uranium Mining in the Southwest

Addressing the consequences of uranium mining in the Southwest, Anna Benally said, “When uranium mining came to Navajo Land, we were never told it was unsafe to be around it. We were never told to keep our children from playing near it or keep our livestock from coming around it. We were just happy to have jobs.”

By: Kristin Scheer | Peace Works Kansas City

Uranium mining is still causing problems in the US. This was the topic of Radio Active Magazine on KKFI, 90.1 FM Community Radio, on Feb. 9. Activists from the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), based in Albuquerque, NM, joined PeaceWorks-KC leaders for the program.

The MASE activists on the program were Anna Benally, a former uranium mine employee turned activist who is working to heal the land and protect the health of people and livestock, and Susan Gordon, coordinator of MASE. PeaceWorks Board members Ann Suellentrop and myself introduced the MASE leaders and interviewed them. The podcast is online at https://kkfi.org/program-episodes/fighting-uranium-contamination-in-the-southwest/.

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Atomic weapons plan risky for SC, lawyers say. Noted legal service joins fray

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CARES recently retained the Environmental Law Project. They say pit factories are expensive, unnecessary, needlessly threaten the environment, and could leave unused plutonium stranded permanently in places like SRS.

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

A South Carolina legal service has joined the fight against an atomic weapons components factory at the Savannah River Site, raising the possibility that environmental groups will sue the federal government to stop the effort.

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a non-profit service with an extensive record of arguing cases in court, outlined concerns about the factory in a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Energy. The letter called the proposed factory risky and in need of further study.

At issue is a proposal to build a nuclear weapons pit plant that would use plutonium, a deadly long-lived radioactive material, at the Savannah River Site.

The pit factory would produce potentially thousands of jobs, but is drawing opposition from environmental groups in South Carolina, New Mexico and California.

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Los Alamos lab, birthplace of the atomic bomb, STILL under threat from wildfires despite repeated major incidents

“The threat and risks of wildfire to the lab and northern New Mexico will continue to increase because of climate warming, drought and expanded nuclear weapons production,” said Jay Coghlan, director of the group Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb and critical US nuclear weapons production facility, remains under threat from wildfires despite several high profile, expensive blazes in recent decades.

A recent audit by the US Energy Department’s inspector general found that threat-reduction measures such as the maintenance of the lab’s network of fire roads, strategic clearing of vegetation in the surrounding area as well as the production of a coherent preparedness and mitigation plan had not been carried out

Photographic evidence included in the report indicated a tree density of 400 to 500 per acre, 10 times the recommended safe level of 40 to 50 trees per acre.

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Audit Raises Concerns About Wildfire Risks at US Nuclear Lab

“The threat and risks of wildfire to the lab and northern New Mexico will continue to increase because of climate warming, drought and expanded nuclear weapons production,” said Jay Coghlan, director of the group Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory as seen from across the Omega Bridge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — (AP) — One of the nation’s premier nuclear laboratories isn’t taking the necessary precautions to guard against wildfires, according to an audit by the U.S. Energy Department’s inspector general.

The report comes as wildfire risks intensify across the drought-stricken U.S. West. Climatologists and environmentalists have been warning about worsening conditions across the region, particularly in New Mexico, which is home to Los Alamos National Laboratory and where summer rains failed to materialize last year and winter precipitation has been spotty at best.

The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos has experienced hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and damage from major wildfires over the last two decades. That includes a blaze in 2000 that forced the lab to close for about two weeks, ruined scientific projects, destroyed a portion of the town and threatened tens of thousands of barrels of radioactive waste stored on lab property.

Watchdog groups say the federal government needs to take note of the latest findings and conduct a comprehensive review before the lab ramps up production of key plutonium parts used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

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Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab Opens Office in the City of the Santa Fe (“Holy Faith”) of Peace and Environmental Protection

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – A Lab press release has announced that “[c]onnections between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the City of Santa Fe will be strengthened with the Laboratory’s opening of a new downtown office” after signing a 10-year lease on a 28,000-square-foot building. The Lab’s press release ignores LANL’s $2.9 billion nuclear weapons production budget (up 33% in one year), its proposed 46% cut to cleanup to $120 million, serious groundwater contamination and recent reports how it has neglected wildfire protection. Two catastrophic wildfires in the last 21 years on or near the Lab blanketed a large portion of northern New Mexico with possibly contaminated smoke.

The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and while in Japan paid homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

LANL not serious about wildland fires

BY: Feb, 9, 2021

SANTA FE – A recently released report by the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General suggests that managers at Los Alamos National Laboratory did not take wildland fire prevention seriously enough, despite two catastrophic wildland fires in the past 20 years that threatened the lab and the town, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

“Our review found that activities designed to reduce the impact from wildland fire had not been fully implemented at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in accordance with site plans,” says the opening sentence of a 14-page memo from the Inspector General’s office dated Feb. 1.

What’s worse, the report says, some plans were never drafted, and some policies put into place after the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 and the Las Conchas Fire in 2011 were not being followed.

It adds that lab managers haven’t developed a “comprehensive risk-based approach to wildland fire management,” as required by the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. The report also describes a “lack of formality.”

“Specifically, the contractor’s Wildland Fire Plan lacked requirements for documenting wildland fire management activities, and responsibilities for implementation were not well defined,” the report says.

The contractor referred to is Triad National Security LLC, which in November 2019 took over management of the lab, which is tasked with developing and manufacturing parts for nuclear weapons. Previously, Los Alamos National Security LLC had held the management contract since 2006.

It appears evident that some of the problems identified in the report predate Triad’s involvement.

The report says that there are about 2,000 structures, including 13 nuclear facilities, with an estimated value of $14.2 billion on approximately 23,000 acres of lab property.

It notes that the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire, which burned 43,000 acres, including about 7,500 acres of LANL property, resulting in $331 million in damage to the lab alone. That does not include an estimated $15 million in lost productivity per week during a 15-day shutdown and recovery period.

The Cerro Grande Fire was a “crown fire” that burned through the tree canopy and spread quickly, and the report has an entire section on mitigation of crown fires.

Despite recognition of the risk, mitigation measures to reduce the risk of crown fires had not been performed.

LANL Falls Behind on Wildfire Protection While Expanding Nuclear Weapons Production Watchdog Calls for New Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy’s Inspector General is reporting that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is falling seriously behind in wildfire protection. This is despite the fact that the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire forced the mandatory evacuation of both LANL and the Los Alamos townsite, burned 3,500 acres of Lab property and came within a half-mile of Area G, its largest waste dump. At the time Area G stored above ground some 40,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes. It could have been catastrophic had they burst and sent respirable airborne plutonium across northern New Mexico (inhaled plutonium is a very serious carcinogen).

In 2011 the Los Conchas Fire raced 13 miles in 24 hours to the Lab’s western boundary, where it was stopped along State Highway 4. Both it and the Cerro Grande Fire sent huge plumes of harmful smoke across northern New Mexico, possibly carrying Lab contaminants as well (operation of radioactive air emissions monitoring equipment was suspended during the Cerro Grande Fire).

FULL PRESS RELEASE

Report: LANL not managing forests to prevent wildfires

Jay Coghlan, executive director of the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said the lab puts most of its attention on producing nuclear weapons and neglects forest maintenance, despite the disastrous Cerro Grande Fire that destroyed dozens of its structures.

“Nuclear weapons above all,” Coghlan said.”

The Las Conchas Fire crests over the hills above Los Alamos National Laboratory in June 2011. Sparked by a downed power line, the blaze burned more than 150,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. A report by the U.S. Energy Department’s inspector general said the lab’s failure to manage forestland is increasing the potential for ‘devastating wildfires.’ CREDIT Brian Klieson.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has failed to properly manage its forested lands, increasing the threat of wildfires at lab sites and surrounding areas, according to a federal watchdog.

The lab has not thinned trees or cleared forest debris from many wooded areas, nor has it maintained service roads to ensure safe passage for firefighting crews, boosting the potential for “devastating wildfires” like the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000, the U.S. Energy Department’s inspector general said in a strongly worded report released this week.

The report criticized the lab’s main contractor, Triad National Security LLC, for not following fire management plans and not documenting required yearly activities to prepare for and prevent possible wildfires at the site.

“Our review found that activities designed to reduce the impact from wildland fire had not been fully implemented at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in accordance with site plans,” the report said.

The report comes as the federal Drought Monitor shows Los Alamos County and much of the state as being in exceptional drought — the most severe condition — which raises the risks of wildfires.

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Jay Coghlan from Nukewatch New Mexico and Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear discuss the recent developments in Nuclear Weapons proliferation and the new international ban on nuclear weapons.

Living on the Edge also cover reasons why nuclear power may not be the low carbon panacea for transitioning our electric grid that is so widely promoted these days.

Plan to send diluted plutonium to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant moves forward

A plan to dispose of surplus plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant through a dilution process that would reduce the waste to radiation levels allowable at the facility moved forward at the end of 2020 and the process was expected to continue through 2022.

By:  | currentargus.com February 8, 2021

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) – an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy – announced in December its intention to draft an environmental impact statement on the project and a public comment scoping was extended until Feb. 18.

Comments on the project can be made to the NNSA via email to SPDP-EIS@NNSA.DOE.GOV with the subject line SPDP EIS Scoping Comment.

The EIS will study the scope of the project and its potential impacts on the environment and DOE operations at numerous sites involved in the storage, down-blending and final disposal of the plutonium.

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Radiation Illnesses and COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation

“In Indigenous lands where nuclear weapons testing took place during the Cold War and the legacy of uranium mining persists, Indigenous people are suffering from a double whammy of long-term illnesses from radiation exposure and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

By: Jayita SarkarCaitlin Meyer | thebulletin.org February 3, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is wiping out Indigenous elders and with them the cultural identity of Indigenous communities in the United States. But on lands that sprawl across a vast area of the American West, the Navajo (or Diné) are dealing not just with the pandemic, but also with another, related public health crisis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 is killing Native Americans at nearly three times the rate of whites, and on the Navajo Nation itself, about 30,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and roughly 1,000 have died. But among the Diné, the coronavirus is also spreading through a population that decades of unsafe uranium mining and contaminated groundwater has left sick and vulnerable.

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The Future of War in Biden’s America

Danny Sjursen offers a Bidenesque tour of U.S. militarism.

By: Danny Sjursen Tom’s Dispatch | consortiumnews.com

2009: Vice President Joe Biden with U.S. sailors stationed in San Diego who were preparing to deploy to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. (U.S. Navy, Amanda L. Ray)

Hard as it is to believe in this time of record pandemic deaths, insurrection, and an unprecedented encore impeachment, Joe Biden is now officially at the helm of the U.S. war machine.  He is, in other words, the fourth president to oversee America’s unending and unsuccessful post-9/11 military campaigns.

In terms of active U.S. combat, that’s only happened once before, in the Philippines, America’s second-longest (if often forgotten) overseas combat campaign.

Yet that conflict was limited to a single Pacific archipelago. Biden inherits a global war — and burgeoning new Cold War — spanning four continents and a military mired in active operations in dozens of countries, combat in some 14 of them, and bombing in at least seven. 

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Nukes aren’t just for bombers and subs. Here are some unusual ways militaries have also planned to drop the bomb

Throughout the Cold War, the prospect of bombers dropping nuclear bombs and submarines launching nuclear-tipped missiles terrified people around the world. Those were the major delivery methods, but both militaries developed an array of smaller nuclear weapons for tactical use, and planners in those militaries gave very real consideration to using them.

By: Benjamin Brimelow | businessinsider.com Jan 28, 2021

Davy Crockett nuclear bomb
US officials examine an M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon, which used one of the smallest nuclear warheads ever developed by the US. US government

The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was small enough to fit into a large backpack but still had a yield of a kiloton. It was intended to be planted by small, specially trained teams that would set a time fuse before attempting to escape.

You can actually view these asinine “backpack nukes” at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque. These “small” weapons, many of them more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, would have obliterated any battlefield and irradiated much of the surrounding area.


The Little Boy (15 kilotons) and Fat Man (21 kilotons) atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, remain the only nuclear weapons used in combat.

Those bombs destroyed the cities, killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of people, and left thousands more with long-term health problems. The carnage and destruction are the first things that come to mind when discussing nuclear weapons.

But nukes weren’t just for destroying cities. Early in the Cold War, the tactical use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield was not only researched extensively but actually considered.

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Unknown Impact: County asks Los Alamos National Labs to assess environmental impact before expanding nuclear production

Santa Fe County wants Los Alamos National Laboratories to take stock of its impact on the environment and surrounding communities before pushing ahead with plans to expand.

| sfreporter.com Jan 27, 2021

On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution asking the National Nuclear Safety Administration to complete a new site-wide environmental impact statement for LANL in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act before expanding plutonium pit production.

“The public health and safety is so important,” said Commissioner Anna Hansen, noting that the NEPA process is one of the only avenues for the public to weigh in on what goes on at the labs. “We have a longstanding tradition of promoting democracy and environmental protection in impending nuclear weapons by requesting that local governments be kept fully informed about projects to facilitate large scale production of additional plutonium warheads,” she said.

Yet right now, the labs’ full impact on Northern New Mexico is unknown. It’s been more than a decade since the last time the NNSA produced an EIS for the laboratory, and a lot has changed since then, including regional understanding of  wildfire risks and potential water contamination from the labs.

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Remembering the Night Two Atomic Bombs Fell—on North Carolina

Sixty years ago, at the height of the Cold War, a B-52 bomber disintegrated over a small Southern town. An eyewitness recalls what happened next.

By: Bill Newcott | nationalgeographic.com PUBLISHED JANUARY 22, 2021

BILLY REEVES REMEMBERS that night in January 1961 as unseasonably warm, even for North Carolina. But it got a lot hotter just before midnight, when the walls of his room began glowing red with a strange light streaming through his window.

“I was just getting ready for bed,” Reeves says, “and all of a sudden I’m thinking, ‘What in the world…?'”

The 17-year-old ran out to the porch of his family’s farm house just in time to see a flaming B-52 bomber—one wing missing, fiery debris rocketing off in all directions—plunge from the sky and plow into a field barely a quarter-mile away.

“Everything around here was on fire,” says Reeves, now 78, standing with me in the middle of that same field, our backs to the modest house where he grew up. “The grass was burning. Big Daddy’s Road over there was melting. My mother was praying. She thought it was the End of Times.”

Like any self-respecting teenager, Reeves began running straight toward the wreckage—until it exploded.

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The Doomsday Datavisualizations

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In setting the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board consults widely with colleagues across a range of disciplines and considers qualitative and quantitative information from a wide array of sources. These three visualizations display some of the kinds of public data that are available in the Bulletin’s three coverage areas: nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technology.

The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns the public about existential threats, a metaphor that reminds the world of the perils that must be addressed if humanity is to continue survive. These three data visualizations can be seen as an artistic extension of the original design.

DESIGNED BY PENTAGRAM
Giorgia Lupi, Sarah Kay Miller, Phil Cox,
Ting Fang Cheng, Talia Cotton

In November 2011, the U.S. Senate designated January 27th as a National Day of Remembrance for the Nevada Test Site Downwinders. The Senate recognized the harm caused to Americans from radioactive fallout from the aboveground atomic tests in Nevada, which began on January 27, 1951 and ended on July 17, 1962. Nuclear testing by the U.S. government started in New Mexico with Trinity in July 1945, and the Crossroads Series of three tests followed in the Pacific in 1946. The United States took part in nuclear testing as part of the escalating Cold War arms race, and nuclear weapons proliferated. With each nuclear test, radioactive fallout spread globally.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VIEW LINKS BELOW
Downwinders And The Radioactive West Premieres January 27 at 7PM on PBS Utah
Why a National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders is Not Enough

Congress Introduces Legislation to Expand Compensation for Radiation Exposure

 

Why a National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders is Not Enough

“A day of recognition is important – these communities deserve to be recognized for the unimaginable sacrifice they unknowingly made to their country. But it is not enough. The best and most important way to honor these victims of the US nuclear weapons program is by compensating them and providing health care for the illnesses and deaths they have suffered.”

BY: LILLY ADAMS , UCS | JANUARY 26, 2021, 10:56 AM EST

Peaceful Demonstration with Trinity Downwinders at the Trinity Site Open House in New Mexico, ( L-R): Tina Cordova and Laura Greenwood. Trinity downwinders have been fighting for inclusion in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act for over 15 years. Source: Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.

There’s no question that the US government killed and sickened many of its own people through explosive nuclear testing: estimates of the death toll in the United States from nuclear testing vary widely, from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. But the harm doesn’t stop there. Other nuclear weapons activities, like uranium mining, production, and waste storage and cleanup, have also caused unknown deaths and illnesses. As is so often the case, the people who have borne the heaviest burden of these activities are often people of color, Indigenous communities, women and children, and those living in poor, rural communities. These people are the largely ignored, often forgotten casualties of the Cold War and the US nuclear weapons program.  

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doomsday clock

The Most Dangerous Situation Humanity Has Ever Faced

“The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Wednesday that the hands of the iconic Doomsday Clock remain at 100 seconds to midnight — as close to the end of humanity as the clock has ever been. The temptation, of course, in a dark hour is to cling to even the faintest signs of light and hope. And the truth is that there are some encouraging signs now emerging. However, we continue to teeter at the brink and moving the Clock away from midnight would provide false hope at a time when urgent action is what is needed.”.

Opinion by Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Robert Rosner / Updated 11:17 AM ET, Wed January 27, 2021

For a year now, the world has been ravaged by the horrors of Covid-19. It has caused millions to lose their jobs, overwhelmed health care systems and dramatically changed how we live. The disease has killed more than 2 million people and infected 100 million around the globe.

Even so, we face fundamentally greater threats to humanity than this pandemic. We refer to the catastrophic dangers which nuclear weapons and climate change pose — dangers that preceded this pandemic and will persist long after it ends. Unfortunately, and unlike the priority given to developing a vaccine against the virus, little progress was made to reduce the danger of the world’s nuclear weapons arsenal or to effectively slow the carbon emissions warming our planet in 2020. The sudden appearance and confused response to the virus makes all too clear how ill-prepared the world can be when it has to deal with an unprecedented threat of global magnitude.

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Here are five examples of the type of activities that will be Illegal under international law on 22 January 2021

One of the main problems with talking about nuclear weapons is that it often becomes abstract and hypothetical. Most people barely know which countries have nuclear weapons and do not know to what extent other actors are involved in maintaining and upholding nuclear weapons.

When the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) enters into force on 22 January 2021, that will need to change.

Here are five examples of the kind of activities that will be prohibited under the TPNW and who is currently doing this today. While the treaty will only be legally binding in the countries that have ratified the treaty, it will still create a powerful norm and should lead to increased protests and outrage in countries that haven’t joined the treaty that are behaving in contradiction of this new instrument of international law.

What the treaty prohibits

Article 1 of the treaty prohibits states parties from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.

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Treaty Seeks End to Nuclear Madness

It is the beginning of a new movement that will see the elimination of the existential nuclear threat.

| progressive.org

On January 22, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force. The treaty bans the development, production, possession, deployment, testing, use and just about anything else you can imagine related to nuclear weapons.

Fifty years later, nine nuclear-armed militaries possess more than 13,000 nuclear weapons, arsenals that mock their claimed commitment to disarm “at an early date.”

Approved at the United Nations by 122 countries in 2017, and subsequently signed by 86 and ratified by 51 nations, the nuclear weapons ban will join the venerated status of international prohibitions already established against lesser weapons of mass destruction. These earlier agreements include the Geneva Gas Protocol, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Ottawa Treaty or  Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

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Atop the Powerful Budget Committee at Last, Bernie Sanders Wants to Go Big

To the chagrin of Republicans, the democratic socialist senator will play a central role in shepherding Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s agenda through Congress.

“Sanders, the next chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, plans to take a hard look at fraud at the defense budget in his new perch, he tells POLITICO

“You understand you’re talking to the guy who led the effort to lower defense spending by 10 percent,” the Vermont Independent and self-described Democratic Socialist boasted.

You’re talking about the military budget, which is now higher than the next 10 nations combined,” he continued. “You’re talking about the Pentagon budget, which is the only major government agency which has not been able to undertake an independent audit. And I don’t think anyone has any doubt that there’s massive waste and cost overruns in the military budget.”

“I think if you check the record,” he added, “you’ll find that every major defense contractor has been found guilty of collusion and fraud.”

Alan Rappeport and  | nytimes.com

Shortly before the 2016 election, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican nominee for vice president and the speaker of the House, told a group of college Republicans why he thought Democrats winning control of the Senate would be a policy nightmare.

“Do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee?” Mr. Ryan asked. “A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

Republicans have long feared the prospect of Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, taking the helm of the powerful committee given his embrace of bigger government and more federal spending with borrowed money. With Democrats reclaiming the Senate, that fear is about to become a reality. Mr. Sanders, the most progressive member of the chamber, will have a central role in shaping and steering the Democrats’ tax and spending plans through a Congress that they control with the slimmest of margins.

Concern grows over massive US cyberattack – New Mexico’s national labs, Los Alamos and Sandia, cited as possible targets among many

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said the breach escalates the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.

“On top of the dangers that we faced during the Cold War this now raises new concerns…Could our nuclear weapons be hacked for malicious reasons? Could hackers take advantage of LANL’s checkered safety and security record and cause a life threatening event in our own backyard? The sooner we all have a nuclear weapons-free world the safer we will be.”

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal / BY: T.S. LAST / JOURNAL NORTH

SANTA FE — While the Department of Energy says that a cyberoffensive was limited to business networks, concerns remain about the depth of the breach and what threat it could still pose to national security and New Mexico’s two national laboratories.

Some news reports say that the hacks are believed to have been instigated by a Russian intelligence agency. The reports specifically mention Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, where atomic research is conducted, as being vulnerable.

In addition, Los Alamos National Laboratory is tasked with producing plutonium pits, the triggering device in nuclear warheads.

Earlier this week the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a warning, calling the hack “a grave risk” to federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as critical infrastructure entities and private sector businesses. It said the suspected breach dates back to at least March.

In a joint statement this week, CISA, the FBI and the director of national intelligence said they were working together to investigate a “significant ongoing cybersecurity campaign.”\

‘Highly skeptical’: House Armed Services chairman concerned about SRS pit production

Biden administration expected to take ‘critical look’ at next-generation warhead, estimated to be twice as explosive as Trident

By: Colin Demarest cdemarest@aikenstandard.com / postandcourier.com

An aerial view of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site. The site is about 30 minutes south of Aiken.
Photo courtesy of High Flyer
In blunt, if not damning, remarks at a Friday event, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed serious reservations about plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site and questioned the competency of the National Nuclear Security Administration, overall.
Likening the conversion of the failed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility to flipping a bowling alley into a restaurant, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith said he was “highly skeptical that they’re going to be able to turn that building into an effective pit production facility. Highly skeptical.”
And that’s concerning, he further suggested, because failure risks the health of the nation’s nuclear arsenal – however big or small one might want it “They’ve been around for a long time,” the Washington Democrat said of U.S. nuclear weapons. “We have to make sure they work.”

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US Nuclear Warhead Standoff ‘Has Significant Implications for UK’

Biden administration expected to take ‘critical look’ at next-generation warhead, estimated to be twice as explosive as Trident

 / theguardian.com

HMS Vigilant, one of the four Trident nuclear submarines. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Britain’s most senior defence official admitted there would be “very significant implications” for the future of the Trident nuclear deterrent if Democrats in the US Congress refused to fund a next-generation warhead.

Sir Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said that the UK was monitoring the US standoff closely but could not say what impact a refusal to start work on the new W93 warhead would have – or how many billions it would cost.

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THE SOFTENING RHETORIC BY NUCLEAR-ARMED STATES AND NATO ALLIES ON THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

BY: / warontherocks.com

Probably the most iconic moment during the negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or “nuclear ban treaty”) was the gathering of a dozen allied ambassadors standing around U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the corridors of the U.N. building in New York, protesting against the ongoing negotiations. While nuclear-armed states and NATO allies remain opposed to the treaty, the tone is softening, and at least two NATO allies are breaking the consensus.

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Nuclear News Archives – 2020

Russia Will Open Nuclear Disarmament Talks With US

But Moscow warns against insisting on including China in New Start negotiations

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | currentargus.com

Russia has confirmed that it will open talks with the US this month on extending a major nuclear disarmament treaty but warned that Washington’s insistence on including China could scuttle efforts.

The deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov will meet the US envoy Marshall Billingslea in Vienna on 22 June to begin negotiations on New Start, which expires in February.

Donald Trump has withdrawn from a number of international agreements but voiced a general interest in preserving New Start, which obliged the US and Russia to halve their inventories of strategic nuclear missile launchers.

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Iran continues its nuclear work, but is it weapons grade?

In the next few days, the latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to become public. It will make headlines even if it doesn’t contain any news.

BY: SIMON HENDERSON | thehill.com

A mega-row is emerging between the United States and its major European allies — Britain, Germany and France — over Washington’s decision to stop issuing waivers so that foreign companies can help Iran’s civil nuclear activities. In a joint statement on Saturday, the three European countries said: “We deeply regret the U.S. decision.”

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BEYOND NUCLEAR FILES FEDERAL LAWSUIT CHALLENGING HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE DUMP FOR ENTIRE INVENTORY OF U.S. “SPENT” REACTOR FUEL   

Petitioner charges the Nuclear Regulatory Commission knowingly violated U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act and up-ended settled law prohibiting transfer of ownership of spent fuel to the federal government until a permanent underground repository is ready to receive it.

[WASHINGTON, DC – June 4, 2020] Today the non-profit organization Beyond Nuclear filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting review of an  April 23, 2020 order and an October 29, 2018 order by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), rejecting challenges to Holtec International/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance’s application to build a massive “consolidated interim storage facility” (CISF) for nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec proposes to store as much as 173,000 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated or “spent” nuclear fuel – more than twice the amount of spent fuel currently stored at U.S. nuclear power reactors – in shallowly buried containers on the site.

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‘Forever deadly’: State officials, communities scramble to fight a proposal to house high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico

New Mexico could become home to nuclear waste generated at nearly 90 nuclear power plants across the country.

ARTICLE BY: KENDRA CHAMBERLAIN | nmpoliticalreport.com

Rose Gardner is not giving up.

A Eunice resident, Gardner has spent the past few years fighting a proposal to store high-level nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico.

“I was born here in Eunice, New Mexico, and have lived through a lot of ups and downs, oil booms and busts,” Gardner told NM Political Report. “But never have I ever felt that we needed an industry as dangerous as storing high-level nuclear waste right here.”

Gardner, who co-founded the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, is part of a groundswell of opposition to a project currently under consideration by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would see the world’s largest nuclear waste storage facility be built along the Lea-Eddy county line.

Holtec International, a private company specializing in spent nuclear fuel storage and management, applied for a license from the NRC in 2017 to construct and operate the facility in southeastern New Mexico that would hold waste generated at nuclear utilities around the country temporarily until a permanent, federally-managed repository is established. The license application is making steady progress in the NRC’s process, despite the pandemic.

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How Much Did the U.S. Spend on Nuclear Weapons in 2019?

