Nuclear News Archive
“The potential increase would mark a $79 million boost in WIPP’s funding compared with enacted spending in FY 2017, while several infrastructure projects are ongoing at the site to increase airflow and continue to expand the facility’s underground nuclear waste repository.”
“We’re modernizing and creating a brand new nuclear force. And frankly, we have to do it because others are doing it. If they stop, we’ll stop. But they’re not stopping. So, if they’re not gonna stop, we’re gonna be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before. And I hope they stop. And if they do, we’ll stop in two minutes. And frankly, I’d like to get rid of a lot of ’em. And if they want to do that, we’ll go along with them. We won’t lead the way, we’ll go along with them…
But we will always be number one in that category, certainly as long as I’m president. We’re going to be far, far in excess of anybody else.”
For more see Politico
Experts have been saying for some time that there is no good military solution to the Korea crisis. The best way to see the crisis defused would, of course, start with a rapprochement of the two Koreas. In fact the State Dept. recently said that the US would have no objection to a unified Korea as long as it was de-nuclearized. So that path was in the wind, but when the two Koreas initiated a peace and reconciliation effort at the Olympics, US Vice President Pence refused to go along.
Pence spent the days leading up to Friday’s opening ceremonies warning that the North was trying to ‘hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games’ with its ‘propaganda.’
But the North was still welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called ‘Olympic games of peace’ and the U.S. appeared to be the one left out in the cold.
Pence sat stone-faced in his seat as Moon and North Koreans officials stood together with much of the stadium to applaud their joint team of athletes. White House officials stressed that Pence had applauded only for the American team, but Asia experts said the vice president’s refusal to stand could be seen as disrespectful to the hosts.
While South Korean President Moon did not hesitate to shake hands and smile with his North Korean visitors, Pence didn’t appear to even look in the direction of the North Korean delegation during the Friday event.
Seems the Trump administration would rather threaten than talk.
We often hear these days that the North Korean nuclear weapons program is a failure of deterrence. It is not. DPRK’s nuke forces were developed for the same reasons ours exist: to deter another state from attacking it. (In particular, the US.) DPRK’s program is a confirmation of the concept of deterrence.
The concept of deterrence means a state has nuclear weapons so other states dare not attack. As such all states might aspire to develop a deterrent. Our ‘deterrence’ was never meant to prevent states form going nuclear, only to prevent them from attacking us.
Preventing other states from going nuclear was the purpose of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT deal was that non-nuclear weapons states would abstain from developing nuclear arsenals in exchange for a promise from the nuclear weapons states to negotiate in good faith to achieve genuine reductions and eventual abolition of nuclear arsenals. The nuclear weapons states have not done that. They still have 15000 nukes. That is the failure.
DPRK’s nuclear development isn’t down to a failure of deterrence but rather a failure of the nuclear weapons states to abide in good faith by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Massive gamble”, “risk of mass casualties and utter devastation”… Urges diplomatic efforts…
- 6.36 – Address of Nobel Committee leader Berit Reiss-Andersen on the choice of ICAN for the 2017 Peace Prize (view transcript)
- 35.12 – Presentation of the award to ICAN’s Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow
- 44.22 – ICAN Director Beatrice Fihn address (view transcript)
- 1.03.55 – Setsuko Thurlow address (view transcript)
The presidential authority to launch a nuclear strike alone stems from the Cold War, when the US feared a Soviet missile strike against US ICBM silos; our missiles had to be launched before theirs hit, and Soviet missiles would reach targets in the US in 20-30 minutes, so there would be no time to consult a larger circle.
This is one of the reasons Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and General James Cartwright, former Commander of the US Strategic Command, cited in a letter to President Trump on October 31, urging him to abandon the ICBM leg of the triad, rather than forging ahead with an expensive full replacement ICBM arsenal. Because of the ‘use them or lose them’ logic, plus the fact that ICBMs cannot be recalled once launched, their letter identifies this leg of the triad as the most susceptible to an unintended or accidental nuclear war.
The Air Force hasn’t waited for the Nuclear Posture Review to be released this winter, already awarding contracts to Northrup Grumman and Boeing for the ‘modernized’ ICBM force, called Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD. (Lockheed is also in the competition – the Air Force will ‘down-select’ from three companies to two for the next phase of the program.) (ref)
“Ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads are enablers of the apocalypse.”
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea. Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth.”
The award was the lead story this morning on Germany’s Deutsche Welle with a video interview with Yanthe Hall of ICAN Germany.
