Nuclear News Archives – 2019
“I would like to kill the low-yield nuclear weapon program. I don’t think it’s a good idea,”
WASHINGTON — A powerful skeptic of U.S. nuclear weapons spending, House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith said Tuesday he was open to cutting back quantities of nuclear arms instead of one leg of the nation’s nuclear triad.
“I think a deterrent policy, having enough nuclear weapons to ensure that nobody launches a nuclear weapon at you because you have sufficient deterrent, I think we can do that with fewer warheads,” Smith said. “I’m not sure whether that means getting rid of one leg of the triad or simply reducing the amount in each leg.”
The comments, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s annual nuclear arms forum, came days after Smith, D-Wash., triggered Republican pushback when he said publicly that the intercontinental ballistic missile leg of the triad is not necessary to deter Russia and China. On Tuesday, Smith seemed to soften on that argument, conceding he believes nuclear weapon systems ought to be modernized but maintaining his stance the U.S. needs fewer nuclear weapons.
WASHINGTON — The National Nuclear Security Administration will receive an 8.3 percent increase over its current budget, with an eye on completing production of a new low-yield nuclear missile this upcoming fiscal year.
The NNSA, a semiautonomous agency within the Department of Energy that has oversight on America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, is requiring $16.5 billion in the fiscal 2020 budget, up $1.3 billion from its FY19 total. Weapons-related activities would see an allocation of $12.4 billion, an 11.8 percent increase over how much funding went to that mission in FY19. NNSA’s proposed budget comprises 52 percent of the DOE’s total budget request.
“The President’s budget request reflects the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to ensuring that U.S. nuclear capabilities are second to none,” NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty in a statement. “This vital funding will enable us to continue modernization of the Nuclear Security Enterprise to face 21st century threats.”
Employees fell ill while working both underground and at the service
Video by Wochit
– DOE expressed concerns for WIPP’s airflow months before incidents
– Emplacement and shipments were halted for two weeks in October to address the problem
A federal investigation into operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad was announced last month, after workers in the underground and on the surface were allegedly exposed to dangerous chemical and excessive heat.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments’ Office of Enforcement announced the investigation on Jan. 29 in a letter to Bruce Covert, president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership – the DOE-hired contractor that oversees daily operations at WIPP.
Eight years have passed since a tsunami smashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, sparking a meltdown and the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl. The disaster zone remains a huge building site with the immediate danger cleared but an immensely difficult clean-up job still looming.
BY | phys.org
What is the state of the clean-up?
The clean-up operation is progressing at a painstakingly slow pace. Robotic arms have recently been employed to successfully pick up pebble-sized pieces of radioactive fuel at the bottom of reactor two, one of three that melted down after the 2011 quake and tsunami.
This is the first step to prepare the extremely delicate task of extracting the fuel that will not begin in earnest until 2021 at the earliest, the government and the TEPCO operator have said. Another problem is the fuel pools in reactors one, two and three.
The pool in reactor one is covered in rubble which needs to be removed “with extreme care,” explained Akira Ono, head of the TEPCO subsidiary in charge of decommissioning.
Removing fuel from the pools in reactors one and two will not start until 2023.
Three centuries of female fury over taxes, bread shortages, voting rights and more.
International Women’s Day has been around for more than a century, but it has picked up steam in recent years, thanks to its preeminent hashtagability. What started as socialist demonstrations has now evolved into an official holiday in more than two dozen countries, a United Nations day for women’s rights and world peace, and, well, a marketing opportunity for Barbie dolls, cosmetics and beer (because capitalism).
In honor of the holiday’s more egalitarian roots, here are some regular women in history who gathered together to protest, rebel and, in some cases, riot.
Every March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. And today is International Women’s Day, when we recognize the invaluable contributions made by women to every sector of society.
Here in New Mexico, we have a lot to celebrate this International Women’s Day. We have two new congresswomen in Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, and Xochitl Torres Small, the first Latina to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.
There are now 25 women in the U.S. Senate and 102 in the U.S. House of Representatives — both all-time highs. We celebrate this achievement, but we can’t stop until these numbers increase.
Our work is never finished. And that includes reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is due to expire in the coming months.
VAWA funds new and extended services for victims of domestic violence. It gives law enforcement the tools to identify and prosecute offenders. Its protections for indigenous women are essential in New Mexico.
Without it, many women will have nowhere to turn for help.
Women are at the forefront of the radical campaign for Scottish independence which seeks to break the exploitative British union and free Scotland to pursue a fairer, more just and nuclear weapon free independent nation. Women are the heart of the peace movement from the Greenham Common Peace Camp (1981 — 2000) to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
Read Tommy Sheridan’s article outlining the “giant tapestry which represents the progressive role and contribution of women everywhere to our world.”
Photo by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh
“Women would be the worst-off if a war starts between two nuclear-armed nations,”
– Farooq Tariq, a Lahore-based political activist who helped organise the Global Standout for Peace in South Asia last week.
This year, women are taking a central stand against the region’s long history of conflict, militarism, and war, with both the Aurat March and Aurat Azadi March explicitly denouncing the creep towards war, and exhorting the nuclear-armed neighbours to issue a ceasefire in Kashmir. “We push for peace and against the war, the militarisation of our everyday lives, and a rhetoric of jingoism,” read a statement from Aurat March on Wednesday.
Eight years after the Fukushima nuclear reactors exploded on Japan’s Northern coast, spewing radioactive particles into the air, across the land, and into the Pacific Ocean, the country continues to struggle with decontamination and relocation efforts. Determining the health impacts resulting from the nuclear disaster has been particularly fraught. For Date City, about 60 km from the ruined Fukushima reactors, and still blanketed by radioactive contamination from the ongoing catastrophe, the struggle for protection of health continues amid accusations of scientific misconduct and betrayal.
BY TOM UDALL & RICHARD J DURBIN | washingtonpost.com
Tom Udall, a Democrat, represents New Mexico in the U.S. Senate. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat, represents Illinois in the U.S. Senate.
Sixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we are again barreling toward another unnecessary conflict in the Middle East based on faulty and misleading logic.
The Trump administration’s Iran policy, built on the ashes of the failed Iraq strategy, is pushing us to take military action aimed at regime change in Tehran. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past, and Congress must act urgently to ensure that.
Full Committee Hearing on Outside Perspectives on Nuclear Deterrence (As Prepared)
Video link to Chairman Smith’s opening remarks here: https://armedservices.house.gov/ | March 6, 2019
More than a decade ago in a 2007 op-ed George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn warned that “Unless urgent new actions are taken, the U.S. soon will be compelled to enter a new nuclear era that will be more precarious, psychologically disorienting, and economically even more costly than was Cold War deterrence.” And just last month, Senator Nunn and Secretary Moniz said in a joint op-ed “The US and Russia are sleep-walking toward nuclear disaster.”