According to a new report by the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, the U.S. spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019.  This figure includes $11.1 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, and $24.3 billion to the Department of Defense. That amount equals spending $67,352 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons.  In this time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, some question whether these taxpayers’ dollars could fund the needed masks, gloves, personal protective equipment and other equipment for medical professionals and patients, as well as for essential workers across the country.  https://www.icanw.org/global_nuclear_weapons_spending_2020 

As Alicia Sanders-Zakre, former Nuclear Watch New Mexico intern and current Policy and Research Coordinator for the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who is the primary author of the report, Enough is Enough:  2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending, said in this week’s Update:

“The billions spent on nuclear weapons in 2019 didn’t save lives – it was a waste of resources needed to address real security challenges, including pandemics and climate change.”

Read the June 2020 ICAN pamphlet: LET’S BE REALISTS:  Eleven answers to common questions and comments about nuclear weapons

The report, entitled, “Enough is Enough:  2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” carefully reviewed the nuclear weapons budgets of nine nuclear-armed countries.

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Trump Boosts Nuclear Weapons Spending, Fueling a New Arms Race

The United States sharply increased nuclear expenditures over the previous year, from $29.6 billion to $35.4 billion.

ARTICLE BY: JOHN LETMAN | trouthout.org

Creator: Wayne Clark | Credit: Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Copyright: Public Domain

Spending by the world’s nine nuclear nations climbed to nearly $73 billion in 2019, nearly half of it by the United States alone. At the same time, the Trump administration has prioritized nuclear weapons in its defense budget while abandoning nuclear treaties, fumbling negotiations and confounding allies.

The administration’s lack of coherent goals, strategies or polices have increased nuclear dangers, leaving the U.S. “blundering toward nuclear chaos with potentially disastrous consequences.” Those are the findings of two separate reports published in May that examine nuclear spending and strategy under Trump.

The findings of the reports lay bare the soaring costs and dangers of the Trump administration’s pursuit of more nuclear pits; the fast tracking of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles; and the deployment of new, low-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapons. In May, The Washington Post reported that Trump officials are in ongoing discussions about resuming explosive nuclear weapons testing.

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American Nuclear Policy Initiative — Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos: The Trump Administration After 3 Years

The nuclear dangers facing the United States, its allies, and the world are increasing.

ORIGINAL REPORT

Three years after entering office, the Trump administration lacks a coherent set of goals, a strategy to achieve them, or the personnel or effective policy process to address the most complex set of nuclear risks in U.S. history. Put simply, the current U.S. administration is blundering toward nuclear chaos with potentially disastrous consequences.

In May 2020, the American Nuclear Policy Initiative (ANPI), a task force of former government and non-governmental experts, released an objective analysis of U.S. nuclear policy under Donald Trump. “Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos: The Trump Administration after Three Years” finds that all of the nuclear challenges facing the United States – some inherited by the president and others of his own creation – have worsened over the last three years, putting national and global security at greater risk of nuclear use.

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Citizen Scientist: Frank von Hippel’s Adventures in Nuclear Arms Control

For 50 years, Frank von Hippel has been working as a citizen-scientist to reduce the grave dangers to humankind from nuclear-weapon and nuclear-energy programs around the world. In this special collection of edited, illustrated and footnoted interviews, von Hippel describes in vivid personal detail the many policy battles he has taken on, the state of nuclear dangers today, and his hopes for a path forward.

Interviews by Tomoko Kurokawa | Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament

Born into an illustrious scientific family that included his grandfather, Nobel laureate James Franck, a leader of the opposition within the Manhattan Project to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, von Hippel got his PhD in physics from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He was inspired by student activists opposed to the Vietnam War to move from teaching physics at Stanford into a career of policy activism based in Princeton University, where he co-founded the Program on Science and Global Security a leading international center for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament research. During the 1980s, von Hippel joined the US citizens’ uprising to “freeze” the nuclear arms race.

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NEWS FROM BEYOND NUCLEAR

BEYOND NUCLEAR FILES FEDERAL LAWSUIT CHALLENGING HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE DUMP FOR ENTIRE INVENTORY OF U.S. “SPENT” REACTOR FUEL   

Petitioner charges the Nuclear Regulatory Commission knowingly violated U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act and up-ended settled law prohibiting transfer of ownership of spent fuel to the federal government until a permanent underground repository is ready to receive it

[WASHINGTON, DC – June 4, 2020] Today the non-profit organization Beyond Nuclear filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting review of an  April 23, 2020 order and an October 29, 2018 order by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), rejecting challenges to Holtec International/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance’s application to build a massive “consolidated interim storage facility” (CISF) for nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec proposes to store as much as 173,000 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated or “spent” nuclear fuel – more than twice the amount of spent fuel currently stored at U.S. nuclear power reactors – in shallowly buried containers on the site.

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Proposed Plutonim Bomb Plant at SRS in South Carolina Draws Criticism from Public; NNSA’s Nuclear War Plans Challenged

DOE’s NNSA Quietly Plans for All-Out Nuclear War as Coronavirus Rages and Peace and Justice Demonstrations Grow; Plutonium Pit Production to Stimulate Arms Race

SAVANNAH RIVER SITE WATCH | einpresswire.com

Abandoned plutonium fuel (MOX) buiding at Savannah River Site, coutersy High Flyer to SRS Watch – Proposed to be converted into SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP), not for any concept of “deterrence” but for 4000 nuclear weapons to be used in all-out nuclear war

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, US, June 3, 2020 — Numerous public interest groups and individuals have submitted comments critical of the U.S. Department of Energy’s unjustified proposal to expand production of plutonium “pits” – the core of nuclear weapons – to DOE’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. A flurry of comments were submitted on the proposed SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) as the comment period ended on June 2.

Comments were formally submitted on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s “Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Plutonium Pit Production at Savannah River Site; Aiken, South Carolina,” which was released on April 3. Various groups submitted their own hard-hitting comments and solicited comments to be submitted by their supporters.

Commenters uniformly opposed plans to expand plutonium pit production into the terminated plutonium fuel (MOX) building at SRS, to produce 50 or more pits by 2030, called for preparation of an overarching Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to review the need for pit-production expansion and impacts at a host of DOE sites.

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Dear SRS EIS NEPA Document Manager,

We respectfully submit these comments1 for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) DOE/EIS-0541 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Plutonium Pit Production at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina2 (hereinafter “DEIS”). Through comprehensive research, public education, and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at defense 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.

These comments incorporate by reference the comments submitted by Nuclear Watch and others regarding NNSA’s Supplement Analysis of its 2008 Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.3 We believe they are relevant to connected issues which the agency seeks to segment contrary to statutory requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act.

VIEW FULL COMMENTS

Why a US nuclear test in Nevada would be bad for the world—and Trump’s reelection

A whole slew of 2020 candidates have either pleaded ignorance on certain nuclear policies or given answers that were borderline incomprehensible.

ARTICLE BY JOHN KRZYANIAK | thebulletin.org

Why a US nuclear test in Nevada would be bad for the world—and Trump’s reelection
Craters in the desert at the Nevada National Security Site, 2005. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

On May 15, according to reporting in the Washington Post and the Guardian, the Trump administration held serious discussions about whether to conduct a nuclear test explosion, and those conversations are continuing.

Though the administration has not made any public remarks on the matter, many experts and policy makers have already chimed in to voice dissent. Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, said a nuclear test would “pose a grave challenge to global peace and security.”

Hans Kristensen, who directs the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, said it was “completely nuts.” Joe Biden, former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said a resumption of testing would be “as reckless as it is dangerous.”

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Talk of Reviving Nuclear Tests Raises Alarm

The Trump administration’s recent discussions on whether the U.S. should resume nuclear testing for the first time since 1992 have raised alarm among watchdogs and, if carried out, might affect Los Alamos National Laboratory’s nuclear “stockpile stewardship.”

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Talk of Reviving Nuclear Tests Raises Alarm
Storax Sedan shallow underground nuclear test by the United States, used for a cratering experiment. 6 July 1962 (GMT), Nevada Test Site Yield: 104 kt. The main purpose of the detonation was to asses the non military dimension of a nuclear explosion.

National security officials at the White House last month talked about lifting the 28-year moratorium on explosive nuclear tests, less as a technical necessity than in response to unconfirmed reports that Russia and China are conducting low-yield tests, according to the Washington Post.

At the moment, there are no actual plans to pursue underground nuclear testing, but talks will remain ongoing and tests will remain an option to consider, two unnamed sources told the Post. Another source said officials were leaning toward other ways to deal with China and Russia.

Nuclear nonproliferation advocates say it is significant that Trump officials are even floating the idea of reviving tests that were halted after the Cold War ended.

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OREPA Comments on the Draft Supplement Analysis for the Final Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Y-12 National Security Complex, Earthquake Accident Analysis

SUMMARY
The Draft Supplement Analysis (SA) is carefully crafted to minimize consideration of the environmental impacts of the NNSA’s “hybrid plan” for enriched uranium operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex starting with the decision to limit the SA to the analysis of earthquake risks only, and then only to three facilities engaged in enriched uranium operations, further limiting the analysis of consequences to radiation releases only, and then only to humans.

READ FULL COMMENTS

Seismic Expert Issues Scathing Review of NNSA Earthquake Study at Oak Ridge Nuclear Bomb Plant

| orepa.org

David D. Jackson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles, issued a scathing review of the latest study to analyze earthquake risks at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, saying, “The agency’s analysis is defective in numerous regards. It falls far short of relevant professional and scientific standards.”

Jackson was asked by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance to review the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Draft Supplement Analysis (SA) of a 2011 Environmental Impact Statement on plans for continued nuclear weapons production at the Oak Ridge production complex. In September, 2019, federal judge Pamela Reeve set aside two previous SAs and ordered NNSA to prepare additional environmental analysis with special attention paid to the risks presented by earthquakes.

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DoE Could be Ready to Go With Minimal Nuke Test in Nevada in ‘Months,’ Pentagon Official Says

It would take only a matter of months for the Department of Energy to perform an underground nuclear-explosive test with minimal diagnostics, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

| defensedaily.com

Previous heads of the agency’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have talked “about a very quick test with limited diagnostics, though certainly diagnostics, within months,” said Drew Walter, who is performing the duties of deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters.

“A fuller test, fully diagnostic, and lots of data, all the bells and whistles, so to speak, might be measured in years. But ultimately, if the President directed because of a technical issue or a geopolitical issue, a system to go test, I think it would happen relatively rapidly.”

Walter also said that he believes the NNSA has a borehole at the Nevada National Security Site that would be suitable for such a rapid test.

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ACT NOW TO STOP THE NEW BOMB PLANT!

The National Nuclear Security Administration was told by a federal judge to prepare a new analysis of the risks of an earthquake at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where nuclear weapons parts are made. Instead, NNSA prepared a very narrow analysis of the effects of an earthquake on three buildings at Y-12. They published this Supplement Analysis in April and invited public comment.

If you want to read the Supplement Analysis, you can find it on OREPA’s website: www.orepa.org. On the right hand column, just under the UPF lawsuit heading.

Your comments should be sent by May 26 to:
Ms. Terri Slack
P.O. Box 2050
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
or by email to: NEPA.Comments@npo.doe.gov

MORE INFORMATION

Smith, Cooper Statement on Trump Administration’s Withdrawal From the Open Skies Treaty

May 21, 2020 | PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Jim Cooper (D-TN), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, today issued the following statement in response to reports that the Trump Administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty:

“The Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty is a slap in the face to our allies in Europe, leaves our deployed forces in the region at risk, and is in blatant violation of the law. This decision weakens our national security interests, isolates the United States since the Treaty will continue without us, and abandons a useful tool to hold Russia accountable.

“What’s more, this decision has been made without any consultation with Congress. Not only does the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act require a minimum 120-days’ notification of the withdrawal notice, but also multiple communications from the House Armed Services Committee and other congressional chairmen have gone unanswered.

“The Trump Administration continues to give Russia the upper hand with regards to arms control, which leaves our allies and deployed forces less protected in Europe. Despite the Department of Defense’s rhetoric about the dire need to prepare for ‘great power competition,’ this decision will undoubtedly do the exact opposite, and further fracture our relationships with allies needed to push back against Russian aggression in the region.”

Citing financial cost of pandemic, House liberals demand cut in military spending

Twenty-nine of the House’s most liberal Democratic members called Tuesday for a cut in military spending in the yearly national defense authorization bill — a declaration, they said, that is meant to focus federal resources on the coronavirus pandemic.

MIKE DEBONIS | washingtonpost.com

The demand, however, stands to greatly complicate the Democratic-controlled House’s ability to advance the National Defense Authorization Act, one of the most consequential must-pass measures that Congress assembles each year. It is likely to generate objections from Republicans and more moderate Democrats alike — and create headaches for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.

The signers are almost all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including lead sponsors Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), who have long called for lower levels of Pentagon spending to free more resources for domestic spending. But the pandemic, they argue, presents a new imperative for defense cuts.

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Scuttlebiz: Will ‘pit production’ save SRS?

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of urgency by the federal law “requiring” pit production begin by 2030. That law carries as much weight as the 1982 federal act requiring the nation to have a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain 12 years ago. Still waiting…”

DAMON CLINE | augustachronicle.com

It’s a choice that – from a local economic development perspective – isn’t much of a choice.

Here it is: 1) Convert the Savannah River Site’s unfinished Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility into a nuclear weapons plant; or 2) Let the MOX plant keep rotting while New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory continues producing the nation’s stockpile of “plutonium pits.”

Considering that about $9 billion is at stake, and that SRS needs a new “mission,” I believe it’s safe to assume local leaders want what’s behind Door No. 1.

The National Nuclear Security Administration laid out the two alternatives last month in a draft environmental impact study addressing the nation’s need to manufacture 80 new nuclear weapon cores a year by 2030.

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Huge Deficit = Defense Budget Cuts? Maybe Not

The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood.

| breakingdefense.com

The current Washington consensus sees deep defense budget cuts in the face of soaring deficits driven by the emergency legislation to stabilize the American economy as it reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may be wrong. The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood. The next administration — Republican or Democratic — will develop budgets beyond that, but the constraints of long-standing strategy will prevent major changes to force structure and acquisition that would drive deep budget cuts.   

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Will the Trump administration’s accusations doom the nuclear test ban treaty?

“Although US accusations are unlikely to be true, they could give a convenient pretext to officials who want to withdraw the US signature from the treaty, allowing the United States to resume its own nuclear testing. In fact, that may be the entire point.”

ANDREAS PERSBO | thebulletin.org

In April, while most of the world was focused on defeating a devastating viral pandemic, the US State Department quietly released its annual compliance report, describing whether and how the United States and other countries have been abiding by various arms control agreements. The report is sober reading for those hoping that the coronavirus would usher in a new era of international collaboration.

The report made waves for raising “concerns” about China’s adherence to a “zero-yield” nuclear testing standard, as called for by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although neither the United States or China has ratified the treaty, both have signed it, and both claim to abide by a nuclear testing moratorium.

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Released From Silence

One year anniversary of the release of the documentary short film “The Atomic Soldiers”

“The Atomic Soldiers” lets the veterans who witnessed the Hood test in Nevada tell their own stories. But the painful memories sometimes choke their recollections, leaving long and moving silences in place of words. “You don’t send 14,000 troops through ground zero and not call it anything but genocide,” says one.

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Remembering Dave Freeman – green cowboy, pioneer of U.S. energy policy

Arjun Makhijani | ieer.org

It was 1970. Dave Freeman had transitioned from being an energy advisor in Johnson’s White House to Nixon’s. At one of our lunches since he had moved to Washington, D.C. after retiring as the Chairman of the Port of Los Angeles, he recounted a conversation with John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s assistant for domestic policy:

“Ehrlichman told me ‘Dave, you had better get out of here. Things are going to get very hot and nasty in the coming campaign [to re-elect Nixon]. This is no place for a Democrat like you.’”

Dave found a most interesting and, as it turned out, historic exit. He convinced the Ford Foundation to give him four million dollars (about twenty five million in today’s money) to establish the Energy Policy Project within the Foundation. It would approach energy policy comprehensively; among other things it would explore how much of energy supply could be replaced by energy efficiency.

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Russian officials have already repeatedly warned in the past that its Eastern European neighbours’ decision to host US-made strategic systems, including components of America’s Aegis Ashore missile defence system, make them targets for Russia’s strategic nuclear response in the event of a war.

sputniknews.com

The redeployment of US nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland would be a direct violation of the Russia-NATO founding act of 1997, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

“This would be a direct violation of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations between Russia and NATO, in which NATO undertook not to place nuclear weapons in the territory of new members of the North Atlantic Alliance, either at that moment or in the future…I doubt that these mechanisms will be implemented in practical terms,” Lavrov said, speaking to reporters following a videoconference-based meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States on Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the redeployment of US nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland would serve to further damage already-strained Russia-NATO relations and escalate tensions.

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Energy Department Nominee Shifts on Yucca Mountain Question

“The administration will not be pursuing Yucca Mountain as a solution for nuclear waste, and I am fully supportive of the president’s decision and applaud him for taking action when so many have failed to do so,” [Mark] Menezes told Cortez Masto.

BY GARY MARTIN | reviewjournal.com
Energy Department Nominee Shifts on Yucca Mountain Question
A contractor walks into the south portal of Yucca Mountain during a congressional tour near Mercury on Saturday, July 14, 2018. (Chase Stevens Las Vegas Review-Journal @csstevensphoto)

WASHINGTON — Mark Menezes, the nominee for deputy secretary of the Energy Department, on Wednesday clarified remarks he made in February, saying the Trump administration has no plans to use Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage site.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., pressed Menezes during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asking for a clarification.

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Ground U.S.-North Korean Diplomacy in International Law

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical.

| nationalinterest.org

In the years since the summits between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi, U.S.-North Korean diplomacy has fizzled to a halt. This is a grave mistake. Both North Korea and the United States need to get serious about reviving diplomatic efforts to eliminate their nuclear weapons.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical. North Korean and U.S. nuclear weapons put the rest of the world at risk—and drain valuable resources from needed economic recovery efforts and social services. ICAN estimated that together North Korea and the United States spent $36 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The United States spent $35.4 billion and North Korea spent about $0.6 billion.

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Raytheon to close ABQ site

Raytheon Technologies Corp. is shutting down operations at the Sandia Science and Technologies Park in southeast Albuquerque, where the company employs about 200 people.

BY KEVIN ROBINSON-AVILA | abqjournal.com
Raytheon Technologies is closing its facility at Sandia Science and Technologies Park in Albuquerque and laying off some of its 200 local employees. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Raytheon’s Albuquerque operations will be transferred to other company facilities outside of New Mexico, company spokesperson Heather Uberuaga told the Journal Tuesday.

“After careful and deliberate consideration, Raytheon Technologies has chosen to close the company’s Albuquerque facility and relocate support for key capabilities and customer programs to our other facilities around the country,” Uberuaga wrote in an email.

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Trump Admin Sprints to Weaken Environmental Protections During Pandemic

‘There’s a lot they want to get done before the election, just in case.’

The Trump administration is diligently weakening U.S. environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, U.S. federal agencies have eased fuel-efficiency standards for new cars; frozen rules for soot air pollution; proposed to drop review requirements for liquefied natural gas terminals; continued to lease public property to oil and gas companies; sought to speed up permitting for offshore fish farms; and advanced a proposal on mercury pollution from power plants that could make it easier for the government to conclude regulations are too costly to justify their benefits.

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Pit Production Must ‘Press Forward’ Despite Coronavirus Pandemic, NNSA Chief Says

Preparations and planning for plutonium pit production must continue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a “difficult” and challenging time, National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty wrote in a recent letter.

“The plutonium pit production mission is one of our highest national security priorities and is being done in accordance with congressional direction,” Gordon-Hagerty wrote to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat. “We must press forward with this project in order to meet Department of Defense deliverables.”

Udall and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, another New Mexico Democrat, in late April wrote to the National Nuclear Security Administration, asking the weapons-and-nonproliferation agency to extend a public comment period tied to plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory, near Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Gordon-Hagerty in her April 30 response said she appreciated the “interest in this matter” and that she takes the “concerns very seriously.”

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Moving Forward With the W93 SLBM Warhead Strengthens U.S. and British Security

Bulging Deficits May Threaten Prized Pentagon Arms Projects

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: 2019 GLOBAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING

The nuclear-armed states spent nearly three-quarters of one hundred billion dollars in 2019 on building and maintaining nuclear warheads and delivery systems. The incalculable human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons only add to this shocking figure. From 2018 to 2019, there was an estimated $7.1 billion increase in nuclear weapon spending, and these totals will only continue to rise in the next decade according to documented nuclear weapon programmes and budgets in several nuclear-armed countries.

FULL REPORT

COLLECTIVE COMMENTS: on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Draft Supplement Analysis of the 2008 Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Continued Operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for Plutonium Operations

These comments were signed onto by over 100 individuals and organizations.
THANK YOU to all those who participated!

Help Us Stop Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab! Submit Written Formal Comment.
Click to See Suggested Comments

Due Saturday May 9 but generally the government will accept comments for the following week.

See Updated Plutonium Pit Production Fact Sheet Here

Cleanup of US Nuclear Waste Takes Back Seat as Virus Spreads

FILE – In this April 2019 file photo provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory, barrels of radioactive waste are loaded for transport to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) at the Radioactive Assay Nondestructive Testing (RANT) facility in Los Alamos, N.M. The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up decades worth of Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has chugged along, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment. Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as WIPP, the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste, finished ramping down operations Wednesday, April 1, 2020, to keep workers safe. (Nestor Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)

Over more than 20 years, tons of waste have been stashed deep in the salt caverns that make up the southern New Mexico site. Until recently, several shipments a week of special boxes and barrels packed with lab coats, rubber gloves, tools and debris contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements were being trucked to the remote facility from South Carolina, Idaho and other spots.

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OREPA Accuses NNSA of Mendacity on Nuclear Criticality Safety

OREPA Accuses NNSA of Mendacity on Nuclear Criticality Safety

OREPA | orepa.org

A letter dated April 6, 2020 from Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, to Consolidated Nuclear Services, operating contractor of the Pantex and Y-12 nuclear weapons facilities, highlights ongoing criticality safety deficiencies at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The letter, a Preliminary Notice of Violation, characterizes the nuclear criticality safety deficiencies as “of high safety significance.” In the letter, NNSA reveals that CNS has failed to implement the criticality safety plan that was in place when it took over operations at the facility in 2014.

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Russia Says Using New U.S. Warheads Would Provoke Nuclear Retaliation

Fires are still blazing near the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited firefighters trying to extinguish the flames, marking the 34th anniversary of the accident.

ARTICLE BY: CLYDE HUGHES | upi.com

The Pentagon said the W76-2 nuclear warhead was first deployed with the USS Tennessee, pictured, late last year. File Photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Bryan Tomforde/U.S. Navy/UPI

Wednesday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova cautioned the U.S. military that using those weapons against Russia would warrant a nuclear retaliatory strike.

“Any attack involving a U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile, regardless of its weapon specifications, would be perceived as a nuclear aggression,” Zakharova said. “Those who like to theorize about the flexibility of American nuclear potential must understand that in line with the Russian military doctrine such actions are seen as warranting retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia.”

The U.S. State Department suggested last week that equipping Navy submarines with the low-yield nukes — which have explosive power similar to the atomic bombs dropped in Japan during World War II — would only serve to deter military provocation from Russia and China.

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Defense Budget Brawl Looms After Pandemic

Defense budget cuts are looming as the coronavirus pandemic places pressure on the federal budget across various agencies.

ARTICLE BY: REBECCA KHEEL | thehill.com

© Greg Nash

The Pentagon had already been expecting relatively flat budgets for the next few years due to economic constraints caused by the widening deficits in the country.

But with the pandemic, the deficit is projected to explode after Congress passed trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief packages, with more aid bills expected. Defense budget analysts are predicting that will mean cuts to defense spending down the line.

Meanwhile, Democrats say the crisis should result in a rethinking of national security that gives less money to the Pentagon and more to areas like public health.

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Agency seeks $8K reimbursement from former executive director

REGIONAL COALITION OF LANL COMMUNITIES
Two years after parting ways with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, state Rep. Andrea Romero is still being haunted by improper reimbursements that cast a dark cloud over her tenure as the agency’s executive director.

Agency seeks $8K reimbursement from former executive director

The board of the taxpayer-funded agency that represents local governments around Los Alamos National Laboratory recently decided to ask Romero to return $8,000 in questionable reimbursements she received for travel and entertainment expenses while she was at the helm of the organization, which occurred before she was elected to a seat in the state House of Representatives.

But the board is unlikely to pursue the matter further if Romero rejects the request.

The board reached its decision to try to recoup the money after receiving a review of past audits of the agency, also known as RCLC, from its contracted legal counsel, Nancy Long.

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Fire Licks the Chernobyl Perimeter

Fires are still blazing near the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited firefighters trying to extinguish the flames, marking the 34th anniversary of the accident.

ARTICLE BY: CINDY FOLKERS | beyondnuclearinternational.org

More than 1,000 firefighters were working on Sunday to contain wildfires in the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine. Sunday marks the 34-year anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

How close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant did the recent forest fires come? Did the smoke that enveloped Kyiv contain dangerous levels of radioactivity? We look at these and other questions about the deadly legacy of the 1986 nuclear disaster.

The recent wildfires in Ukraine and Belarus came dangerously close to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site. Some burn still; others are smoldering. So, too, are the lingering doubts about denials from the Ukraine government that the fires, which tore through areas of the already radioactive Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, posed no radiological risks to those breathing in their fumes.

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The Trump Administration Is Suddenly Pretending That It Didn’t Blow Up the Iran Nuclear Deal

BY: | slate.com

While everyone is riveted to the deadly grind of COVID-19, the Trump administration is stepping up its efforts to crush the Islamic Republic of Iran through one of the most squirrely legal arguments that a nation-state has ever devised.

The move is also a political shot in the foot, because it amounts to an unwitting admission that President Donald Trump was wrong to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

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Appeal: New Mexico ignored rules in OK of nuke site work

Susan Montoya Bryan / Associated Press | apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A watchdog group asked the New Mexico Court of Appeals to put the brakes on a key construction project at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository.

