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Nuclear News Archives – 2021

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Nuclear News Archives – 2020

WIPP faces security, space challenges

The experts are recommending the Energy Department conduct an environmental review to consider the full effects of the plan on the repository, which plays a key role in the nation’s multibillion-dollar program to clean up Cold War-era waste from decades of nuclear research and bomb making.

Susan Montoya Bryan / Associated Press | santafenewmexican.com

ALBUQUERQUE — Security and the availability of space at the U.S. government’s only underground nuclear waste repository are among the challenges identified by a group of scientists and other experts tasked by Congress to review the viability of a plan to dispose of tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the desert location.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on Thursday released its final report on the plan, which would cost an estimated $18 billion over three decades to dilute a few dozen metric tons of plutonium and ship it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.

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STALKING CHERNOBYL: exploration after apocalypse (Trailer) from Cultures of Resistance Films on Vimeo.

“A vivid and compelling film… where a dose of adrenaline matters more than a dose of radiation.” — Beyond Nuclear International

“Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse” (2020) is a fascinating documentary from Cultures of Resistance Films that offers a unique portal into the clandestine culture that has developed around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone three decades after the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

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Defense budget cuts following the pandemic will be hard to swallow

BY: DOV S. ZAKHEIM | thehill.com

© Photo illustration/Nicole Vas

Congress has appropriated more than $2.25 trillion to counter the impact of COVID-19 on American families and the economy. It is likely to spend even more once legislators return from their recess in early May. This unprecedented level of expenditure is resulting in a massive deficit and national debt levels that are likely to exceed 120 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, especially as GDP growth itself is no longer a foregone conclusion. In turn, there will be renewed pressure on the defense budget, which already is forecast to have no real growth in fiscal year 2021.

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NNSA lengthens comment period for Savannah River pit production environmental study

BY: COLIN DEMAREST | aikenstandard.com

The National Nuclear Security Administration has extended the period in which it is taking comments and input on its draft review of the environmental impacts of plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site.

NNSA lengthens comment period for Savannah River pit production environmental study

Feedback can now be submitted through June 2. The previous deadline was May 18.

Comments concerning the Savannah River Site plutonium pit production draft environmental impact statement can be emailed, the preferred method, to NEPA-SRS@srs.gov. Comments can also be mailed to Jennifer Nelson, NEPA Document Manager, National Nuclear Security Administration, Savannah River Field Office, P.O. Box A, Aiken, S.C. 29802.

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“STALKING CHERNOBYL” Q&A EVENT ON APRIL 26

On Sunday, 26 April 2020 the UN-designated International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, “Stalking Chernobyl” director Iara Lee hosted a live online Q&A session moderated by Jodie Evans, CODEPINK founder, with:

• Cindy Folkers, Radiation & Health Specialist from Beyond Nuclear International
• Sergii Mirnyi, scientist/tour operator from Chernobyl Tours
• Vitaly Servetnik from Friends of the Earth/Russian Socio-Ecological Union
• “Stalking Chernobyl” editor Dimo Petkov, cameraman Anton Fedorrko, co-producer Oleg Shalashov
• Dominik Orfanus, Yurij Syrcek, and Igor Pasko from the ; Chernobyl Welcome Tour Company
• Vladislav Voznjuck from the stalker/tour group DiggTour
• Lucas Brunelle, extreme cyclist and creator of ” Lucas Brunelle Goes To Chernobyl”

The discussion was livestreamed to Cultures of Resistance’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CulturesOfResistance/ and YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/CulturesofResistance

North Korea is advancing its nuclear program and increasing illicit trade, new UN report says

North Korea is advancing its nuclear program and increasing illicit trade in new and more opaque ways, according to a 267-page U.N. report that provides surveillance photos and new evidence.

PAMELA FALK | cbsnews.com

The annual report, produced by sanctions monitors called the “Panel of Experts,” is a product of the U.N. Security Council. The purpose of the report is to offer recommendations on how to hold North Korea accountable for skirting restrictions imposed by U.N. sanctions since 2006, that are designed to curtail the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

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New Mexico’s U.S. senators request more time for comment on LANL pit production

A letter from 120 activist groups and citizens has prompted the state’s two U.S. senators to ask federal agencies to give the public more time to comment on possible environmental effects of pit production at Los Alamos Laboratory.

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich wrote to the National Nuclear Security Administration on Wednesday, urging it to extend the public comment period to June 19 on its environmental study of the lab’s future production.

They cited challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis and referred to a letter they received from activists who had asked for the June 19 extension.

“We continue to believe that providing the public ample opportunity to comment on environmental documents … provides an invaluable source of expertise to NNSA’s decision-makers, enhances transparency and ensures accountability,” the senators wrote. “We respectfully request that you give careful consideration to extending the public comment period.”

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60+ Orgs to Congress: No More COVID-19 Money For the Pentagon

Win Without Warcommondreams.com WASHINGTON – Congressional leadership must ensure that future COVID-19 response bills do not include any additional funds for the Pentagon, 61 organizations representing pro-diplomacy, veteran, faith, environmental, and anti-war communities, and more, from across the country, said in a letter today.

The letter, led by Win Without War, states that the Pentagon’s $756 billion budget provides more than enough resources to respond to the crisis caused by the pandemic. While there may be a limited role for the Pentagon in responding to the crisis — by, for example, aiding with construction of hospitals — the letter’s signers agree that these activities should be funded by the already-oversized Pentagon budget.

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There’s a new world super-villain (COVID-19), it’s time for nuclear disarmament

 | diggers.news

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, inspects the preparation of the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in North Korea’s northwest. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

THE Associated Press (AP) this week reported that a barrage of North Korean missiles fired from both the ground and fighter jets splashed down on the waters off the peninsular’s east coast on Tuesday. AP further reports that North Korea also launched several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters. According to a South Korean defence official, North Korea seems to be resuming its military drills that it had scaled back due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. This, consequently, pushing back the deadlocked denuclearisation negotiations fostered by the United Nations.

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How the Military-Industrial Complex Is Using the Coronavirus

Arms industry lobbyists are addressing this pandemic and preparing for the next by pushing weapons sales.

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

A stockpile of munitions is stored in a secured facility at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 6, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine)

There’s a battle brewing for the future of national security spending.

On one side, there’s a growing bipartisan consensus that the coronavirus has fundamentally changed the way we should think about national security. Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser in the Obama White House, recently argued in The Atlantic that we have to rethink the orientation and priorities of our government, and “it makes no sense that the Pentagon budget is 13 times larger than the entire international-affairs budget, which funds the State Department, USAID, and global programs at other agencies.”

Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the bottom line is that “we’re going to see enormous downward pressure on defense spending because of other urgent American national needs like health care.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: THE NATION

SFCC, Los Alamos lab join to offer machinist program

BY DILLION MULLIN | santafenewmexican.com

Santa Fe Community College and Los Alamos National Laboratory announced last week a new collaboration to revamp the college’s machinist program.

With the campus providing the latest equipment and curriculum and the lab offering hands-on internships, community college President Becky Rowley said she hopes the first group of students can begin working toward a certificate or associate’s degree in the overhauled program this fall.