Democracy Now, Oct. 6: Amy Goodman interviews Tim Wright, Asia-Pacific director of ICAN on the Nobel award and the ban treaty. (watch segment).
A startling headline, but alas, true. Precautionary measures no doubt, in case the angry war of words goes to military violence and a possible nuclear exchange. It’s unlikely Kim would fire a first strike at the US mainland; but in response to a US strike on North Korea, well maybe. Apparently, some people are seeing America’s ‘military option’ becoming more likely.
“The state will begin testing a siren warning system, a wailing sound, in November. It would give people about 12 to 15 minutes to get to safety, after which they would be required to stay indoors for 48 to 72 hours.”
“The threat of a nuclear attack on California is real enough that a regional task force circulated a document to help the state prepare for a ‘catastrophic’ strike.”
See also October 10, 2017:
-University of Hawaii sent an email to students Monday with tips on how to prepare for a nuclear attack
When asked by Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Rebeccah L. Heinrichs whether the LRSO is a weapon the US military truly needs for nuclear deterrence, Hyten said there was a “million reasons” for the program, most of which are classified.
The editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, warned that the second test of the B61-12 could indicate that the US is speeding up its rearmament program while “both Washington and Brussels are considering the scenario of a limited nuclear war in Europe.” He added that NATO forces have already conducted drills in the Baltic Sea, including mock nuclear strikes on Russia. “During regular exercises, including those in the Baltic Sea, the air forces of NATO countries have repeatedly carried out combat training tasks involving tactical nuclear strikes on targets located in the northwest of our country,” Korotchenko told RIA Novosti (ref).
NNSA press release on the B61-12 tests: (view/download PDF)
There are an estimated 180 B61 nuclear bombs stored at NATO bases in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey.
Hans Nichols, NBC Pentagon correspondent, tweeted:
Mattis just dropped by Pentagon bullpen; “There are many military options, in concert with our allies”
Mattis confirms military options against N Korea that do not put Seoul at risk: “Yes there are, but I will not go into details.”
Russian President Putin made the announcement at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Sept 7.
“Officials say the decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima reactors will take several decades, and according to some estimates, the cost could reach $200 billion.”
Sunday morning North Korea set off what is thought to have been a 120 kiloton hydrogen bomb, a day after press pictures were released showing Kim Jong Un and staff with what was said to be a miniaturized thermonuclear warhead ready to load in an ICBM nose cone. [Note Sept 14: 38North has revised the estimated yield to 250 kilotons.
“Based on the seismic signature, the yield of this test definitely is an order of magnitude higher than the yields of the previous tests…”
In China, the blast was felt as a strong tremor (USGS: 6.3 mags.) shaking windows. Chinese officials said they were carrying out emergency radiation testing along the border with North Korea.
North Korea’s brief period of “restraint”, what Secretary Tillerson called a possible “pathway” to dialogue, is over, following the launch of a missile over Japan on August 28, and now it’s most powerful nuclear test to date. Pres. Trump had said only last week that his threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea was working and that Kim was “starting to respect us”. Well, apparently not. Kim probably feels like he’s on a run, and might just as well go full speed ahead; he may well believe he has outplayed the US and won’t be stopped. Some have suggested that when Kim feels he has an effective enough arsenal to deter the US, he may be ready for a freeze or suspension and negotiations toward a peace treaty. On the other hand, one can imagine that he may see no need of that, and just keeps growing his nuclear forces. (Note that at some point he will also be a threat to China.)
The test was rather irritating for China, as Premier Xi is hosting the BRICS Conference this week, an important element of China’s foreign policy agenda, and he will not like being upstaged by Mr Kim’s latest feat.
Regarding the Hwasong-12 missile launch on August 28:
In “North Korea’s Hwasong-12 Launch: A Disturbing Development” Michael Elleman, 38North.org wrote: “An alternative disturbing hypothesis is that tests of the missile have included a small post-boost vehicle (PBV) to provide extra boost to the payload after the main stage is discarded…” read more…
Recommended: End the 67-year war by Robert Alvarez, at the Bulletin. “It’s time to find a path to end the 67-year-long Korean war. As the threat of military conflict looms, the American public is largely unaware of the sobering facts about America’s longest unresolved war and one of the world’s bloodiest.” read more…
September 13: DPRK launches another missile over Japan, with greatest range yet, enough to hit Guam.