“Given the President’s erratic tweets about having “a much bigger and more powerful” nuclear button, we need to ensure that we move away from a button-measuring policy that could devolve into a button-pressing policy.”
Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for Truthdig and Harpers.com.
Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author.
The most dangerous foreign policy decision of the Trump administration—and I know this is saying a lot—is its decision to share sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia and authorize U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in that country.
A nuclearized Saudi Arabia is a grave existential threat to the Middle East and ultimately the United States.
Cold Start is Indian military doctrine aimed at punishing Pakistan without a full-blown nuclear clash.
NEW DELHI: A nuclear strike is always the threat Pakistan holds out against any possible Indian attack. Recently, after India declared it would avenge the Pulwama attack, Pakistan Rail Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad again threatened of a nuclear strike after which “neither the birds would chirp nor the bells would ring in temples”.
But India has an answer to this threat — a Cold Start. It is a war doctrine aimed at punishing Pakistan without a full-blown nuclear clash.
The idea for the Cold Start was fuelled by Operation Parakram, launched after the terror attack on Parliament in December 2001. The operation exposed major operational gaps in India’s offensive power, mainly slow troop mobilisation along the border.Continue reading
“We still don’t know how to recycle the nuclear waste and we’re 70 years in. We have good engineers in the United States. We spent 18 years and $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the waste for 10,000 years, but we can’t use it. It’s already no good because there are cracks in the mountain. But any geologist could have told them we live on tectonic plates and you can’t keep underground vaults secure.”
Donald Trump: “America will never be a socialist country.”
Too late. We already have socialism for the rich, with the nuclear power industry as a prime example.
On a level playing field, nuclear power would go bust. Those owners get financial supports or subsidies that safe renewables like solar power, geothermal, and wind power don’t get. Two particularly large government handouts keep the reactor business afloat, and without them it would crash overnight.
1) In a free market, the U.S. Price Anderson Act would be repealed. The act provides limited liability insurance to reactor operators in the event of a loss-of-coolant or other radiation catastrophe. The nuclear industry would have to get insurance on the open market like all other industrial operations. This would break their bank, since major insurers would only sell such a policy at astronomical rates, if at all.
2) The U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act would also be repealed. NWPA is the government’s pledge to take custody of and assume liability for the industry’s radioactive waste. Without NWPA the industry would have to pay to contain, isolate and manage its waste for the 1-million-year danger period. The long-term cost would zero the industry’s portfolio in a quick “correction.”
Even if the industry retained the above two subsidies, economists say the reactor business is finished. Jeremy Rifkin — the renowned economic and social theorist, author, political adviser to the European Union and heads of state, and author of 20 books — was asked his view of nuclear power at a Wermuth Asset Management global investors’ conference.
Rifkin answered: “Frankly, I think … it’s over. Let me explain why from a business perspective. Nuclear power was pretty well dead-in-the-water in the 1980s, after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It had a comeback. The comeback was the industry saying: ‘We are part of the solution for climate change because we don’t emit CO2. It’s polluting, but there’s no CO2.’
“Here’s the issue: Nuclear power right now is 6 percent of energy of the world. There are only 400 nuclear power plants. These are old nuclear power plants. But our scientists tell us [that] to have a minimum impact on climate change — which is the whole rationale for bringing this technology back — nuclear would have to be 20 percent of the energy mix to have the minimum, minimum impact on climate change — not 6 percent of the mix.
“That means we’d have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1,600 additional plants. Three nuclear plants have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20 percent, and by that time climate change will have run its course for us. So I think, from a business point of view, I just don’t see that investment. I’d be surprised if we replace 100 of the 400 existing nuclear plants, which would take us down to 1 or 2 percent of the energy [mix].
The United States and Russia have ripped up a Cold War-era nuclear missile treaty, leaving analysts fearing a potential arms race with global ramifications.
BY | abc.net.au March 2, 2019
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready for a Cuban Missile-style crisis if the US wanted one, referring to the 1962 standoff that brought the world to the edge of nuclear war.
Decades later, tensions between the two nations are heating up again.
BY | washingtonpost.com February 25, 2019
Gloria Steinem and Christine Ahn are founders of Women Cross DMZ , a global movement mobilizing for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
In 2015, we were among 30 women from around the world who came together to cross the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), the infamous strip of land that has separated North and South Korea since a “temporary” cease-fire halted the Korean War 65 years ago.
We marched to show this anachronistic conflict need no longer separate families, prohibit communication, and provide excuses for land mines, nuclear weapons and an expensive, ongoing U.S. military commitment. Among us were women who had won Nobel Peace Prizes for helping to bring peace to Liberia and Northern Ireland.
Despite criticism that we were naively playing into the sinister plans of one side or the other, we held a peace symposium in Pyongyang with hundreds of North Korean women, and marched with thousands in the capital and in Kaesong. After crossing the DMZ, we walked with thousands of South Korean women along the barbed-wire fence in Paju.
SANTA FE – At the end of a hourslong meeting in Albuquerque on Thursday night, officials from U.S. Department of Energy agencies had failed to persuade an independent nuclear safety board and a contingent of interested New Mexicans that a DOE rules change won’t restrict efforts to keep the state’s national laboratory sites safe.
Bruce Hamilton, a Republican who chairs the presidentially appointed Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, said DOE officials had continued to downplay the impact of DOE Order 140.1, which last May placed new limits on the board’s 30-year-old oversight role.
“We have repeatedly heard from DOE representatives that they really don’t mean what they wrote (in the rule) or at least that they really don’t intend to follow what they wrote,” said Hamilton. He said this is a “particularly bizarre argument coming out of the nuclear culture that has set the standard for following the written rules to the letter.”
The new rule says the private contractors that manage facilities like the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs can’t respond to DNFSB information requests without notifying or the approval of a DOE liaison and that the weapons facilities can refuse to provide information that is “pre-decisional” or that the DOE determines on its own is not needed by DNFSB inspectors to do their jobs.
Members of the public and a federal nuclear safety board voiced concerns this week that a U.S. Department of Energy order implemented in May excludes some facilities from the board’s oversight, creates obstacles to monitoring worker safety and allows private contractors to shield information from the public.
At a federal hearing on the order Thursday in Albuquerque, federal officials for the national laboratory defended the order, arguing the document has not significantly changed the relationship between the labs and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
But the document outlines unprecedented restrictions on the board’s access to information and oversight of nuclear sites and workers.
Thursday’s hearing was the last of three held to gather public comment on the order, though board member Daniel Santos said he would propose additional field hearings.
About 20 people spoke Thursday, many saying they were concerned in particular that staff of the safety board would no longer have authority to oversee the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, an underground nuclear waste storage site where a multibillion-dollar radiation leak occurred in 2014.
Many said the document should be suspended.