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Congress Should Hit Pause On The New Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

Within just a few years, the estimated cost of GBSD skyrocketed from $62 billion to $85 billion to $150 billion, and is now likely to be even higher.

ARTICLE BY: MATT KORDA | forbes.com

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused daily life to grind to a halt, it has had little effect on the military-industrial complex––which, incredibly, appears to be speeding up.

Late last week, the Air Force revealed that it was considering awarding one of its most important contracts––the massive Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract for the next generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles––even earlier than expected, in an attempt to lock the program in as soon as possible.

This news comes only two months after the release of the President’s FY21 budget request, which also raised eyebrows given the dramatic increase to the nuclear weapons budget––and particularly, the tripling of the ICBM budget.

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Stalking Chernobyl

Chernobyl is a place of loss and abandonment. The Zone is radioactive. So why do people flock there today? Iara Lee’s fascinating documentary goes with them to find out, and reminds us about life there before the April 26, 1986 nuclear disaster.

ARTICLE BY: LINDA PENTZ GUNTER | beyondnuclear.org

For most of us, Pripyat — the Ukrainian city that has become an iconic symbol of forced abandonment — summons images of drab, Soviet decay. Pripyat is a place of ghastly tower blocks, rusting playgrounds, a deserted Ferris wheel and peeling paint, its workforce trudging like automata to toil at the doomed Chernobyl nuclear power plant just 2.5km away.

But in the opening sequence of Iara Lee’s new documentary — Stalking Chernobyl; exploration after the apocalypse — we see a very different Pripyat, before the April 26, 1986 nuclear disaster. It is a place of singing and roses, swimming pools and picnics, and dancing babushkas.

And then, as someone in the film says, “On April 26, what had once been our pride became our grief.”

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The Women Who Told Chernobyl’s Story – And the Charity that Sees Those Consequences First Hand

Three great women writers have done so much to tell the story of Chernobyl. Their focus was not on the accident itself, but its impact on the people of Belarus and Ukraine.

ARTICLE BY: LINDA WALKER | beyondnuclear.org

Alla Yaroshinskaya

When reactor No 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up in the early hours of 26th April 1986, it threw millions of curies of radioactive materials into the air, forming a 2km high plume.

Amongst the most dangerous isotopes it released were iodine 131, caesium 137 and strontium 90.

But according to Alla Yaroshinskaya, a journalist whose tenacity was responsible for revealing much of the subsequent cover-up, the most dangerous substance to escape from the mouth of the reactor did not appear on the periodic table. It was Lie-86, a lie as global as the disaster itself.
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Northrop could get $85 billion award to make next-gen ICBMs sooner than expected

Within just a few years, the estimated cost of GBSD skyrocketed from $62 billion to $85 billion to $150 billion, and is now likely to be even higher.

ARTICLE BY: VALERIE INSINNA| defensenews.com

Northrop could get $85 billion award to make next-gen ICBMs sooner than expected
Airmen from the 90th Maintenance Group are responsible for maintaining and repairing ICBMs on alert status within the F.E. Warren missile complex. (Senior Airman Abbigayle Williams/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — An award for the U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program is slated to be granted by the end of September, but it could happen earlier, the service’s acquisition executive said Thursday.

“I think early award is possible on GBSD,” Will Roper told reporters during a teleconference. “I’m very hopeful, but because GBSD has a large component of classified work, that team is having to go in and maintain workforce in our [sensitive compartmented information facilities] and in our classified spaces. So we’re watching very carefully to make sure the installations are open to allow that work.”

As the sole bidder on the GBSD program, Northrop Grumman is anticipated to win an estimated $85 billion to design and build the Air Force’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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Spent Nuclear Fuel from Germany to SRS? Dumping-for-Profit Scheme Drags On & On & Should be Terminated

FOIA Documents Confirm Profiteers Still Pursuing Scheme to Dump Highly Radioactive German Spent Fuel (Graphite “Pebbles”) at SRS – Should be Terminated

SRS and the German entity Jülicher Entsorgungsgesellschaft für Nuklearanlagen (JEN) are still working on the scheme to import German highly radioactive graphite spent fuel from the Jülich, Germany storage site to SRS for reprocessing and dumping.  That this bad idea to import the nuclear waste in large CASTOR casks is continuing has been confirmed in documents obtained by SRS Watch in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request received on April 7, 2020.

SRS Watch first alerted the public in 2013 – at a SRS Citizens Advisory Board meeting – that the US-Germany waste deal was at hand, forcing SRS to admit that was indeed the case.  Pursuit of he deal has been dragging on since 2012.
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How nuclear forces worldwide are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic

In recent weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has elicited at least a few tone-deaf comments from top US defense officials about the readiness of their nuclear forces. In mid-March, the commander of US Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, reassured his audience that the United States’ nuclear forces had not been adversely affected by the pandemic and that they “remain ready to execute the nation’s strategic deterrence mission.” In effect, Adm. Richard was telling his audience that the United States was still capable of launching a massive nuclear retaliation that would undoubtedly kill millions. Similarly, at the beginning of April, the commander of the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command told Popular Mechanics that, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, “its nukes are still ready to fly.” These officials were apparently oblivious to the notion that, with the pandemic already causing enough fear and dread on its own, now may not be the best time to remind the general public about other ways the world could end.

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What the United States loses by quitting the Open Skies treaty, in one chart

Reports emerged this week that the White House may be moving “soon”  on withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty, a nearly two-decade-old agreement that allows 34 countries to fly and share reconnaissance missions over each other to promote military cooperation and transparency.

Last month, defense secretary Mark Esper said he was freezing a long-overdue replacement of the aging OC-135B aircraft used for flights under the treaty. “Until we make a final decision on the path forward, I am not prepared to recapitalize aircraft,” Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Although more than 1,500 observation flights have been flown since the treaty took effect in 2002, vocal Republican opponents like Sens. Tom Cotton, Richard Burr, and Ted Cruz claim its benefit is “marginal” because US satellites make aerial imagery unnecessary, and the United States gives up more to its adversaries under the treaty than it gains. Their criticism extends from complaints about the costs of the OC-135B upgrade to protests over Russian compliance with the treaty—specifically, restrictions on missions flown over Kaliningrad and along Russia’s border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Cotton and Cruz introduced a resolution calling for withdrawal in October.

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NNSA Production Sites Hunker Down Amid COVID-19 Crisis

All but one of the main Department of Energy nuclear weapons production sites have now hunkered down into minimum mission-critical operations because of COVID-19, keeping only the personnel needed to assemble nuclear weapons and components, maintain key infrastructure, or provide security.

The Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., both announced the switch to minimum mission-critical operations this week, joining the Savannah River Site of Aiken, S.C., which adopted a similar posture late last month.

Only the Kansas City National Security Campus, which sits in the middle of a far worse outbreak than Pantex, Y-12, and Savannah River combined, had not gone down to the minimum mission-critical level of operations. The plant, which makes the non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons, has reduced the number of people onsite since the outbreak and confirmed its first case of COVID-19 this week, saying Friday an employee “recently tested positive.”