“So here is a question for all of us to think about: how will it change the global conversation when a treaty is affirmed by so many countries from all over the world? What will it feel like to know the clock is ticking down to nuclear weapons abolition . . . instead of worrying that the clock is ticking down to nuclear war? What will be different about the way people talk about the behavior of the states that still stubbornly hold on to nuclear weapons (and threaten each other with them)? In what light will it cast the countries that rely on the “nuclear umbrella” of countries like the US?”
Families of five Navy service members who died after responding to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown have sued Tokyo Electric Power Co., blaming the deaths on radiation illnesses contracted from the March 2011 disaster.
The families will join a lawsuit from 152 other members or survivors of members of the 7th Fleet who performed humanitarian response from March 11, 2011 until March 14, when the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier was moved away from Fukushima due to detection of nuclear radiation in the air and on helicopters returning to the ship.
The Air Force is on track to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile with modernized weapon capabilities designed for its nuclear bomber fleet, to include the B-21.
Today, the Air Force awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin Corporation and Raytheon Company to mature design concepts and prove developmental technologies for the new Long Range Standoff weapon.
“If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air,
the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”
“They will be met with fire and fury the likes of which this world has never seen before…”
Within hours of Trump’s “fire and fury” warning, North Korea announced it was “carefully examining” plans to launch 4 missiles toward Guam.
Could we be seeing the confluence of events that bookends a 72-year hiatus with another nuclear bombing in Asia?
August 8: The Washington Post is reporting that a ‘confidential assessment’ by the “intelligence community” that Kim has already miniaturized his bombs, that he has as many as 60 nukes, that he’s scaling up his ICBM missile production… in other words, red lines crossed.
Senator Lindsay Graham, Aug 1, 2017: Trump has “got to choose between homeland security and regional stability… If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And [Trump’s] told me that to my face. That may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.” Read More…
So here we stand on the brink of nuclear hostilities. Note that the nuclear weapons state with the smallest arsenal and a barely functioning ICBM is still an existential threat, even to the country with the largest arsenal and the most advanced delivery systems on the planet.
It seems that the nuclear weapon is most useful to the smallest power, transforming it from a military gnat into a lethal danger to even the most powerful states.
One would think that it would be in the interest of the powerful country to seek the complete removal of nuclear weapons from the picture. ASAP. But in fact, given the opportunity- of the Ban Treaty negotiations for example- the US has refused to have anything to do with any such effort. (“We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”) Instead, a trillion dollar renewal and ‘modernization’ of our nuclear forces are planned.
Where does that road lead?
Union of Concerned Scientists Reports that, like the previous test on July 8, North Korea launched its missile on a highly lofted trajectory; a standard intercontinental trajectory, accounting for the Earth’s rotation, would give it range to hit New York City, and only 100 kilometers short of Washington DC.
In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this was the day Vasily Arkhipov did not use the nuclear torpedo against the US ship dropping depth charges on it. It was also the day a US U2 was shot down over Cuba, killing the pilot. It was also the day this happened.
On May 27, 1957, 5 miles south of the Albuquerque airport, a Mark 17 H-bomb (pictured at left) was accidentally dropped from a B-36 Peacemaker on it’s way to Kirtland AFB. The plutonium pit was not on board, but the fissile ‘spark plug’ detonated. Bits of the bomb, the biggest ever deployed by the US at 15-20 megatons, could still be found in the area (see picture below). But the authors of this 2010 report urged the collecting public to hurry, as the area would soon be covered over by a development called “Mesa del Sol”. And so it now is.(source: Carl Willis, “Albuquerque, Ground Zero”)
TEPCO plans to decide on the procedure for removing the melted fuel from each unit this summer; it will confirm the procedure for the first reactor during fiscal 2018 ending in March 2019, with removal slated to begin in 2021. Decommissioning the reactors will cost $72 billion.
“The next process is going to be signing on to the treaty. It’ll open for signature at the U.N. in New York on the 20th of September. And after that, they’ll have to go through a national ratification process in order for it to enter into force. But that should all happen within the next year or two, and then it will be international law that is binding on all of the countries that have adhered to it, which means, in some cases, they’re going to have to change their practices and policies that may enable or facilitate the use or the possession of nuclear weapons.
“There could be economic divestment, for example, from nuclear weapon-producing companies. There could be changes of national law that currently permit transit of nuclear weapons through territorial waters. There could be different shifts in policies and practices around military training exercises that currently involve the preparation to use nuclear weapons. And it will also be an iterative process of building up the stigmatization and the norm against nuclear weapons through the public policy, through parliaments and through national discourse.”