John Heaton, a former state lawmaker and chairman of the Carlsbad mayor’s nuclear task force, told the board, “It would be horrible to lose you.”
The board’s role in overseeing the safety of workers at WIPP was crucial, he said.
“The workers on site are very, very important,” Heaton said. “They are our friends, our neighbors; they are the people we go to church with, that we live with.”
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board was established by Congress in 1988 to provide independent advice to the energy secretary and the president on public health and safety at nuclear facilities. Its inception was largely born out of concern that the Department of Energy was operating with too much autonomy and too little transparency.
The Department of Energy’s Order 140.1 Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is misguided and likely illegal because it acts contrary to the Board’s 1988 enabling legislation. View the Report on Defense Nuclear Facilities Saftey Board Hearing
MOSCOW (Reuters) In his annual address Feb. 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned about consequences if the United States deployed missiles in Europe.
BY | washingtonpost.com February 20, 2019
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his country’s new missiles would point toward the United States if Washington deploys missiles in Europe. Putin emphasized that Russia will only respond if the United States makes the first move, but his remarks were among the strongest yet on a potential new arms race after the countries’ mutual pullout from a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty.
“Let me be loud and clear,” Putin told lawmakers gathered at a historic hall near the Kremlin for an annual address that is akin to the U.S. State of the Union speech.
He continued with a message to Europe, saying Russia would be “forced to create and deploy types of weapons” that can be used against nations that pose “direct threats.” And in a clear reference to the United States, Putin said the Russian missiles also could be trained on where “the centers of decision-making are located.”
Nuclear saber-rattling has become key to the Kremlin’s projection of power both at home and abroad, and could be an attempt to bring Washington to the negotiating table.
Ms. Glover was a security guard at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site.
The violence and lack of accountability I experienced at such a sensitive location put us all at risk.
The sexual harassment and violence I endured while working as a security guard at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site loops over and over through my mind. I have nightmares about it to this day.
Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ― Thursday, February 14, 2019
The Department of Justice announced today that the United States has filed suit against CB&I AREVA MOX Services LLC (MOX Services) and Wise Services Inc. under the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act in connection with a contract between MOX Services and the National Nuclear Security Administration relating to the design and operation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the NNSA Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. MOX Services is a South Carolina Limited Liability Corporation with headquarters in Aiken, South Carolina. Wise Services, which subcontracted with MOX Services, is an Ohio corporation with headquarters in Dayton, Ohio.
Under the MOX Contract, MOX Services agreed to design, build, operate (and ultimately decommission) the MFFF. The MFFF is designed to transform weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel rods that may be irradiated in commercial nuclear power plants. In performing the MOX Contract, MOX Services entered into a series of subcontracts with Wise Services between 2008 and 2016. Each of these subcontracts provided for Wise Services to supply labor, materials, equipment, and supervision for unplanned construction activities (e.g. general labor, plumbing, electrical, carpentry) deemed necessary to support MOX Services’ efforts at the MFFF.
Natalia Manzurova is one of few surviving ‘liquidators,’ or nuclear workers sent into deal with the Chernobyl aftermath by the Soviet government. She is now in need of financial help with medical expenses associated with treatment for a brain tumor — the result of her 4.5 years at Chernobyl in the cleanup of the most extensive and tragic nuclear power plant accident in human history.
|Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione)|
|2/7/19, 7:50 PM
This is an incredible interview. If you doubted that Bolton was behind the killing of the #INFTreaty , or that Trump has no plan for what to do next, or that we are in a new arms race, just watch @UnderSecT struggle under @nickschifrin honest questioning.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) February 7, 2019
Aiken Standard: ‘I’m not confident at all’: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham casts real doubt on Energy Department
GREENVILLE — South Carolina’s senior senator, who often stumps for the Savannah River Site, has little faith in the U.S. Department of Energy’s abilities going forward.
“No, I’m not confident the DOE can do almost anything,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday during a question-and-answer session with reporters. “I’m not confident at all.”
That lack of trust casts a dark shadow over the prospective expansion of plutonium pit production, an enduring weapons mission of which SRS is an integral part, according to a joint recommendation from the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense.
The bill for a half century of nuclear weapons production is growing fast.
“The GAO [Government Accountability Office] estimates the EM’s “environmental liability grew by almost $105 billion, from $163 billion to $268 billion.”That’s the equivalent of taking one step forward and then being pushed seven steps back.”
BY | popularmechanics.com February 5, 2019
The United States developed and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. A new report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred by developing and producing these weapons at a staggering $377 billion, a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.
Most people think of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and think of oil rigs, coal mines, solar energy panels, and wind farms. While the DoE does handle energy production—including nuclear power—it also handles the destructive side of nuclear energy. A large part of the DoE’s portfolio over the past several decades has been the handling of nuclear weapons research, development, and production. The DoE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities.
In 1967 at the height of the U.S.–Soviet nuclear arms race, the U.S. nuclear stockpile totaled 31,255 weapons of all types. Today, that number stands at just 6,550. Although the U.S. has deactivated and destroyed 25,000 nuclear weapons, their legacy is still very much alive. Nuclear weapons were developed and produced at more than one hundred sites during the Cold War. Cleanup began in 1989, and the Office of Environmental Management has completed cleanup at 91 of 107 nuclear sites, Still, according to the GAO, “but 16 remain, some of which are the most challenging to address.” Those sites include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the Hanford site in Washington, and the Nevada National Security Site.
NAMIE, Japan — Noboru Honda lost 12 members of his extended family when a tsunami struck the Fukushima prefecture in northern Japan nearly eight years ago. Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer and initially given a few months to live.
Today, he is facing a third sorrow: watching what may be the last gasps of his hometown.
For six years, Namie was deemed unsafe after a multiple-reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie. But hardly anyone has ventured back. Its people are scattered and divided. Families are split. The sense of community is coming apart.
Three months into his tenure as the 12th director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Thomas Mason acknowledged that fixing the lab’s problems is going to take time, and setbacks could prevent Los Alamos from meeting key nuclear production goals.
But Mason said transforming the lab’s culture to one in which success is replicated — department to department, day after day — is the key to long-term success.
“The most important thing is to become more of a learning organization — where we can take practices [that work] and move them from one part of the organization to the next, and we can respond to stuff that happens … in a way that gets better over time,” Mason said in a recent interview.
“It is tricky,” he added. “There are 12,000 people who work at the lab every day.”
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a decision that was widely expected, suspended his country’s observance of a key nuclear arms control pact on Saturday in response to a similar move by the United States a day before.
But adding to a sense that the broader architecture of nuclear disarmament has started to unravel, Mr. Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.
The Trump administration withdrew from the treaty, a keystone of the late Cold War disarmament pacts known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying that Russia had been violating it for years. The decision holds the potential to initiate a new arms race, not only with Russia, but also China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 treaty.