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The Coronavirus Can’t Stop America’s Nukes

Relying on a high-state of readiness, the nuclear triad is under threat from the coronavirus. But the head of Global Strike Command tells Popular Mechanics that its nukes are still ready to fly.

As the world fights against the COVID-19 pandemic, nuclear weapons have taken a backseat in most people’s minds. But for Global Strike Command (AFGSC)—the Air Force unit in control of two of the three legs of America’s nuclear triad—their mission remains top priority.

And it’s an unforgiving business. Nuclear deterrence requires extreme levels of readiness among pilots, maintenance crews, and security teams. Adversaries that don’t think the U.S. can respond with conventional bombing strikes or nukes could be emboldened to act aggressively.

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OAK RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL PEACE ALLIANCE CALLS FOR PUBLIC HEARING ON DOCUMENT ANALYZING HEIGHTENED EARTHQUAKE RISK AT NUCLEAR BOMB PLANT, ASKS FOR EXTENSION OF COMMENT PERIOD DUE TO PANDEMIC

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance today filed a formal request with the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration seeking an indefinite extension of the comment period and a public hearing on the NNSA’s study of earthquake and accident consequences at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

 Citing a letter from twenty-two Senators that called for an indefinite extension of public comment periods until such time as the COVID-19 national state of emergency has ended, OREPA asked NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette to recognize the significant disruption in public and private life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to respond appropriately.

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After Decades of Secrets, Rocky Flats Should Still Give Pause

Story about Nuclear Weapons Plant: Malpractices at Rocky Flats

Practices of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant - Part 1 of 3

Practices of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant - Part 2 of 3

Practices of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant - Part 3 of 3

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The rockyflatsambushedgrandjury.com web site offers many Resource Materials in support of The Ambushed Grand Jury non-fiction and profit book about the Rocky Flats criminal investigation and Special Federal Grand Jury investigation, including pictures and videos.

Chernobyl fire: Huge forest blaze moves within one kilometre of abandoned nuclear plant

A forest fire that has raged in Ukraine for more than a week has spread to within a kilometre of the Chernobyl power plant, environmental campaigners have warned.

Footage of the region has shown fires raging through the 30km exclusion zone set up around the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, with black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters attempting to beat back the blaze from helicopters.

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Lawmakers cry foul as Trump considers retreating from Open Skies Treaty

Supporters of a treaty meant to reduce the risk of accidental war are sounding the alarm President Trump could withdraw from the agreement as the world’s attention is consumed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Open Skies Treaty allows the pact’s 35 signatories, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation flights over each other’s territories with the intention of providing transparency about military activities to avoid miscalculations that could lead to war.

Administration officials insist a review is ongoing as four top Democrats warned this past week that withdrawing “in the midst of a global health crisis is not only shortsighted, but also unconscionable.”

“We are deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s sustained push to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and we reject the administration’s arguments for pursuing withdrawal,”
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Joel Pett Political Cartoons | Lexington Herald Leader

Researchers Find Plutonium Particles in Soil Near Rocky Flats

“Researchers from Northern Arizona University (NAU) found extensive plutonium “hot” particles in soil near the former Rocky Flats nuclear site. Particles this size can be inhaled and lodged in lung tissue, increasing risk of radioactive exposure from inhalation.”

ARTICLE BY: KEELY SUGDEN | kdvr.com

Researchers find plutonium particles in soil near Rocky Flats
Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge

DENVER (KDVR) – Researchers Michael Ketterer and Scott Szechenyi from (NAU) concluded, “These particles are found to be pervasive in non-US Government land east of Rocky Flats, and it is reasonable to believe that ongoing wind transport is continuing to spread the contamination across open space used by the public, and toward residential areas.”

Surface soil was collected from the Jefferson County right-of-way property immediately west of Indiana Street in 2019.

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NEW OAK RIDGE EARTHQUAKE RISK ANALYSIS SAYS PUBLIC SAFETY RISK IS TEN TIMES GREATER THAN PREVIOUS ESTIMATES

OREPA CALLS FOR PUBLIC HEARING: “WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE INFORMED AND CONSULTED ABOUT THE RISKS.”

OREPA

            The third time is proving far from charming for the government’s plan to continue making nuclear bomb parts in Oak Ridge. The National Nuclear Security Administration this week released its third Supplement Analysis [SA] for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex. Buried on page 31 of the report is the finding that the consequences of a worst-case scenario are ten times greater under the current plan than previously disclosed in the 2011 Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement.

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Air Force Wants to Add More Long-Range Bombers to its Inventory

“The Air Force has been looking to improve its fleet by purchasing the upcoming B-21 Raider and modernizing the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.” The Air Force has classified the costs of the B21 heavy bomber. Among other armaments, it will carry theW80-4 Long Range Stand Off nuclear warhead.

ARTICLE BY: CONNIE LEE | nationaldefensemagazine.org

The Air Force wants “just north” of 220 long-range bombers in its inventory by 2040, a service official said April 9.

Previously, the service said it wanted 175 aircraft in the current fleet, but “that was a programmatically derived approach,” Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters during a call with reporters.

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Udall Leads Senate Democrats In Urging Trump Administration to Indefinitely Extend Public Comment Periods and Pause Unrelated Federal Rulemakings During COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency

Trump administration is continuing controversial rulemakings that affect public health and safety – while the COVID-19 pandemic prevents Americans from weighing in on national policymaking process and necessary Tribal consultation

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and 21 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Russell Vought, calling on the executive branch to protect Americans’ right to participate in the democratic policy-making process, at a time when millions are worried about their and their loved ones’ health, safety and economic security and are unable to fully participate in the public comment process.

The senators requested that OMB indefinitely extend existing public comment periods and hearings until the public can safely gather after the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic have passed.

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LANL postpones radioactive vapor release because of COVID-19

“We’re pleased that LANL is postponing its massive radioactive tritium release, particularly as northern New Mexico braces for the coronavirus pandemic,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement. “But postponement is not the answer. Since tritium decays so rapidly into harmless helium the lab should simply sit on it instead of putting the population at risk.”

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory will indefinitely postpone a project that would release radioactive vapors into the atmosphere because staff needed for the task are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lab had planned to ventilate four containers of tritium-tainted waste April 17 to relieve built-up radioactive hydrogen in the barrels’ headspace to prevent them from rupturing while they are being handled or shipped. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the application for the radioactive release last year.

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Coronavirus pandemic could delay Pentagon spending, policy bill, HASC chairman says

Rep. Adam Smith says widespread testing will play a major role in getting people back to work

ARTICLE BY: COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES stripes.com

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic could delay federal funding bills, including the annual Pentagon spending and policy law, if the outbreak continues to paralyze American life into the summer months, a top House lawmaker on defense issues said Tuesday.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., told reporters that House Armed Services Committee members and staffers were moving forward in an effort to ready drafts of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act by May 1. But with no end in sight to the pandemic and with most lawmakers at their homes across the nation, he worries about the Sept. 30 deadline for an on-time bill.
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Coronavirus response to take priority in NDAA, House Armed Services chairman says

Rep. Adam Smith says widespread testing will play a major role in getting people back to work

ARTICLE BY: ANDREW CLEVENGER | rollcall.com

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 15: Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., left, and ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, attend the House Armed Services Committee hearing titled “DOD’s Role in Competing with China,” in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ramping up production of testing materials for COVID-19 will be a top priority for this year’s annual defense policy bill, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

Widespread testing will play a major role in getting people back to work, Washington Democrat Adam Smith told reporters during a press call. And some components of testing, like swabs, are already in short supply.