The Southwest Research and Information Center alleged in court documents that state environmental officials ignored existing regulations, past agency practices and case law when giving temporary approval for contractors to begin building a new ventilation shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

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Nuclear News Archives – 2019

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

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

BY SAFIA SAMEE ALI | nbcnews.com

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

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

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

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

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

lanl
Credit: Christopher Thompson for The New York Times

BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD | cnn.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY CHUCK JOHNSON & SUSAN SCUTTI | cnn.com

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

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

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

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

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

NPT Looks Ahead to 2020 Review Conference Without Consensus Recommendations

BY ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE | armscontrol.org

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

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

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

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

 

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Balky Capacitors Could Delay Two NNSA Nuke Refurb Programs

BY DAN LEONE | exchangemonitor.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY VINCE HOUGHTON | time.com May 7, 2019

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

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Producing mass destruction: Private companies and the nuclear weapons industry

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

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY | dontbankonthebomb.com

FULL REPORT AVAILABLE HERE

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

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

NPT News in Review 2019

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

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

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

BY SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN | armscontrol.orgMay 2019

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

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

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

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The Madness of Nuclear Deterrence

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

BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV | wsj.com

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

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

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

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

BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the PDF

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

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

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

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

BY EXCHANGE MONITOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Report Spells Out Saner Nuclear Spending Options

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

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

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

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

Hard duty in the Chernobyl zone

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

View an excerpt in this ARTICLE FROM beyondnuclearinternational.org

Natalia Manzurova: Chernobyl Survivor

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

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

BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY LISA FRIEDMAN & MAGGIE ASTOR | nytimes.com

The nuclear option

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

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

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

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

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

BY DAN LEONE | exchangemonitor.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A NEW VISION 2019

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

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

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

US-Russia Chill Stirs Worry About Stumbling Into Conflict

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

BY ROBERT BURNS | apnews.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storied Jason Science Advisory Group Loses Contract - Pentagon

BY JEFFREY MERVIS, ANN FINKBEINER | sciencemag.com

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

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


 

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

BY MATT NOVAC | gizmodo.com

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

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

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

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The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us

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

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

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

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


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

BY NATHAN ROTT | npr.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Federal Watchdog Probes Trump Admin Push for Saudi Nuke Deal

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

BY ERIN BANCO | thedailybeast.com

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

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

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

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

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The One Place in the US Google Earth Stopped Mapping

BY DRUV MEHROTRA & BRENDAN BYRNE | vice.com

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

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

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

Original article: vice.com

A Nuclear Missile Gets Dismantled: Stop-motion Video

What goes up can be dismantled

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

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

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

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Nuclear power excluded from EU’s green investment label

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

BY CLAIRE STAM & ALICIA PRAGER | euractiv.com

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

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

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

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

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

BY KATE BROWN | theguardian.com

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

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

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

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

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

THE UNITED NATIONS

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

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

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

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

https://sites.google.com/view/

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

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

BY ARSHAD MOHAMMED & JONATHAN LANDAY | reuters.com

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

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

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U.S. Companies Granted Authorizations for Nuclear Work in Saudi

Want to help the erratic, murderous Saudi regime develop nuclear technology? That’s OK with the Department of Energy.

BY ERIN BANCO | thedailybeast.com

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved six authorizations for U.S. companies seeking to conduct nuclear related work in Saudi Arabia, according to two sources with knowledge of those approvals. Federal law stipulates that companies obtain clearance from the U.S. government for exporting nuclear technology to or engaging in the production or development of special nuclear material in Saudi Arabia.

The authorizations—known as Part 810s, referring to a clause in federal regulations —allow U.S. companies to divulge specific details about plans for working in Saudi Arabia and certain information about the nuclear technology. For example, a company would need a Part 810 to transfer physical documents, electronic media or the “transfer of knowledge and expertise” to Saudi Arabia, according to the Department of Energy.

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2018

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WIPP Update Feb 27 2014 – 13 Employees Contaminated

WIPP Update Feb 27 2014 – 13 Employees Contaminated

I’ll remind us all that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site is NOT a National Security site. It is a fancy landfill. There are really no secret programs there to protect. Maybe there are some secret parts buried there, but they have long-since been crushed. There is no reason to withhold news. The waste streams are well known and exactly where they are emplaced in WIPP is also well known. When the public gets news from WIPP officials, we deserve to have our questions answered clearly with all the important facts included.

Our best wishes go out to the employees.

Here’s the February 26, 2014 letter from the U.S. Department of Energy – Carlsbad Field Office, which provides oversight of the private contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, that currently manages and operates WIPP. Unfortunately, this letter raises many questions. Below are each of the paragraphs of the letter, followed by my questions and comments.

First Paragraph –

This morning (February 26), the 13 Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) employees that were on site the evening of February 14 were notified that they have tested positive for radiological contamination. Employees were notified within about 12 hours of the receipt of preliminary sample results.

Ok, “the 13 Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) employees that were on site the evening of February 14,” sounds like there were only 13 employees at WIPP on Feb 14. But the February 15, 2014, 9:17 PM WIPP press release states, “All non-essential employees were off-site by 5:30 PM MST.” The February 15, 2014, 9:17 PM WIPP press release also states, “No contamination has been found on any equipment, personnel, or facilities.” I guess we are to read this as, “No contamination has been found ON any personnel.”

Questions raised –

How many employees were onsite when?

Were the 13 contaminated employees essential or non-essential?

Were the non-essential employees (how many?) that left by 5:30 bioassayed?

How does an employee inhale rads and not have any on them?

 

Second Paragraph –

At the time of the event, these employees were performing above ground operations, and federal oversight duties at the WIPP facility. Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, the site contractor, requested that all workers on site the night of the event submit follow-up bioassay samples as they were considered more likely to have indications of potential exposure. Additional samples will be collected from these employees in the weeks ahead in order to perform complete analyses.

Questions raised –

When did Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC request the bioassay samples from the night workers?

What made them “more-likely” to be exposed? What exactly were they doing?

Were the non-essential employees (how many?) that left by 5:30 bioassayed? When was this request made?

 

Third Paragraph –

It is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed. However, on-site sampling and surveys and environmental monitoring, to date, continue to support National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) modeling, which indicates that airborne contamination was likely at very low levels.

Questions raised –

Where is the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) modeling? The public must be allowed to read any and all reference documents. And by the way, NARAC is located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is a Department of Energy site. 

 

Fourth Paragraph –

The material for this release event is transuranic radionuclides. The release material was predominantly americium-241, material which is consistent with the waste disposed of at the WIPP. This is a radionuclide used in consumer smoke detectors and a contaminant in nuclear weapons manufacturing.

Questions raised –

Really? Smoke detectors? Here’s from the EPA

As long as the radiation source stays in the detector, exposures would be negligible (less than about 1/100 of a millirem per year), since alpha particles cannot travel very far or penetrate even a single sheet of paper, and the gamma rays emitted by americium are relatively weak. If the source were removed, it would be very easy for a small child to swallow, but even then exposures would be very low because the source would pass through the body fairly rapidly (by contrast, the same amount of americium in a loose powdered form would give a significant dose if swallowed or inhaled). Still, its not a good idea to separate the source from the detector apparatus.

All the americium at WIPP is the byproduct of Cold War nuclear weapons production. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains the health effects of americium.

The radiation from americium is the primary cause of adverse health effects from absorbed americium. Upon entering the body by any route of exposure, americium moves relatively rapidly through the body and is deposited on the surfaces of the bones where it remains for a long time. As americium undergoes radioactive decay in the bone, alpha particles collide with nearby cell matter and give all of their energy to this cell matter. The gamma rays released by decaying americium can travel much farther before hitting cellular material, and many of these gamma rays leave the body without hitting or damaging any cell matter. The dose from this alpha and gamma radiation can cause changes in the genetic material of these cells that could result in health effects such as bone cancers.

 

Fifth Paragraph – Here it states that inhalation did employees did occur.

Determining employee dose typically involves multiple sample analyses to determine employee’s radionuclide excretion rate over time. This allows the lab to estimate the employee’s accumulated internal dose. The time this process takes depends largely on the solubility of the inhaled particulate, with less water-soluble radioactive materials requiring more samples and time to accurately estimate the dose. Follow-up urine samples may require about three or more weeks to accurately predict dose.

 

Sixth Paragraph –

We are now focusing our sampling program on employees with work assignments that may have placed them at greater risk, including those on shift February 15. We are still reviewing staff assignments to determine if additional employees will need to be tested. However, employees who feel they were assigned positions or functions that placed them at risk will be included in follow-up bioassay monitoring at their request.

Questions raised –

How many employees were working on the 15th? Were they wearing safety protection?

What is the criterion “to determine if additional employees will need to be tested”?

 

Seventh Paragraph –

There is no risk to family or friends of these employees. As we learn more information, we will continue to share. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact 1-800-336-9477. Thank you.

Questions raised –

What is the current status at the site?

Are employees working there now?

Are they wearing protective gear?

 

There apparently is a Press Conference today (Feb27 2014) at 3pm MST.

WIPP update Feb 26 2014

The New York Times ran a WIPP story today, NUCLEAR WASTE REPOSITORY SET TO REOPEN AFTER LEAK, New York Times — February 26, 2014, By Matthew L. Wald

This is a good example of what is known, what is being said, and what is not being said.

1. One shaft has a filter with a monitor and three don’t. The article, and many others, quotes a WIPP press release,

But late on Feb. 14, at an hour when no one was in the mine, an air monitor indicated the presence of radioactive contamination. An automated system cut off most of the ventilation and routed the exhaust through filters that are supposed to capture 99.97 percent of all contamination, turning off fans and changing the air flow, in less than one minute. 

At WIPP, there are 4 ways for air to get to the surface – the Exhaust Shaft, the Salt Shaft, the Air Intake Shaft, and the Waste Handling Shaft. When radioactive contamination is detected, airflow is directed to the Exhaust Shaft as its filter is put into place. This shaft has the only filter and monitors on any of the shafts. WIPP officials claim that it was a monitor in Panel 7 that detected radiation and set into action the sending of all the air to the Exhaust Shaft. The Panel 7 monitor is around 2000 feet from the shafts. This means that the WIPP officials were relying on any contamination to set off the monitor before any contamination went up a shaft. We need a layout of the monitors, and if they were working, in the underground.

 

2. “Safe levels” of radioactivity? The article quotes a WIPP monitor,

“For someone living in town, I would say the dose was probably zero,” Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, an independent monitoring organization that is part of New Mexico State University, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. He said that the event would not add to background levels of radiation — including bomb fallout — any more than an eyedropper full of water would contribute to the rise in the level of the Pacific Ocean.

Seriously, an eyedropper in the Pacific? I had to look it up

There are over 70 cubic million miles in the Pacific Ocean. Meaning there are 188,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons in the pacific ocean. That is 187 quintillion gallons.

No problem, unless you eat the fish that drank that drop. Anyway, I don’t believe anyone knows how much radiation was released. The preliminary results are based on a ridiculously small number of air samples. The official projections are based on the implication that the samples represent the maximum contamination, which is unlikely.

 

3. Then, it was explained how to get dosed –

Even in the desert, the danger to humans was small, the mine’s operators said. The highest reading from the monitors indicated that a person could have inhaled radioactive material that would emit a dose, over the person’s lifetime, of 3.4 millirem, an amount roughly equal to three days of natural background radiation. But to get the dose, the person would have had to stand for hours in the desert, on the downwind side of the plant.

Again, the official projections are based on the implication that the samples represent the maximum contamination, which is unlikely. We await the many soil samples that will shed light on the actual amounts.

 

 

WIPP Update Feb 25 2014

Let’s start with what we know.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the Nation’s only operating geologic repository for nuclear waste. WIPP can legally only accept a very specific type of waste – transuranic (TRU) waste generated at defense-related nuclear facilities.  “Transuranic” refers to atoms of man-made elements that are heavier (higher in atomic number) than uranium. The most prominent element in most TRU waste is plutonium. Some TRU waste consists of items such as soil, rags, tools, and laboratory equipment contaminated with radioactive materials. Other forms of TRU waste include organic and inorganic residues or even entire enclosed contaminated cases in which radioactive materials were handled.

The WIPP underground is 2150 feet below the surface. And will consist of 8 separate panels with 7 football field-sized rooms per panel. (Two additional panels, 9 & 10, are to be placed in the existing tunnels that lead to Panels 1 – 8.) WIPP has a legal maximum capacity of 175,564 m3 and is currently starting to fill Panel 7.

 

Timeline –

At 12:25 p.m.  February 5, 2014, – Shortly after 11 a.m., an underground vehicle used to transport salt is on fire in the underground.

At 11:30 PM Friday February 14, 2014, a continuous air monitor detected airborne radiation in the underground.

Sometime on Saturday February 15, 2014, a filter aboveground at the fence line of the WIPP facility (Location A) was sampled. The field preliminary analysis showed .87 Bq. (EPA’s action level for the isotopes of concern is 37 Bq.)

Sometime on February 17 & 18, 2014, more samples were taken from other monitors and also from Location A, which showed a much lower reading (.04 Bq) than it did three days earlier. http://www.wipp.energy.gov/Special/WIPP%20Environmental%20Sampling%20Results.pdf

 

Are the fire and the release related?

On the surface I would have to say yes. The first large fire in the underground was followed by first release 9 days later. But the 9 days is a problem. Apparently nothing happened for 9 days after the fire then something happened to cause the release of radionuclides aboveground. Did the fire somehow loosen the ceiling 2000’ away? Maybe, but right now, I have to think that it is a freak coincidence, because we don’t know the cause of the release.

 

Is the release serious?

Yes, WIPP is not supposed to leak for 10,000 years.

 

Is the release a threat?

Elevated levels of radionuclides can always pose a threat. The primary threat of alpha-emitters like plutonium is inhalation. Inhalation of very small amounts of plutonium can cause cancer.

The Location A monitor was some 6750 feet from the assumed source of the release, Panel 7. (2000’ from Panel 7 to the bottom of the exhaust shafts + 2150’ to the surface + ½ mile (2600’) to the monitor) Did Location A pick up a representative sample of the release? Unlikely. There are too many variables to know if the Feb 15 sample from Location A was higher or lower than the main part of the release. But the results do show that any higher risk is more than likely localized.

The map shows the seven monitoring locations. I have always thought that this was not enough monitoring locations.

 

What about the plume maps floating around the internet?

One in particular is getting some attention.

Please remember that these maps represent one possible outcome of a group of inputs entered into a NOAA computer program. We don’t know the input parameters that were used, therefore we do not know what this map is based on. This is not an actual map of where any actual plutonium actually went.

Also please notice the units.

The yellow is “1.0E-13 mass/m3”.

That would be .000,000,000,000,1 of something per cubic meter.

The blue is “1.0E-16 mass/m3”

That would be .000,000,000,000,000,1 of something per cubic meter.

It’s not nothing, but it’s not much. I would like to see what this map is based upon. This does show how well computers can crunch numbers.

 

What about claims of nuclear salt water rocket explosions in the WIPP underground?

There is a website in HungaryThat has an alert

A grim “Of Special Importance” (highest classification level) report prepared by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) circulating in the Kremlin warned that the “potentially catastrophic nuclear event” currently unfolding at the US atomic Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico has prompted the White House to begin pre-staging government forces and equipment in the event a large-scale evacuation is needed, Whatdoesitmean.com reported.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to respond to Whatdoesitmean.com. There was no Rosatom/WIPP report. There are no nuclear salt-water rockets in the underground at WIPP, exploded or otherwise.

 

What to do?

In the short term let’s keep a critical ear open to the DOE story and separate out the spin. I’m waiting for the next batch of samples to be released to the public. WIPP has several proposals modify its permit in the works. Clearly, at this time, those all need to be put on hold until details of the exact cause of this accident are released to the public. The health and environmental impacts must be fully known and cleanup must be completed to everyone’s satisfaction.

The official WIPP page.

 

Budget Deal Mixed Bag for Nuclear Weapons Programs

Budget Deal Mixed Bag for Nuclear Weapons Programs

Planned Long-Term Trend Not Sustainable

 

Following December’s budget deal Congressional appropriators have completed a one trillion dollar omnibus appropriations bill for this fiscal year, expected to pass given that neither political party wants another shutdown. The federal government has been running on a Continuing Resolution since October 1, and the omnibus bill now provides funding levels for the entire fiscal year 2014. Concerning the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons programs, the appropriators made a slight cut to Obama’s requested $7.87 billion, funding “Total Weapons Activities” at $7.78 billion.

All of this, of course, takes place within a larger context. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a study entitled Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023. Its stunning conclusion is that maintenance and “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile, delivery systems, and research and production complex will cost $355 billion over the next decade. This is 70% higher than the figure the Obama Administration reported to Congress in May 2012.

As if this were not bad enough, the CBO also reports that costs after 2023 will increase yet more rapidly since “modernization” is only now beginning. The report does not attempt to project costs for maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces over the planned period of the next thirty years, but given current trends it will easily exceed one trillion dollars. This is simply not sustainable, given the nation’s continuing budget constraints.

The new omnibus appropriations bill has fully funded the most controversial program, the B61 nuclear bomb Life Extension Program (LEP), at the president’s request of $537 million. This overrode a proposed cut by Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations, a key subcommittee that Senator Tom Udall sits on. Udall vigorously opposed that cut, saying that he wanted to save a few hundred jobs in New Mexico.

The B61 LEP has exploded in costs from an original $4 billion dollars to $12 billion, including a program synchronized with the Pentagon to give the bomb a new tail fin guidance kit that would transform it into the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb. Its main mission is forward deployment in NATO countries, a relic of the Cold War, contradicting Obama’s rhetoric of lowering the presence of battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe.

But this is not a clear-cut victory for NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs. The appropriators cut funding for the B83 nuclear bomb that NNSA claims the B61 LEP will enable it to retire (leaving aside the fact that it was already planned for retirement). The appropriators made clear that they wanted to hold NNSA to its word.  Moreover, the appropriators demanded detailed reporting on major warhead refurbishments, which they applied retroactively to the B61 LEP, and cut the requested amount for the tail fin guidance kit in half. Finally, the fight over the B61 LEP will soon start all over again with the release of the proposed FY 2015 federal budget, expected in late February or early March.

So whereas the NNSA and the labs have won an ambiguous victory in the B61 LEP, the rest of the omnibus appropriations bill demonstrates how deeply troubled their nuclear weapons programs are. Foremost amongst these is a planned Life Extension Program for the W78 ICBM warhead, proposed to be “interoperable” with the W88 sub-launched warhead. This is the first of three proposed interoperable warheads, which the NNSA and labs want to use to transform both the nuclear weapons stockpile and the research and production complex that supports it, with requisite exorbitant appropriations to fund them. In a serious blow to this scheme, the appropriators funded only $38 million out of $72.69 million requested for paper studies. Although not yet officially reported, conventional wisdom in Washington, DC is that the Nuclear Weapons Council (composed of senior officials from both NNSA and the Pentagon) has already canceled the interoperable warhead.

The appropriators also require NNSA to submit a report by May 1 explaining the costs and benefits of stress testing plutonium pits at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. These radioactive nuclear weapons cores would have to be transported back and forth from the Los Alamos Lab. This is significant because Livermore’s continuing future in nuclear weapons programs is becoming increasingly questionable, given the failure of its flagship National Ignition Facility to initiate fusion, its loss of security status to handle large amounts of plutonium, and now the doubtful future of interoperable warheads, which it was banking on.

Concerning the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN, the appropriators provided $309 out of $325.8 million requested, but noted that it is an adjustment caused by the necessity to consider additional alternatives. The UPF has been under increasing fire after a half-billion dollar design mistake and a recent Pentagon estimate that it would cost $12 to $19 billion, up from $6 billion. Conspicuous in its absence is any mention of follow-on to the deferred plutonium facility at LANL (the “CMRR-Nuclear Facility”) whose mission is to expand plutonium pit production, or NNSA’s “alternative plutonium strategy.”

The appropriators also provided $343.5 million for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, adding to the $320 million requested. However, they directed NNSA to identify the root causes of cost increases and prioritize recommended solutions and corrective measures, showing that this program too is in serious jeopardy.

The appropriators funded $224.79 million for “cleanup” at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which primarily consists of removing radioactive transuranic wastes that were suppose to be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant a decade ago. In contrast, LANL is planning to “cap and cover” around one million cubic meters of radioactive and toxic wastes and backfill, creating a de facto permanent, unlined nuclear waste dump above groundwater and the Rio Grande.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers have won for now the battle over funding for the gold-plated B61 bomb Life Extension Program, but we look forward to the coming fight over next year’s budget. The rest of their plans are falling apart because they are so often their own worst enemy with constant cost overruns and lack of clear need. We are confident that given the trillion dollar cost for future nuclear weapons, subs, bombers, and missiles, the public will increasingly demand cleanup and related jobs, not more nuclear bombs.”

 

# # #

 

The omnibus appropriations bill can be viewed at http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20140113/113-HR3547-JSOM-D-F.pdf

The NNSA section begins at p. 34 or PDF p. 70.

 

 

Nukes Will Cost One Trillion over 30 Years; Cleanup, Job Creation Imperiled

Nuclear Weapons “Modernization” Will Cost One Trillion Dollars Over Thirty Years;

Locally, Los Alamos Lab Cleanup and Job Creation Are Imperiled

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released its study Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023. Its stunning conclusion is that estimated costs for maintenance and “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile, delivery systems, and research and production complex will total $355 billion over the next decade. This is 70% higher than the figure the Obama Administration reported to Congress in May 2012.

As if this were not bad enough, the CBO also reports that costs after 2023 will increase yet more rapidly since “modernization” is only now beginning. The report does not attempt to project costs for maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces over the planned period of the next thirty years, but given current trends it will easily exceed one trillion dollars.

Approximately two-thirds of the modernization costs will be for new submarines, bombers and missiles that could be operational for the rest of this century, contrary to the Obama Administration’s rhetoric of a future world free of nuclear weapons. The remaining third will be for the Department of Energy’s research and production complex, which includes the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia nuclear weapons labs.

While the American public at large is experiencing growing income inequality and limited economic opportunity, nuclear weapons contractors are experiencing increasing profits and decreasing federal oversight. The for-profit corporations running the labs, comprised of Lockheed Martin (the world’s biggest defense contractor), Bechtel, and the University of California, plan a never-ending cycle of exorbitantly expensive “Life Extension Programs.” These programs will not only extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons for decades, but also give them new military capabilities, contrary to declared U.S. international policy. Ironically, the contractors’ drive for profits may undermine national security, as confidence in our nuclear weapons could be eroded by planned massive changes to an extensively tested stockpile that has been proven to be reliable.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) had planned to “modernize” with a new facility to support expanded production of plutonium pit cores (or “primaries”) for nuclear weapons. Because of budget constraints, the Obama Administration decided to defer it in favor of the Uranium Processing Facility near Oak Ridge, TN, for production of nuclear weapons “secondaries.” The LANL plutonium project, known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR)-Nuclear Facility, had grown from an original estimate of $600 million to around $6 billion, for which it would not have created a single new permanent job (it would have merely relocating existing Lab jobs). But the Uranium Processing Facility has now grown from a similarly estimated $600 million to an astounding worse case $19 billion, in part due to a simple design error that cost a half-billion dollars just to correct on paper.

So-called nuclear weapons modernization at these costs is clearly not sustainable, especially when they create few if any new permanent jobs. Moreover, they exist for a product that must never be used (i.e. nuclear weapons). Therefore, they are of little economic benefit to society outside of the privileged enclaves that benefit from nuclear weapons research and production (for example, Los Alamos County is the second richest county out of 3,077 counties in the USA).

Funding for nuclear weapons modernization programs will rob taxpayers’ dollars for programs that local citizens really need. For example, the Los Alamos Lab plans to “cap and cover” its largest waste dump (called “Area G”), leaving up to one million cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes and backfill permanently buried in unlined pits and shafts. This will create a de facto permanent nuclear waste dump above the Rio Grande, and most importantly above a sole source groundwater aquifer that supplies 270,000 people in the arid Southwest.

The Cities of Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, oppose LANL’s plans to create a permanent nuclear waste dump, passing resolutions demanding full characterization of the wastes and offsite disposal. The resolutions note that, “full cleanup of Area G would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our precious groundwater and the Rio Grande while creating 100’s of high paying jobs for twenty years or more.” The costs for full cleanup of Area G would be about the same as four to five years’ worth of the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM Director, commented, “We simply can’t afford to squander precious taxpayers’ money on programs that enrich contractors while introducing radical changes to fully tested nuclear weapons. This may harm national security by undermining confidence in stockpile reliability. Instead, New Mexicans should demand that their elected officials invest taxpayers’ money in programs that create real security for citizens, such as creating jobs that protect diminishing water resources, rather than their habitual support for unneeded, mismanaged and exorbitantly expensive nuclear weapons programs.”

# # #

 The Congressional Budget Office report Projected Costs of Nuclear Forces 2014 -2023 is available at http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/12-19-2013-NuclearForces.pdf

The Santa Fe City press release announcing passage of its resolution opposing “cap and cover’ of Los Alamos Lab’s largest radioactive and toxic waste dump is available at http://www.santafenm.gov/news/detail/santa_fe_city_council_unanimously_passed_resolution

For a comparative estimate of cleaning up LANL’s Area G radioactive and toxic waste dump see http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Area_G_Comparison_Costs-11-14-12.pdf

For a history of successful citizen activism against expanded plutonium pit production see http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Pit-Production-History.pdf

Holiday Wishes and Urgent Appeal

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is almost broke. When we say it, we mean it- it’s not a figure of speech.
Too bad we’re not paid by merit; then we’d be rich. But support from foundations is steadily decreasing, as if there are more important things to fight against than nuclear weapons (which we don’t think there are). We’re left with no choice but to increasingly rely on citizens like you.

Why should you support us? Check out 25 years of NukeWatch achievements
There you will also see the unsung story of successful citizen activism against repeated government attempts to expand the production of plutonium pit cores, which has always been the choke point of resumed U.S. nuclear weapons production. This history is a critical part of the march toward a future world free of nuclear weapons.

We are most proud of our successful battles against the expanded production of plutonium pit cores for nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). NukeWatch has been central to beating back four successive attempts by the federal government to expand pit production, from a Cold-War-like level of 450 pits per year proposed a decade ago, to today when no pits are scheduled for manufacture.

This was no accident. It’s the result of sustained citizen activism, including beating back a new $6 billion plutonium facility at LANL. To keep stockpile production at zero will require strong future activism that will have to quash proposed “Life Extension Programs,” slated to cost something like 100 billion dollars over the next quarter-century.
They will not only indefinitely extend the life of existing nuclear weapons, but also give them new military capabilities, a shift which overtly contradicts declared U.S. international policy.

We advocate strongly for comprehensive cleanup at the Lab, a true win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting the Rio Grande and groundwater while creating 100’s of high-paying jobs. LANL wants to “cap and cover” nearly one million cubic meters of radioactive and toxic wastes and backfill, leaving it forever buried in unlined pits and shafts. To combat this, NukeWatch drafted a resolution adopted and passed by the Cities of Santa Fe and Taos that calls on the New Mexico Environment Department not to approve a de facto permanent nuclear waste dump at LANL. This resolution- which we hope other local governments will soon pass- instead calls for full characterization of the poorly recorded wastes, and their offsite disposal.

To support us, please send a check to “Nuclear Watch NM” at 903 W. Alameda, #325, Santa Fe, NM 87501.
Or donate by credit card on our donations page. All donations are tax deductible, and all are appreciated.

Thank you! We hope you and your loved ones have a great holiday season and new year.

P.S. Please forward this mail, using the link at the bottom of the page, to friends who may be interested- thanks!

Jay Coghlan,Executive Director

Scott Kovac, Operations Director

Nuclear Watch New Mexico
903 W. Alameda #325, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Voice and fax: 505.989.7342

Op ed on Area G resolution had outdated info

The op-ed below ran in the New Mexican yesterday (Sunday 12/8/13) .  It had some outdated information.

The first iteration of the draft City resolution on Area G cleanup called for reburial of low-level wastes in a modern landfill, while specifically calling for any high level and transuranic wastes to be disposed offsite. Most low-level wastes are  mixed with hazardous wastes, which legally would have to be disposed offsite. Unfortunately DOE has sole regulatory authority over “purely” radioactive low-level wastes.

The resolution has now gone through several iterations, and the final draft that will presented to the Council does not have reburial. See http://www.santafenm.gov/index.aspx?NID=2887
and scroll down.

Rather than being fast tracked this resolution has gone through 2 City committees and a 3rd today, before being presented to the full council on Wednesday.