NPR, February 1, 2019, 6:07 AM ET By GEOFF BRUMFIEL
The true battle over these new weapons may end up in Congress. While Republicans seem ready to back the Trump administration’s request for more battlefield nukes, the newly elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives seems intent on blocking them.
“We do not view nuclear weapons as a tool in warfare,” Adam Smith, now the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a speech in November. “It makes no sense for us to build low-yield nuclear weapons.”
The world’s two greatest nuclear powers are set to pull out of a crucial nuclear weapons treaty beginning this weekend. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Trump says the U.S. will withdraw from the INF Treaty on Saturday.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States is ready to withdraw from a crucial nuclear weapons treaty with Russia on Saturday, a move that has sparked concerns of a budding arms race between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
The announcement comes a day after Russia and the United States said that discussions to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had failed.
“Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing … which will be completed in six months unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment,” Trump said in a statement.
merkley.senate.gov Thursday, January 31, 2019 WASHINGTON, D.C.
“There’s a reason that kids today don’t do duck-and-cover drills in schools and that nobody has bomb shelters in their backyards anymore. That reason is because of key agreements like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” said Merkley. “This era of stability is put at great risk by President Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty. This decision ignores all the lessons from the Cold War. There is no doubt that Russia is violating the INF Treaty, but the right path forward is to work to bring them back into compliance, not free them to produce more nuclear weapons. Blowing up the Treaty risks the proliferation of nuclear-capable systems by Russia, threatening Europe and jeopardizing decades of bipartisan efforts to reduce nuclear dangers with Russia.”
“A nuclear arms race would endanger the entire world and threaten every single person in our country, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that President Trump does not start one. President Trump’s imminent unilateral withdrawal from a bipartisan weapons treaty with Russia, without consulting Congress, would mean the Prevention of Arms Race Act is more important than ever,” said Gillibrand. “A reckless withdrawal would further damage our relationships with our allies, Russia would not be legally constrained from deploying larger numbers of their previously prohibited missiles, and the world would be much less safe. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to prevent a new arms race, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep all Americans safe.”
“Pulling out of the INF Treaty plays squarely into Russia’s hands while undermining America’s security and betraying our NATO allies,” Markey said. “The Trump administration needs to work more closely with our NATO allies to force Russia back into compliance. And as the chance of a confrontation between American and Chinese forces rises the Indo-Pacific, it makes little sense to add further ambiguity over whether U.S. missiles stationed around the region are nuclear-armed. This legislation will help ensure that we don’t match two major adversaries missile-for-missile, trigger a new nuclear arms race, and incur unacceptable amounts of risk in an already tenuous security environment.”
“If Donald Trump walks out of the INF Treaty, he will risk a new destabilizing and costly arms race and antagonize important allies,” said Wyden. “The administration should instead be working with European allies to pressure Russia back into compliance.”
The Senators’ legislation comes in advance of the Trump Administration’s expected action this weekend to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) treaty. The State Department set a February 2, 2019 deadline for Russia to return to compliance with the Treaty after a hasty and un-vetted declaration by President Trump in October that the United States intended to withdraw from the landmark treaty with Russia. The INF was originally signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
See video of news conference by governor & attorney general of Nevada, angry about DOE’s secret shipment of plutonium from SRS to NV, with SRS Watch comments: https://www.kolotv.com/content/news/505096611.html
Filings by State of Nevada in Nevada district court, in plutonium shipment docket (3:18-cv-00569), January 31, 2019:
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY
(REQUEST FOR RULING BY JANUARY 31, 2019)
PLAINTIFF’S STATUS REPORT
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A STATUS HEARING
energy.gov | WASHINGTON D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) is committed to protecting the health, safety, and security of the public at all of our sites as we conduct our important national security missions. The recent plutonium shipments to the Nevada National Security Site were undertaken to comply with an order issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina.
It is inaccurate to state that the Members of the Nevada delegation were not informed of this movement. The Department of Energy was as transparent as operational security would permit. Efforts were made to ensure that Members of Congress representing the states involved were notified of the planned movement ahead of time, as early as August 2018 when NNSA publicly released the plan in a Supplement Analysis. Since then, NNSA confirmed that it was “actively engaged” in removing one metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico.**
It is also inaccurate to characterize this material as “waste”. This material is essential for maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile, and is handled with the highest standards for safety and security. NNSA routinely ships this type of material between its sites as part of our national security missions and has done so safely and securely for decades.
**Aiken Standard, “NNSA: Weapons-grade plutonium will be moved out of SC this year, next year” www.aikenstandard.com
Russia and China are boosting bilateral cooperation on nuclear weapons strategies as they accused the United States of disrupting non-proliferation measures during a high-level meeting of the top five nuclear powers.
Representatives of the so-called “Nuclear Five” met Wednesday in Beijing, at a time of heightened tensions between the Eastern and Western permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The grouping included China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a landmark document that sought to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction during a decades-long arms race between Washington and Moscow.
As the White House threatened to scrap another Cold War-era weapons treaty, China and Russia have sought to align their approach in the face of what they considered to be a destabilizing U.S. position.
“Issues of our cooperation and Chinese-Russian and Russian-Chinese coordination will surely be the focus of our attention,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency. “It is very productive work. In 2016, we approved the statement on strategic stability at the level of the leaders. It is just an example of how Russia and China are registering joint common positions more precisely.”
The U.S. has accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which established a mutual ban on ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles within the ranges of around 310 and 3,420 miles. Washington argues that Russia’s new Novator 9M729 missile violates the treaty, while Moscow claims that the extensive U.S. missile shield in Europe could be used offensively as well, effectively breaching the deal.
armedservices.house.gov | WASHINGTON DC January 30th, 2019
Today, Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the bicameral No First Use Act, to establish in law that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first.
Today the United States explicitly retains the option to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, even in response to a non-nuclear attack. The No First Use Act would codify what most Americans already believe—that the United States should never initiate a nuclear war.
“Our current nuclear strategy is not just outdated—it is dangerous,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “By making clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal, this bill would reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation and help us maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world.”
The No First Use Act would strengthen U.S. national security by:
– Reducing the risk of a nuclear miscalculation by an adversary during a crisis
– Strengthening our deterrence and increasing strategic stability by clarifying our declaratory policy
– Preserving the U.S. second-strike capability to retaliate against any nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies
Since there has been no public release by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of an outline of plans about activities to shutter the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, the public remains in the dark about MOX closure plans. A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed by Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch) for the “Statement of Work” that DOE has contracted with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for project closure.
BY THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD | latimes.com
In 1983, in what came to be known as his “Star Wars” speech, President Ronald Reagan unveiled an ambitious vision for a missile defense system that would render the need for traditional nuclear deterrence unnecessary. Reagan asked: “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?”