The Defense Department, Smith said, has a lot of experience and expertise in logistics and contracting and could lead government efforts to ensure the availability of extensive testing.

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The Nuns, The Priests, and The Bombs

Nuclear disarmament activists challenge the security and legality of America’s nuclear weapons when they break into two top-secret facilities: The “Fort Knox of Uranium” and a U.S. Navy Trident nuclear submarine base.

Are they criminals or prophets sending a wake-up call to the world?

Russia’s nuclear workers isolated onsite as coronavirus spreads

Workers at Russia’s nuclear power plants will be isolated from the general public and required to live in onsite clinics at their respective stations as nuclear authorities tighten their response to the coronavirus after a number of industry infections.

BY CHARLES DIGGS | bellona.org

The order came Tuesday from Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear utility, and specified that both primary and back up crews of nuclear technicians, who “facilitate process continuity” would now be required check in to dispensaries at their plants, where they would be provided with daily living essentials and isolated from outside contact.

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Cleanup of U.S. Nuclear Waste Takes Back Seat as Virus Spreads

“The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates why we should get cleanup done once and for all,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “What we do as humans ebbs and flows with history, but the radioactive and toxic wastes that we leave behind last longer than our recorded history. We should be acting now.”

ARTICLE BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRIAN | santafenewmexican.com

The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has lumbered along for decades, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment.

Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste finished ramping down operations Wednesday to keep workers safe.

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Trump Administration Determined to Exit Treaty Reducing Risk of War

Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper agreed to proceed with US withdrawal of Open Skies Treaty despite pandemic, sources say

ARTICLE BY: JULIAN BORGER | theguardian.com

Trump Administration Determined to Exit Treaty Reducing Risk of War
Mike Pompeo attends a news conference at the state department in Washington DC, on 17 March. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

The Trump administration is determined to withdraw from a 28-year-old treaty intended to reduce the risk of an accidental war between the west and Russia by allowing reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has put off a full national security council (NSC) meeting on the Open Skies Treaty (OST), the secretary of defence, Mark Esper, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have agreed to proceed with a US exit, according to two sources familiar with administration planning.

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Gorbachev: Time to Revise the Entire Global Agenda

An Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, World BEYOND War, April 5, 2020 | worldbeyondwar.org

Q: How did you take the news of the pandemic?

A: I think I took it the way most people did. Initially, there was hope that it could be controlled, localized. But things took a very different turn and the epidemic spread far and wide. Unprecedented measures and decisions became necessary. Leaders, citizens and international organizations found themselves in an extremely difficult situation. All of this will have to be thoroughly analyzed, but the priority now is to take things in hand and defeat this new, vicious enemy.

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Advocates raise questions about proposal to allow some nuclear waste to be disposed in landfills

“I find it just astonishing that they would do that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. How the NRC can look themselves in the mirror to propose massive deregulation and do it in the midst of the pandemic, I find it just ethically shocking.” — Dan Hirsch, former director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy

ARTICLE BY RACHEL FRAZINthehill.com

Scientists and advocates are raising concerns about a proposed relaxation on regulations for disposing of nuclear waste, saying that the government should halt the proposal as the scientific community focuses on the coronavirus.

A March 6 Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposal would allow for the disposal of some nuclear waste in municipal landfills, rather than a licensed facility.

Advocates say the proposal could put public health at risk, pushing the NRC to give the public more time to weigh in.

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NRC Proposes Allowing Nuclear Waste at Dumps, Recycling Sites

“Diane D’Arrigo, radioactive waste project director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, says the change would allow the industry to dispose of any waste other than irradiated fuel at landfills. That includes concrete, soil, clothing or any material where radiation still exists.”

ARTICLE FROM publicnewsservice.org

NRC Proposes Allowing Nuclear Waste at Dumps and Recycling Sites
A federal rule change could allow waste disposal at locations other than radioactive-storage facilities. (Scanrail/Adobe Stock)

BOISE, Idaho — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission may change its rules to allow the nuclear industry to dump some of its waste in landfills.

Opponents say the change poses a public health risk and would allow waste to go unmonitored.

The proposal would enable the NRC to reinterpret the meaning of low-level radioactive waste so that it could be accepted at dumps and hazardous waste sites, rather than regulated storage facilities.

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Why should NM store nation’s nuclear waste?

ARTICLE BY: LAURA WATCHEMPINO | MULTICULTURAL ALLIANCE FOR A SAFE ENVIRONMENT, PUEBLO OF ACOMA

If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s conclusion that it’s safe to move spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants across the country to a proposed storage facility in Lea County sounds vanilla-coated, it’s because the draft environmental impact statement for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility submitted by Holtec International did not address how the casks containing the spent fuel would be transported to New Mexico.

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LANL Tritium Ventilation Project On Hold Due To COVID-19, Scope Of Work Amended To Include Possible Secondary Venting

ARTICLE BY: MAIRE O’NEILL | losalamosreporter.com

Examples of flanged tritium waste containers. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos National Laboratory has notified the Environmental Protection Agency that plans for venting four flanged tritium waste containers (FTWCs) at Technical Area 54 have been finalized with an amended scope of work. However, according to NNSA Los Alamos Field Office spokesperson Toni Chiri, the operations, originally slated for this month, have been postponed due to COVID -19 and won’t be executed until the Laboratory is able to support the activity with a full complement of operational personnel.

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Covid-19 is Killing Off Our Traditional Notions of National Defense

“It never made any sense, as Trump’s 2021 budget had initially proposed, to increase spending on nuclear weapons by $7 billion while cutting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding by $1.2 billion.”

Covid-19 is Killing Off Our Traditional Notions of National DefenseMAX BOOT | washingtonpost.com

I have always been a strong supporter of the U.S. armed forces, because I believe they are needed to safeguard our freedom and prosperity in a dangerous world. But even hawks like me cannot be blind to the prevalence of “black swan” events in the past 20 years.

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NPT Review Conference To Be Postponed

“The specter of unconstrained nuclear competition looms over us for the first time since the 1970s. We are witnessing what has been termed a qualitative nuclear arms race, one not based on numbers but on faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons. Regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension are worsening, and proliferation challenges are not receding,” United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director | armscontrol.org

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has forced a postponement of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), possibly until early 2021. Originally scheduled to be held at UN headquarters in New York from April 27 until May 22, the conference typically involves hundreds of representatives from most of the 191 states-parties to the treaty, as well as nongovernmental organizations and meeting support personnel. The conference caps off a five-year cycle of meetings through which states-parties review implementation and compliance with the treaty and seek agreement on action steps to overcome new challenges and to fulfill core goals and objectives.

Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)
Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, president-designate of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, addresses the UN Security Council in February. (Photo: Evan Schneider/UN)

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PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET
“At a time when it is clear to everyone that US national security spending is poorly aligned with actual threats to the nation, the DoD proposal would make it even harder for Congress and the public to refocus and reconstruct the defense budget.”

The Department of Defense is quietly asking Congress to rescind the requirement to produce an unclassified version of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) database.

Preparation of the unclassified FYDP, which provides estimates of defense spending for the next five years, has been required by law since 1989 (10 USC 221) and has become an integral part of the defense budget process.

But the Pentagon said that it should no longer have to offer such information in an unclassified format, according to a DoD legislative proposal for the pending FY 2021 national defense authorization act.

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New study says LANL nuclear pit production could go higher

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said he doubted the lab has the “expertise and competence” to produce 80 plutonium pits, “but they’re going to eat up taxpayers’ money.” Coghlan said he’s also concerned about defense leaders refusing to use the thousands of pits stockpiled during the Cold War and instead favoring new, heavily modified pits. That raises the question of whether the Pentagon might resume nuclear testing on these untried cores instead of computer simulations.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory should be able to produce 80 plutonium pits to meet surges in demand, not just the official goal of 30 pits a year, according to a proposed update to the lab’s last sitewide analysis.

Defense plans call for the lab to produce 30 pits — the grapefruit-sized explosive centers in nuclear warheads — in 2026 and the Savannah River Site to manufacture 50 in 2030.

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Legacy Nuclear Weapons Maintenance Wastes

Every base where legacy nuclear weapons (early-generation) were deployed (Bomber, Fighter Interceptor Squadrons (FIS), Nike Ajax, BOMARC Missile, ICBM), were maintained, or decommissioned, is potentially contaminated with highly classified 91(b) radioactive material (RAM) from the maintenance of the nuclear weapons during the replacing of the polonium-beryllium (Po-Be) TOM initiators.

BY ANNETTE CARY | georgeafb.info

There is an under-reported news story about radioactive contamination at Air Force bases that were closed and transferred to the public by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

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ONE YEAR OF U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING WOULD PROVIDE 300,000 ICU BEDS, 35,000 VENTILATORS AND SALARIES OF 75,000 DOCTORS

| newsweek.com

The amount of money spent in one year by the U.S. on nuclear weapons could instead provide 300,000 ICU (intensive care unit) beds, 35,000 ventilators and 75,000 doctors’ salaries, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)–a “coalition of non-government organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the UN [United Nations} nuclear weapon ban treaty.”

In its recent report, the group stated that, according to armscontrol.org, the U.S. spent $35.1 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The costs are based on reported averages, but the study noted that the $35.1 billion in nuclear weapons spending would instead pay for “300,000 beds in intensive care units, 35,000 ventilators, and the salaries of 150,000 U.S. nurses and 75,000 U.S. doctors.”

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E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

“Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical plants and other major polluters.”

LISA FRIEDMAN | nytimes.org

One former senior E.P.A. official called the move “a nationwide waiver of environmental rules.”Credit: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.

The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Nuclear News Archives – 2019

US underground nuclear waste dump explained

WIPP
The first load of nuclear waste arrives in this March 26, 1999 file photo, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, N.M., from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Twenty years and more than 12,380 shipments later, tons of Cold War-era waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research across the U.S. have been stashed in the salt caverns that make up the underground facility. (AP Photo/Thomas Herbert)

BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | stripes.com March 23, 2019

WHAT IS THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT? WIPP is the United States’ only permanent underground repository licensed to take what is known as transuranic waste, or waste generated by the nation’s nuclear weapons program that’s contaminated with radioactive elements heavier than uranium.

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Residents around TMI exposed to far more radiation than officials claimed

TMI historic marker (Shutterstock)

Researchers under gag order couldn’t investigate true health impacts after Three Mile Island nuclear disaster

By CINDY FOLKERS | beyondenuclearinternational.org

Residents around Three Mile Island were exposed to much more radiation from the nuclear disaster than was claimed by officials, a fact that was kept from researchers and the public for years.

Residents at the time had questions about health risks but the fund established to pay for public health research related to the disaster was under a research gag order issued by a court. (Photo: Child Aloft by Robert Del Tredici)

After the Three Mile Island reactor core melted and radioactivity was released to the surrounding population, researchers were not allowed to investigate health impacts of higher doses because the TMI Public Health Fund, established to pay for public health research related to the disaster, was under a research gag order issued by a court. If a researcher wanted to conduct a study using money from this Fund, they had to obey two main parameters set forth by Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo, who was in charge of the Fund.*

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North Korea, One More Time

BY ROBERT ALVAREZ | washingtonspectator.org 

March 18, 2019


Less than a week after the collapsed talks, reports of the restarting of a missile testing site the North Koreans had previously promised to dismantle do not bode well.

Given Bolton and Pompeo’s bellicose proclivities—and despite Trump’s assertions to the contrary—resumption of joint U.S./South Korean military exercises may still be in the cards, delivering a blow to newly kindled hopes for an end to the nearly 70-year Korean War. Alvarez reported that North Korea wanted to be recognized and treated as a nuclear weapons state with potential long-range missiles.

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India, Pakistan threatened to unleash missiles at each other: sources

REUTERS FILE PHOTO: An Indian police officer fires a tear gas shell towards demonstrators, during a protest against the recent killings in Kashmir, in Srinagar May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/File Photo

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan almost went to war. “Diplomatic experts said that the latest crisis underlined the chances of misread signals and unpredictability in the ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, and the huge dangers.”

BY  & DRAZEN JORGIC | reuters.com March 16, 2019

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events said.

At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over”, according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

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Watch incredible restored footage of the first nuclear bomb detonation

Original Trinity Footage restoration includes removing dirt and scratches and minimizing some defects in the processing of the original negative.

On July 16, 1945, US Army detonated the first nuclear weapon in New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto desert. Codenamed Trinity, the test was part of the Manhattan Project. Three weeks later, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From the Atom Central page about Trinity:

The bomb was detonated, producing an intense flash and a fireball that expanded to 600 meters in two seconds. The explosive power was equivalent to 18.6 kilotons of TNT. It grew to a height of more than 12 kilometers, boiling up in the shape of a mushroom. Forty seconds later, the blast of air from the bomb reached the observation bunkers, along with a long and deafening roar of sound.

youtube.comboingboing.net

Smith: “Trim Budget Fat in America’s Nuclear Triad”

“I would like to kill the low-yield nuclear weapon program. I don’t think it’s a good idea,”

BY JOE GOULD | defensenews.com

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.

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Trump budget increases funding for nuclear weapons agency amid new production

BY ARON MEHTA | defensenews.com

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.

Airmen prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility on Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. (Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams/U.S. Air Force)

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.”

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DOE reports show WIPP chemical exposure months before workers got sick

Employees fell ill while working both underground and at the service

BY ADRIAN C HEDDEN | Carlsbad Current-Argus

Video by Wochit

 

Story Highlights
– 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.

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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.