FYI, two back-to-back events:

Wednesday, Dec. 11, 6:00-6:45 pm, Santa FePublic info session presented by Nuclear Watch NM and others (TBD) on Santa Fe City resolution calling for comprehensive cleanup of LANL’s largest radioactive waste dump (see below). First Presbyterian Church, 208 Grant Ave. From there we’ll walk two blocks to City Hall.

Wednesday, Dec. 11, 7:00 pm.

Santa Fe Santa Fe City Council hearing and public comment on a resolution introduced by Mayor Coss calling on LANL to examine alternatives to planned “cap and cover” of radioactive wastes at TA-54 Area G. This will be followed by the City Council’s yes or no vote to adopt. We are encouraging citizens to come and show their support for comprehensive cleanup of the Lab’s largest radioactive waste dump! Council Chambers, Santa Fe City Hall, 200 Lincoln Ave.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/reader-view-city-resolution-on-waste-doesn-t-do-enough/article_559a0ec0-1e7d-5239-b6b9-2e480eec11f6.html

Reader View: City resolution on waste doesn’t do enough

ShannYn Sollitt

 Posted: Saturday, December 7, 2013 7:00 pm

By ShannYn Sollitt | 0 comments

On Dec. 2, the Finance Committee of the Santa Fe City Council considered a resolution requesting a consideration of the alternatives to Los Alamos National Laboratory’s current plan to deal with their highly radioactive legacy nuclear waste by leaving it buried in illegal landfills.

The laboratory’s only plan is to leave it in place and cover it. The highly toxic waste dumps in Los Alamos at the top of the watershed are leaking deadly contaminants into the Rio Grande, directly upstream from the city’s new water source — posing serious health threats to Santa Feans.

Thank you, Mayor David Coss, for your awareness, concern and willingness to bring this issue to the forefront, and for your foresight and compassion for the future generations of our community. However, if the intent is to assure a secure and potable water supply for the coming generations, the resolution falls short.

It relies on a cleanup proposal to rebury the low-level, yet still highly radioactive, waste in lined landfills. This approach postpones the problem for the coming generations while solutions to remediate it are available and being utilized now. American scientists are currently effectively remediating the nuclear devastation of land around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

For 55 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory has known of the serious health threats presented by the seepage of radionuclides into the groundwater and has done nothing more than “study” the problem — costing taxpayers billions. Clearly, the laboratory scientists have neither the environmental intelligence nor the will to cope with this problem. Sadly, the resolution is being fast-tracked through the council before the members of the community with considered solutions have been given the opportunity to present their ideas.

The resolution will come before the full City Council on Wednesday. Please help us broaden the discourse by contacting the mayor. Concerned citizens are asking for a seat at the table to share views of the viable alternatives to protect our bioregion from the scourge of the nuclear industry.

ShannYn Sollitt is founder and director of NetWorks Productions, a nonprofit communication arts production company dedicated to creating and disseminating media designed to inspire a peaceful and sustainable world.

Mayor’s Resolution Makes Sense

Mayor’s Resolution Makes Sense

The article in today’s Santa Fe New Mexican(11/13/13) criticizing the proposed City of Santa Fe resolution is long on rhetoric and short on solutions. I appreciate that it may be a slow news day, but this article belongs in the Opinion Section, in my humble opinion…

The resolution calls on Los Alamos Lab to complete a thorough clean up of its wastes left over from the Cold War. How can that be a bad thing? The resolution is just one of Mayor Coss’ efforts to address the economic and environmental issues facing Santa Fe. It works in conjunction with economic development because the waste must be dealt with and it will provide jobs into the future. The Mayor’s efforts for increasing spending at the Lab have been focused on obtaining much-needed cleanup dollars, not expanding the nuclear weapons production budgets.

The article claims that “other non-lethal waste that has been used since the mid 1940s has been buried and capped on LANL property.” It sounds like there is no problem. The term ‘non-lethal’ is misleading, and not really a term used to describe the millions of cubic meters of radiological and hazardous wastes in the ground around Los Alamos. Granted, much of the low-level radioactive wastes and solvents are in less dangerous concentrations, but there are buried radioactive wastes that will have to be remotely handled by robots when they are removed.

The resolution uses an example of the recent cleanup of Materials Disposal Area B that was accomplished using Stimulus Dollars. MDA B at LANL was excavated, characterized and the wastes were shipped to different sites. During cleanup at the Fernald site in Ohio, higher-level wastes were shipped off-site and the low-level waste was replaced on-site in modern landfills with monitoring wells. The resolution shares elements of these real-life completed cleanups. It is easy to criticize while not having one’s own plan. The criticism seems to imply that no action is needed.

Not every resolution can address every issue at LANL. But a resolution that proposes a better cleanup plan that will protect our drinking water and land, protect New Mexicans, and provide jobs is neither  “hypocritical” nor “propaganda.”

I invite alternative clean up proposals to be put on the table for discussion.

Santa Fe Mayor Calls to Not Allow the Creation of a Permanent Nuclear Waste Dump at Los Alamos

Santa Fe Mayor Calls to Not Allow the Creation of a Permanent Nuclear Waste Dump at Los Alamos

Santa Fe, NM – Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauds the demand by the Mayor of Santa Fe that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) not rule out alternatives to their so-called “cleanup” plan for Area G, the Lab’s largest radioactive waste dump. LANL plans to “cap and cover” and permanently leave one million cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes buried forever.

Mayor David Coss will ask the Santa Fe City Council to approve his resolution to seek real cleanup alternatives at their December 11th meeting. Mayor Coss is also chairman of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities that lobbies Congress for increased Lab funding. Yesterday he introduced his resolution to the Regional Coalition as well.

LANL is relying on their own outrageous estimate of $29 billion for removal of the waste at Area G as a rationale to leave the waste in place. Nuclear Watch has performed a cost comparison that compares the Lab’s estimate on a recent cleanup actually performed by the Lab and also to another Laboratory estimate. Our cost comparison shows that removal of the waste could actually cost less than $6 billion. The Lab’s preference is to cap and cover and leave the waste in place at Area G.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Program Director, commented, “LANL should quit playing games that cap and cover somehow represents genuine cleanup. For the same price as 5 years’ worth of nuclear weapons work that caused this mess to begin with, Area G could be fully cleaned up. I echo the Mayor’s words that this could be a real win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting groundwater and the Rio Grande while creating hundreds of long-term high-paying jobs. I call on other local governments and everyone to pick up the Santa Fe Mayor’s challenge.”

# # #

Read the Santa Fe Mayor’s press release
Read the Santa Fe City Resolution
Read Nuclear Watch’s cost comparison here and Area G fact sheet

Ex-Congresswoman Heather Wilson paid by nuclear weapons labs the day after she leaves office

Heather Wilson Finalized Contract with Sandia Labs While in Congress;

Payments Started the First Day She Left Congress;

Wilson Should Resign from Council Determining Labs’ Futures

 

Santa Fe, NM  – Today, The Albuquerque Journal reported that former Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R. – New Mexico) finalized her first contract with the Sandia National Laboratories on December 19, 2008, while she was still representing the district that includes that nuclear weapons facility. Moreover, her first invoice documents that she began to be paid $10,000 a month for “Consultant/Advisory Services” that had no written work requirements on January 4, 2009, her very first day out of office. A few months later she was also being paid $10,000 a month by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for a similar contract.

The Albuquerque Journal article builds upon a Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General investigation, which determined that the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs had made approximately $450,000 in improper payments to Wilson up until March 2011, when she began to campaign for the Senate. The DOE IG report said that the facts indicate that federal funds were used for prohibited lobbying activities, which that office is still investigating. The Labs were forced to return that money to the government, but not Wilson.

The Albuquerque Journal received the new information concerning the dates of Wilson’s contract with Sandia from Nuclear Watch New Mexico. The watchdog organization obtained the documents by appealing an initially rejected federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

During her unsuccessful 2012 Senate campaign Wilson repeatedly attacked her opponent Martin Heinrich for not supporting the labs strongly enough. In particular, while invoking a jobs argument, she repeatedly criticized the Obama Administration for delaying a controversial facility at LANL for expanded production of plutonium pit cores for nuclear weapons. However, despite its estimated $6 billion cost to the taxpayer, the government’s own documents clearly disclosed that the facility would not create a single new permanent job because it would merely relocate existing Lab jobs. In contrast, during her entire Senate campaign, Wilson did not disclose the full extent of her financial ties to the nuclear weapons labs.

In February 2013, House Speaker John Boehner appointed Wilson to a congressional advisory council that will recommend how the nuclear weapons laboratories should be managed and operated in the future. Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Heather Wilson should resign from this advisory council immediately because of her clear conflict-of interest. If she does not step down voluntarily, congressional leaders must replace her.”

“Other Members of Congress should take heed of Heather Wilson’s highly questionable ethical behavior,” Coghlan continued. “They should remember that they were elected to represent their constituents, not the for-profit corporations running the labs. Our politicians should avoid even the appearance of favoring the interests of the nuclear weapons labs above the public’s best interests, which Wilson so clearly failed to do.”

# # #

Ex-Congresswoman Wilson’s contract with Sandia and invoices obtained through Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Freedom of Information Act request are available at

http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/HeatherWilson-Sandia contract-invoices.pdf

The Nov. 3, 2013 Albuquerque Journal article From Congress to contract: Heather Wilson says 10K per month Sandia Labs deal met ethics rules is available at

http://www.abqjournal.com/293472/news/from-congress-to-contract.html

(a paid subscription is necessary for the full article).

The June 2013 DOE IG Report Concerns with Consulting Contract Administration at Various Department Sites (DOE/IG-0889) that focuses on Heather Wilson’s contracts with the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories is available at http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/inspection-report-doeig-0889

 

903 W. Alameda #325, Santa Fe, NM 87501 • Voice and fax: 505.989.7342

info@nukewatch.org • www.nukewatch.org • http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/

http://www.facebook.com/NukeWatch.NM

 

The New Mexican’s sycophantic reporting on the Los Alamos Lab

The New Mexican has just published “New ideas, technologies from LANL could boost region’s economy” on how the Lab wants to “rebrand” itself.  I posted the following response on the newspaper’s web site:

 

This is more of The New Mexican’s sycophantic reporting on the Los Alamos Lab. It’s a long tradition, going back to the early 1990’s when the newspaper’s previous owner (and ex-member of the Department of Energy’s predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission) fired two reporters who wrote the groundbreaking series “Fouling the Nest” critical of the Lab. Further, he paid off his managing editor to stay quiet about it. Nevertheless, the Columbia University School of Journalism wrote a scathing review on the whole affair decrying “the nuclear meltdown at The New Mexican.”

Or how about in the same period of time when The New Mexican wrote a glowing editorial praising the executive summary of a 1992 LANL Strategic Plan that crowed about the potential for regional economic development through tech transfer from the Lab (sound familiar?).

There were only two problems: 1) those “Cooperative Research and Development Agreements” between LANL and the private sector never did produce significant local economic development; and 2) the Lab had bamboozled The New Mexican because the main body of its 1992 Strategic Plan explicitly said that nuclear weapons are and always will be the LANL’s “raison d’etre.” That remains true to this day, when just under 2/3’s of the Lab’s budget is for core nuclear weapons research, testing and production programs. Moreover, the for–profit corporation (including war-profiteer Bechtel and the University of California) running LANL plans on a never ending cycle of “Life Extension Programs” that will extend the service lives of nuclear weapons for decades while giving them new military capabilities.

This article’s implied claim that the labs’ national security missions are significantly moving away from nuclear weapons is baloney. In addition, show me the money that will make this pipedream of regional economic development through Lab tech transfer happen (especially when it has failed before). It won’t come from the federal government in this fiscal environment, and the quote that “you’d see private investments pouring in” is empty economic propaganda.

Business at LANL makes no sense because doing business at LANL simply costs too much, when each program dollar also costs an overhead dollar (which historically has been used in part to subsidize nuclear weapons programs). And the examples cited, partnerships with oversized corporations such as Chevron and Proctor and Gamble, please show me what that has done for Main Street Española.

Maybe one of these days the New Mexican could again do some groundbreaking critical investigative reporting on the Lab without firing its reporters. I look forward to that day.

 

Comments on House Armed Services Hearing on the B61 Life Extension Program

House Armed Services Hearing on the B61 Life Extension Program 

October 29, 2013

As expected, this was a rah rah session for the B61 Life Extension Program. My opposing comments are mostly in response to the testimonies of witnesses. Their prepared statements are available at

http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/hearings-display?ContentRecord_id=a186ee67-acf8-45fd-9364-f907f967c1d3&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=41030bc2-0d05-4138-841f-90b0fbaa0f88&MonthDisplay=10&YearDisplay=2013

Unless otherwise indicated the quotes herein are from their prepared statements.

Two background notes:

Cost: The estimated weight of individual B61 bombs is ~700 lbs. Gold is currentlly priced at $1,353 per troy ounce. Up to 500 B61s will be refurbished, costing ~$11.8 billion (including DoD tail fin kit). Therefore each bomb will cost more than twice its weight in gold.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) proposes a “3+2” strategy for the future stockpile of three ballistic missile warheads and two air-delivered warheads (one gravity bomb and one air-launched cruise missile warhead). All four witnesses claimed the 3+2 strategy will lead to stockpile reductions. However, a comparison of NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (in which the 3+2 strategy is first introduced) to previous years’ plans shows no further reductions to the stockpile than what is already incrementally planned. Despite their testimony there is no demonstrable link between 3+2 and stockpile reductions. In fact stockpile size may be bumped up while keeping old warheads as a hedge while seeing how the new warheads work out.

 

Donald Cook, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration

Cook touted the virtues of “interoperable” warheads, the first on deck being for the Air Force’s W78 ICBM warhead and the Navy’s sub-launched W88 warhead. However, a recent GAO report has noted that “the Navy has not fully engaged in the effort because (1) other, ongoing modernization programs are higher Navy priorities, and (2) it has concerns about changing the design of the warhead.” [1] This understates the Navy’s concerns, when the service actually seems very skeptical about so-called interoperable warheads. The Navy’s lack of keen endorsement can be enough to kill this concept, especially in combination with inevitably exorbitant costs.

“…let me be clear that the resulting decision supported the lowest cost option that meets threshold military requirements.” With that Cook is pushing back against the Senate Appropriations Committee, which cut $168 million from the Obama Administration’s FY 2014 request of $537 million for the B61 LEP, while stating:

 The Committee is concerned that NNSA’s proposed scope of work for extending the life of the B61 bomb is not the lowest cost, lowest risk option that meets military requirements and replaces aging components before they affect weapon performance. [2]

The question of military requirements is key, and whether that may be synonymous with new military capabilities. NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs chose Option 3b for the B61 LEP. As Cook testified, “…Option 3B architecture allows for consolidation of existing B61 variants (B61-3/4/7/10) with the integration of an Air Force provided tail kit assembly.” That tailfin kit will dramatically increase targeting accuracy, functionally melding tactical and strategic variants. The NNSA LEP itself will transform a dumb analogue bomb into a digital nuclear “smart” bomb for delivery by future super stealthy aircraft (the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter). In my view, this combination clearly creates new military capabilities.

Senate Appropriations favors Option 1E, a non-nuclear LEP. The difference in House and Senate funding levels represents a struggle over new military capabilities or not.

Cook stated that sequester cuts made the B61 LEP slip 6 months, so NNSA added $244 million to “management reserve” to offset potential increased costs and risks.

“The B61-12 LEP is making great progress. We are in the second year of full scale engineering development. The program has met its development milestones, it is on schedule and it is on budget.”  That is laughable. On budget? Really?

“…cascading effect on the integrated schedule of LEP work….” The likely failure of the B61 LEP will have cascading impact on subsequent LEPs.

“Sustained support for the completion of the B61-12 will enable the retirement of the B83…”  Not so, the B83 was already planned for retirement (B83-0s are already being dismantled as per the Pantex Ten-Year Site Plan). The proof is the absence of any proposed LEP for the B83-1 in NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan.

Right at the end of Q&A Cook made the outrageous statement that to descope the LEP and do anything else would cost more than the LEP itself. He gave no supporting evidence or justification for that.

 

Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, Department of Defense

She said 3+2 will save money. Where is the proof? The track record suggests otherwise. Simple maintenance (“curatorship”) is what would save money while not risking reliability through major changes.

 

General C. Robert Kehler, USAF Commander, US Strategic Command

“Through a series of synchronized life extension programs like the B61-12, we plan to improve confidence in the reliability, safety and intrinsic security of our nuclear weapons.” To the contrary, introducing major changes that can’t be tested to a stockpile that has been extensively tested could be exactly what undermines confidence in reliability.

 

Paul Hommert, Sandia Labs Director

Bear in mind that Hommert wears two hats: the first as Sandia Labs Director, the second as president of the executive board of the for-profit limited liability corporation that runs Sandia. Sandia Corporation, LLC stands to make a lot of money off of perpetual Life Extension Programs.

“…it is our technical judgment that we must complete the life extension program currently being executed.” Ditto to the above.


[1]     “ICBM Modernization: Approaches to Basing Options and Interoperable Warhead Designs Need Better Planning and Synchronization,” GAO-13-831, Sep 20, 2013.

[2]       Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, 2014, June 27, 2013, Senate Report 113–47, page 102.

LANL Finds a Way to Very Efficiently Waste $400,000

LANL Finds a Way to Very Efficiently Waste $400,000

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released an Audit Report on “The Department’s Fleet Vehicle Sustainability Initiatives at Selected Locations”. One of the locations investigated was Los Alamos National Laboratory.  The report states that LANL leased 522 flex-fuel vehicles that were routinely fueled with regular gasoline instead of alternative fuels such as E-85. Sadly, DOE paid a premium of about $427,900 to acquire these flex-fuel vehicles rather than purchasing conventionally-fueled vehicles. (The report stated that $700,000 was spent for 854 flex-fuel vehicles, which was for 522 at LANL and 332 at Bonneville. I had use a simple ratio to arrive at the $427,900 average split for LANL because the DOE IG would not give the actual breakouts.)

By acquiring flex-fuel vehicles but continuing to fuel these vehicles with petroleum at LANL and Bonneville, the Department is not maximizing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. DOE  paid at least $427,900 for flex-fuel vehicles at LANL; however, failed to obtain the environmental benefits or further Departmental goals of increasing alternative fuel use and reducing petroleum use.

As of September 2012, LANL’s overall fleet had decreased by 9 vehicles, while the number of flex-fuel vehicles had grown to 587. According to LANL officials, LANL used a tanker truck to bring fuel to LANL to fill approximately 65 security vehicles with ethanol fuel. The tanker truck operated approximately 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, and the weekly labor costs to operate the truck were $1,200. Additionally, LANL spent $3,760 on maintenance and repair of the truck in calendar year 2012. The total cost of maintaining and operating the truck, excluding fuel costs, was approximately $66,000 for calendar year 2012. But this tanker truck, or one like it was never used for the regular flex-fuel vehicles.

In addition, the Lab had trouble letting go of unneeded vehicles. LANL retained about 25 percent of their fleets (269) and other mobile equipment even though they did not meet minimum utilization standards. Despite retaining underutilized vehicles, LANL actually increased its inventory of other motorized equipment (small motorized equipment not suitable for use on public roadways).

To be considered fully utilized at LANL, a vehicle must travel an average of 205 miles per month or make 6 trips per working day. According to documents provided by LANL officials, a utilization rate of less than 93 percent, meaning that less than 93 percent of fleet vehicles meet these utilization standards, is considered “unsatisfactory.” During FYs 2009 through 2011, LANL’s utilization rate was between 75 and 77 percent. For example, in FY 2011, LANL had a utilization rate of 76 percent meaning that 269 of 1,115 vehicles, or approximately 24 percent, were retained even though those vehicles did not meet the local utilization objectives.

LANL submitted written justification for retaining only 35 of the 269 underutilized vehicles. However, some of the justifications were very vague and did not sufficiently explain why the user needed to retain the vehicles instead of downsizing their fleet. One justification for retaining two underutilized vehicles stated, “because of the amount of employees and locations of employees, they would like to keep both vehicles. The plan is to switch them every 6 months to make sure we put enough mileage on both vehicles.” When addressing underutilized vehicles, the DOE IG noted the emphasis was often on increasing utilization as opposed to downsizing the fleet and, therefore, reducing costs. In regard to eight other underutilized vehicles, the justification stated, “all managers have devised a plan to increase the utilization of their vehicles and do not plan to turn any in at this time.”

Managing a fleet of vehicles is not rocket science. Hopefully this wasted money will be reimbursed by the operating contractor.

 

Each B61 nuclear warhead will cost ten times W76 warhead to refurbish

The over budget costs of near everything that the National Nuclear Security Administration touches is growing increasingly controversial. Of particular interest now is the Life Extension Program for some 400 B61 nuclear bombs. That program was originally going to cost $4 billion, but is now estimated at  ~$10.4 billion. At this point each 700 lb. bomb will cost more than twice its weight in gold. And this doesn’t include original production costs and ongoing support costs since they were first produced in the late 1960’s (which under “Stockpile Systems” is currently ~$80 million annually). And of course it doesn’t include the cost of the bombers over the years that were designed to deliver them.

In lockstep with NNSA’s Life Extension Program, a synchronized Pentagon program will provide new tail fin guidance kits that will transform the B61 into the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb, for delivery by future super stealthy (and exorbitantly expensive) F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. That clearly constitutes new military capabilities, despite policy declarations at the highest levels of government (for example at the 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference) that the U.S. would never endow existing nuclear weapons with new military capabilities. An unarmed prototype of the refurbished bomb, designated the B61-12, is to be “flight tested” and dropped with the new tail fin kit in this FY 2014.

Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists recently made available an August 2012 JASON Report on the B61 Life Extension Program while providing his own excellent analysis http://allthingsnuclear.org/jason-on-the-b61/ [The JASONs are pretigious scientists periodically consulted with by the government on nuclear weapons issues.] Among their findings the JASONs reported “In implementing important and desirable, but not essential, elements in the 3B program [the 2nd most expensive B61 LEP option picked by the NNSA], there should be a clear understanding of their cost and impact on the schedule. These elements should be prioritized in the event that unanticipated program delays or cost overruns are encountered that could threaten meeting the FPU [first production unit] deadline.” The JASONs also noted “the Pentagon’s already strongly expressed displeasure at the inability to complete the W76 as scheduled.”

The W76 is one of two warheads for the Navy’s sub-launched Trident missiles, and is the single most common nuclear warhead in the U.S. stockpile. This got me wondering how much the W76 Life Extension Programs will cost, which I tracked down as follows:

In millions of dollars

Original appropriation         NNSA data source     Inflation adjustment

2003     $72                    FY 2005 budget request              $91.52

2004   $139                     FY 2006 budget request           $172.10

2005   $181                     FY 2006 budget request           $216.75

2006   $182                     FY 2008 budget request          $211.14

2007   $152                     FY 2008 budget request          $171.45

2008   $190                     FY 2010 budget request          $206.39

2009   $203                     FY 2010 budget request          $221.30

2010   $232                      FY 2012 budget request         $248.83

2011   $249                      FY 2012 budget request         $258.89

2012   $254                      FY 2012 budget request         $258.74

2013   $198                      FY 2014 budget request          $198

2014   $235                      FY 2014 budget request          $235

2015   $242               Future Years Nuclear Security Plan in NNSA’s FY 14 request

2016   $237                          ditto                                     $237

2017   $235                          ditto                                     $235

2018   $230                         ditto                                      $230

2019   $200               NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan

2020     $60                         ditto                                        $60

Total (adjusted for inflation)                                            $3.694 billion

The number of W76’s to be refurbished is classified, but is believed to be around 1,600. [In 2007 Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists estimated ~2,000 (http://blogs.fas.org/security/2007/08/us_tripples_submarine_warhead/), but told me that number has since been scaled down.] Using 1,600, then each W76 warhead will cost ~$2.31 million to refurbish. This is in contrast to the B61, more than ten times that at $26 million per warhead ($10.4 billion/400), or more than twice its weigh in gold.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has cut the NNSA’s FY 2014 budget request of $537 million for the B61 LEP (that request is a 45% increase above FY 2013) by $168 million. Its report said:

The Committee is concerned that NNSA’s proposed scope of work for extending the life of the B61 bomb is not the lowest cost, lowest risk option that meets military requirements and replaces aging components before they affect weapon performance.

According to the budget figures that I have compiled the W76 LEP is a 17-year program start to finish. In its FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan NNSA claims that the much more complex (and hence much more expensive) B61 LEP will be completed in 10 years by 2024. Granted we’re talking about 4 times fewer nuclear weapons being refurbished, but the work is much more aggressive and involves 100’s of parts, all of which cannot be full-scale tested as a weapon (thank God!). And NNSA’s track record of staying on budget and on schedule is becoming a matter of scorn even amongst congressional staff.

The take away lesson is that NNSA and the labs should simplify. For the sake of stockpile maintenance limited life components such as neutron generators and tritium reservoirs should be replaced as needed, which is a near routine practice, and perhaps the B61’s radar needs replacement as well (which NNSA is fond of pointing out uses old style vacuum tubes). All of that would bring the costs down somewhere along the lines of the W76 LEP. It would also be better aligned with declared nonproliferation policy by not introducing new military capabilities, and better align with national security concerns by not possibly eroding confidence in stockpile reliability through major changes that can’t be full-scale tested. In addition, Congress should require NNSA to disclose in its budget requests annual costs per warhead type, as once was the practice, so that the public can be fully appreciate just how much each warhead costs for arguably archaic missions.

Finally, New Mexico’s Tom Udall sits on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee. He opposed the cut to the B61 LEP, among other things saying that he wanted to save 200 in-state jobs. That is no way to formulate nuclear weapons policy, especially given that the B61 Life Extension Program far exceeds mere maintenance. Tom Udall should support his own committee’s cut.

 

The B61 Life Extension Program is in increasing trouble

A well-placed source says the B61 Life Extension Program is in increasing trouble because:

•    In the just ended Fiscal year 2013 the sequester caused a $30 million cut to the program, resulting in a 6 month slip to the schedule and therefore added $230 million to the total cost of the program. [My comment: only in government can you cut 10’s of millions and end up adding 100’s of millions.]

•    If the current government shut down lasts more than 2 weeks, B61 activities will be curtailed, causing additional delays and therefore increasing costs.

•    Regardless of the present difference in House and Senate appropriations, the B61 LEP faces a $60 million cut in FY 2014 from sequestration and management efficiencies that cut 5% from the needed budget request.

•    Under the Continuing Resolution, since nuclear weapons activities did not get an anomaly, the B61 program cannot spend beyond FY 13 levels because of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

•    At this point an omnibus appropriations bill is unlikely. But if House and Senate Appropriations were to go to conference (which is also unlikely) then there will be a battle over the different levels of funding for the B61 LEP.

•    There is already infighting within the Air Force about the future of the B61 and whether the cruise missile is more important to them. [My comment: this point is completely new to me and strikes as very exploitable, roughly analogous to the Navy’s fiscal predicament of new strategic subs vs. the rest of its fleet.]

•    As a subset to the point above, there is some talk about making the B61-12 the warhead for the new cruise missile, but that is very preliminary and wishful thinking. The B61 is not well suited for the environmental conditions and loads of a cruise missile and there needs to be sufficient diversity in the stockpile — you can’t make everything a B61.