Ray Acheson is director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; she represents WILPF on the steering committee of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
“I think one of the most exciting things about this treaty process is the very deep and meaningful involvement of civil society, of my group, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Many of us were under the umbrella of an international campaign called the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. This voice really was unstoppable, but I also want to mention, to the credit of the nations that participated in this UN process, they gave civil society a big voice. It was really unlike any other UN process that I have been a part of before. I think that this, in many ways, revolutionized the way that international diplomacy and international treaties are made, so I’m very excited about that and very hopeful for the future.”
“The nuclear weapons states did not participate in this process and that’s been the root of the problem. They have not wanted to honor their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The rest of the world has finally lost patience. They’re concerned by the overwhelming medical evidence that even a very limited nuclear war would be a worldwide catastrophe. The rest of the international community has issued a real challenge saying that they will no longer accept a situation in which nine countries hold the entire world, including their own people, hostage to these terribly dangerous nuclear arsenals.”
Read the full interview at The RealNews.com
Rick Wayman is the Director of Programs and Operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, and is Co-Chair of the ‘Amplify: Generation of Change’ network for nuclear abolition.
Ira Helfand is a co-Founder and Past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and co-President of PSR’s global federation the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
The “dilute and dispose” process would package and dispose of the plutonium as waste rather than processing it for use as nuclear reactor fuel. The disposal processes consists of mixing plutonium oxide with “stardust,” a secret inert material, into small containers that are then placed in drums for geologic disposal.
The treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of those activities. In addition, nations must not allow nuclear weapons to be stationed or deployed on their territory. (See FAQs on the treaty provisions at ICAN)
ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn: “We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security… No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable- no matter the circumstance- yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do. Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.” (ref: ICAN)
Ray Acheson, director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom disarmament program, ‘Reaching Critical Will’: “This is a treaty made by people. By diplomats who got inspired by an idea and went home to change their government’s positions. By activists writing, thinking, and convening, bringing together governments and civil society groups to figure out how to make things happen. By survivors who give their testimony despite the personal trauma of reliving their experiences… By campaigners who mobilize nationally to raise awareness and pressure their governments. By politicians who truly represent the will of their people and speak the truth in parliaments…” (Nuclear Ban Daily July 8)
Perry Project statement: UN Adopts New Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Arms Control Assoc: New Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty Marks a Turning Point
Union of Concerned Scientists: Historic Treaty Makes Nuclear Weapons Illegal
Ploughshares Fund: A Stunning Rebuke To The Nuclear-Armed States
US, UK, France joint statement: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”
777,000 tons stored in 580 tanks at the Fukushima plant, which is quickly running out of space… Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has been urging Tepco to release the water. Tepco chief Kawamura says he feels emboldened to have the support of the NRA chairman.
Despite the objections of local fishermen, the tritium-tainted water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant will be dumped into the sea, a top official at Tokyo Electric says.
“As with most of North Korea’s recent long-range missile tests, this one used a so-called “lofted” trajectory to keep the missile from overflying neighboring countries while still demonstrating high performance. If the data is correct, preliminary trajectory reconstructions indicate that if the missile were fired on a more efficient trajectory it would reach a range of anywhere from 6,700 to 8,000 km. David Wright, who provided the 6,700 km figure, acknowledges that his early analysis did not include the effect of the Earth’s rotation and the performance would probably be higher if the missile were launched in an easterly direction. The United States, of course, is to the east of North Korea. By any standard, this is the performance of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Fired from North Korea, it probably couldn’t reach the contiguous United States, but Hawaii and Alaska would be within reach.”
Draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty View/download PDF
The International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms is calling for a a prohibition on “threat of use”. (ref)
Unfold Zero, the World Future Council, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and the Basel Peace Office are calling for a prohibition on the financing of nuclear weapons production. (ref)
We have a dossier on the background and trajectory of this initiative, and we’ll keep it up to date with news and developments: Ban Treaty dossier.
Pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who opposes the planned nuclear cruise missile (LRSO), Defense Secretary Mattis told a Senate Budget Hearing June 14 he’s open to rethinking the triad, as well as the LRSO.
Mattis said he would be consulting with former Defense Secretary William Perry, who has advocated eliminating one leg of the triad by phasing out the land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. Perry met with Mattis on the day of the hearing, and later tweeted, “Very wide ranging, candid, and productive discussion with Sec Def Mattis at the Pentagon today.”