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For International Women’s Day, here are 7 of history’s greatest women-led protests

Three centuries of female fury over taxes, bread shortages, voting rights and more.

Women mark International Women’s Day in Istanbul in March 2017. (Emrah Gurel/AP)

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 dollscosmetics 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.
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Call to Action: Reauthorize VAWA

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.

This International Women’s Day, we must commit ourselves to reauthorizing VAWA and prioritizing women’s safety. Join me in calling on Congress to do the right thing.

 

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.”

https://sputniknews.com/

How Pakistani Women are Using IWD to Push for Peace with India

BY SABRINA TOPPA | vice.com 

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.

Read full article on VICE.COM

Fukushima at 8: Accusations of scientific misconduct concern city in Japan

Date City produces peaches and dried persimmon

http://www.beyondnuclear.org

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.

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Trump is barreling toward war with Iran. Congress must act to stop him.

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.

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House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith Opening Statement

Full Committee Hearing on Outside Perspectives on Nuclear Deterrence (As Prepared)

Video link to Chairman Smith’s opening remarks herehttps://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.”

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Giving the Bomb to Saudi Arabia’s Dr. Strangelove

CARTOON BY MR FISH | truthdig.com

Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for Truthdig and Harpers.com.

ARTICLE BY CHRIS HEDGES | truthdig.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.

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Cold Start: India’s Answer to Pakistan’s Nuclear Bullying

ET ONLINE | economictimes.indiatimes.com 

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

John LaForge: Nuclear power can’t survive, much less slow climate disruption

“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.”

BY: JOHN LAFORGE | madison.com

 

Wisconsin’s only operating nuclear power plant is Point Beach near Two Rivers, about 45 miles southeast of Green Bay. / State Journal archives

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].

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Why the collapse of a historic nuclear treaty could lead to a Cold War-like arms race

A Russian military officer walks past the 9M729 land-based cruise missile.
Russia denies its 9M729 land-based cruise missile violates the key nuclear arms pact. (AP: Pavel Golovkin)

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.

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Women marched for Korean reconciliation. Washington is in our way.

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.

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Nuclear safety board still wary of DOE changes

BY MARK OSWALD / JOURNAL STAFF WRITERabqjournal.com Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

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.

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Nuclear safety board cites safety concerns in reduced role

BY  | santafenewmexican.com

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.

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Putin warns new weapons will point toward U.S. if missiles are deployed in Europe

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.

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I Was a Nuclear Site Guard. My Colleagues Sexually Assaulted Me.

BY JENNIFER GLOVER | nytimes.com 

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.

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United States Files False Claims Act Lawsuit in Connection With MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility Contract

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.

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Watch – A Woman’s Chernobyl Story

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.

Read More & Find Out HOW TO DONATE 

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.

Nuke Waste Destined to Remain

BY COLIN DEMAREST | thetandd.com 

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.

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The Cost to Clean Up America’s Cold War Nuclear Waste Jumps to $377 Billion

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.

Mock-ups of Poseidon Missiles
Polaris and Poseidon missiles. GETTY IMAGES//HULTON DEUTSCH

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.

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Near site of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a shattered town and scattered lives

 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.

LANL’s New Director Discusses Changing Culture

BY REBECCA MOSS | santafenewmexican.com 

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.”

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Russia Pulls Out of I.N.F. Treaty in ‘Symmetrical’ Response to U.S. Move

BY ANDREW E. KRAMERnytimes.com February 2, 2019

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.

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The U.S. And Russia Are Stocking Up On Missiles And Nukes For A Different Kind Of War

Russian Troops Load a Missile

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.”

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Trump makes it official: The US is pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty with Russia

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.

BY  | cnbc.com February 1, 2019

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin listens while U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland.

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.

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MERKLEY, SENATORS INTRODUCE BILL TO PREVENT NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

merkley.senate.gov Thursday, January 31, 2019 WASHINGTON, D.C. 

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), today announced the introduction of the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019, legislation that would pull the United States and Russia back from the brink of a 21st Century nuclear arms race. Merkley and Markey are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Warren and Gillibrand serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“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.

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Opponents fight back against WIPP permit change on waste volume tracking, appeal filed

“Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the change should not have been approved without an explanation from the DOE about how to address lost space after a contamination incident in 2014 that led to a three-year closure of the facility.”

By Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus

Two advocacy groups in New Mexico filed a legal appeal Thursday seeking to undo a New Mexico Environment Department order that allows the Energy Department to change the way it records underground transuranic waste volume at its Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.

The Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) and Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM) filed their notice of appeal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals to block the modification to WIPP’s state hazardous waste permit.

While it technically takes effect this month, as a practical matter the new counting system won’t be instituted right away because DOE has not drafted its policy on implementation, said SRIC Administrator Don Hancock by email.

A Dec. 21 order from then-state Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate authorized DOE to stop recording empty spaces between container drums as waste. The order adopted the findings of state Hearing Officer Max Shepherd, who recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual waste inside containers.

“The modification is contrary to federal law, changes 20 years of practice in the WIPP Permit and operations, ignores the record in the proceeding including testimony in three days of hearings, and violates the New Mexico-DOE Consultation and Cooperation Agreement,” Hancock said in a press release.

He called on New Mexico’s new governor and environment chief not to back the change in court, but rather overturn it. Given the official implementation date is Jan. 20, any administrative delay or rejection would happen soon, he added.

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NV Governor and AG speak against DOE plutonium shipment

kolotv.com | RENO January 30th, 2019

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
RESTRAINING ORDER
(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 & China Will Join Forces on Nuclear Weapons Strategy as U.S. Threatens to Leave Arms Deal

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.

BY TOM O’CONNOR | newsweek.com January 30th, 2019

U.S. Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson (center) and the U.S. delegation are seen in front of the Russian delegation as they attend a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference consisting of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members (P5)—China, France, Russia, Britain and the U.S.—in Beijing, on January 30. THOMAS PETER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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.

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Chairman Smith, Senator Warren Introduce Bill Establishing “NO FIRST USE” Policy for Nuclear Weapons

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.

FULL PDF ―  SRS Watch Challenges to Pit Production at SRS

Trump is Fixating on Another ‘Wall’ That Will Almost Certainly Fail to Live Up to his Promises

BY THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD | latimes.com

President Trump participates in a Missile Defense Review announcement at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. on Jan. 17. (Sipa USA / TNS)

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.

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Comment by the Information and Press Department on Space-based Elements Outlined in the US Missile Defence Review

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.

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A new abnormal: It is still 2 minutes to midnight

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.

Doomsday Clock Stays at Two Minutes to Midnight as Crisis Now ‘New Abnormal’

Warning that ‘We are like passengers on the Titanic, ignoring the iceberg ahead’ in face of nuclear arms and climate change threats

The former California governor Jerry Brown, left, and former US secretary of defence William Perry unveil the Doomsday Clock in Washington DC on Thursday. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

BY  in Washington |  theguardian.com |


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!”

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Watchdogs Fight WIPP Permit Change

By Rebecca Moss santafenewmexican.com | Jan 17, 2019 Updated Jan 18, 2019

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.