The “Star Wars” label proved prophetic, because Reagan’s vision of an impermeable shield that would deflect incoming nuclear missiles proved to be the stuff of science fiction. Missile defense has achieved modest successes, but it also has been marked by embarrassing failures.
mid.ru | We have taken note that in the US Missile Defence Review (MDR) published on January 17, a serious emphasis is placed on the formation of a space-based missile defence group, including missile interceptors. Deployment of such systems in space is ostensibly designed to make it easier to destroy different types of missiles in the boost phase over enemy territory. To achieve this, the US Defence Department has been instructed to study the most advanced technology, as well as draw up a time schedule, costs and personnel requirements.
We consider this to be further evidence (on a par with the decision to create space-based armed forces and the allocation of funds for the development of space-based missile defence) of Washington’s real intention to use outer space for combat operations and ensuring US domination in space in the near future. We are deeply disappointed that instead of developing constructive dialogue on the issues of strategic stability and preventing an arms race in space the US preferred to return to the implementation of yet another version of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars programme.
Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.
There is nothing normal about the complex and frightening reality just described.
Warning that ‘We are like passengers on the Titanic, ignoring the iceberg ahead’ in face of nuclear arms and climate change threats
The risk to global civilisation from nuclear weapons and climate change remains at an all-time high, according to a group of prominent US scientists and former officials, who said the world’s predicament had become the “new abnormal”.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that its symbolic “doomsday clock”, unveiled every year, was stuck at two minutes to midnight, the same as last January. The only other time the Bulletin has judged the world as being this close to catastrophe was 1953, in the early volatile stages of the cold war.
The reasons given by the Bulletin’s panel of experts included the collapse of arms control treaties, and the emphasis in Washington and Moscow on modernising nuclear arsenals rather than dismantling them, and the lack of political will to reverse climate change.
“We are like passengers on the Titanic, ignoring the iceberg ahead, enjoying the fine food and music,” said Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, said. Since leaving office this month, Brown has become the Bulletin’s executive chairman, citing the imminent threats to humanity. “It’s late and it’s getting later. We have to wake people up. And that’s what I intend to do!”
Nuclear watchdog organizations filed an appeal Thursday of a state Environment Department-approved permit change they say could allow for 30 percent more nuclear waste to be held at a Southern New Mexico storage site.
The request for a New Mexico Court of Appeals review of the agency’s decision in December, which alters procedures for measuring the volume of waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, was filed on behalf of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Southwest Research and Information Center.
The groups allege the permit change violates federal law by allowing plant managers to recalculate the amount of nuclear waste buried underground at WIPP without going through Congress.
The move subtly sidesteps nuclear waste limits outlined under the 1992 Land Withdrawal Act, the groups say.
In a DER SPIEGEL interview, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas laments America’s rejection of multilateralism and says that Donald Trump does not view the U.S. as the leading power among liberal democracies. He’s hoping to save the INF.
Interview by CHRISTIANE HOFFMAN and CHRISTOPH SCHULT | spiegel.de
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Minister, United States President Donald Trump has turned against a global order based on international rules and agreements. In response, you called for the creation of an “Alliance of Multilateralists” last summer. How is that alliance coming along?
Maas: It’s growing. Many countries are seriously concerned that the principle of might makes right is once again being applied internationally.
President Donald Trump’s new global missile defense plan would be too expensive and technologically taxing to effectively implement, leading experts have said.
The president unveiled his 2019 Missile Defense Review, the first of its kind since 2010, during an address Thursday at the Pentagon. He pledged to virtually eliminate any external threat to the United States, vowing to “to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime.”
Commenting on this statement specifically, Ploughshares Fund think tank director Joseph Cirincione said during a press call that this “is simple to say, impossible to do.”
“If you liked the president’s border wall, wait until you see his space wall,” Cirincione, who also served as a professional staff member of House Armed Services Committee and Government Operations Committee responsible for congressional oversight of missile defense programs in the 1980s and early 1990s, added. “This is a complete fantasy.”
By Associated Press | Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 12:33pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Watchdog groups are appealing a recent permit change approval by New Mexico regulators that could ultimately allow for more waste to be placed at the U.S. government’s only underground nuclear waste repository.
The approval by the state Environment Department came in the final days of former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration. The change was requested earlier by the U.S. Energy Department and the contractor that operates the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
The permit modification changes the way the volume of waste is calculated. Specifically, it excludes the empty space inside waste packaging containers.
The Southwest Research and Information Center and Nuclear Watch New Mexico argue the modification is unlawful.
Critics also are concerned the change could be a first step in expanding the repository’s mission to hold other kinds of waste.
Washington, DC – Today, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement about the Trump administration’s Missile Defense Review:
“The missile defense policy of the United States must follow some key principles.”
“First, it is essential that we ensure we are spending money on programs that are reliable and rigorously tested before they are deployed. We need to know that we are putting scarce taxpayer dollars to good use, for example improving reliability of the current system, rather than rushing to buy and deploy unproven missile defense systems. It is common sense to insist on this principle when it comes to programs that protect the American people and our allies, particularly in the context of the growing North Korea threat.
“Second, we must avoid missile defense policies that will fuel a nuclear arms race. Strategic stability is an essential component of U.S. national security, and it does not serve our long-term interest to take steps that incentivize Russia and China to increase the number and capability of their nuclear weapons.
“While it is essential that we continue investing in proven missile defense efforts, I am concerned that this missile defense review could lead to greater investment in areas that do not follow these principles, such as a space-based interceptor layer that has been studied repeatedly and found to be technologically challenging and prohibitively expensive.
“Moreover, we must consider missile defense and effective arms control policy as part of our deterrence capabilities. I am gravely concerned about President Trump’s broader strategy to withdraw us from international arms control agreements, dismiss allies, and expand the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense policy, which could further siphon funding from much-needed budget priorities and exacerbate a new nuclear arms race.”
armscontrol.org | January 17th, 2019
The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.
Of particular concern was President Donald Trump’s statement during his remarks at the Pentagon that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to “ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” This would be a costly, unachievable, and destabilizing departure from longstanding policy and contradicts the text of the review, which limits U.S. homeland missiles defense to their traditional role of defending against limited attacks from North Korea or Iran. Continue reading
Officials reject Russian offer to inspect new missile; US says it will suspend observance of treaty on 2 February.
The US has rejected Moscow’s offer to inspect a new Russian missile suspected of violating a key cold-war era treaty, and warned that it would suspend observance of the treaty on 2 February, giving six-month notice of a complete withdrawal.
The under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, Andrea Thompson, confirmed the US intention to withdraw from the treaty after a meeting with a Russian delegation in Geneva, which both sides described as a failure.
By BEN SIMON/ AP channelnewsasia.com
Geneva (AFP) – The survival of a key nuclear arms control treaty was cast further in doubt Tuesday after the US and Russia blamed each other for pushing the agreement to the brink of collapse.