The bottom line is that given opposition from both Senate Energy and Water and Defense Appropriations, which zeroed out the tail kit for the B61, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Defense may be finally realizing that they need to find alternatives to the full B61 Life Extension Program.

 

Audit Cites Lack of Contractor Integration For Delay in Reestablishing Criticality Capability

The Oct 2013 Department of Energy Inspector General (DOE IG) audit report “The Resumption of Criticality Experiments Facility Operations at the Nevada National Security Site” informs us that a move from Technical Area 18 (TA-18) at Los Alamos to the Nevada National Security Site, like many other DOE projects, is taking longer than planned. The report didn’t mention it but it, but the move is, no doubt, costing us more, too.

The move centers on relocating four criticality assemblies. Criticality experiments use “assemblies” of enriched uranium and/or plutonium to create self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions. These assemblies differ from nuclear reactors in that the nuclear reaction is not sustained (assuming there are no accidents). Another significant difference is that the critical assemblies have no containment or shielding.

A DOE fact sheet tells us that:

[National Criticality Experiments Research Center] NCERC contains the largest collection of nuclear critical mass assembly machines in the western hemisphere. These assemblies can be broadly categorized as benchmark critical assemblies, general-purpose assemblies, and fast- burst assemblies that were designed to accommodate a broad range of experiments. Godiva is a bare metal uranium fast burst assembly designed to provide an intense burst of neutrons during an extremely short pulse. Flattop is a unique fast-spectrum assembly used for cross section testing and training. Planet and Comet are general purpose vertical assembly machines that are designed to accommodate experiments in which neutron multiplication is measured as a function of separation distance between experimental components. Fuel materials include uranium, plutonium, and neptunium.

Clearly, safety and careful planning would be of the utmost importance with these operations, which include conducting nuclear criticality experiments along with hands-on, criticality safety, and emergency response training.

The fact sheet gives the reason for the move as, “As a result of the extensive inventory of SNM and the resulting requirements for physical security and operational safety, it was decided to relocate…”

The DOE IG report also explains that criticality experiments at Los Alamos were halted and moved to Nevada “Citing safety and security concerns in 2004…”

But both of these accounts leave out some interesting history. A Project On Government Oversight (POGO) article gives an account of a security training exercise at TA-18 at Los Alamos –

In 1997, a special unit of the U.S. Army Special Forces was the adversary during a force-on-force exercise. The normal theft scenario is to “steal” enough SNM for a crude nuclear weapon that would fit in rucksacks. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, this exercise required that they “steal” more HEU than a person can carry. Not to be outmaneuvered, the Army Special Forces commandos went to Home Depot and bought a garden cart. They attacked TA-18, loaded the garden cart with nuclear materials, and left the facility. “[T]he invaders reached the simulated objective of the game: enough nuclear material to make an atom bomb.”

And they did so with relative ease. As the Wall Street Journal reported,

“The Garden Cart attackers. . .used snipers hidden in the hills to “kill” the first guards [protective forces] who arrived. Because they happened to be the commanders of the guard force, the rest of the force was thrown into disarray. Many of them also were “killed” as they arrived in small groups down a narrow road leading to TA-18. ‘[The Special Forces] took them out piecemeal as they came in,’ says one participant in the game, whose account wasn’t challenged by DOE or lab officials.”

As the Wall Street Journal further noted, “The 1997 mock invasion succeeded despite months of guard [protective forces] training and dozens of computerized battle simulations showing that newly beefed-up defenders of the facility would win.”

In April 2000, then DOE Secretary Bill Richardson ordered that TA-18 be shut down and all the nuclear materials be completely removed by 2004. So instead of completing the move the 2004, DOE and Los Alamos Lab had only started the move by 2004. Nuclear Watch NM voiced our concerns many times, including when we learned that a Federal Safety Board concluded fatal doses were possible if there was an accident.

As far as operational safety goes, neither the fact sheet nor the DOE IG Report mentioned that TA-18 was intentionally located at the bottom of Parajito Canyon so that the 200-foot canyon walls could provide some natural radiation shielding. This meant that TA-18, with its estimated three tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, sat in a flood plain.

The results of the DOE IG audit states that many of the former capabilities of the were restored in Nevada. However, several problems resulted in delays in restoring the full array of experimental capabilities. NNSA was unable to authorize operations until May 2011, approximately 1 year after the planned date. The program experienced further delays in the start-up activities of each criticality machine, with completion of all planned startup activities for one machine delayed about 2 years.
DOE has not been able to restore full capability to perform plutonium-based criticality experiments.

The Report results state that delays occurred because contractors had not developed adequate procedures for correcting concerns identified during the process to authorize the start-ups. Also, procured safety equipment did not meet standards. Additionally, the Report claimed that DOE had not ensured effective management of the multiple contractors involved and had struggled to successfully integrate and resolve issues between the multiple contractors. Which is odd, because there were only four contractors mentioned in the report – Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Security Technology, LLC, Wackenhut Services International. Exactly what Wackenhut (which provides security, fire rescue and aviation services) did for the move was not stated.

We do appreciate the focus on safety, but if these operations are so important, DOE must emphasize completing the job to avoid wasting any more taxpayers’ money. Once again the Department of Energy proves that its contractors cannot juggle safety, schedule, and cost without dropping as least two. And apparently DOE has trouble efficiently juggling contractors, which is too bad because contractors attempt to perform over 90% of DOE’s work.

LANL Community Support Is Contract Requirement

LANL Community Support Is Contract Requirement

A recent press release from Los Alamos National Laboratory stated that the LANL “Board of Governors last week approved a $3.1 million extension to the company’s plan supporting education, economic development and charitable giving in Northern New Mexico.”

This, like most LANL statements, could use a little decoding.

1. The Lab’s contract with DOE requires community support. The LANL Conformed Contract (Conformed to Mod 215, 01/25/2013) tells us:

H-24 NNSA AND CONTRACTOR COMMUNITY COMMITMENTS
(a) The Contractor shall perform the activities described in the Contract’s Section J Appendices entitled “Regional Initiatives”, “Regional Purchasing Program” and “Technology Commercialization”, which sets forth the NNSA’s commitments to support the community…
(b) The Contract’s Section J Appendix entitled “Contractor and Parent Organization Commitments, Agreements, and Understandings” sets forth the Contractor’s Community Commitment plan that describes its planned activities as to how the Contractor will be a constructive partner to the communities in northern New Mexico, the eight northern pueblos, and to citizens of the State of New Mexico who should all benefit from the Contractor’s management and operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory…

2. For 2014, the Press release states the Plan will provide “$1 million for economic development such as financial and technical assistance to start and grow regional businesses. ” However, the contract states that the Lab receives a $1.8 million tax credit (per year) from the State of New Mexico for providing technical services assistance to small business. It is unclear to us what the Lab does with the other $.8 million.

4. The Press release continues that the Plan will provide “$1.1 million for educational programs and scholarships for New Mexico students and teachers as well as workforce development programs.” One of the scholarship programs that the Lab provides is the Out-of-State Tuition and Fee Waiver program. The contract explains that this program is for any LANS “full-time active employee and/or dependent who is accepted to any University of California undergraduate or graduate program. Based on the past 3 years of data, approximately 100 students will take advantage of this program annually. Out-of-state tuition and fee waiver represents a savings of $17,000 per student each year” or $1.7 million annually.

5. For meeting its community giving contract requirements, the then Lab receives an award fee on top of the regular payments. LANL’s FY 2012 Performance Evaluation Report does not give the public the exact breakout, but we know that Performance Based Initiative 11 (PBI 11: Excellence in Business and Institutional Management), which includes community giving, earned the Lab an additional $3,656,808 for 2012.

6. Not mentioned in the press release was one of the biggest gives, which is to Los Alamos Public Schools. The contract states, “The primary management and operations contractor shall provide $8.0 million in each fiscal year to the Los Alamos Public School District to support public elementary and secondary education.”

Plutonium-238 needs should be met through accelerated nuclear weapons dismantlements

Wired Magazine’s alarmist article NASA’s Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration argues that virgin production of plutonium-238 in nuclear reactors is needed, or U.S. space exploration is dead. Instead the nation’s future Pu-238 needs should be met through accelerated nuclear weapons dismantlements and recycling/scrap recovery efforts.

Processing and encapsulation of Pu-238 currently takes place at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. [Having said that, all plutonium operations at the Lab have been shut down since the end of June because of nuclear criticality safety issues, which is a story in and of itself]. A Pu-238 scrap recovery line capable of recovering 2-8 kilograms per year was slated to start in 2005, but apparently has never become fully operational. In fact, LANL claimed in a 2008 site-wide environmental impact statement that it was capable of recycling/recovering up to 18 kilograms of Pu-238 per year, far more than needed to take care of the nation’s needs.

LANL has a large existing inventory of Pu-238 scrap material. Moreover, the Pantex Plant was supposed to ship radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) from dismantled nuclear weapons to the Lab to harvest Pu-238. That hasn’t happened either, we conjecture because the LANL’s scrap recovery line hasn’t been properly working (or perhaps never really started in the Lab’s troubled Plutonium Facility-4). Indeed, the government estimated that approximately 3,200 RTGs would become available for recycling between 2009 and 2022 through nuclear weapons dismantlements. Significantly, increased dismantlements could also supply sufficient recycled tritium for existing nuclear weapons instead of current military production in civilian reactors, a big nonproliferation no-no. But unfortunately dismantlements at the Pantex Plant are substantially blocked by exorbitant “Life Extension Programs” that extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons by three decades or more while giving them new military capabilities.

Before the U.S. resumes virgin Pu-238 production, the government should make LANL straighten out its Pu-238 recovery operations. Safely that is, because Pu-238 is a very energetic gamma emitter and therefore very dangerous to handle. But the nation’s future Pu-238 needs should be met through accelerated nuclear weapons dismantlements (instead of Life Extension Programs) and recycling/scrap recovery efforts, not new virgin production in nuclear reactors.

 

Abolish NNSA, but increase federal oversight and independent review

The Albuquerque Journal ran a really good editorial on Tuesday, September 17:

 

Editorial: Time past for coddling bloated nuclear agency

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board |

 It’s big government on steroids.

 The National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, is tasked with securing and maintaining the nation’s nuclear arsenal. It oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

For years the agency’s MO has included expectations of nearly automatic budget increases, bloated projects that are never finished, duplicative red tape and a bureaucracy that resists efforts to rein it in.

Critics say it has become a massive jobs program.

Ten of its major projects are collectively over budget to the tune of $16 billion and behind schedule by 38 years, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. For instance, at LANL a new $213 million security system to protect sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn’t work. So, taxpayers are being asked to lay out an additional $41 million to fix it.

The chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee that oversees finances and contracts largely blames the agency’s reliance on private contractors – more than 92,000. LANL and Sandia are operated by private contractors, LANL by a consortium led by Bechtel, and Sandia by Lockheed Martin.

Former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine told Congress this spring that accountability and internal structure problems pose a national security risk. And there’s no doubt NNSA’s work is critical to U.S. national security, but taxpayers also are tired of watching their money being thrown at an insatiable beast that too often fails to deliver results.

As long as the NNSA remains impervious to calls for improving its culture and tightening up its accountability, the inefficiencies and waste will keep coming.

A congressionally appointed panel recently began studying whether to overhaul the agency. (Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman had said he was open to just getting rid of it.) Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the review is a chance to “have this dialogue and reach a conclusion.”

It’s way past time for that talk. The panel should come up with a well-thought-out plan to either overhaul NNSA from top to bottom or outright kill it and let the DOE take on its oversight duties.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

 

My response:

Abolish NNSA, but increase federal oversight and independent review

Kudos for the editorial “Time past for coddling bloated nuclear agency.” The money the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has wasted on out-of-control nuclear weapons projects is appalling. Some examples are the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos (estimated costs exploded from $660 million to $5.8 billion), the failed National Ignition Facility at the Livermore Lab in California ($1 billion to $5 billion), the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina ($1 billion to $7 billion), and now the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant in Tennessee ($1 billion to $10 billion).

Despite all this chronic mismanagement NNSA’s proposed budget was increased 17% above FY 2013 sequester levels. That’s right, the guilty were rewarded, while schools, firefighting, environmental protection, etc. were cut.

But while NNSA is truly dysfunctional, its contractors deserve more scrutiny as well. After all, the agency is simply out manned, with some 2,600 (and declining) employees trying to oversee more than 50,000 contractor employees nation-wide. Moreover, these contractors have inherent conflicts-of-interest. For instance, the lab directors wear two hats, first as those responsible for annual certification of the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile, which gives them enormous leverage. Their second hat is as presidents of the executive boards of the for-profit corporations running the labs. How can we be sure they are always acting in the best interests of the country while they are pushing a never-ending cycle of extremely costly “Life Extension Programs” for existing nuclear weapons? Ironically, these programs may actually erode confidence in stockpile reliability by intentionally introducing major changes that can’t be full-scale tested.

As your editorial noted a congressionally appointed panel is beginning to study the NNSA’s future. I make some recommendations for that panel:

•     The NNSA is a failed experiment and should be abolished. Its nuclear weapons programs should revert back to “Defense Programs” within the Department of Energy, as it was pre-2000.

•     As guarantors of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the lab directors should be just lab directors, their jobs institutionally insulated from the for-profit motivations of the private corporations running the labs.

•     Duplicative bureaucratic red tape should be eliminated, but federal oversight should be increased, not decreased (witness a protesting 82-year-old nun infiltrating an extremely sensitive area at Y-12 despite contractor security assurances). Concrete benchmarks need to be put back into now toothless annual Performance Evaluation Plans so that contractors are held truly accountable. NNSA’s past practice of granting waivers for poor performance while handing out contract extensions (as was done for the Los Alamos and Livermore Labs) must end.

•     DOE should be required to seek concurrence from the congressionally chartered Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board early in the design of nuclear facilities. Past NNSA delays in meeting safety concerns have been a prime driver of exploding project costs.

•     Congress should establish a stringent change control process for nuclear weapons, including a requirement for outside review of all proposed major changes. Because the labs lack conservatism in maintaining the pedigree of tested, reliable designs, independent expert review could save 100’s of billion of dollars over the next few decades and help maintain confidence in stockpile reliability. As a past example, a group of eminent independent scientists called the JASONs found that the cores of nuclear weapons, the plutonium pits, have reliable life times of around a century, in contrast to NNSA’s previous claims of 45 years. This helped to convince Congress to delete funding for NNSA’s proposed, enormously expensive new-design nuclear weapons and related expanded plutonium pit production.

•     Finally, the congressionally appointed panel deliberating on NNSA’s future should itself be above reproach. One member, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, pocketed $450,000 in no-bid “consulting” contracts with the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, in between her terms representing New Mexico’s First District and her Senate campaign that largely championed the labs. She should resign from the panel so that its future recommendations are not tainted by her clear conflict-of-interest.

Jay Coghlan

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Report Reveals That Little is Known About Lab’s Future Plutonium Needs

Report Reveals That Little is Known About Lab’s Future Plutonium Needs
Except LANL Contractor Needs Money

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reveals how the future of expanded nuclear weapon component production at Los Alamos is unknown. The public has had enough of half-baked billion-dollar plans for nuclear facilities that do nothing but line contractors’ pockets. Congress must put away the check book and realize that the Lab’s plutonium future is unknown because it is unneeded.

Let’s get some details out of the way –

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) houses most of the nation’s capabilities for plutonium research and development in support of the nuclear weapons mission. In addition, LANL’s scientists and technicians also perform research on plutonium to support other missions, such as conducting research on recycling plutonium for use as fuel in commercial nuclear reactors (MOX).

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), is responsible for the management of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of modern nuclear weapons (fissile means capable of sustaining a nuclear reaction). When a nuclear weapon is detonated the pit is explosively compressed into a critical mass that rapidly begins atomic fission. In modern two-stage weapons the plutonium pit acts as the primary (or “trigger”) that initiates fusion in the thermonuclear secondary. Each pit is an atomic bomb in its own right, similar to the Trinity and Nagasaki bombs, both of which were plutonium bombs. In thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs the plutonium pit serves as the trigger that detonates the far more powerful fusion explosion characteristic of hydrogen bombs.

(The need for any more nuclear weapons production ever is actually zero.)

NNSA claims that the need is unknown –
Because of public participation, lack of need, and budget concerns, construction of the Lab’s $6 billion Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) nuclear facility was deferred for at least five years starting in 2012. The CMRR would have enabled a production capacity of 50-80 pits per year. Theoretically, the Lab is currently capable of producing 10-20 pits per year, maybe. But it produced zero this year.

It is now unclear when or if the CMRR nuclear facility will be built, which the Lab claims may lead to insufficient capabilities to meet LANL’s plutonium research requirements. But no one really can say what these requirements are.

The report states the uncertainty–

The Nuclear Weapons Council is still evaluating specifications for nuclear weapons and their corresponding life extension program schedules, and it may take another year or two before final decisions are made, according to NNSA officials. Since the schedule has not been finalized, the number of pits that will be needed is uncertain as well. (Pg. 10)

Officials have announced that they are seeking alternatives to the CMRR that would provide the capabilities planned for the CMRR nuclear facility using existing facilities. This would be replacing deferred unneeded capabilities with unneeded capabilities. Instead of trying to replace the lacking capabilities of the CMRR, NNSA should first describe the actual pit needs, which are none.

Meanwhile, “NNSA has estimated that it needs to be able to ramp up its capabilities to manufacture about 30 pits each year by 2021” to meet expected life extension program requirements. (Life extension programs are intended to lengthen the lives of existing nuclear weapons by 20 to 30 years by repairing or replacing nuclear weapons components as needed.)

But the 30 number is just a guess “for planning purposes”.
For planning purposes, NNSA is studying the possibility of manufacturing about 30 pits per year… (Pg.10)
“Studying the possibility” is not a need.

NNSA now believes that LANL can support the manufacture of 30 pits per year just by upgrading its radiological laboratory and by repurposing available space in its existing plutonium facility. (Pg. 12)

Also,
Costs are unknown –
The cost estimates were characterized as “high-level and a rough order of magnitude and noted that the estimates should be viewed as preliminary and preconceptual that would not be useful for program definition or scoping.” (pg.15)

Staffing is unknown.

NNSA and LANL officials told us that recruiting additional staff for plutonium-related research necessarily takes years of advance planning, but that the uncertainty of where the new capabilities will be located or what the level of capacity is needed has complicated planning efforts. (Pg. 17)

What is know is the public is a problem –

Plans for transporting plutonium or other radioactive materials from LANL to facilities at other sites could also spur public opposition that may cause schedule delays or create other impediments…

Other impediments?
Like speaking up?

NNSA life extension program and Pentagon tail fin kit create new military capabilities

The NNSA press release below reports on a limited drop test of a mocked up B61-12 nuclear bomb from a helicopter, not its slated delivery systems (B-2 bombers and various sophisticated NATO aircraft). But this press release is of course misleading, focusing on replacing radar vacuum tubes in order “to increase the safety and security of the bomb.”

 The real action will begin soon. Note the press release’s phrase “With the incorporation of a new Air Force tail kit assembly…” In its last budget request NNSA marks the following milestone “In FY 2014, NNSA will integrate the nuclear bomb assembly components and the Air Force Tail Kit Assembly into functional Compatibility Test Units (CTUs) for integration testing with Air Force nuclear certified aircraft.” NNSA FY 2014 Congressional Budget Request, page WA-32.

This is a good example of how the NNSA’s ~$10 billion B61 Life Extension Program and the Air Force’s ~$3.2 billion Tail Kit Assembly program are co-joined. Together they will create the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb for delivery by future super stealthy F-35s (with each bomb costing more than twice their weight in gold). This clearly creates new military capabilities for an existing nuclear weapon, contrary to official U.S. policy declared at the 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference and elsewhere.

National Nuclear Security Administration
U.S. Department of Energy

For Immediate Release
August 29, 2013
Contact: NNSA Public Affairs, (202) 586-7371

B61-12 Life Extension Program Radar Drop Tests Completed Successfully

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the ongoing effort to refurbish the aging B61 nuclear bomb without resorting to underground nuclear testing, two successful B61-12 radar drop tests were successfully completed at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on Aug. 14 and 15, 2013, by engineers from Sandia National Laboratories.

Current B61s use decades-old vacuum tubes as part of their radar system. The new radar system, which had not been tested outside of a laboratory environment, was assembled in a gravity bomb configuration and successfully functioned as it was dropped from a helicopter.

“The B61 contains the oldest components in the U.S. arsenal,” said Don Cook, National Nuclear Security Administration Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “As long as the United States continues to have nuclear weapons, we must ensure that they remain safe, secure and effective without the use of underground testing. The B61 has been in service a decade longer than planned, and our refurbishment program is a scientific and engineering challenge. These successful tests have given us confidence in our ability to integrate the new radar design and move forward with our efforts to increase the safety and security of the bomb.”

The Nuclear Weapons Council, a joint Department of Defense and Department of Energy/NNSA organization established by Congress, moved the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP) from the planning stages to development engineering in February 2012. The scope of this LEP includes refurbishment of both nuclear and non-nuclear components to address aging, ensure extended service life, and improve safety, reliability and security of the bomb. With the incorporation of a new Air Force tail kit assembly, the design will also enable consolidation and replacement of the existing B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bombs by the B61-12 bomb. The LEP will reuse or remanufacture existing components to the extent possible.

This radar drop test is one of several critical milestones for the B61-12 LEP this year. Radar testing will continue with integration of other B61-12 components, including the weapon and firing control units to demonstrate the arming, fuzing and firing subsystem. The B61-12 LEP is an essential element of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent and of the nation’s commitments to extended deterrence and it ensures the continued vitality of the air-delivered leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.

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

 

Excellence Unfulfilled at the LANL’s Plutonium Facility

A Los Alamos National Laboratory fact sheet touts the Lab as a plutonium “center of excellence”. However, the Laboratory Director paused operations in the Plutonium Facility on June 27, 2013. (The Plutonium Facility, called PF-4, is located at Technical Area 55 at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). PF-4 is home for the Lab’s plutonium work, including nuclear weapons component production.) The pause was based on issues identified during safety reviews and findings from recent assessments. For one, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) performed a review of the Criticality Safety Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in May 2013. (The Board is an independent organization within the executive branch chartered with the responsibility of providing recommendations and advice to the President and the Secretary of Energy regarding public health and safety issues at Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities.) This review identified significant non-compliances with DOE requirements and industry standards in the Lab’s Criticality Safety Program (CSP). In addition, this review identified criticality safety concerns around operations at the Plutonium Facility. The Board noted that some of these deficiencies are long standing and indicated flaws in federal oversight and contractor assurance. Much plutonium work, especially work with a high potential for criticality, will be stopped through the rest of 2013.

Nuclear criticality safety is defined as “protection against the consequences of an inadvertent nuclear chain reaction, preferably by prevention of the reaction.” The most potentially dangerous aspect of a criticality accident is the release of nuclear radiation if it maintains a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

To date, the only thing self-sustaining is the Lab’s inability to address its criticality issues and yet still convince Congress to keep funding plutonium work there. To prevent bad things from happening, DOE’s regulations and directives require contractors to evaluate potential accident conditions and put in place appropriate controls and safety measures. History shows that the Los Alamos Laboratory just cannot do this, even though much of the work is performed on plutonium pits, the primaries of nuclear weapons. Even though actual need for this work has not been proven, the Lab has entrenched itself as the only place in the country where plutonium pits can be made, developed, and tested.

For fiscal year 2014, the budget request for nuclear ‘weapons activities’ at LANL was $1.4 billion. The exact amount that is spent on plutonium operations in PF-4 is unknown to us, but the budget request for 2014 for Directed Stockpile Work, which is where major parts of the plutonium operations are located, was $460 million. This is a 23% increase over last year’s budget. The funding pours into the Lab regardless of whether the Lab is actually doing any work, which is frequently stopped.

Here’s history of criticality problems and work stoppages at Los Alamos Laboratory:
In 2005, an assessment determined that LANL’s expert-based Criticality Safety Program (CSP) was not compliant with applicable DOE requirements and industry standards.

In 2006, LANS developed a Nuclear Criticality Safety Program Improvement Plan.

In 2007, in response to concerns raised by the Board’s staff, LANL determined that the authorized loading of vault storage rooms in PF-4 could lead to a critical configuration.

In 2008, the Government Accountability Office reported concerns about nuclear safety at LANL are long-standing. Problems included 19 occasions since 2003 where criticality safety requirements were violated, such as storing materials in quantities higher than safety limits allow, 17 of 19 of the site’s nuclear facilities operating without proper safety documentation, reported inadequacies in safety systems, radiological releases, and four enforcement actions for significant violations of nuclear safety rules.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending April 3, 2009
LANL management placed the facility in stand-by mode until roughly 125 safety evaluations could be re-evaluated.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending October 2, 2009
The Plutonium Facility was placed in standby mode because management declared the fire suppression system inoperable based on recent hydraulic calculations that concluded the system was not able to achieve the water coverage required. LANL had performed a system adequacy analysis in 2008. The hydraulic calculation completed for the system identified that 13 of approximately 100 hydraulic areas did not meet the requirement.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending October 16, 2009
A general evacuation alarm was caused by a Criticality Alarm System signal because of a loss of all facility ventilation and failure of the Facility Control System at the Plutonium Facility. The facility was in standby mode during this event due to previously identified issues with the fire suppression system and, therefore, limited personnel were in the facility.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending September 10, 2010
Operations in Plutonium Facility were suspended because potentially explosive ammonium nitrate was discovered in two filter ducts.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending December 3, 2010
It was revealed that greater than 1000 items, or about 20%, of the total vault holdings are items packaged in potentially vulnerable containers with taped slip-top lids rather than in robust safety-significant containers that include a HEPA-filtered vent. The presence of these slip-top containers requires respirator use whenever operators access the vault. In FY10, LANL made meaningful progress in addressing these legacy materials.

In 2011, an event occurred at PF-4 in which fissile material handlers violated procedural requirements and criticality safety controls while moving and photographing plutonium rods.

Beginning in 2012, LANS experienced an 18-month exodus of criticality safety professionals from its criticality safety group. LANS currently employs 2 full-time and 2 part-time qualified criticality safety analysts, in addition to 3 part-time subcontractors—far fewer than the 17 criticality safety analysts it has determined to be necessary to support operations, meet mission goals, and maintain the CSP.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending April 20, 2012
Plutonium Facility personnel use a software program called MAR Tracker to track plutonium that is used in the facility. A system engineer discovered an error in
MAR Tracker that caused only a small subset of applicable facility containers (roughly 1700 out of 13000 containers) to be checked during the required annual MAR surveillance. The Plutonium Facility was placed in Standby Mode.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending June 15, 2012
LANL identified a number of fuel rods in TA-35 Building 27 that were not consistent with the criticality safety evaluation for the facility. Operations at this building had previously been suspended in late-May due to the discovery of three fuel rods that were not in the facility or institutional tracking systems.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending December 14, 2012
LANL identified that the Criticality Safety Evaluations (CSEs) for two rooms did not adequately address the potential for interaction effects between storage locations. Plutonium Facility management suspended operations in these two vault rooms.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending February 15, 2013
LANL began a focused training program (“boot camp”) to provide an intensive learning environment for new criticality safety staff. The program consisted of nine modules including: nuclear theory; criticality safety calculation methods; ANSI/ANS, DOE and LANL criticality safety standards and requirements; criticality safety evaluations; and criticality alarm and detection systems. This program along with on-the-job training and performance demonstrations was to provide a mechanism for achieving full qualification as a LANL criticality safety analyst. Conduct of the boot camp was part of the LANL corrective action plan for improving the nuclear criticality safety program.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending May 3, 2013
The laboratory completed criticality safety assessments at LANL nuclear facilities. The review teams identified 3, 4, and 6 findings for TA-55, CMR, and Area G, respectively. In all cases, the assessments concluded adequate implementation of the Criticality Safety Program with the exception of identified findings. Notably, one of the findings at Area G identified that supervisors and operations center personnel did not have an adequate understanding of criticality safety requirements. Area G management paused operations based on this finding and conducted appropriate training to resolve this issue.