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‘Trump Could Hardly Have Chosen a Worse Moment’

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

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas – January 7, 2019 in Berlin.

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.

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2018

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LANL loses track of nuclear materials

LANL loses track of nuclear materials

Plutonium operations placed in standby mode

 

In an April 20, 2012 report, the Safety Board charged with oversight of defense nuclear facilities reported that the system used to track nuclear materials in the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory was operating erroneously. The system apparently only kept track of 1,700 out of 13,000 containers of nuclear “materials at risk” (MAR). This omission caused the facility to exceed its limits for MAR located in individual containers and outside of gloveboxes at least 15 times.

If one is operating a facility with large quantities of fissionable nuclear materials it is very important to know where the materials are at all times because stacking too much plutonium in one place can cause a criticality event or worse. After the error was noticed, the Lab manually started to verify container MAR amounts manually.  “To date, fifteen containers, all housed in the facility’s vault, have been identified with contents that exceed the MAR limit of 7500 g WG-Pu [Weapons Grade Plutonium] equivalent.” That’s a lot to lose track of because these limits help the facility to comply with the seismic requirements of operations in the Lab’s earthquake fault zone.

Normal operations have been terminated in the 150,000 square foot Plutonium Facility and the facility has been placed in “Standby Mode.” How much does a shutdown cost taxpayers?

How long has the Lab violated these limits? The report states that the tracking error was introduced during software development, apparently due to a “miscommunication” between the software developers and the security personnel. The MAR tracker program performs other required MAR limit surveillances in the facility. Are these other surveillances reliable? This incident also calls into question other Lab software, such as programs that model contaminant transport.

It is unclear if the plutonium facility has restarted operations. The Safety Board reports usually are released about a month after they are written.new green atom

 

 

 

 

 

The Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board Report is here.

It is still annual compensation paid for by the taxpayers

I’d like to respond to the news stories out lately concerning the Director’s salary at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Following our press release Wednesday, the Lab released their reply. It was reported by both the Albuquerque Journal North and the LAMonitor.

LANL Says Pension Boosted Director’s Compensation By Mark Oswald / Albuquerque Journal on Fri, Apr 20, 2012

Nuke Watch assails lab salary increase By John Severance, LA Monitor, Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm (Updated: April 20, 9:08 am)

From the monitor article –

“According to its computations, Charlie McMillan, the LANL director, had a salary of $1,081,059 in 2011. In 2009, the salary was $800,348 and in 2005, the year before the management of the lab was awarded to Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a corporation including the University of California, Bechtel Corporation, URS and B&W, the salary was $348,000.”

BTW, it’s not our “computations.” The compensation levels we quote come from federal reporting on economic stimulus funding.

In response, the Lab states, “The majority of the figure reported under DOE stimulus funding guidelines is an increase in pension value.” Can anyone explain what this means? Our economic experts are at a loss. Until I am straightened out, which I eagerly await, the statement will mean to me that the increases of the Director/President’s annual compensation are mostly due to increased pension contributions.

Whatever it is, it is still annual compensation.

The Lab response continues – “Also included are salary, life insurance, health benefits, and other total compensation.” I repeat, whatever the “increase in pension value” is, it is still annual compensation.

The Lab response continues – “The portion of the director’s annual salary reimbursable by the government is about 35 percent of the reported figure and is comparable to previous director salaries, adjusted for inflation.” That may be true, but the remaining 65% of the $1M annually going to the LANL Director/LANS President is coming from the contractor Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), of which he is president of the executive committee of the board of directors. The statement continues –  “Any amount above the federal maximum comes from LANS performance fees and is not reimbursable by the government.” But the LANS performance fees are paid by the federal government, so ultimately it is still the taxpayer that is paying the LANL’s Director’s total salary.

It is still annual compensation paid for by the taxpayers.

Before the LANL management contract was privatized and became for-profit in June 2006 the LANL Directors were getting just that salary directly reimbursable by the government.  Now they get that plus the larger LANS amount on top of it.

 

Two Upcoming Events

Two upcoming events

Sunday Mornings @ The Travel Bug
April 22, Sunday, 11 am
839 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director Of Nuclear Watch New Mexico
in Conversation with Michelle Victoria – NukeFreeNow on the work Jay has
done over the last 22 years on nuclear safety and what Michelle is planning
for the NukeFreeNow.
http://www.journeysantafe.com/travelbug.php
Travel Bug is an independent travel specialty store in Santa Fe, NM,
839 Paseo de Peralta 505-474-1457

And

CMRR Public Meeting
Wednesday, April 25 from 6:30 – 8:30
Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos

The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMMR) Project is the
Lab’s $6 billion dream facility that would enable expanded production
capabilities for plutonium nuclear weapons components. The Obama
Administration has recently proposed deferring the project for 5 years,
which will likely lead to its termination.

This will be the 13th semi-annual public meeting required as part of a 2005
settlement between DOE/LANL and an network of community groups:
• Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
• Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group
• Loretto Community
• New Mexico Environmental Law Center
• Nuclear Watch New Mexico
• Peace Action New Mexico
• Tewa Women United

You are invited to come and be inspired as LANL CMRR project personnel give
updates on the project while our network of community groups give updates of
our concerns.

Defense Dept. Memo Criticizes Cost of Nuclear Weapons Labs While Los Alamos Director’s Salary Nearly Triples

Our colleagues and friends at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) have released an explosive report based on a leaked Department of Defense memo concluding that “The Department of Energy’s network of privately-operated nuclear weapons laboratories are riddled with waste, redundancies and lackluster scientific standards.” POGO also found that “that seven of the top 15 officials at the three DOE nuclear labs make more than $700,000 per year, with one earning $1.7 million—more than the president of the United States and many government executives.”

Coincidentally, Nuclear Watch New Mexico had been independently compiling data on the salaries of the three laboratory directors, as presented in the table below. It shows that the salary of the Los Alamos Director has nearly tripled since for-profit management began in June 2006, even as the Lab is cutting some 600 jobs. As seen below, privatization of the nuclear weapons labs’ management contracts has resulted in directors’ salaries far above average in both the federal government and the private sector.

 

 

The DoD memo leaked by POGO contains the following admirable passage on good governance:
Diminishing Public Accountability. Without a strong yardstick, our government cannot govern well — not even if it retains the best and brightest on contract. The government’s own assets must capably bear the responsibility for decisions that affect national interests, and they must maintain public confidence by the manner in which those decisions are made.

In contrast, the directors of the three nuclear weapons labs (the Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories) wear two hats, first as lab directors, but secondly as the presidents of the board of directors of the for-profit limited liability corporations (LLCs) that run the labs. That may be a questionable conflict of interests, in which the LLCs are enjoying record profits from issues that deeply “affect national interests” (i.e., nuclear weapons) while the salaries of their “CEOs” (the lab directors) are exploding.