Perry is also strongly opposed to developing new nuclear cruise missiles, which he says are “uniquely destabilizing” weapons, because an adversary cannot tell a conventional missile from a nuclear-armed version, risking miscalculation in a crisis.
“I register loud and clear the potential destabilizing view that some people see this weapon bringing and I’m taking that on board,” Mattis said. see the Washington Examiner
Note that both ICBMs and the nuclear cruise missiles – the two weapons systems most frequently seen by experts as unnecessary and dangerous, are Air Force systems, and that Heather Wilson, a long time pal of the weapons contractors, is now Secretary of the Air Force.
There are no good options. But some are worse than others.
This is a detailed long-form report from Mark Bowden at The Atlantic. It’s well worth the read; – or you can listen to a sonorous voice patiently read the whole thing to you (recommended) via Soundcloud. The “no-good options”? Prevention (first strike); Turning the Screws; Decapitation; Acceptance.
(l.) Conference President Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica, and (r.) Tim Wright of ICAN
The incident highlighted, once again, a pattern of consistent mismanagement in the maintenance and cleanup of some of the most dangerous materials on Earth.
This pattern of problems also has prompted the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to question whether the facility should continue to operate and handle increasing quantities of plutonium in coming years. On Friday, the board said it will hold a June 7 hearing in Santa Fe to question a number of experts about the lab’s ability to safely carry out future nuclear missions at PF-4 (the “plutonium building”)…
“Perry said he is convinced WIPP is a safe solution for the nation’s nuclear waste, suggesting there are no plans to cut funding….” from KRQE.
Perry said the US can
‘No longer continue to kick the can down the road’ when it comes to cleaning up long-term radioactive and hazardous waste at the nation’s nuclear labs, and that he wants to send a clear message to Americans that ‘their families are not going to live in fear of a country that’s got waste scattered around places it doesn’t need to be….’ There are too many places where ‘the lives and health of our citizens are in jeopardy, because the federal government has failed to respond appropriately by removing this waste in a timely way…’ He wants to send a clear message to Americans that ‘their families are not going to live in fear of a country that’s got waste scattered around places it doesn’t need to be… I want to get things done. I’m a realist, and I realize we’re not going to clean it up overnight. We’re going to make progress.’
From the ABQ Journal
Adam Johnson writes: “As tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to rise, one think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has become a ubiquitous voice on the topic of missile defense, providing Official-Sounding Quotes to dozens of reporters in Western media outlets. All of these quotes speak to the urgent threat of North Korea and how important the United States’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system is to South Korea…
“In the past year, FAIR has noted 30 media mentions of CSIS pushing the THAAD missile system or its underlying value proposition in US media, most of them in the past two months. Business Insider was the most eager venue for the think tank’s analysts, routinely copying and pasting CSIS talking points in stories warning of the North Korean menace.
Last August (8/8/16), the New York Times revealed internal documents of CSIS (and the Brookings Institution) showing how the think tanks acted as undisclosed lobbyists for weapons manufacturers…
**Note that the top 10 corporate donors to CSIS include 5 top defense contractors: Lockheed, Northrup-Grumman, Boeing, General Dynamics and Leonardo-Finmeccanica. see CSIS
“With nuclear waste again on the road to Carlsbad’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, work is underway to improve WIPP transportation routes around the state….” From Carlsbad Current Argus.
“Shut down after two 2014 incidents, New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant accepted its first new shipments of nuclear waste last week ….” From The Christian Science Monitor.
The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing- boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three- and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.
The revolutionary increase in the lethality of submarine-borne US nuclear forces comes from a ‘super-fuze’ device that since 2009 has been incorporated into the Navy’s W76-1/Mk4A warhead as part of a decade-long life-extension program. We estimate that all warheads deployed on US ballistic missile submarines now have this fuzing capability. Because the innovations in the super-fuze appear, to the non-technical eye, to be minor, policymakers outside of the US government (and probably inside the government as well) have completely missed its revolutionary impact on military capabilities and its important implications for global security…
The W76 upgrade reflects a 25-year shift of the focus of US hard-target kill capability from land-based to sea-based ballistic missiles. Moreover, by shifting the capability to submarines that can move to missile launch positions much closer to their targets than land-based missiles, the US military has achieved a significantly greater capacity to conduct a surprise first strike against Russian ICBM silos…
In spite of its severe limitations, this growing defense system could appear to both Russia and China as a US attempt to reduce the consequences of a ragged Russian or Chinese retaliation to a US first strike against them.