In May 2013, the staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) performed a review of the Criticality Safety Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This review identified significant non-compliances with applicable Department of Energy requirements and industry standards in the implementation of the Criticality Safety Program. The Board’s staff identified the following non-compliances during its review:
• Most criticality safety controls are not incorporated into operating procedures.
• Operators typically do not utilize written procedures when performing work.
• Fissile material labels do not list parameters relevant to criticality safety (e.g., mass).
• Some fissile material operations lack Criticality Safety Evaluations (CSEs).
• Some CSEs do not analyze all credible abnormal conditions.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending June 28, 2013
The Laboratory Director paused programmatic activities at the Plutonium Facility. The pause was directed based on issues identified during procedural and criticality safety reviews and findings from recent assessments. Reviews at PF-4 have identified a number of procedural issues and the need for clarification and improvement of criticality safety controls.

Los Alamos Report for Week Ending July 26, 2013
Plutonium Facility personnel identified several criticality safety issues associated with recent construction activity. Even though plutonium work was paused, the Laboratory Director and the Facility Operations Director (FOD) approved construction activities that had the potential to affect nuclear materials.

For more information, please read the LAMonitor article By John Severance
Safety board visits LANL

Nuclear weapons are “the world’s most heinous weapons”

Secretary of State John Kerry correctly condemned the Syrian regime’s apparent use of chemical weapons, but he’s wrong calling them “the world’s most heinous weapons.” Instead that awful distinction belongs to nuclear weapons, a class of weapons far above any other. If ever used again nuclear weapons would indiscriminately kill far more people, including women, children and non-combatants, than chemical weapons ever could, and poison the planet with radioactive fallout. Nevertheless our country is planning repeating cycles of “Life Extension Programs” costing $100 billion or more, giving existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities. This is directly contrary to what Kerry’s predecessor ex-Secretary Hillary Clinton declared as official U.S. policy at the 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference.

The cost of the mismanaged Los Alamos and Sandia Labs’ Life Extension Program for the B61 nuclear bomb has more than doubled from $4 billion to $10 billion. A related $3.2 billion Pentagon program will produce a new tail fin guidance kit. Together these programs will create the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb for delivery by future super stealthy aircraft, while each bomb will cost more than twice their weight in gold.

The U.S. should review its own moral authority while preparing for military action in Syria. In particular our New Mexican congressional delegation must stop automatically supporting expanded nuclear weapons programs without deeply questioning their own consciences. Our politicians’  justifications to date have been to protect a few hundred jobs at the Labs, which don’t really trickle down to average New Mexicans anyway.

As evidence of the lack of broad benefit to New Mexicans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau our state was 37th in per capita income in 1959. In 2010 we were 44th, despite the vaunted economic presence of the nuclear weapons industry in New Mexico, and in 2013 we were rated dead last for the well being of our children by the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Our politicians should be striving mightily that New Mexicans increasingly benefit from our vast renewable solar, wind, biomass and geothermal resources that would employ far more citizens, instead of pandering to nuclear weapons programs that produce a commodity that we can only hope will never be used.

 

 

 

On my soap box about Sandia Labs

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal had an article today entitled “Sandia Labs manager gets 6 more months,”  describing Lockheed Martin’s half year contract extension. John knows all three nuclear weapons labs well, and I won’t be telling him things that he doesn’t already know. But I’ll use his article as an excuse to stand on my soap box about Sandia Labs.

To my taste, John’s article makes Sandia sound a little too benign with phrases like “the nuclear weapons research center” and “Sandia is one of the nation’s three nuclear weapons design and maintenance laboratories.” What is left unreported is that Sandia is a major production site that, for example, manufactured 850 neutron generators for nuclear weapons in 2010, and loads them with radioactive tritium. In addition to design responsibility for non-nuclear components, Sandia’s secondary mission has long been “weapons effects” research for making sure nuclear weapons continue to work in lethal radiation environments. This enables multi-strike nuclear warfighting rather than the simple deterrence sold as doctrine to the American public.

Further, instead of mere “maintenance,” all three nuclear weapons labs (Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore) are lobbying for a never-ending cycle of so-called Life Extension Programs that will intentionally introduce profound changes to existing nuclear weapons. Major changes are the last thing we should do to a stockpile that has been extensively tested and proven to be even more reliable than previously thought, when we can no longer full-scale test. All of this will be of enormous expense to the American taxpayer, where for example the currently proposed Life Extension Program for the B61 bomb has exploded in costs from $4 billion to more than $10 billion, resulting in each bomb costing twice its weight in gold. Added to this is a related $3.2 billion Pentagon program giving the B61 a new tail fin guidance kit, transforming it into the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb for delivery by planned super stealthy aircraft.

In addition to prolonging their service lives for 30 years or more, these Life Extension Programs have and will create new military capabilities for existing nuclear weapons, despite denials at the highest levels of the U.S. government to the world at large (for example, at the United Nations’ 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference). The lab directors wear two hats, the first as directors who are required to annually certify to the president and Congress that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe, secure and reliable. The second hat is that as presidents of the executive board of the for-profit corporations running the labs, which will directly benefit from never-ending Life Extension Programs that may actually undermine stockpile reliability. So far from mere “research” and “maintenance” we have a deep seated conflict-of-interest driven by profit that will stymie our global leadership toward getting rid of nuclear weapons while continuing to fleece the American taxpayer.

Foremost in this is the Sandia National Laboratories, which amongst the three labs now has the largest nuclear weapons budget. In the past, Sandia has been singled out as a model of lab mission diversification, with its total annual institutional budget falling below 50% nuclear weapons. That is no longer true given recent large increases to its nuclear weapons research and production programs, which now comprise ~55% of Sandia’s total budget.

 

 

Nuclear weapon research at the universities

A July 5th article in the Deseret News reported on an NNSA program that gives millions of dollars to universities for “predictive science”, which is defined as:

Predictive science is the application of verified and validated computational simulations to predict the behavior of complex systems where routine experiments are not feasible. The selected PSAAP II centers will focus on unclassified applications of interest to NNSA and its national laboratories — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Funny, nuclear weapons are not mentioned.
The good news, and few know this better than Utah, is that testing nuclear weapons no longer requires full-scale explosions. The bad news is that predictive science, to the NNSA, is the “science” of predicting whether nuclear warheads will work after they have been refurbished, modernized, and given new military characteristics. We know that the old versions work. Do the students know that they helping to prolong the nuclear menace by testing newly designed versions of the old weapons on their computers?
It should be called nuclear weapons perpetuating science 101.

New Mexico Members of Congress Vote for Exorbitant Nuclear Bomb While State Is Ranked as the Worst for Children

Yesterday all three House members of the New Mexican congressional delegation voted against an amendment that would cut money added to a wasteful nuclear weapons program. In April the Obama Administration asked for $537 million in fiscal year 2014 for a “Life Extension Program” for the B61 Cold War nuclear bomb, 45% above the 2013 level. The House Appropriations Committee added $23.7 million to that bloated request, which the amendment would have cut. Overall, the B61 Life Extension Program has exploded in estimated costs to where each warhead will cost twice their weight in gold just to “refurbish” (which does not include original production and ongoing maintenance costs).

 The sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., testified during floor debate:

At a time when we are slashing funds for disease research at the NIH [National Institute of Health], failing to fund our crumbling infrastructure, and underinvesting in our children¹s education, we are increasing funding to keep hundreds of nuclear bombs in operation that we will never use. The Cold War is over.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.,

…supported the full $551 million for the B61 Life Extension Program because it is a national security priority. “This funding is important for Los Alamos and Sandia labs’ effort to ensure the safety of the nuclear weapons stockpile, and cuts to that funding impact the ability to keep it secure,” Luján said.

Rather just ensuring safety and security the program will radically improve the bomb, giving it new military capabilities by turning it into a precisely targeted smart bomb and mating it to future bombers for supersonic stealthy delivery. Currently the main mission of B61 bombs is as tactical nuclear weapons in NATO countries, a relic of the Cold War. Improved B61’s fly in the face of Obama’s newly declared goal of reducing the presence of battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe, even as he proposes to negotiate with the Russians for further arms reductions. Moreover, if security is really the issue, the sure solution that saves taxpayers money and encourages nonproliferation is to withdraw the nuclear bombs from forward deployment in Europe, where a few years ago protesting peace activists were able to infiltrate within a few hundred yards of them.

Ironically, the B61 Life Extension Program may actually undermine our own national security by introducing major changes to existing bombs. Our stockpile has been extensively full-scale tested, and repeated studies have found our nuclear weapons to be even more reliable than previously believed. The Los Alamos and Sandia Labs propose to create a “frankenbomb” by mixing and matching four variants of the B61 bomb into a single new modification. Common sense dictates that the last thing we should do while seeking to maintain confidence in our reliable nuclear weapons stockpile is to introduce major changes that can’t be tested.

Our New Mexican congressional delegation represents a state that was just ranked as the worst of all fifty for the well-being of its children, where more than 25% live in poverty. In stark contrast, Los Alamos County, dominated by the lab, is the second richest county in the entire USA. Nuclear weapons programs are a poor producer of jobs, where for example according to the government’s own documents a new $6 billion plutonium facility was not going to produce a single new permanent job at Los Alamos Lab.

Contrary to the claimed economic benefits of the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs, New Mexico as a whole continues to fall from 37th in per capita personal income in 1959 to 44th in 2011. Nevertheless, the Labs have always had inordinate influence over New Mexican politicians. One extreme example is the recent starling revelation that in between unsuccessful Senate campaigns former Rep. Heather Wilson was paid more than $450,000 by the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs for “consulting” contracts that had no written work requirements.

The nuclear weapons labs have voracious appetites for federal funding, with their directors simultaneously acting as the presidents of the executive board of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs (those private LLCs pay 2/3’s of the directors’ annual compensation of around one million dollars). Business will boom with never-ending Life Extension Programs, and Sandia and Los Alamos are not satisfied with just one Life Extension Program for the B61. They already plan yet another one 20 years from now that initial figures indicate would be even more expensive. In fact, the labs plan a never-ending cycle of Life Extension Programs that intentionally seek to implement major design changes for all existing types of nuclear weapons in our stockpile, costing at least $60 billion (while the doubling of costs has so far been the rule).

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Congressman Ben Ray Luján should ask himself the question what good does a Cold War nuclear bomb that the for-profit labs want to endlessly tinker with do for New Mexican children? Pork for the labs should not drive nuclear weapons policies, especially when it’s of little if any tangible benefit to average New Mexicans. Luján should, instead, dedicate himself to boosting funding for programs that would really help our children but are facing painful sequester cuts, such as education, medical care and food assistance. Those investments would really brighten their future, and help raise New Mexico from its shameful position as the worst state for kids.”

# # # 

See House rejects effort to trim $23.7M in funding for B61, Michael Coleman, Albuquerque Journal, July 11, 2013.

For New Mexico’s ranking as the worst state for kids see Kids Count Data Center http://datacenter.kidscount.org/updates/show/20-2013-data-book-rankings
For the scope and schedule of perpetual Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons see NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan

Click to access SSMP-FY2014.pdf

NM Environment Department Reclassifies WIPP Request!

Thanks to everyone’s work, the NM Environment Department has decided to get more information before allowing any leaky Hanford high-level tank waste to come to New Mexico!

NMED issued its determination to reclassify the DOE request as a class 3 – which requires a public hearing – “because there is significant public interest.”

Public comments made the difference!

There will be much more to do.

See http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=1503 for background.

From the NMED release –
July 2, 2013
RE: ELEVATION OF CLASS 2 MODIFICATION TO REMOVE EXCLUDED WASTE PROHIBITION WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT

The New Mexico Environment Department (Department) received a permit modification
request dated April 8,2013 from the U.S. Department of Energy Carlsbad Field Office and
Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC (the Permittees) on April 9,2013. The Permittees seek to
modify the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Hazardous Waste Facility Permit (Permit) and
request that the Department process the request as a Class 2 modification under the
regulations at 20.4.1.900 NMAC, incorporating 40 CFR § 270.42(b).
The request modifies the prohibition of excluded waste from the WIPP Permit.

Page 2
Under 40 CFR § 270.42(b)(6)(i)(C), the Secretary may determine that the modification
request must follow the procedures in § 270.42(c) for Class 3 modifications for the following
reasons: (1) There is significant public concern about the proposed modification; or (2) The
complex nature of the change requires the more extensive procedures of Class 3.
In this matter, I have determined that it is appropriate for the Department to process the
modification request as a Class 3 modification under 40 CFR § 270.42( c) because there is
significant public interest.
If you have questions regarding this matter please address them to Trais Kliphuis, of the
Hazardous Waste Bureau, at 476-6051 or trais.kliphuis@state.nm.us.
Sincerely,
Ryan Flynn
Cabinet Secretary-Designate

Help Stop Increased Nuclear Weapons Funding

Immediate Action Required

The House of Representatives Energy & Water Appropriations bill is coming up for a vote this week of July 8, 2013. It will come up tomorrow, with votes on amendments as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday. Rep. Quigley (D-IL) will be offering a floor amendment cutting the increase that the Energy & Water subcommittee added to the B61 Life Extension Program.

Please call urging your Representative to vote yes on the Quigley amendment to cut funding on the B61 nuclear warhead program. Please call rather than email at this point, to DC offices, as the timeline is very short.

Over the last few years, spending on nuclear weapons and nuclear bomb plants has continued to grow despite massive cost overruns. Especially wasteful is the plan to overhaul the B61 nuclear bomb, with an eventual total cost of $10 billion by 2019. This is way too much money for a bomb that is dangerous and outdated, and it is urgent that we slow down the spending before it is too late.

Cutting nukes spending in the Republican-controlled House can be an uphill battle. But we have been working with allies in Congress to stop this program that would overhaul 400 B61 nuclear bombs at a total price tag of $25 million each (almost double their weight in gold). We can see some wins, if our representatives feel the pressure.

Call your representative now at (202) 224-3121 to vote for the Quigley amendment to cut funds for the B61 nuclear bomb. [Direct phone numbers for the New Mexican delegation below.]

Subject Line: Budget Cut for Nuclear Bombs

Dear [Name],

Call your representative at (202) 224-3121 right now. To look up your representative click here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Use this sample message and add your own words:

“My name is [your name] and I live in [your city]. I am calling to tell Rep. [your rep’s name] to vote for the Quigley amendment to the Appropriations bill to cut excess funds for the B61 nuclear bomb.”
This is an important chance to cut wasteful spending on dangerous and outdated nuclear weapons. You can convince Congress to make this a priority.

Thank you,

Your name

New Mexico Representatives
Rep. Ben Ray Luján
http://lujan.house.gov/
Washington D.C. Office • Ph: (202) 225-6190

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
http://lujangrisham.house.gov/
Washington, DC Office?•?Phone: 202-225-6316?

Rep. Steve Pearce
http://pearce.house.gov/
Washington, DC Office • Phone: 855-4-PEARCE (732723) or (202) 225-2365

Senate Appropriations Cuts Nuclear Bomb Life Extension Program; NM’s Tom Udall Tries to Restore Funding to Bloated Program

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee reported that it cut funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s B61 nuclear bomb Life Extension Program (LEP). This is a significant victory for good governance, and it could positively influence future nuclear arms control.  The Obama Administration’s request for the B61 LEP was $537 million for FY 2014, a 45% increase above FY 2013. Senate Energy and Water cut it by $168 million to $369 million, and directed NNSA to look at alternatives since the full-blown program is experiencing massive cost overruns.

Senator Tom Udall opposed this cut since most of the B61 work will take place at the Los Alamos and Sandia nuclear weapons labs in New Mexico. Udall now sits on Senate Energy and Water, and successfully engineered a provision that would restore B61 LEP funding if certain cost and schedule requirements are met. Meanwhile House appropriators have added $23 million to the already bloated program, which sets up a sharp difference that must be reconciled in conference. This is where “deals” tend to be cut, and Tom Udall’s position on the B61 LEP could be critical.

In the past few years Senator Tom Udall actively supported a Walmart-sized “CMRR-Nuclear Facility” at Los Alamos that exploded in costs from $600 million to ~$6 billion, which for fiscal reasons the Obama Administration prudently decided to delay.  The CMRR’s main mission is to quadruple LANL’s production of plutonium cores (or “pits”) for nuclear weapons. Expanded pit production is necessary only for new-design nuclear weapons or heavily modified existing weapons.

If the full Life Extension Program that Tom Udall currently supports goes forward the estimated 400 B61 nuclear bombs will literally cost more than their weight in gold to refurbish (and that does not include original production costs). Moreover, the program will radically improve the bomb, giving it new military capabilities by turning it into a precisely targeted smart bomb and mating it to future bombers for supersonic stealthy delivery. Currently the main mission of B61’s is as tactical nuclear weapons in NATO countries, a relic of the Cold War. Improved B61’s fly in the face of Obama’s just declared goal of reducing the presence of battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe, even as he proposes to negotiate with the Russians for further arms reductions.

The nuclear weapons labs’ have voracious appetites for federal funding, with their directors simultaneously acting as the presidents of the executive board of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs (those private LLCs pay 2/3’s of the directors’ annual compensation of around one million dollars). Business will boom with never-ending Life Extension Programs, and Sandia and Los Alamos are not satisfied with just one Life Extension Program for the B61. They already plan yet another one 20 years from now that initial figures indicate would be even more expensive.

In fact, the labs plan a never-ending cycle of Life Extension Programs that intentionally seek to implement major design changes for all existing types of nuclear weapons in our stockpile, costing at least $60 billion (while the doubling of costs has so far been the rule). Further, these major changes may undermine our own national security by eroding confidence in performance reliability when major modifications cannot be full-scale tested. We should instead stick to proven existing nuclear weapons designs, and avoid serious changes which arguably profit only nuclear weapons contractors.  Genuine maintenance of our nuclear weapons stockpile, such as the well-understood replacement of limited life components, would be prudent, technically sound and relatively inexpensive.

New Mexico, the state that Tom Udall represents, was just ranked as the worst state of all fifty for the well-being of its children, where more than 25% live in poverty. In sharp contrast, Los Alamos County, dominated by the lab, is the second richest county in the entire USA.

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Tom Udall could better serve all New Mexicans if he focused more on improving the lives of our children instead of the nuclear weapons labs and the service life of an archaic Cold War nuclear bomb. Specifically, he should drop his opposition to the cut in funding for the exorbitant and unneeded B61 nuclear bomb Life Extension Program, and make that clear in House-Senate conference. He should, instead, seek to boost funding for programs that really benefit New Mexican children but are facing painful sequester cuts, such as education, medical care and food assistance. And given our state’s increasingly crippling drought, Tom Udall could better serve all New Mexicans while sitting on the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee by expanding water conservation and wildfire prevention programs, instead of favoring the labs through so-called Energy appropriations with increased funding for worse than useless nuclear weapons programs.”

# # #

Obama Calls For Further Nuclear Weapons Reductions While Increased Production and New Facilities at Los Alamos Are Still On the Table

Obama Calls For Further Nuclear Weapons Reductions
While Increased Production and New Facilities at Los Alamos Are Still On the Table

On June 19, in Berlin, President Barack Obama declared that, in concert with Russia, he plans to seek to cut the deployed strategic nuclear arsenal by up to one-third. He also said he will pursue significant bilateral cuts in tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe. In contrast, Obama’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently released plans for unneeded upgrades and dangerous improvements to existing nuclear weapons, which could force expanded nuclear component production and construction of new facilities at Los Alamos.

In the just released “FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan” (SSMP), NNSA proposes perpetual Life Extension Programs for nuclear warheads that will result in three types of ballistic missile warheads and two types of nuclear air bombs. Although it’s still vague, the three so-called interoperable warheads would replace four types of existing warheads, which make little sense given the staggering estimated costs. These radical upgrades, if implemented, could not be full-scale tested, which would undermine confidence in their reliability. Our existing nuclear weapons designs have been extensively tested and subsequent studies have found them to be even more reliable and long-lived than originally thought.

The President’s speech is also incongruous with the SSMP in the area of plutonium pit production, and states “Preliminary plans call for pit production of potentially up to 80 pits per year starting as early as FY 2030.” (SSMP Pg. 62) With Obama’s further proposed arsenal reductions, any planned increase in weapons production is only a concession the nuclear weapons contractors profits. The alleged need for more plutonium pits cascades into a misplaced call for more production facilities. NNSA is “…evaluating the feasibility of constructing small laboratory modules connected to existing nuclear facilities…” (SSMP Pg. 8) to meet future claimed plutonium-manufacturing requirements. The SSMP states that Los Alamos can produce up to 30 pits per year without new facilities.

The need for increased pit production has never been explained adequately to the public, but the claim likely is centered on one of the interoperable warhead plans – the W78/88. In a May 7, 2013 testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Dr. Penrose C. Albright, Director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory claimed that the W78/88 would require increased pit production at Los Alamos. He goes on to try to scare the Committee by saying that without construction funding for new pit facilities now, the W78/88 warhead upgrade could cost even more. He stated, “without going into the detail, the most likely option for the primary on the 78/88 does require the stand-up and operation of plutonium pit production capabilities at Los Alamos. And so any delay by the Government—any delay in funding to get that stood up—and that really has to start now—is going to add significant schedule risks to the program.” (Hearing Pg. 17)

The President should adopt the more fiscally prudent and technically sound alternative of replacing limited life components while he actually works to eliminate nukes altogether. This unending cycle of proposed Life Extension Program will waste huge sums of taxpayers money and is in direct conflict with the President’s own long-term goal of a future world free of nuclear weapons.

The full text of President’s Obama’s speech is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obam

NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/SSMP-FY2014.pdf

Hearing To Receive Testimony On National Nuclear Security Administration Management Of Its National Security Laboratories In Review Of The Defense Authorization Request For Fiscal Year 2014 And The Future Years Defense Program, Tuesday, May 7, 2013, U.S. Senate Subcommittee On Strategic Forces, Committee On Armed Services, Washington, DC.

Click to access 13-36%20-%205-7-13.pdf

The NNSA/DoD “3+2” strategy – hold on to your wallets

John Harvey is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, where “he advises on plans, policy and oversight of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.” See his full bio at http://www.acq.osd.mil/ncbdp/bio_harvey.htm

On June 13 he made some comments that offer some good insights into the relationship between the Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on nuclear weapons, and their current “3+2” strategy for the “end state” stockpile. See http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/JRH-remarks-NDUF-breakfast-13Jun.pdf

According to Harvey that future stockpile will consist of not one, but three “interoperable” ballistic missile warheads, one gravity bomb (the B61) and one air-launched cruise missile warhead (which could be yet another variant of the B61). For details, see the just released NNSA FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/SSMP-FY2014.pdf

The costs will be astronomical, which the FY14 SSMP projects at ~$60 billion (and that’s without the usual cost overruns). And all this strategy does is take 4+3, the existing 4 ballistic missile warheads (W76, W78, W87, W88) and three air delivered bombs/warheads (B61, W80, B83) down to 3+2, but it includes bringing back deployed air-launched cruise missile warheads (which are currently declining in numbers). The gravity bomb that would be retired is the B83, but how useful is that at 1.2 megatons?

Moreover, NNSA and DoD were probably going to get rid of W80 cruise missile warheads anyway. Bush Sr. withdrew many W80’s from active deployment circa 1992 following the break up of the Soviet Union. The W80 life extension program was canceled ~5 years ago, all W80-0’s have already been dismantled, but now the entire class of W80’s might be retired. However, the W80 design was based on the B61 to begin with, so all of this is kind of a distinction without a difference anyway.

The overall trend is lower-yield, more accurate nuclear weapons substituting for higher yield weapons, which I contend on the face of it are new military capabilities, contrary to declared U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Reducing the number of the types of nuclear weapons is a smoke screen.

Harvey notes that the ballistic missile warheads will be “interoperable” because they could share the same nuclear explosives package, but that does not a truly swappable warhead make. And at what point do heavily modified nuclear weapon become “new,” and at what point are original designs so changed that confidence in reliability is eroded without full-scale testing?

With respect to the NNSA/DoD relationship, I continue to think that it is largely the tail wagging the dog, that is the nuclear weapons labs wagging both NNSA and the Pentagon. Related, my concerns increase over the congressional panel on the future of the NNSA because of heavy representation on it by the labs and their contractors. Two examples are former LLNL/LANL Director Mike Anatasio and ex.-NM Rep. Heather Wilson. Regarding Wilson, the DOE Inspector General recently reported how she was the recipient of $450,000 in open-ended consulting agreements that lacked deliverables with Sandia and Los Alamos Labs. They had to pay the government back for these unallowable costs, but in turn Wilson should be barred from the panel.

Obama Announces Up to One-Third Cut in Nuclear Arms; In Contrast U.S. Nuclear Agency Plans ~$60 Billion In Weapons Upgrades and Improvements

Santa Fe, NM  – Today, standing in front of the historic Brandenburg gate in Berlin, President Barack Obama declared that he will seek to cut the arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear arms by up to one-third in concert with Russia. He also said he will pursue significant bilateral cuts in tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe. In contrast, just two days ago, Obama’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released it plans for over 60 billion dollars in upgrades and improvements to existing nuclear weapons, beginning with a $10 billion upgrade to the B61 tactical bomb based in Europe.

In its just released “FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan,” the NNSA proposes perpetual Life Extension Programs that will result in three types of ballistic missile warheads, two types of nuclear bombs (including the refurbished B61), and one redeployed cruise missile warhead (which is not currently active). Much of the drive for this comes from the Directors of the nuclear weapons labs, who simultaneously act as the presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs. According to the Directors and the NNSA, the three modified ballistic missile warheads would be “interoperable” between delivery platforms. However, these warheads can never be truly interoperable between land and sub-based missiles, but at most will have some interchangeable components.

Further, although it’s still vague, the three so-called interoperable warheads would replace only four types of existing warheads, which other than profits for the labs makes little sense given their staggering estimated costs. Moreover, these proposals will also require untold sums of taxpayers money for facility upgrades and new construction and then production by 2030 of 80 new plutonium pits at Los Alamos, NM and uranium secondaries at Oak Ridge, TN. Finally, these radical modifications, if implemented, cannot be full-scale tested, therefore perhaps undermining confidence in reliability. In contrast, our existing nuclear weapons designs have been extensively tested, and subsequent studies have found them to be even more reliable and long-lived than originally thought.

NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan also claims that new military capabilities for existing nuclear weapons will never be pursued through improvements, echoing previous claims made internationally at the highest levels of government (for example by the Secretary of State at the United Nations’ 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review conference). But past and planned modifications and Life Extension Programs contradict that claim. In 1997 the U.S. rushed a B61 bomb modified as an earth-penetrator to the stockpile. This significantly changed weapon, with an estimated yield of 350 kilotons, assumed the mission of the 9 megaton surface-burst B53 bomb to destroy hardened, deeply buried targets.

The U.S. is currently conducting a Life Extension Program for the sub-launched W76 warhead. This is extending its service life by three decades or more, and giving it a new fuze that is likely capable of more precise heights of burst. As far back as 1997 the head of the Navy’s Strategic Systems pointed out that the combination of increased accuracy and a changed fuze could transform the 100 kiloton W76 from a weapon of deterrence targeting soft targets such as cities into a hard target killer of missile silos and command centers.

NNSA now proposes an overly ambitious Life Extension Program for the existing battlefield variants of the B61 gravity bomb, an estimated 180 of which are forward deployed in NATO countries as a relic of the Cold War. This, of course, seems to contradict Obama’s newly declared goal of reducing the presence of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. While future numbers may be lowered, the government’s plans will radically improve the B61, which the Russians will be keenly aware of.

NNSA’s proposed B61 Life Extension Program has exploded in costs from an estimated $4 billion to more than $10 billion. Among other things it will mate the bomb to the future F35 Joint Strike Fighter (which itself is estimated to have life cycle costs of more than $1 trillion). Separately, a ~$1.2 billion Pentagon program will upgrade the B61 with a new tailfin guidance kit. This combination of an improved nuclear “smart” bomb delivered by highly stealthy supersonic aircraft will create a lower yield nuclear weapon that can assume the mission of existing higher yield B61’s.

Together, these three examples firmly establish that the U.S. creates new military capabilities through modifications and improvements of existing nuclear weapons. In Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s opinion, an arguably more usable lower-yield nuclear weapon substituting for a higher-yield weapon is clearly and inherently a new military capability.

In contrast to his rhetoric today, in April President Obama requested an unprecedented $537 million for the B61 Life Extension Program in FY 2014. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NNSA programs, has expressed increasing concern over exploding costs. She has indicated in media reports that a reasonable alternative would be to fund a significantly reduced program that replaces limited life components. In our view, this would also have the benefit of not creating new military capabilities.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “We naturally welcome President Obama’s declared goal to reduce deployed strategic nuclear weapons and battlefield weapons in Europe. However, as a real disarmament step, he should take a time out on the full B61 Life Extension Program. He should instead adopt the more fiscally prudent and technically sound alternative of replacing limited life components while the ultimate future of B61 forward deployment in Europe is being determined. This unending cycle of proposed Life Extension Program will waste huge sums of taxpayers money and is  in direct conflict with the President’s own long-term goal of a future world free of nuclear weapons.”

# # #

 The full text of President’s Obama’s speech is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obam

NNSA’s FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/SSMP-FY2014.pdf

For more on the W76 and B61 Life Extension Programs, in particular their new military capabilities, see the Federation of American Scientists blogs at http://blogs.fas.org/security/2007/08/us_tripples_submarine_warhead/ and

http://blogs.fas.org/security/2011/06/b61-12/

 

Nuclear Weapons Labs Made Improper Payments to Heather Wilson; She Should Resign from NNSA Council Determining Their Future

 June 11, 2013

Santa Fe, NM  – The Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General has found that the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories made improper payments of approximately $450,000 to ex.-NM Rep. Heather Wilson from January 2009 to March 2011. This last February House Speaker John Boehner appointed Wilson to a congressional advisory council that will recommend how the nuclear weapons laboratories will be managed and operated by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The stated purpose of this NNSA Council is “to examine options and make recommendations for revising the governance structure, mission, and management of the nuclear security enterprise.” Heather Wilson should resign from the NNSA Council because of her clear conflict-of interest.

 

Wilson was a protégé of the powerful ex-New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici who protected the nuclear weapons labs and engineered lavish appropriations for them. Upon Domenici’s retirement Wilson unsuccessfully ran for his seat, promoting herself as a staunch champion of the labs. For example, during her 2012 campaign she strongly denounced a NNSA decision to delay a controversial nuclear weapons plutonium facility at Los Alamos, playing on employment fears while inaccurately claiming that the delay would cost a thousand jobs (which the government’s own documents contradicted). At the time it was unknown how much she had been paid for her own consulting jobs for Los Alamos and Sandia.

 

The DOE Inspector General report identified a number of issues concerning payments made by the labs to Heather Wilson and Company, LLC (HWC). It found: “• 23 payments totaling $226,378 made by Sandia between January 2009 and March 2011;

• 19 payments totaling $195,718 made by Los Alamos between August 2009 and February 2011; and • Payments totaling approximately $30,000 made by Nevada and Oak Ridge.”

 

The DOE IG report went on to find “[n]one of the 23 invoices submitted by HWC contained details as to the time expended and nature of the actual services provided as required.” Wilson’s billing justifications did “not meet even minimum standards” for federal payments. There was also an “absence of detailed evidence of the actual services provided” and that the Sandia Corporation (a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin) “developed an after-the-fact schedule of activities.”

 

The four management contractors at Los Alamos, Sandia, Nevada and Oak Ridge were required to pay the government back $442,000 for their irregular payments to Heather Wilson. Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “The question now becomes whether Wilson should personally be paying the government back. In any event, these new findings on the depth of her conflict-of-interest should bury her political future in New Mexico for once and for all. Further, she should resign from the NNSA Council on the future of the nuclear weapons labs, or replaced by congressional leadership if she doesn’t go voluntarily.”

 

# # #

The DOE IG Report (DOE/IG-0889) is available at

http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/inspection-report-doeig-0889

please co-sign my WIPP comments!

Dear Fellow Travelers on the Long Road to Safety at WIPP:
I am writing to you as a battle-weary compatriot. For so many New Mexicans, the merest mention of WIPP induces a glazed-over, burned-out feeling associated with the “done deal,” the “one that got away.”

Incredibly, safeguards we originally fought for at WIPP are being stealthily erased behind closed doors right now—a potential disaster for our state’s natural resources and inhabitants. What’s going on? Some of us pessimists predicted this long ago: the attempt to sneak high-level waste into a repository that was never designed for it.

Leaking liquid waste from Hanford, Washington is about to be “re-classified” so its true origin as high-level waste can be disguised long enough to drag it into our state and down to WIPP. This stuff is “Superhot,” so thermally AND radioactively hot that it poses an entirely different set of environmental risks than the plutonium-contaminated “gloves and booties” long used to exemplify WIPP waste. Yes, plutonium lasts an unimaginably long time, but it doesn’t generate as much volatile activity as this liquid waste. The new high-level waste from Hanford is hot enough–both kinds of hot–to blast bigger, faster escape pathways out of the WIPP site that the longer-lasting waste could then travel along. The result? The Rustler Aquifer, Pecos River, Rio Grande and Gulf of Mexico hit by a nasty soup of chemical and radioactive debris that could last almost forever.

If the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, designed from day one to hold high-level waste, couldn’t even attain certification, why should we get stuck with waste for which our dump was never intended? Especially when we got so many promises over the years from politicians that this scenario was illegal and could never come to pass?

I am asking you to consider the written comments I have prepared for our state Environment Department and, if you agree, to add your name to them. I’m asking this because I bet you don’t all have time to write your own lengthy treatises on the subject. We all see that it’s disgraceful for our elected officials to look the other way, clear their throats, hum and whistle a jaunty tune as decades of promises are broken and centuries of pollution recklessly set in motion. Shouldn’t we have public hearings when a change of this magnitude is being considered?

If you agree with me, please co-sign my comments below, and add anything else you’d like at the bottom…
(Fill in your name and contact info, then copy into an email)
…and submit before 5 p.m. on June 10 (yes, next Monday, sorry)
to:
trais.kliphuis@state.nm.us

Thanks. Sasha Pyle, Santa Fe (WIPP gadfly since the 1980’s with CCNS, NukeWatch and ANA)

SHOULD THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT IN NEW MEXICO RECEIVE RE-NAMED HIGH-LEVEL NUCLEAR WASTE?

Written Comment Submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department
June 2013

Trais Kliphuis
New Mexico Environment Department
2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1
Santa Fe, NM 87505

WIPP has been controversial for nearly three decades already, among scientists and citizens concerned about its safety. Now, long after the initial public outcry, it seems that the facility is quietly on the verge of seeing its mission and its risks expanded significantly, but this time with quite limited opportunities for public comment. WIPP opened against a substantial tide of opposition. But that does not mean it has carte blanche today to alter its course in ways that substantially increase its potential to taint New Mexico’s resources and future inhabitants. Any change to its operations that renders it more dangerous should be accompanied by at least the same level of scrutiny as its original mission. The fact that it is already receiving waste does not mean it is suddenly appropriate for any radwaste that anyone in the rest of the country wants to get rid of.

It is interesting to note that if WIPP were proposed today, it likely would never get the green light to begin operations. Discussion of appropriate nuclear waste disposal technologies has largely shifted over the last quarter-century to above-ground retrievable and monitored storage of dangerous nuclear materials, hence away from deep geologic repositories–much less those that are designed explicitly to render the waste invisible and irretrievable, an environmentally irresponsible approach at best–and one that only WIPP employs. Promoted as a “Pilot Plant,” WIPP is now destined to be the only one of its kind. There is literally nowhere else to build the dozens of equally large repositories that would be required to solve the nation’s nuclear waste backlog. WIPP is an idea whose time has come and gone.

A crisis of leaking tanks of liquid high-level Cold War waste at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Reservation in Washington State has provided the impetus for the current push to redefine WIPP’s mission. Anyone knowledgeable in nuclear waste issues knows that the Hanford crisis is very real. A perennial nuclear contractor, Bechtel Corporation, is working on a 13 billion dollar contract (triple the original estimate) of taxpayer money to complete a waste treatment plant that would address the Hanford waste, and they have failed to do so. The question facing us now is: should New Mexico be punished for Bechtel’s (and DOE’s) failure?

Equally importantly, if WIPP cannot solve more than a minute fraction of the Hanford crisis, is it worth exponentially increasing long-term environmental hazards at the WIPP site–only to leave Hanford still polluted as well?

If the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada, which was expressly configured for high-level waste, could not attain certification, doesn’t that mean there are clear standards that must be met for disposal of these very dangerous materials? How is it possible that a completely different type of facility could be magically re-designated for this purpose when its very design and construction are not appropriate to meet those standards?

It is a matter of record that New Mexicans have been repeatedly promised that this use of WIPP would never come to pass. The 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Bill, reflecting input from New Mexico’s Legislature, Congressional delegation, Governor, Attorney General, and Environment Department (at the public’s insistence) clearly protects New Mexicans from such weakening of the WIPP permit. EPA containment standards, mandating a 10,000 year period of non-migration; an upper limit on the quantities of waste that would come to WIPP; and a stringent adherence to acceptance of only transuranic waste are all stipulated in the Land Withdrawal Bill and carry the force of law.

Additionally, in 2004, the excluded waste prohibition (agreed upon by NMED, EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy) amended the final language of the WIPP permit to specifically exclude from disposal at WIPP: tank waste and any waste “previously managed as high level waste.” Alteration of this would require a Class 3 Permit Modification request, thus allowing hearings for public input. DOE’s own language makes clear that undoing the waste exclusion would be a modification requiring a full public comment cycle.

According to the EPA, Class 1 and Class 2 modifications do not substantially alter existing permit conditions or significantly affect the overall operation of the facility. Class 3 modifications cover major changes that substantially alter the facility or its operations.

The current attempt to re-classify high-level waste so as to bring it to WIPP, and the designation of this change in policy as a Class 2 modification, patently violate this prohibition.

Waste that is not allowed into our state by one name cannot be allowed to enter under another name. Re-naming the high-level waste “transuranic” when it hits our border in no way addresses the major scientific concerns about its safe disposal. The attempt to run this major change through as a Class 2 modification is deceptive and illegal. Violating the Land Withdrawal Bill and the 2004 waste exclusion would be legally actionable at once.

If New Mexicans have been promised repeatedly, with the force of law, in 1992 and 2004 and many other points over the last 30 years, that high level waste would not come to WIPP, what has changed—besides the Administration?

This raises the question: is WIPP regulated according to the physical reality of what will actually happen to nuclear waste underground, or by the artifice of paper-shuffling and magic language, mere words on paper that happen above ground–and have no relation to the site itself, its toxic contents, and its containment performance over the very long future? And it also raises the question: was WIPP’s purpose truly to solve some fraction of our nation’s nuclear waste crisis, or merely to give the appearance of doing so, to keep tax dollars flowing into nuclear weapons (and hence, waste) production?

The site and the science of WIPP have always been shaky, and widely contested. It is likely the repository will be unable to safely contain even the waste for which it was built. Introducing a new “Superhot” waste stream—both thermally and radioactively much hotter than plutonium-dusted “gloves and booties” (a famous DOE description of WIPP waste)–could greatly accelerate the formation of a hot radioactive slurry that will force escape pathways open from the site. The long-lasting plutonium-contaminated waste for which WIPP was originally built could thus find its way into the biosphere much more quickly and widely once the “Superhot” waste has spurred the formation of waste migration pathways. WIPP has always run the risk of eventually polluting the Rustler Aquifer, the Pecos River, the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico. Do we really want that to happen on a larger scale, with a wider variety of radioactive and chemical pollutants, with greatly increased radioactivity, and much sooner? Is that to be our gift to the region’s inhabitants in the future?

We already have to live with the facility’s unknown and unquantifiable risks. Expanding the mission augments these risks unacceptably.

Would allowing one kind of high-level waste to be buried at WIPP open the door to the specter of spent fuel rods coming our way? Are we supposed to solve every nuclear crisis in the country, to become our nation’s nuclear outhouse? This shift in mission is no minor technicality; it represents an enormous turnaround in national waste disposal policy.

If scientific consensus was divided on WIPP’s original mission, it is not divided on the dangers of using a salt repository to contain high-level waste. The hydrophilic (water-attracting) nature of salt as a disposal medium, already extremely dubious as a choice for transuranic waste, is even more inappropriate for waste streams with the heat and radioactivity of high-level waste. This change does not have support from the technical community, only from people who hope to profit from expanding WIPP’s mission.

Here in New Mexico we have a sizeable community of people who are quite familiar with the process of speaking at public hearings on nuclear issues. Many dozens of organizations, and hundreds (indeed, thousands) of individual citizens have testified at NEPA hearings over the years on nuclear issues relating to mission alterations at Los Alamos, specific proposed facilities, cleanup, DOE “Modernization,” and so on. Although the National Environmental Policy Act is not the dominant governing legislation for this permit modification, NEPA has conditioned citizens to expect their “day in court” when they can speak about the nuclear industries that loom so large in our state history and landscape. People expect to present oral commentary and back it up with written submissions. NMED should expect no less from the public.

Now NMED must fulfill its Constitutional obligation to protect New Mexico from risky abuses of natural resources necessary for life and survival in this region. NMED’s job is to regulate. Political arguments and pressure for jobs will always form a large part of the chatter any time nuclear projects are proposed. Boosters will predictably focus on the jobs side of the equation. It is not NMED’s mandate to promote these boom-and-bust jobs that will be long forgotten while the radioactive and chemical materials are still threatening our descendants, 100, 1000, 10,000 years from now. It is NMED’s job to prevent contamination of our land and its inhabitants, no matter which Administration sits in the Roundhouse.

No matter how many closed-door meetings are held, no matter how hidden this process is from public view, no matter how many attempts are made to minimize public awareness and input, we are watching very closely to see what NMED’s legacy will be. We believe the regulatory framework for WIPP should be bedrock, not shifting sands of expediency that erode and eventually collapse public confidence in government. NMED must deny the permit modification request, and it must deny its viability as a Class 2 request.

We also know that if you learn of significant public demand for real hearings, you are obligated to provide them. Consider this a statement of public demand, please. Thank you for your consideration.

_________________________
name
_________________________
city
_________________________
state

NNSA Penalizes Sandia; In Response Labs Director Says the Needs of the Nuclear Weapons Stockpile May Not Be Met

May 17, 2013

Santa Fe, NM – Albuquerque’s KRQE TV Channel 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker has found that “[a]fter calling employee safety standards “inexcusable,” the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration recently withheld more than $6 million in incentive fees from Sandia [National Laboratories] as punishment… Lab director, Dr. Paul Hommert, defended Sandia’s handling of the Alaskan incident to the federal government. But, in a strongly-worded rebuke, NNSA Acting Director Neile Miller called Hommert’s version of the Kodiak events “disingenuous,” characterized Sandia’s response to the accident as “minimal” and said she was disturbed that no disciplinary action was ever taken against the employees involved.”

In last night’s broadcast Mr. Barker interviewed New Mexico’s senior senator Tom Udall and Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Jay Coghlan. Both called for Sandia Labs to openly acknowledge and discuss a tragic vehicle accident in Alaska that resulted in the permanent paralysis of two employees. Sandia Labs Director Paul Hommert refused Mr. Barker’s repeated requests to be interviewed.

However, Mr. Barker did manage to comprehensively document NNSA’s process of fee determination that resulted in the penalty. Included is a 7-page letter by Sandia Director Paul Hommert defending the Labs and arguing that Sandia should not be docked for its negligent performance. He concludes by writing”

“…these actions [to penalize Sandia] are interpreted by me and my leadership as intended (whether rightly or wrongly) to send us a message that our broader national security work is not supported by the NNSA… the impact of such a message will impact our ability to support the nation’s national security challenges. First and foremost among these challenges are the needs of our nation’s nuclear deterrent, which we cannot meet without our broader work.”

Paul Hommert wears two hats, the first as Sandia Labs Director, the second as president of the executive board of the for-profit Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the world’s largest defense contractor, the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Hommert’s salary has not been publicly revealed, but his predecessor Tom Hunter received $1.7 million in total annual compensation.

Sandia’s budget for nuclear weapons now exceeds Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. It is the lead lab for a Life Extension Program that will radically change the existing B61 nuclear bomb, whose estimated costs have exploded to over $10 billion. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor for the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose estimated service life cycle will cost more than one trillion dollars. The future mission of the stealthy F-35 will be in large part to deliver precision-guided B61 bombs forward deployed in Europe (against what threat?), refurbished under Sandia’s leadership.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “In response to NNSA’s criticism and proposed penalty, in effect Sandia Labs Director Paul Hommert tells the federal government to give us the money or the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile is at risk. There is an inherent conflict of interest in having the nuclear weapons labs directors also acting as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs. As part of badly need reform and strengthening of federal oversight, these two positions should be strictly separated so that the American public can be fully confident that profoundly serious nuclear weapons policy decisions are not being influenced by private for-profit motives.”

# # #

KRQE Channel 13’s investigative report by Larry Barker is available at

http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/larry_barker/sandia-lab-safety-costs-taxpaers-millions

His compilation of NNSA’s fee determination and Sandia Lab Director Paul Hommert’s letter is available at

http://media2.krqe.com/_local/pdf/SNL%20Fee%20Determination.pdf

NukeWatch NM’s compilation of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2014 budget request

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2014 budget request includes a 13% increase for nuclear weapons programs above FY 2013 sequester levels.

NukeWatch NM’s compilation of the NNSA FY 2014 budget request is available at
http://nukewatch.org/economics/FY2014_NNSA_Budget_4-10-13_Print.pdf

Further analysis by us will follow.

Jay

Why the appointment of ex-NM Rep. Heather Wilson to security panel is not a good thing

Reportedly House Speaker Boehner has appointed former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) to the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Other appointments have not been yet announced.

That is not good. Wilson (a former protégé of Sen. Pete Domenici) is a self-interested advocate for the Labs. According to an October 16, 2012 Santa Fe Reporter article she has had numerous consulting contracts with defense contractors, including Sandia Labs beginning in 2009 and up to her Senate campaign in 2012 (see .http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-7028-this-is-heather-wils.htm). Moreover, in the past her congressional staff has included Sandia Labs personnel.

She also incorrectly and repeatedly argued in her Senate campaign against Martin Heinrich that the deferral of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility would cost 1,000 jobs at the Los Alamos Lab (my repeated attempts to contact her campaign and correct her had no apparent effect).

The provision in the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Act that enabled the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise was largely written by a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee who is a former Sandia Labs employee. Its purpose is to create greater autonomy for the nuclear weapons labs with less federal oversight. (See “Governance, Management, and Oversight of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, ” House Report 112–479, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, H.R. 4310, page 329).

Given the long string of chronic cost overruns and security infractions, diminished federal oversight and greater autonomy for privatized corporate nuclear weapons contractors is not the way to go. Don’t expect Heather Wilson to help the American taxpayer correct that wrong direction.

On a final note, this Panel should be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.  A 2008 Government Accountability Office report on the Act states “Because advisory committees provide input to federal decision makers on significant national issues, it is essential that their membership be, and be perceived as being, free from conflicts of interest and balanced as a whole.” http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-611T

This should apply to Wilson if she still has consulting jobs with the nuclear weapons labs.

LANL Regional Coalition Exaggerates Sequester Cuts

Northern New Mexico Needs to Wean Itself From Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM Today the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities issued a press statement supporting a state House memorial that “recognizes the critical importance of New Mexico’s National Laboratories and DOE facilities to the state’s economic welfare and the dramatic negative effects that sequestration will have on New Mexico’s economy.” Its statement also “recognizes that Northern New Mexico is highly dependent on federal spending in the area of nuclear technology and sequestration may cause tens of thousands of New Mexicans to lose their jobs through direct and indirect job losses at Los Alamos National Laboratory.”

Staffing levels at LANL vary from year to year and up-to-date information is hard to find.  Given those qualifiers there are approximately 10,500 people directly employed by the Lab or its contractors, and perhaps the same amount of people in lesser-paid indirect jobs. Specific impacts of the sequester are nearly impossible to pinpoint in advance, but if general cuts of 10% to military programs are applied to the number of LANL employees and subcontractors and indirect jobs that would be a loss of ~2,000 positions. While not good, it is still a far cry from the “tens of thousands” of lost jobs that the Regional Coalition cries wolf about. Using the Coalition’s own language, sequester cuts could include all of LANL’s direct and indirect jobs, which is simply impossible. In Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s view policy should be based on sound and proven facts, not scare tactics. [As a footnote, according to a February 14 Albuquerque Journal article LANL Director Charlie McMillan said job cuts would not be likely as a result of sequestration.]

The Regional Coalition, composed of politicians from eight northern New Mexico counties and municipalities, lobbies Congress to support LANL’s budget. It is currently funded with $100,000 from the Department of Energy and $150,000 from Los Alamos County. Just under two-thirds of the Lab’s annual ~$2.2 billion institutional budget is for core research, testing and production programs for nuclear weapons, the most destructive class of weapons of mass destruction ever known. Due to the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs Los Alamos County is the 2nd richest county in the USA.

In contrast, despite the claimed economic benefits of the nuclear weapons industry, New Mexico as a whole has slipped from 37th in per capita income in 1959 to 44th now, while 25% of our children remained mired in poverty. There is limited economic benefit from LANL’s nuclear weapons programs outside the privileged enclave of Los Alamos County. Moreover, contractor profits have soared 10-fold since Lab management was privatized in 2006 with co-manager Bechtel.

What the Los Alamos Lab has failed to do is to profoundly diversify its mission to meet 21st century threats (in part because of its prohibitive overhead support costs of just under 50%). For example, in its fiscal year 2013 Congressional Budget Request the Lab asked for only $2.1 million for renewable energies R&D, or a pathetic 00.1% of its total projected budget. New Mexico is one of the leading states in renewable energies production with potential job growth in the tens of thousands, but the Los Alamos National Laboratory has had little if anything to do with that. Similarly, while LANL has advertised itself as having “the world’s greatest science,” but it asked for only $78 million in the budget category of non-nuclear weapons “Science” (only 3.5% of its total budget).

The Lab asked for $235 million in FY 2013 for cleanup (or 10.7% of its total projected budget), but is planning to merely “cap and cover” an estimated ~6 million cubic feet of radioactive and hazardous contaminants at its largest waste dump (known as “Area G”). In contrast, comprehensive cleanup would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, one that permanently protects the environment and our precious groundwater and the Rio Grande while creating hundreds of high paying jobs (for more, see below).

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director commented, “It’s past time for New Mexican politicians to show bold leadership that lessens dependence on nuclear weapons programs and helps to stimulate local economic growth through cleanup at LANL and the encouragement of sustainable green industries independent of the federal budget. In the interests of their own constituents this is what local counties and municipalities should be pushing for, instead of lobbying for the continued benefit of the Los Alamos Lab and County. But if the Regional Coalition is going to continue to directly lobby for the Lab it should at least use sound facts and figures instead of distorting data to indulge in scare tactics.”

# # #

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s argument for comprehensive cleanup of Area G while creating hundreds of job is available at http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Cleanup-Jobs-9-9-12.pdf

 

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NNSA Releases Expanded 2012 Performance Evaluation Reports

In response to a request from Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the National Nuclear Security Administration has released to us expanded versions of the 2012 Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) for seven nuclear weapons complex sites. (The report for the Savannah River Site was not given to us.) The reports are used by NNSA to decide how much Award Fee it will give its nuclear weapons site contractors each year.

Design issues for the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) cost taxpayers over a 1/2 billion dollars. A statement from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) sheds light on the FY2012 Y-12 Performance Evaluation Report

NNSA admitted publicly in October, five months after it first learned about it, that it had run into a “space/fit issue” with the UPF design. The building, as it approached 80% design completion, would not hold all the equipment it needs to hold…
“The engineering plan delivered on October 19, reported a TPC cost impact of $539M and 13 month impact to the overall project schedule as a result of the Space/Fit issue, effectively using 45% of the NNSA contingency established during CD-1 Reaffirmation in April.” (Performance Evaluation Report for Babcock and Wilcox Y-12 Technical Services, LLC, Evaluation Period: October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012, p.7)

…more soon…

How Do You Spell PASSWORD? LANL Gets Bad Cyber Report

How Do You Spell PASSWORD? LANL Gets Bad Cyber Report

It turns out that cyber security for running supercomputing networks at a national nuclear weapons laboratory may not be much different than cyber security for the rest of us emailing, social networking, and watching kitten videos. All of us need to reasonably vigilant with passwords and software updates. The difference is that when you and I use lame passwords and don’t update our software, we don’t put national security at risk.

The DOE Investigator General (DOE IG) released a report that identified continuing concerns in LANL cyber security program. These concerns have been going on for years. A 2006 report revealed that critical cyber security internal controls and safeguards were not functioning as intended and monitoring by both laboratory and Federal officials was not adequate. Weaknesses with LANL’s cyber security program were also identified at least as far back as 2002.

A temporary shutdown of the Lab for nearly seven months (July 2004 to January 2005) because of a security flap might have cost as much as $370 million, but the exact amount can’t be calculated because of the way the lab recorded its activities according to General Accounting Office congressional investigators in 2005. Apparently, exact amounts are hard for the Lab to come up with. The DOE IG, for its cyber report, said, “Although LANL spends a significant amount of funds on information technology (IT) activities, we were unable to obtain an accurate amount due to the Laboratory’s limited ability to track its IT spending.”