Senior diplomats from both countries met in Geneva amid widespread concern over the fate of the bilateral Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which successfully put an end to a mini-arms race after it was signed in 1987.
US President Donald Trump said in October that his country would pull out of the deal unless Russia stops violating it. Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under the treaty if it is scrapped.
It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.
Selected Press Items
February 2, 2010 – Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman interviews Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch
AMY GOODMAN: All forty Republican senators, as well as Joseph Lieberman, implied in a letter to Obama last month that they would block ratification of the new treaty with Russia unless he funds a, quote, “modern” warhead and new facilities at the Los Alamos National Lab, where you’re near right now in New Mexico, and the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Jay?
JAY COGHLAN: You’re absolutely right. They’re playing muscle, and they’re rolling Obama and Biden. The Democrats are now surrendering. The executive administration is now surrendering to that demand.
…how is the US now going to walk in with a straight face, walk into the UN, and claim that it’s leading towards a world free of nuclear weapons, when in fact we are starting up a plutonium facility in Los Alamos, a uranium facility in Tennessee, but also a major new production plant in Kansas City for all of the non-nuclear components that go into a weapon?
So, basically, the US is revitalizing its nuclear weapons production base. And again, the laboratories, mark my words, and as the Republicans already wrote, they’re calling for or attempting to demand a, quote, “modern” warhead, that means new designs.
In the new budget request for 2011 the Obama Administration proposes to freeze discretionary domestic spending for programs such as education, nutrition, air traffic control and national parks for three years while dramatically increasing funding for new US nuclear weapons production facilities. Meanwhile the proposed budget for dismantling warheads retired from the stockpile is down by 40%. Funding for a new nuclear facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory to be used in direct support of plutonium pit production, the CMRR-NF, is increased to $225 million requested from $97M in FY10 (+132%). After FY11, funding is proposed to triple the FY10 amount to $300 million for each of the following four consecutive years.
Funding for a new “Uranium Processing Facility” (UPF) at the Y12 production plant near Oak Park Ridge, TN, is proposed to increase to $115M from $94M in FY10 (+22%). However, its big money is in the following four consecutive years, climbing to $320 million by 2015 (in all a 240% increase from FY10 funding). Totals costs for both the CMRR and UPF are still “TBD” [To Be Determined], meaning they don’t know, but each will probably cost $3 billion or more.
Outside of the federal budget, groundbreaking is expected this Spring on a new privately-financed ~$700 million Kansas City Plant for nonnuclear components production for US nuclear weapons, subsidized by Kansas City municipal bonds. This pretty well spans the spectrum of future US nuclear weapons production, with big increases for new facilities for plutonium, uranium and nonnuclear components. At the same time, the Obama budget proposes to cut dismantlement from $96.1 million in FY 2010 to $58 million.
Obama is preemptively surrendering to the nuclear weapons labs, the for-profit private corporations running those labs, and the 2/3rd’s Senate majority including Republicans needed for treaty ratifications. All of these special interests explicitly seek to extract more taxpayer funding for nuclear weapons programs in exchange for ratification of a renewed bilateral arms control treaty with Russia and a long-sought-for Test Ban Treaty.
We went through this a decade ago, when the nuclear weapons complex got billions of dollars and but ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty failed. History is getting ready to repeat itself, this time with the nuclear weapons labs seeking the capability to produce future new-design weapons. Obama’s new budget begins to give them just that, welfare for warheads that can’t be used while American public needs are not adequately met.
While Obama’s rhetoric soars toward a grand nuclear weapons-free world, his Office of Management and Budget is getting ready to ask Congress for a 10% increase in research and production?
Apparently our president is preemptively surrendering to the 40 Republican senators +1 (“independent” Lieberman) that demanded linkage of ratification of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia to “modernization” of the nuclear weapons research and production complex, along with a “modern warhead,” whatever that is. A huge fight was always expected over a second round of attempted ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT. However, the Republicans +1 cunningly chose to move that fight up to START ratification in order to leverage Obama’s proposed FY 2011 federal budget slated for release on February 1. They apparently have succeeded: he has caved into them.
The Republicans seek to mandate the construction of two controversial new production facilities, the plutonium “Nuclear Facility” at Los Alamos and the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 near Oak Ridge, TN, both designed for production levels of up to 125 nuclear weapons per year. Additionally, groundbreaking for the new privately financed Kansas City Plant for nonnuclear components production, responsible for 85% of all components that go into U.S. nuclear weapons, will occur soon. Ironically, that may be just before the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference that begins May 3 at the United Nations. We can expect Obama’s oratory to again excel at the UN while claiming that the U.S. is indeed working toward a nuclear weapons-free world. He will be contradicted by these new plutonium, uranium and nonnuclear nuclear weapons components production plants, together costing $7 billion or more.
Obama should put his money where his mouth is, not give it to the nuclear weaponeers. A decade ago Clinton and Congress delivered bucket loads of money to the nuclear weapons labs, only to have their directors damn the Test Ban Treaty through faint praise before the Senate in 1999 which killed it (and they got to keep the money!).
Today, the Labs internally state that there is little technical difference between a ratified Test Ban Treaty and the current testing moratorium in effect since 1992. Their real concern is to leverage treaty ratifications to ensure expanded design and production capabilities for both existing weapons and possible “replacement designs,” which they have not given up on despite previous congressional rejections of “Reliable Replacement Warheads.” They want to “Get more money” for expanded capabilities through Treaty “Safeguards.” They are apparently succeeding. ( more ).
Studies by independent nuclear weapons experts have concluded that the all important plutonium pit triggers last a century or more, and existing nuclear weapons can be reliably maintained under existing programs for many decades. In pending budget and treaty ratification processes our New Mexican Senators should be pushing for increased funding for alternative missions and cleanup at our Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, instead of supporting Obama’s preemptive surrender that will further entrench our state in the nuclear weapons business. That is the right thing to do for both the long-term creation of jobs in New Mexico and working consistently toward a nuclear weapons-free world.
Given exploding national debt the American taxpayer should not be further burdened with unneeded and provocative nuclear weapons production facilities. The labs want to pervert disarmament treaties into armament treaties by enshrining expanded nuclear weapons design and production capabilities for themselves as treaty “Safeguards.” Hope we don’t get fooled again!
Some pertinent points on the new Kansas City Plant, prompted by the Kansas
City Star article:
• Groundbreaking will probably be sometime after March given that final
private financing still has to be found.
• However, groundbreaking for a major new U.S. nuclear weapons production
plant, costing $4.76 billion to build and operate over its first 20 years,
is still likely to occur just before the May 2010 NonProliferation Treaty
Review Conference. It would be nice if the U.S. had some explaining to do at
the UN over that.