We cannot foresee a situation in which a competent and properly informed US president would order a surprise first strike against Russia or China. But our conclusion makes the increased sea-based offensive and defensive capabilities we have described seem all the more bizarre as a strategy for reducing the chances of nuclear war with either Russia or China…”
-Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, Theodore A. Postol from The Bulliten of Atomic Scientists
Sometimes, maybe, the status quo is something we need to safeguard, not disrupt. That may be the case when it comes to a new push to abandon the US-Russian mutual prohibition on the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapon systems as part of theater warfighting doctrine.
Since the late 1980s both US and Soviet, now Russian, policy has been to not develop and deploy ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, including theater-range missiles, because it was agreed that it would be very difficult to prevent a ‘tactical’ exchange in a regional conflict from progressing rapidly to a civilization-ending ‘strategic’ exchange.
But new doubts are arising about the credibility of a strategic deterrent in the case of a local or regional conflict: one which, for example, the US could be involved in, even though the stakes may not put essential US security at risk. In such cases, some US warfighters would like to have the option of threatening counterforce and intermediate range strikes using low-yield nukes. Or, they argue, what if an adversary uses a tactical nuke to “escalate to de-escalate”? Some want to be able to respond in kind. These doubts about classical deterrence, along with a ‘multipolar’ landscape of nuclear-armed states, are the basis for the nuclear boosters’ meme of “The Second Nuclear Age”).
The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor two has reached as high as 530 sieverts per hour, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco as it’s known, said last week.
Are levels rising?
Azby Brown reporting on Safecast’s website, February 4th:
No, radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi are not rising
“It must be stressed that radiation in this area has not been measured before, and it was expected to be extremely high. While 530 Sv/hr is the highest measured so far at Fukushima Daiichi, it does not mean that levels there are rising, but that a previously unmeasurable high-radiation area has finally been measured. Similar remote investigations are being planned for Daiichi Units 1 and 3. We should not be surprised if even higher radiation levels are found there, but only actual measurements will tell.” (see more at Safecast)
Feb. 8, Denver Post: Could the radiation level be even higher? Possibly. The 530 sievert reading was recorded some distance from the melted fuel, so in reality it could be 10 times higher than recorded, said Hideyuki Ban, co-director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.
Alfonso García Robles drafted the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. He died in 1991. The Treaty of Tlatelolco, as it became known, was the first of its kind and is credited with keeping Latin America and the Caribbean free of nuclear weapons.
Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Obama administration had cut 553 warheads from the US nuclear weapons stockpile since September 2015. The cuts bring the total number of reductions during the last 8 years to 1,255; the current number of nuclear warheads in the stockpile is now at 4,018. These were not, however, “deployed” nuclear weapons.
FAS stated, “We estimate that the warheads were taken from the inactive reserve of non-deployed warheads that are stored to provide a ‘hedge’ against the technical failure of a warhead type or to respond to geopolitical surprises.”
Hans Kristensen noted, “The cut adds significantly to the large inventory of retired (but still intact) warheads that are awaiting dismantlement.” That number was estimated by VP Biden to be now 2,800. Most, if not all, of these weapons awaiting dismantlement, are stored at the Kirtland AFB storage site in Albuquerque. (Also stored there are some number of “hedge” weapons, so it is possible that these 553 warheads just received a modified designation, but otherwise have not even been moved.) The warheads are meant to be dismantled at the Pantex Plant; however, at the current average rate of 278 per year, it will take to 2026 to dismantle the current backlog.
Kristensen notes, “Even so, the Obama administration still holds the position of being the administration that has cut the least warheads from the stockpile compared with other post-Cold War presidencies.”
From the Federation of American Scientists
Allegations of illegally spending federal funds to lobby for new funds now encompass contractors working at six of the eight U.S. nuclear weapons sites.
By Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity
This time it’s Bechtel and URS Corp
The latest settlement involves work by Bechtel National Inc. and its parent Bechtel Corp., and URS Corp. and its subsidiary URS Energy and Construction Inc., which together have been trying to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in Washington state, the most toxic site in the country. The settlement is part of an emerging pattern.
Lockheed Martin Corp., which operates one of three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories – Sandia, agreed in August 2015 to pay $4.7 million to settle a complaint by the Justice Department that it used federal funds to lobby for a no-bid contract extension. In December of 2016, Department of Energy selected a different contractor team, led by Honeywell International, to run Sandia for up to a decade, beginning next year.)