How do you spell PASSWORD?
The DOE IG found that, “Network servers and devices were configured with default or easily guessed login credentials or required no authentication. For example, 15 web applications and 5 servers were configured with default or blank passwords.” Additionally, two network servers had the possibility to accept connections from anybody without the use of authentication or similar access controls. Also, 10 network servers could have allowed unauthorized remote control.

Those pesky software updates –
And, “LANL had not fully implemented existing security patch management and vulnerability management procedures. Specifically, tests of 191 network servers supporting LANL’s financial applications and data or providing core network services revealed that 73 (38 percent) were running operating systems and client applications without current security patches…” The DOE IG also found that LANL continued to maintain a significant number of operating systems, client applications and other various software that was no longer supported.

To be fair, the DOE IG reported that LANL “improved the protection of national security systems and data through the elimination or disablement of data ports on machines containing classified information.” This partially refers to the Lab’s low-tech program of injecting a popular two-stage epoxy into USB ports. I’m not sure that qualifies as an IT solution.

No passwords. No updates. How does this happen at nuclear weapons laboratory? Two things – First, the Lab contractor does not perform. Second, oversight is lacking. The DOE IG stated that, “The issues identified occurred, in part, because of a lack of effective monitoring and oversight of LANL’s cyber security program by the Los Alamos Site Office, including approval of practices that were less rigorous than those required by Federal directives. “ The Los Alamos Site Office is a DOE office and is tasked with providing immediate federal oversight of the Lab and making sure that our taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely.

Unfortunately, DOE continues to relax its grip of oversight of the Labs. Continuing cyber security issues are only one manifestation of this letting go. We need a strong DOE Secretary, a strong NNSA administrator, and strong Congressional oversight as we head towards zero nukes if we hope to hold the nuclear weapons complex contractor accountable.

Read the Global Security Newswire Article here.

The Lab’s New, $400 million, Plutonium Laboratory Springs Its First Leak

The Lab’s New, $400 million, Plutonium Laboratory Springs Its First Leak

On January 22, 2013 representatives of the Los Alamos National Laboratory discovered the presence of a diesel spill from an above ground storage tank system at the LANL Technical Area 55. The spill was from the new Radiological Laboratory Utilities Office Building’s (RLUOB’s) 12,000-gallon emergency generator diesel storage tank. The RLUOB is the recently completed first phase of the CMRR project. The main phase of the project, the CMRR Nuclear Facility (estimated at #6 billion), has been deferred for at least 5 years and will probably next be proposed next as a smaller project, if at all.

From the reports, it is unclear how long the sump pump union had been leaking before the spill was noticed. A leak detector alarm first went off in November. The Lab estimates that 350 gallons overflowed out a sump and spilled onto the ground, and workers have removed 5 cubic yards of contaminated soil. LANL and the State Environment Department Petroleum Storage TOppie greenank Bureau are working to figure out if more soil needs to be removed.

Read the report there.

WIPP Proposes to Eliminate Waste Sampling – Comments Needed!

WIPP Proposes to Eliminate Waste Sampling – Speak Out!

Since the Department of Energy (DOE) opened the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in 1999, the transuranic (TRU-plutonium-contaminated) waste has been subjected to chemical sampling and laboratory analysis to determine what toxic chemicals are present before the waste can be shipped to WIPP. The WIPP operating permit issued by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has required headspace gas sampling of non-solidified waste and coring of solidified waste to help determine toxic chemicals and their concentrations. DOE now wants to eliminate all requirements for headspace gas and solids sampling from the WIPP permit. But people can speak out about DOE’s plans!
Read the fact sheet here.

Submit written comments to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).
Tell NMED:
I am very concerned that eliminating sampling of waste bound for WIPP would reduce health and safety protections because such analysis is still needed, including for the many waste streams that have not yet been sampled. NMED should deny the request. Any future requests to reduce or eliminate sampling should only be made after the kind of systematic approach recommended by the National Academy of Sciences is carried out and made public and after representative sampling is done for waste streams that have not yet been shipped to WIPP.

The deadline for written comments to NMED is February 18, 2013. Submit to:
Trais Kliphuis, New Mexico Environment Department, 2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1, Santa Fe, NM 87505, or
E-mail: trais.kliphuis@state.nm.us
The complete 301-page permit modification request (13 MB) can be found at:

Click to access Class_2_PMR.pdf

Proposed Nuke Cuts a Step in the Right Direction

Great news about reported further cuts to deployed strategic nuclear weapons. NukeWatch NM is all in favor of that! But we also want a qualitative change rather that just a quantitative change. By that we mean no new nuclear weapons production facilities meant to last for the next half-century and no new military capabilities for our existing weapons. Make no mistake, those new military capabilities are happening now through Life Extension Programs, despite denials at the highest levels of the U.S. government. More in our press release……

NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 8, 2013   

Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342, c. 505.692.5854 jay@nukewatch.org

 

Proposed Nuke Cuts a Step in the Right Direction – –

New Nuclear Weapons Production Facilities And Military Capabilities Should Be Cut As Well

Santa Fe, NM – According to a major article published today by the Center for Public Integrity, the Obama Administration is preparing to release a long-awaited “Implementation Study” as a follow on to its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. This study will reportedly lower the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,000 – 1,100 from the 1,550 each pledged to by Russia and the U.S. in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty arms control agreement. In December 2010 the U.S. Senate ratified New START, which Republican senators used to extract funding commitments for “modernization” of both the nuclear weapons stockpile and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s research and production complex.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauds further cuts to strategic nuclear weapons as an excellent step in the right direction. But as the Center for Public Integrity points out the Obama Administration considered but rejected a “deterrence only” nuclear posture that would require only some 500 warheads to back up the officially declared policy of deterring others. This is in contrast to the 1,000+ weapons needed for nuclear warfighting and first strike capability (which the U.S. has never renounced).

So-called modernization of the U.S. stockpile involves increasingly aggressive Life Extension Programs (LEPs) that prolong the service lives of existing nuclear weapons 30 years or more. LEPs and/or other modifications also provide existing nuclear weapons with new military capabilities, which generally involve substituting lower yield nuclear weapons for higher yield weapons. Two past examples are: 1) a 1997 modification of the B61 bomb into a 350 kiloton earth-penetrator, taking over the mission of the 9 megaton B53 surface-burst bomb to destroy hardened, deeply buried targets; and 2) the current LEP for the sub-launched W76 Trident warhead, retrofitting it with a new-design fuze that is believed capable of selecting more precise heights-of-burst. In combination with increased warhead accuracy, this gives the 100-kiloton W76 the hard target kill capability of the more powerful 450-kiloton W88 Trident warhead. [For perspective’s sake, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs were ~16 and ~21 kilotons respectively, together instantly killing at least 130,000 people.]

The U.S. has officially and repeatedly declared to the entire world (notably at the United Nations’ 2010 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference) that it will not produce new-design nuclear weapons. Simultaneously high-level government officials also pledged that the U.S. would never give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities.

However Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM Director, points out, “Substituting more usable lower-yield nuclear weapons for higher-yield weapons is undeniably a new military capability in and of itself. At the same time, we are undermining our own national security, first through the bad proliferation example we set for others, and second by possibly lowering confidence in stockpile reliability through the introduction of major changes to our extensively tested nuclear weapons. Further cuts to deployed strategic nuclear weapons are clearly a very good thing. But the next needed step is for all nuclear weapons powers, including the U.S., to adopt a deterrence-only posture that conservatively maintains nuclear arsenals while awaiting negotiated, verified disarmament.”

As a case in point for the need to preserve the tested pedigree of the stockpile, the new-design fuze for the W76 (in part responsible for its new military capability) had initial design problems that delayed start up of its Life Extension Program. Future LEPs could be even more aggressive, with for example a proposed joint warhead replacing both the W78 ICBM warhead and the sub-launched W88 while using the plutonium pit core of yet a third type of warhead. This inevitably raises the question of at what point does a reputedly refurbished nuclear weapon become a “new” weapon, directly contradicting officially declared policy and creating a terrible proliferation example.

Lower stockpile numbers coupled with prudent, conservative maintenance of nuclear weapons creates less need for strategic bombers, subs, missiles and nuclear weapons production facilities, in turn leading to huge, urgently needed taxpayers savings and enhanced national security. Coghlan concluded, “This should be the final straw for the proposed ~$6 billion CMRR facility for expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab, which has been postponed for at least 5 years because of budget pressures. Today’s revelation of lower nuclear stockpile numbers should put a permanent end to this plutonium boondoggle for a shrinking nuclear weapons stockpile, giving some relief to the American taxpayer while promoting a safer world.”

# # #

The Center for Public Integrity’s news article “Obama administration embraces major new nuclear weapons cut” is available at http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/08/12156/obama-administration-embraces-major-new-nuclear-weapons-cut

903 W. Alameda, #325 • Santa Fe, NM 87501 • Voice and fax: 505.989.7342 info@nukewatch.org • www.nukewatch.org   http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/ • http://www.facebook.com/NukeWatch.NM

 

 


GOVERNMENT MEMO SLAMS BECHTEL FOR MALFEASANCE, SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT HANFORD NUCLEAR SITE

This is from our friends at Hanford Challenge (www.hanfordchallenge.org). Bechtel is the major operator of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Press Release
Immediate Release
For more information contact: Tom Carpenter, 206-419-5829 tomc@hanfordchallenge.org
August 28, 2012

GOVERNMENT MEMO SLAMS BECHTEL FOR MALFEASANCE, SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT HANFORD NUCLEAR SITE

Memo Urges DOE to Remove Bechtel as the Design Authority, Warning Bechtel “is not competent to complete their role”

Seattle, WA: Hanford Challenge today released a high-ranking Director’s memorandum that urges termination of the key duties of government contractor, Bechtel National, Inc. (“Bechtel”; “BNI”). A litany of charges question whether Bechtel should continue its role at the Hanford nuclear site, including a long history of incompetence, misleading the government, overcharging, and unsafe designs.

The memo states, “[t]he number and significance of these issues indicate that Bechtel National Inc. is not competent to complete their role as the Design Authority for the WTP [Waste Treatment Plant], and it is questionable that BNI can provide a contract-compliant design as Design Agent.”

The memo continues, noting that “[t]he behavior and performance of Bechtel Engineering places unnecessarily high risk that the WTP design will not be effectively completed. . .”

The August 23, 2012 memo was prepared by the Department of Energy’s WTP Engineering Division Director who oversees the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. It is titled “Summary of Actions and Design Outcomes that Erode Confidence in the ability of Bechtel National Inc. to complete their assigned role as Design Authority for the WTP,” it includes a 19- page attachment, and it is addressed to the Hanford Site Manager. The memo begins:
“This memorandum documents 34 instances and technical issues in which Bechtel National Inc., acting as Design Authority for the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) has provided design solutions and technical advice to the Department of Energy which either:
• was determined to be factually incorrect,
• provided a design solution that was not technically defensible, technically viable, or was technically flawed considering identified requirements,
• provided a design solution that was not safe for the WTP operators, or designs that did not comply with the safety basis,
• provided a design solution that represented higher River Protection Project life cycle operating costs compared to other alternatives,
• provided a design solution that was difficult and costly to verify considering other alternatives. thereby increasing WTP completion costs and extending the WTP completion schedule,
• provided a design that was new and unique and does not clearly provide benefits compared to existing technologies and which required special qualification testing,
• provided an installed equipment system that did not meet safety requirements or was not adequately inspected following installation even when defects became known, or
• did not represent best value to the Government in terms of design costs, operating costs or completion schedule.”
The Hanford Waste Treatment Plant is one of the world’s largest and most expensive environmental remediation projects. The current plant is the fourth attempt to build a treatment facility to convert radioactive waste into glass at Hanford, it is a decade behind schedule and with a price tag of approximately at $13 billion, it is at least 250% over budget. The Department of Energy (“DOE”) recently suspended much of the project’s design and construction activities, pending resolution of outstanding safety and technical concerns.
The memo further states, “DOE Engineering Staff have uncovered findings at a nearly constant rate since 2008. The rate of identification is constant, indicating systemic problems in the WTP design process and in BNI’s role as Design Authority. The number and rate of problems identified is indicative that issues are not being resolved.”
Hanford Challenge Executive Director, Tom Carpenter, posits: “the leaked memo puts the Waste Treatment Plant’s woes into sharp relief. This memo details exhaustive and disturbing evidence of why Bechtel should be terminated from this project and subject to an independent investigation. We already knew of Bechtel’s record of suppressing its own engineers’ concerns and retaliating against whistleblowers, and now we see evidence that exhibits a shocking and inexcusable lack of attention to safety for both workers and the public.”
The Engineering Director’s memo recommends, “the role of the WTP Design Authority should be immediately removed from BNI. The DOE should evaluate and select a preferred option to establish an Independent Design Authority for the WTP that will represent the interests of the DOE and the DOE operator.”
+++++++++++++++++++
DOE Memo can be found at www.hanfordchallenge.org

Trinity Day — a good day to get money from the Fed?

Please check out Stephanie’s blog

Particle Beams
“Luminous Quanta of Divine Intelligence…” dispelling the nuclear delusion

Trinity Day — a good day to get money from the Fed?

Batter my heart, three-person’d God.   — John Donne, “Trinity”

Yesterday was the 67th anniversary of the very first atomic bomb test in the New Mexico desert, and alas for us, it was a success.

Across the globe, we still have 20,000 bombs ready to go, many of them on high alert.

Commemorating this event and its consequences were three different developments in New Mexico.

The first and most incongruous was news of a delegation embarking on that very day and heading to Washington, DC, to sell someone (not specified in the Los Alamos Post story) how much it means to the state of New Mexico to have the Labs here.

Nice way to celebrate the anniversary, que no? Drinks afterwards at the Capitol?

The delegation was composed of nearly 20 members of the business community accompanied by a representative from Governor Martinez’ office. We might have expected the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Simon Brackley, to be there, but it was a bit of a surprise to see Lilian Montoya Rael, a Board member from Christus St. Vincent’s Hospital.

But I suppose that the Labs, being so detrimental to health, are an indispensable asset to the Hospital.

Speaking of health, the second event, in marked contrast to the humble fundraising efforts of a few of our respected citizens, addressed the reality — the real impact of the bomb test on the lives of citizens, in this case the citizens of Tularosa, a small village that exists outside the presumed boundary of fallout that was expected from that event. These men, women and children have experienced a disproportionately higher-than-ever rate of cancers and other disabling conditions. July 16 was named Nuclear Disasters Day in Tularosa. They celebrated with luminarias at the town baseball field!

Last but not least, July 16 marks the first day of the Los Alamos Hunger Strike initiated by Alaric Balibreras. Thirty strikers have joined him in his plea to have a conversation with Those in Charge of the Lab’s affairs about coming up with a Plan to actually change the Lab’s Mission, currently the production of a-bombs (as posted on the Lab’s website), to production of Things that are Good for Us. (Remember “Better Living through Chemistry?” Such were the slogans that set off the hippie resistance of the 60s, and I’m told that the planets are aligned in a similar pattern today!!)

And which way will it go? Will the delegation of business people receive more money from Washington to produce more bombs, an activity so lucrative to the state that they can’t bear to let it go… or will this year be the year of The Rise of the Little People demanding an end to this profligacy and waste? Stay tuned. Alaric plans to fast until Nagasaki Day, August 9, anniversary of the day in 1945 when the US used the first plutonium bomb against the residents of that city, killing 130,000 on site and more later.

Enough, he says, and we say with him: Let’s have a Change of Heart, For a World of Beauty! Raise an empty glass with 30 hunger strikers and join them if you wish: you’ll find them on Facebook, at Los Alamos Hunger Strike.

We will be following the strike throughout the 21 days with updates and interviews. Here’s one newsflash from yesterday:

Los Alamos, July 16, 2012

STANDING AT THE GATES OF THE LAB some 20 protestors, most of them from Trinity Abolition, an Albuquerque group which protests at the Lab on a regular basis, as well as members of the hunger strike, joined hands outside the gates of the lab. “Lab people came down and took our pictures and got our names,” reports Ellie Voutselas of Pax Christi, one of the fasters.

Alaric then moved over to Ashley Pond, the original site of the Lab and now a public park, where he was joined by a young striker whose dog set up a howl for the duration. Guess that puppy has a few things to say about nuclear weapons, but the canine may provide an unneeded distraction if this keeps up.

Lab lacks ability to estimate emergency response as it also underestimates risk

Lab lacks ability to estimate emergency response as it also underestimates risk

There has been much in the recent news about Los Alamos National Laboratory underestimating how much radiation could leak from the nuclear weapons production plutonium lab after a major earthquake and fire. Read the POGO article here.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Report is here.

Among other problems, LANL computer models credited sheetrock walls with surviving an earthquake.

In a recently released May report, the Department of Energy’s very own oversight Department finished a separate review titled, “Independent Oversight Review of Site Preparedness for Severe Natural Phenomena Events at the Los Alamos National Laboratory”, that also questions the Lab’s safety procedures.

The Health Safety and Security Office (HSS) of Safety and Emergency Management Evaluations performed this independent review to evaluate emergency response capabilities at the Lab and how the Lab maintained them in a state of readiness in case of a severe natural phenomena event. The review showed that LANL would have trouble responding quickly with the appropriate emergency response in the case of a serious natural event.

As one of the conclusions states – “LANL does not have an adequate means for determining quickly whether an event occurring at the CMR facility, a criticality event at TA-55 PF-4 facility, or a severe natural phenomena event at either facility involves a significant quantity of HAZMAT and requires implementation of corresponding onsite protective actions or issuance of appropriate offsite protective action recommendations.” (Pg. 38)

For example, the Emergency Action Levels currently in the Lab’s Emergency Plan Procedure:

•            Do not reflect the CMR Emergency Planning Hazards Assessment isolation and downwind protective action distances for the majority of the events

•            Do not provide Emergency Action Levels for two severe natural phenomena events (earthquake and wildland fire) in the CMR Emergency Planning Hazards Assessment

•            Use a criticality alarm system as an Emergency Action Level entry indicator for a criticality event at CMR, even though CMR is not equipped with a criticality alarm system

•            Do not use the PF-4 criticality alarm system as an Emergency Action Level entry indicator for the criticality event analyzed in the TA-55 Emergency Planning Hazards Assessment.

 

In addition, the Lab’s generic natural disaster Emergency Action Levels do not provide sufficient information to accurately categorize and/or classify a severe natural phenomena event.

And LANL’s planning for onsite protective actions and offsite protective action recommendations provided in the Emergency Action Levels did not fully consider facility or site conditions for the analyzed events.

The report continues. The Independent Oversight observed outdated and incorrect information in the current set of CMR and TA-55 PF-4 Emergency Action Levels. Further, the generic Emergency Action Levels for severe natural phenomena events were not based on the potential for or an actual uncontrolled release of HAZMAT and are not linked to protective actions or protective action recommendations.

Additionally, the pre-planned protective actions for a TA-55 PF-4 seismic event are limited to shelter-in-place when there could be high radiation levels, and no effective shelters are available.

So, we have two different government agencies questioning safety after the Lab received a record $83 million in award bonuses.

These reports are another example of why the Lab must shut down plutonium operations now.

LANL loses track of nuclear materials

LANL loses track of nuclear materials

Plutonium operations placed in standby mode

 

In an April 20, 2012 report, the Safety Board charged with oversight of defense nuclear facilities reported that the system used to track nuclear materials in the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory was operating erroneously. The system apparently only kept track of 1,700 out of 13,000 containers of nuclear “materials at risk” (MAR). This omission caused the facility to exceed its limits for MAR located in individual containers and outside of gloveboxes at least 15 times.

If one is operating a facility with large quantities of fissionable nuclear materials it is very important to know where the materials are at all times because stacking too much plutonium in one place can cause a criticality event or worse. After the error was noticed, the Lab manually started to verify container MAR amounts manually.  “To date, fifteen containers, all housed in the facility’s vault, have been identified with contents that exceed the MAR limit of 7500 g WG-Pu [Weapons Grade Plutonium] equivalent.” That’s a lot to lose track of because these limits help the facility to comply with the seismic requirements of operations in the Lab’s earthquake fault zone.

Normal operations have been terminated in the 150,000 square foot Plutonium Facility and the facility has been placed in “Standby Mode.” How much does a shutdown cost taxpayers?

How long has the Lab violated these limits? The report states that the tracking error was introduced during software development, apparently due to a “miscommunication” between the software developers and the security personnel. The MAR tracker program performs other required MAR limit surveillances in the facility. Are these other surveillances reliable? This incident also calls into question other Lab software, such as programs that model contaminant transport.

It is unclear if the plutonium facility has restarted operations. The Safety Board reports usually are released about a month after they are written.new green atom

 

 

 

 

 

The Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board Report is here.

It is still annual compensation paid for by the taxpayers

I’d like to respond to the news stories out lately concerning the Director’s salary at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Following our press release Wednesday, the Lab released their reply. It was reported by both the Albuquerque Journal North and the LAMonitor.

LANL Says Pension Boosted Director’s Compensation By Mark Oswald / Albuquerque Journal on Fri, Apr 20, 2012

Nuke Watch assails lab salary increase By John Severance, LA Monitor, Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm (Updated: April 20, 9:08 am)

From the monitor article –

“According to its computations, Charlie McMillan, the LANL director, had a salary of $1,081,059 in 2011. In 2009, the salary was $800,348 and in 2005, the year before the management of the lab was awarded to Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a corporation including the University of California, Bechtel Corporation, URS and B&W, the salary was $348,000.”

BTW, it’s not our “computations.” The compensation levels we quote come from federal reporting on economic stimulus funding.

In response, the Lab states, “The majority of the figure reported under DOE stimulus funding guidelines is an increase in pension value.” Can anyone explain what this means? Our economic experts are at a loss. Until I am straightened out, which I eagerly await, the statement will mean to me that the increases of the Director/President’s annual compensation are mostly due to increased pension contributions.

Whatever it is, it is still annual compensation.

The Lab response continues – “Also included are salary, life insurance, health benefits, and other total compensation.” I repeat, whatever the “increase in pension value” is, it is still annual compensation.

The Lab response continues – “The portion of the director’s annual salary reimbursable by the government is about 35 percent of the reported figure and is comparable to previous director salaries, adjusted for inflation.” That may be true, but the remaining 65% of the $1M annually going to the LANL Director/LANS President is coming from the contractor Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), of which he is president of the executive committee of the board of directors. The statement continues –  “Any amount above the federal maximum comes from LANS performance fees and is not reimbursable by the government.” But the LANS performance fees are paid by the federal government, so ultimately it is still the taxpayer that is paying the LANL’s Director’s total salary.

It is still annual compensation paid for by the taxpayers.

Before the LANL management contract was privatized and became for-profit in June 2006 the LANL Directors were getting just that salary directly reimbursable by the government.  Now they get that plus the larger LANS amount on top of it.

 

Two Upcoming Events

Two upcoming events

Sunday Mornings @ The Travel Bug
April 22, Sunday, 11 am
839 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director Of Nuclear Watch New Mexico
in Conversation with Michelle Victoria – NukeFreeNow on the work Jay has
done over the last 22 years on nuclear safety and what Michelle is planning
for the NukeFreeNow.
http://www.journeysantafe.com/travelbug.php
Travel Bug is an independent travel specialty store in Santa Fe, NM,
839 Paseo de Peralta 505-474-1457

And

CMRR Public Meeting
Wednesday, April 25 from 6:30 – 8:30
Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos

The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMMR) Project is the
Lab’s $6 billion dream facility that would enable expanded production
capabilities for plutonium nuclear weapons components. The Obama
Administration has recently proposed deferring the project for 5 years,
which will likely lead to its termination.

This will be the 13th semi-annual public meeting required as part of a 2005
settlement between DOE/LANL and an network of community groups:
• Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
• Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group
• Loretto Community
• New Mexico Environmental Law Center
• Nuclear Watch New Mexico
• Peace Action New Mexico
• Tewa Women United

You are invited to come and be inspired as LANL CMRR project personnel give
updates on the project while our network of community groups give updates of
our concerns.

Defense Dept. Memo Criticizes Cost of Nuclear Weapons Labs While Los Alamos Director’s Salary Nearly Triples

Our colleagues and friends at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) have released an explosive report based on a leaked Department of Defense memo concluding that “The Department of Energy’s network of privately-operated nuclear weapons laboratories are riddled with waste, redundancies and lackluster scientific standards.” POGO also found that “that seven of the top 15 officials at the three DOE nuclear labs make more than $700,000 per year, with one earning $1.7 million—more than the president of the United States and many government executives.”

Coincidentally, Nuclear Watch New Mexico had been independently compiling data on the salaries of the three laboratory directors, as presented in the table below. It shows that the salary of the Los Alamos Director has nearly tripled since for-profit management began in June 2006, even as the Lab is cutting some 600 jobs. As seen below, privatization of the nuclear weapons labs’ management contracts has resulted in directors’ salaries far above average in both the federal government and the private sector.

 

 

The DoD memo leaked by POGO contains the following admirable passage on good governance:
Diminishing Public Accountability. Without a strong yardstick, our government cannot govern well — not even if it retains the best and brightest on contract. The government’s own assets must capably bear the responsibility for decisions that affect national interests, and they must maintain public confidence by the manner in which those decisions are made.

In contrast, the directors of the three nuclear weapons labs (the Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories) wear two hats, first as lab directors, but secondly as the presidents of the board of directors of the for-profit limited liability corporations (LLCs) that run the labs. That may be a questionable conflict of interests, in which the LLCs are enjoying record profits from issues that deeply “affect national interests” (i.e., nuclear weapons) while the salaries of their “CEOs” (the lab directors) are exploding.

Arguably the lab directors have not maintained public confidence in the decisions they make because of the general trend of increasingly withholding crucial public information. One example is the Performance Evaluation Reports that rate contractors’ performance and determines the amount of taxpayers’ money awarded to them. Those reports were publicly available until 2009 when the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began to withhold them, and became recently available again only after NukeWatch NM sued for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

NNSA awarded the limited liability corporation that runs Los Alamos Lab $74.2 million for FY 2010, followed by $83.7 million in profit for FY 2011, a 13% increase in one year, and 10 times more than what the University of California (UC) use to be awarded when it was LANL’s sole nonprofit manager. Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “In today’s political and economic climate citizens need to remain vigilant that for-profit corporate interests don’t corrupt serious national issues. This very much applies to how our nuclear weapons labs are run as well. We specifically call upon Los Alamos Lab to fully explain to northern New Mexicans why it needs to cut some 600 jobs while at the same time the for-profit management corporation is enjoying record profits and the Director’s salary has nearly tripled in six years.”

# # #

All data on nuclear weapons labs directors’ salaries are from:
http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/RecipientReportedData/pages/RecipientProjectSummary508.aspx?AwardIdSur=74953
http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/RecipientReportedData/pages/RecipientProjectSummary508.aspx?AwardIDSUR=115066&qtr=2011Q1
http://www.upte.org/LosAlamos/salaries/salaries.html

POGO’s press release “Leaked Defense Memo Criticizes the Department of Energy’s Push to Expand Nuclear Weapons Laboratories” is at http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/nuclear-security-safety/nss-nwc-20110418-nuclear-waste-dept-of-energy.html

POGO’s detailed letter to congressional committees on these issues is at http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/letters/nuclear-security-safety/nss-nwc-20120418-nuclear-weapons-labs.html

To read the leaked DoD memo, click here http://pogoarchives.org/m/nss/new-missions-for-the-nuclear-weapons-labs-11-16-2011.pdf

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