• Originally reported construction cost was $500 million. Now we’re up to
• Previously projected tax abatements to be granted by the Kansas City
municipal government were $41 million. Now we’re up to $65 million ($2.6
million/year over 25 years).
• Infrastructure improvements (roads and utilities) enabled by the tax
abatements will benefit the private developers in their other nearby
business ventures, including a planned intermodal,international
transportation hub (part of the so-called “NAFTA Superhighway”).
• Kansas City’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA), enabled by
Missouri state law to fight urban blight, will issue bonds to private
investors. The PIEA declared a producing soy bean field blighted in order to
provide the basis for this (hardly urban blight).
• Through the PIEA, a municipal government (Kansas City, MO) will hold fee
simple to this new federal nuclear weapons production plant (i.e., own it).
The PIEA will grant the private developers a 20-year or more
lease-to-purchase, after which the private developers will own this new
federal nuclear weapons production plant.
• Guaranteed subleases to the National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA) via the General Services Administration (GSA) effectively guarantee
the profits of the private developers and their ability to pay the bonds
off. “Coincidentally,” one of the two private development partners happened
to own the land that the new Plant is to be built upon before GSA/NNSA
• GSA/NNSA put out a solicitation for bids to private developers a good
month or so before they issued public notice of an environmental assessment
for the new Kansas City Plant under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Nevertheless, the two agencies have always denied any predetermination.
Above its masthead the hard copy 12/4/09 Sandia Lab News has a cool NNSA/DoD “W76-1/MK4A” badge with a black submarine and a vertical warhead above it with a slanted trident across it. MK4A is the reentry vehicle for the W76. The sub, of course, is a Trident submarine.
To summarize some points:
• It states that Life Extension Programs (LEPs) can extend warhead life up to 60 years. That’s significant, especially given the continuing push by some for new-design replacement warheads. Previously I had heard only up to 30 years.
• Please note the pending resumption of broad-scale nuclear weapons production with this W76 LEP.
• Please note “reinventing the weapon’s AF&F [arming, fuzing & firing] system” …. which “provides packaging and performance enhancements. Though the W76-1 is emphatically not a new weapon system, the scope of the LEP effort was very demanding.”
Maybe it’s not a new “system,” but the W76-1 has new military characteristics. That new AF&F system being produced now at the Kansas City Plant is believed to endow the warhead with a selectable height of burst.
In 1997 Navy Admiral George “Pete” Nanos wrote :
The demonstrated capability of the D5 [the new Trident II missile] is excellent. Our capability for Mk 4 [reentry vehicle with W76 warhead], however, is not very impressive by today’s standards, largely because the Mk 4 was never given a fuse that made it capable of placing the burst at the right height to hold other than urban industrial targets at risk. With the accuracy of D5 and Mk 4, just by changing the fuze in the Mk 4 reentry body, you get a significant improvement. The Mk 4, with a modified fuze and Trident II accuracy, can meet the original D5 hard target requirement. Why is this important? Because in the START II regime, of course, the ICBM hard target killers are going out of the inventory and that cuts back our ability to hold hard targets at risk.
“Strategic Systems Update,” Rear Admiral G.P. Nanos, The Submarine Review, April 1997
In other words, with a new fuze and increased missile accuracy the military characteristics of the refurbished W76-1 are transformed from being a countervalue weapon of deterrence (“city buster”) into a counterforce weapon (“hard target killer”). This directly contradicts the constantly repeated statements by senior U.S. Government officials that military characteristics won’t be changed and that “new” nuclear weapons will not be created.
For more, please Hans Kristensen’s excellent 2007 “Administration Increases Submarine Warhead Protection Plan”
(Side note: Adm. Pete Nanos later became LANL Director, didn’t quite get along, and at one point famously called Lab scientists “cowboys” and “buttheads”).
The article ends by noting that the W76 LEP has laid the foundation for a future B61 LEP, which itself is an issue of current controversy.
Separately it was recently revealed that Sandia manager Lockheed Martin pays Sandia Director Tom Hunter $1.7 million a year. Lockheed Martin is also the dominant corporate partner running the U.K’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston. On December 4 the Obama Administration nominated Donald Cook to be NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. Cook is an American who worked at Sandia for 28 years and was the Managing Director of the UK’s AWE from 2006 to 2009. The W76 is the U.K’s main (if not only) currently operational nuclear weapon.
I find the overarching headline in this e-version of Sandia Lab News announcing that Sandia technology “comprehensively” supports the CTBT to be ironic while it then goes on into an article about broad-scale nuclear weapons production of the W76-1. I understood the original intent of the CTBT to be a disarmament treaty cutting off the further advancement of nuclear weapons by any country.
The package was labeled “explosives” on the inside, so the cargo handlers were rightfully concerned when their alarms went off. The cargo facility was closed for about four hours during the incident.
It was reported that , “The containers are usually shipped via ground transportation but sometimes, he [LANL spokesperson] said, they’re sent by air.” I’m guessing that it costs more to send it by air, not to mention the extra cost of wasting time of the Albuquerque Police Department bomb squad, the cargo handlers, and Lab personnel.
The Journal reported, “Security at the airport didn’t know about the arrangement. “Apparently it was just a misunderstanding,” said airport spokesperson Daniel Jiron.” Once again, the Lab deflects any responsibility.
KOB TV 4 broke the story and is still has the only account as best as I can tell. Read report and see video here.
Los Alamos National Laboratory sent an 8’ package labeled “explosives” to the Sunport to be flown to California on Southwest Airlines (where bags fly free). A sensor alarm alerted the cargo handlers to “a small amount of trace explosives” and the package never made it to the plane. It was reported that no flights were delayed and there was no danger. It was also reported that the Lab meant to ship the package by ground.
The danger here is that the Lab which is entrusted with the nation’s nuclear secrets cannot ship a package correctly. It was an 8’ package labeled “explosives.” It’s not like it got accidently mixed in with other packages and put on the wrong truck.
The public deserves all the facts. How did the “mix-up” occur? Has the Lab shipped similar packages before? What type of “explosive” label did the package have on it? Did it meet all shipping standards for explosives? Did the explosives pose a detonation hazard? Could the package really have been shipped by ground? How does an 8’ package labeled “explosives” even get unloaded into the air cargo building?
A GAO Report released Friday the 13th found that “significant information security control weaknesses remain on LANL’s classified computer network. LANL had vulnerabilities in several critical areas, including (1) identifying and authenticating the identity of users, (2) authorizing user access, (3) encrypting classified information, (4) monitoring and auditing compliance with security policies, and (5) maintaining software configuration assurance.”