Meanwhile, Fluor Corp. paid $1.1 million in April 2013 to settle accusations that it used federal funds to lobby government agencies for more business at its Hanford training facility.
A salute to former Secretary of State George Shultz on his 95th birthday from the organization he co-founded, Nuclear Threat Initiative
For more than 70 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory dug thousands of deep and shallow graves across mesas and filled them with the radioactive waste, chemicals, and solvents used to make nuclear weapons.
Workers disposed of the waste in these unlined pits before the widespread contamination that would follow was fully understood or governed by environmental laws. Radioactive particles that live longer than some civilizations mixed freely with the red soil.
The Albuquerque Journal reports:
“At Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, the breakdown in the bilateral agreement may deal a decisive blow to already deteriorated relationships between scientists at New Mexico’s national laboratories and their Russian counterparts, who had been working together to iron out the technical aspects of plutonium disposition under the deal, according to Don Hancock with the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque.”
Ed Lyman of Union of Concerned Scientists said “Even until last week, the U.S. was optimistic that this was one area that Russia and the U.S. could cooperate.”
“Reaffirming that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery, threatens international peace and security, the United Nations Security Council today adopted a resolution urging all States who haven’t done so to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty”
-From UN News
“A world free of nuclear of weapons goes by stopping testing too, and then taking steps that will reinforce the agreements that are already here, and then leading us towards what we all want: a world free of nuclear weapons; a world free of any attempt of modernization that some are talking about today.”
-Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of CTBTO:
Selected Press Items
In the latest of a string of fire system deficiencies on Wednesday September 30th, LANL management declared the fire suppression system inoperable in PF-4 at TA-55. Facility activities were placed in stand-by mode, which were still stood down as of three weeks later on Oct. 23rd.
DNFSB explained that the stand down was based on recent hydraulic calculations that concluded the system does not achieve the water density coverage required. Basically, the sprinklers in 13 of approximately 100 fire suppression areas at PF-4 cannot meet the current required gallons per minute estimated to effectively extinguish a fire. (Read the Oct. 2nd-23rd DNFSB reports)
One has to wonder – What is the cost to the taxpayer of PF-4 being stood down for nearly a month?
These reports come on the heels of last week’s DNFSB recommendation that the Lab must immediately do something about its risk to the public of a seismically induced fire at PF-4, which was estimated to exceed the DOE guidelines by more than 100 times. In a worst-case situation, an earthquake-induced fire could set free enough breathable plutonium that a person on the perimeter of the facility would receive a lethal dose of radiation.
Speaking of seismically induced fires, I am reminded of a March 2007 LANL report, Seismic Fragility of the LANL Fire Water Distribution System (LA-14325), which explains how numerous valves in the fire water distribution system at the Lab would have to be manually closed to insure proper pressure to facilities on fire after a seismic event.
Granted, these may be low probability events, but they have high consequences. The Lab is playing with fire by not adequately funding upgrades to its existing fire systems now, before embarking construction of any new facilities.
In this YouTube video Energy Secretary Chu and Tom D’Agostino celebrate the Kansas City Plant’s 60th anniversary with a plaque mounted with vacuum tubes for the B61 radar unit. STRATCOM chief Chilton has repeatedly used the presence of vacuum tubes in the nuclear weapon as a rationale for complete new-design nuclear weapons (the Reliable Replacement Warheads, or facsimiles thereof), instead of modernizing just the radar.
Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the General Services Administration are engaged in a complex scheme for private financing of a new Kansas City Plant for which the Kansas City municipal government will hold title because of municipal bonds issued to finance its road and utility infrastructure. This is enabled by Missouri state law, which gives tax abatement authority to municipal governments in order to fight urban blight. In this case, 185 acres primarily used for soybean agriculture was declared blighted in order to grease the deal. The result: a city government owning a federal nuclear weapons production plant in the name of fighting urban blight!
Historically, the Kansas City Plant has manufactured and/or procured 85% of all types of nuclear weapons components by volume. KCP was excluded from analysis in the Complex Transformation Supplemental programmatic environmental impact statement because NNSA falsely argued that its nonnuclear components production mission would not be affected by decisions made elsewhere in the nuclear weapons complex. Au contraire, the rationale for the new Kansas City Plant was originally predicated upon extensive production of new Reliable Replacement Warheads and Life Extension Programs involving existing nuclear weapons numbering in the 1,000’s.
Hopefully that rationale is now seriously outdated.
Apparently the National Nuclear Security Administration reimburses Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) $397,341 for LANL Director Anastasio’s salary. Then LANS LLC pays him another $400K to promote the NNSA agenda from which LANS LLC derives a profit. During all this time Anastasio also acts as President of the for profit LANS (for which he gets a combined total of $800K).
Which hat does Anastasio then wear when the country needs his best advice? Obama wants the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratified as one beginning step toward a nuclear weapons-free world. The Labs want the Senate to attach “Safeguards” to the Treaty during the ratification process that will have the contrary effect of enshrining nuclear weapons design and production capabilities into perpetuity. LANS profits from those capabilities. How do we know that Anastasio will give untainted advice on serious questions such as whether this country will genuinely lead toward enhanced global security through the verifiable multilateral elimination of nuclear weapons?
For more on what the nuclear weapons labs want through CTBT Safeguards see our September 2009 press release:
Santa Fe, NM – On December 10 President Barack Obama will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway for his beginning efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. The President is paid $400,000 a year for running the country. Michael Anastasio, the Director of the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in northern New Mexico, is paid double that of the President, $800,348 a year. Unlike the President, Mr. Anastasio has been an unabashed supporter of new-design nuclear weapons and resumed industrial-scale nuclear weapons production. Over 60% of the Lab’s $2.1 billion annual budget is specifically dedicated to nuclear weapons research and production, while much of its remaining budget supports those core programs.
It is profoundly regrettable that so much taxpayers’ money is misdirected toward nuclear weapons of mass destruction, contrary to the spirit of the Peace Prize that President Obama is about to receive.
From October 26 – 30, 2009
Near Miss –
• NA – Los Alamos National Laboratory (Significance Category 3). On October 22, a Water
Quality sampling crew discovered two hikers with three dogs at Technical Area 68 (TA-68)
during High Explosive (HE) Operations. The hikers were instructed to exit DOE property.
During interviews, the hikers stated they had hiked approximately one mile into TA-15.
During that time, TA-39-6 conducted two HE shots. A third shot scheduled for another shot
site was cancelled because of equipment issues. The hikers did not enter the TA-39-6 shot
Hazard Areas. Had the third shot been conducted, the hikers could have been within the
Hazard C Area with the potential for contamination or HE injury. A radiological control
technician surveyed the hikers and dogs for contamination. The contamination surveys
indicated no detectable activity and the hikers were released.
I’m glad everyone is OK, but I have some questions. The hikers clearly crossed a fence or a gate with one of those warning signs on it. There is no mention of security forces being called. The Lab has been busted for security issues many times in the past and can ill afford any more security problems. Is it possible that the Lab is trying to avoid having this incident count as a security violation? If they found me walking my dogs inside the fence, I’ll bet I would at get to explain my story to the guys in the black SUVs.
An October 27 press release from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
“Defense Board Catches Los Alamos Trying to Dodge Plutonium Safety Vulnerability” revolves around a new Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) revelation of public safety vulnerability and seismic issues at TA-55 (The Lab’s plutonium Technical Area).
The DNFSB has been very patient on the safety issues at TA-55. In a September 23, 2005 weekly report, they stated that LANL needed to try to justify a passive confinement strategy, continue plans to reduce radioactive materials, and to seismically upgrade the glove-box supports that have not already been upgraded. These issues are still unaddressed as of the latest DNFSB report.
Seismic issues run deep at Los Alamos. NNSA currently has plans to construct and operate the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement–Nuclear Facility (CMRR–NF) to support plutonium operations as a replacement for portions of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) facility, a 1950’s structure that faces significant safety and seismic challenges. In 1999, a fault was discovered under the old CMR building, which has been neglected, contaminated, and has several abandoned wings. This fault was the major reason given to build a new facility 1.2 miles away at TA-55.
The Lab has big plans for plutonium. In December 2008, NNSA released a Record of Decision for its Complex Transformation Environmental Impact Statement that keeps manufacturing and research and development involving plutonium at Los Alamos and blesses the building of the CMRR-NF. This decision was a combination of two alternatives – a Distributed Centers of Excellence and a Capability-Based alternative. But to compensate for the nearby fault lines, the CMRR-NF is now being designed with 10-foot thick concrete floors and there are plans being designed to pump grout into a layer of fragile volcanic ash under the proposed facility. Current construction estimates for this facility are $2 billion.
The Lab has been negligent in taking care of its plutonium flagship, TA-55. It has not been a good steward of plutonium missions. Los Alamos is the wrong location, seismically. Congress must seriously consider ending this unnecessary plutonium work.