The report explains that LANL spent approximately $433 million from fiscal years 2001 through 2008 to operate, maintain, protect, and procure equipment for its classified computer network. The largest expenditure for the classified computer network was for high-performance computing, which accounted for $322 million (or 74 percent) of total expenditures. LANL began to expand the classified computer network in 2005, accounting for $48 million (or 11 percent) of total expenditures during the fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2008 period. Expenditures for special initiatives, such as the Integrated Cyber Security Initiative and Multi-Platform Trusted Copy program, accounted for $19 million (or 4 percent) of total expenditures. The core classified cyber security program, which serves as the foundation of LANL’s protection strategy for the classified cyber security program, accounted for $45 million (or 10 percent) of total expenditures over the period.
Clearly, the Lab was more focused on high-performance computing rather than focusing on protecting the nation’s nuclear secrets, or maybe the Lab thought everything was OK.
This GAO report comes after the DOE Office of Enforcement devoted significant attention to monitoring compliance with a Secretarial Compliance Order that was issued in July 2007. Specifically, the DOE Secretary directed the contractor for the Los Alamos National Laboratory – Los Alamos National Security, LLC – to remediate deficiencies that contributed to a breach of classified information security controls and to correct longstanding deficiencies associated with classified information security, and classified and unclassified cyber security programs. Los Alamos National Laboratory reported that the actions were completed by December 2008, and the DOE Los Alamos Site Office formally validated completion of the required actions.
But problems were still not corrected. To satisfy the above July 2007 DOE Compliance Order, the laboratory reaccredited all classified computer systems. During 2008, as part of its reaccredidation process, LANL revised risk assessments for classified computer systems and included the results in the system security plans. However, of the five system security plans the GAO reviewed, one plan’s risk assessment did not adhere to the latest methodology and did not include evidence of a comprehensive threat analysis, as required by DOE. Furthermore, the remaining four plans noted that all known threats and vulnerabilities were not evaluated to determine risks. Without comprehensive risk assessments, risks to certain systems may be unknown and appropriate controls may not be in place to protect against unauthorized access to or disclosure of sensitive information, or disruption of critical systems and operations.
What’s the problem? A Special Report from the Government Computer News tells us –
According to data reported by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), reported attacks on U.S. government computer networks climbed 40% last year, and more infiltrators are trying to plant malicious software they could use to control or steal sensitive data. Accounts of unauthorized access to government computers and installations of hostile programs rose from a combined 3,928 incidents in 2007 to 5,488 in 2008, The latest report, issued in February 2009, represented a small sampling – just 1% of federal agencies have fully developed tracking systems – and some of the uptick in reported attacks may be due to better reporting in the last year.
Government networks are targeted by foreign nations seeking intelligence, such as China and Russia, as well as criminal groups and individuals who may want to disrupt power, communication or financial systems. Some attackers are less interested in stealing data than in undermining a system’s ability to operate by planting software that could slow critical networks in emergencies. Security industry observers expressed alarm about phishing, in which seemingly legitimate e-mails solicit sensitive information, and ‘web redirects,’ which shunt a computer to a website where it downloads malicious software. According to reports, fewer attacks are being used to take down an organization’s entire IT system. Instead, attacks now penetrate IT systems without impairing them, primarily to siphon out sensitive information without detection.
Q: How much does it cost to cleanup a 65-acre, 50-year-old, nuclear weapons laboratory unlined dump full of low-level radioactive waste (LLW), radioactively contaminated infectious waste, asbestos contaminated material, transuranic waste, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and much more?
A: About 8 years of the Lab’s nuclear weapons activities budget.
First, define cleanup. (Closure is the better term to use.)
The Lab recently submitted a revised (September 2009) corrective measures evaluation (CME) of Material Disposal Area (MDA) G, located within Area G of Technical Area 54, at Los Alamos National Laboratory to the NM Environment Department. The goal of the CME report was to recommend a corrective measures alternative for closure of the site and to address contamination releases in compliance with the March 1, 2005, Compliance Order on Consent (Consent Order).
This CME report screened 14 corrective measures alternatives based on their ability to meet the regulatory threshold and other qualitative screening criteria. Seven of the 14 alternatives evaluated met the screening criteria and capital costs were estimated:
1. Alternative 1B: maintenance of existing cover – $9.4 million;
2. Alternative 2B: evapotranspiration (ET) cover – $64.8 million;
3. Alternative 2C: ET cover with partial waste excavation – $46.5 million;
4. Alternative 2D: ET cover with partial waste excavation, targeted stabilization – $48 million;
5. Alternative 5B: complete waste excavation, waste treatment, off-site disposal – $9.1 billion (This is down from last year’s estimate of $20 billion.);
6. Alternative 5C: complete waste excavation, on-site waste treatment, disposal of wastes in a RCRA Subtitle C landfill – $6.1 billion; and
7. Alternative 5D: complete waste excavation, on-site waste treatment, disposal of wastes in a RCRA corrective action management unit – $6.1 billion.(All alternatives include monitoring and maintenance, and soil vapor extraction, but don’t include a 55% contingency.)
The Lab’s recommended corrective measures alternative is Alternative 2C.
The right thing to do would be Alternative 5B, complete waste excavation. The Lab could cover the $9.1 billion by redirecting the $1.2 billion it spends annually on nuclear weapons activities.
The hard-working folks over at NMED have to make the final decision, and there will be opportunities for public input.
Find the report MDA G CME R1 Sept 09 [Warning, it’s 14MB]
The gist of NNSA’s important announcement: After $5 billion and counting,
NIF’s laser beams CAN BE effectively delivered and ARE CAPABLE of creating sufficient x-ray energy to drive fuel implosion, an important step toward the ultimate goal of fusion ignition.
NIF will be a cornerstone of a critical national security mission, ensuring the continuing reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile without underground nuclear testing…
This is more of Tom D’Agostino’s positioning of NIF as essential for CTBT ratification (which he has done face-to-face to me and others). That’s not a prudent deal, to hinge CTBT ratification on what NIF “MIGHT” be capable of.
… while also providing a path to explore the frontiers of basic science, and potential technologies for energy independence. It is a prime example of how our investment in nuclear security is providing the tools to tackle a broad range of national challenges.
Is there nothing NIF can’t do? Recall that exactly a year ago tomorrow they had Terminator Gov. Schwarzenegger going “gee whiz,” as follows:
This laser technology has the potential to revolutionize our energy future,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “If successful, this new endeavor could generate thousands of megawatts of carbon-free nuclear power but without the drawbacks of conventional nuclear plants. This type of innovation is why we are a world leader in science, technology and clean energy, and I could not be prouder that this work is happening right here in California.
Speaking for myself, I will grudgingly concede that NIF has succeeded in its real mission of ensuring that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory survives as a nuclear weapons lab (NIF-specific funding is 25% of all DOE funding for LLNL). In 1995 the Galvin Commission recommended eliminating the redundancy of having 2 nuclear weapons design labs and ending weapons programs at Livermore. Then rose NIF…..
The bolded emphases on NNSA’s repeated use of qualifying language and future tense is mine. Does this press release really say anything of substance at all?
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.