Arguably the lab directors have not maintained public confidence in the decisions they make because of the general trend of increasingly withholding crucial public information. One example is the Performance Evaluation Reports that rate contractors’ performance and determines the amount of taxpayers’ money awarded to them. Those reports were publicly available until 2009 when the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began to withhold them, and became recently available again only after NukeWatch NM sued for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

NNSA awarded the limited liability corporation that runs Los Alamos Lab $74.2 million for FY 2010, followed by $83.7 million in profit for FY 2011, a 13% increase in one year, and 10 times more than what the University of California (UC) use to be awarded when it was LANL’s sole nonprofit manager. Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “In today’s political and economic climate citizens need to remain vigilant that for-profit corporate interests don’t corrupt serious national issues. This very much applies to how our nuclear weapons labs are run as well. We specifically call upon Los Alamos Lab to fully explain to northern New Mexicans why it needs to cut some 600 jobs while at the same time the for-profit management corporation is enjoying record profits and the Director’s salary has nearly tripled in six years.”

# # #

All data on nuclear weapons labs directors’ salaries are from:
http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/RecipientReportedData/pages/RecipientProjectSummary508.aspx?AwardIdSur=74953
http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/RecipientReportedData/pages/RecipientProjectSummary508.aspx?AwardIDSUR=115066&qtr=2011Q1
http://www.upte.org/LosAlamos/salaries/salaries.html

POGO’s press release “Leaked Defense Memo Criticizes the Department of Energy’s Push to Expand Nuclear Weapons Laboratories” is at http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/nuclear-security-safety/nss-nwc-20110418-nuclear-waste-dept-of-energy.html

POGO’s detailed letter to congressional committees on these issues is at http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/letters/nuclear-security-safety/nss-nwc-20120418-nuclear-weapons-labs.html

To read the leaked DoD memo, click here http://pogoarchives.org/m/nss/new-missions-for-the-nuclear-weapons-labs-11-16-2011.pdf

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Love and Loss in the Jemez

We’re lucky in that it appears Los Alamos Lab has dodged the bullet with respect to the Las Conchas Fire, but I do want to say something about 100,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in New Mexico burning up in the Jemez Mountains. I know it fairly well.

Back in the early 1980’s I would take my kids out on a full moon night in the winter after it snowed on Highway 4 near the Valle Grande and pull them on an upside down car hood chained to my pickup (not recommended, but they loved it). I use to rock climb a lot at the Las Conchas Canyon on the east fork of the Jemez River (near where the fire broke out), and down at the southern end of the fire at Cochiti Mesa and Eagle Canyon (the erosion in Eagle Canyon after the 1996 Dome Fire was shocking, a harbinger of what is to come with this fire). I remember taking my kids to the beautiful Santa Clara Canyon to the north, which the fire is now devastating (my heartfelt condolences to the Pueblo). My parents took photos of me and my two brothers when we were small in the late 1950’s sitting in a Bandelier National Monument “cavate” (a hole in the canyon volcanic tuff further carved out by the Anasazi to live in), posing as the three little monkeys who hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

As an adult I’ve been back country many times in Bandelier (now half burned), where on a map it looks like you walk say 5 miles but it will actually be eight by the time you climb up and down canyons. I know of a ponderosa pine in the Jemez where a buddy bigger than me (and I’m six feet) and I could not touch our fingers together while hugging its girth. I’m a tree hugger, but I also had chain saw thinning contracts all over the Jemez, including one on the south rim of the Frijoles Canyon above Bandelier (where thinning is sorely needed). I would occasionally run across unexcavated Anasazi pueblos and walls.

I’ve seen acres of trees in the Jemez covered with monarch butterflies during their migration to Mexico.

All this burned area is beautiful, beautiful country – beautiful forests, hoodoo rocks, clear streams, elk, bear, deer, eagles, hawks, peregrine falcons, ponderosa, pinon, alligator juniper in the south, blue spruce up high, New Mexico turquoise skies, deep snows in winter (in a good year) and hot springs.  These beautiful Jemez Mountains (not really peaks, but the more you know this land the more it grows on you). Are typically wetter than most of New Mexico, but this year so dry, and burning.

I pray that the trees, animals and the rains come back. But we humans must do our part, in the near term taking preventative measures against what could be devastating erosion now that the trees and grasses are gone. We need better forest management practices that allow fire to periodically sweep the forests (ponderosa pine evolved to adapt to and benefit from these low intensity fires), instead of suppressing them to the point where catastrophic crown fires break out. Longer term we need to begin to grapple effectively with global climate change, otherwise we may never get our Jemez forests back.

And we should comprehensively clean up Los Alamos Lab, because while it dodged the bullet this time, it may not the next time.

Beautiful, beautiful Jemez land, much of it gone – I love it and now I’m deeply missing it.

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

Still Time to Comment on LANL’s Burning Desire for Expanded Weapons Production

Ironically today (June 28) is the deadline for public comment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for concerned citizens to comment on a proposed ~$5 billion facility at the Los Alamos Lab ponderously called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project- Nuclear Facility. In short, it is a huge new plutonium facility that will provide materials characterization and analytical chemistry in direct support of production of the atomic cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons, commonly called the plutonium pits. The Nuclear Facility will be the keystone to an expanded complex at LANL’s Technical Area-55 that will quadruple production capacity from 20 to 80 pits per year.

I say ironically because of the fire that is now threatening the Lab. We need to begin questioning whether expanded nuclear weapons production at Los Alamos is feasible in a possibly long-term drought and climate warming punctuated with catastrophic forest fires. More broadly, as we face increasing budget and resource constraints, we need to decide whether our money and water go into expanded nuclear weapons production, or do they go into repairing schools and infrastructure for the common good of society?

 

The Risk to Waste Stored at Area G

We pride ourselves here at Nuclear Watch New Mexico on trying to stick to the facts as we best we know them and not being alarmist. That said, the Las Conchas Fire that has now crossed the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) southwestern boundary is a real threat. For starters is the mind-blowing fact that in just 30 hours this fire has grown bigger than the notorious 2000 Cerro Grande Fire which burned ~48,000 acres (~5,000 acres within Lab boundaries), and traveled in a beeline 12 miles to get to the Lab. With forecasted days of strong winds and gusts and high temperatures it’s hard to say where this fire might go and what it might do. Pray for rain.

We are not so concerned about the hardened facilities at the Lab constructed of concrete and cleared of combustible materials (i.e., trees and brush) around their perimeters. We doubt that there would be any breech to their containment that would let contaminants escape (with one caveat below). But we do have concerns. One is the fact that over 6 decades the Lab has blown up a lot of uranium and depleted uranium in dynamic high explosives experiments in the general area in front of the fire. We don’t know to what extent the shrapnel or debris has been cleaned up and could possibly be aerosolized.

Another concern, given both the velocity and ferocity of the Las Conchas Fire, is whether any Lab facilities loose their power and back up generators failed to work for whatever reason. In that case containment systems could fail with unknown safety implications.

LANL TA-54 Material Disposal Area G
Domes at LANL's TA-54 Material Disposal Area G

But our biggest concern is whether the fire could reach the fabric buildings (essentially very large tents) at Technical Area-54’s Area G that store some 20,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated wastes from nuclear weapons research and production. We recommend that the public use satellite-based fire detection data and fire intelligence information published by the US Forest Service to monitor the situation (see related post for instructions on how use it). From that we can “see” that the leading edge of the fire is a little more than three miles from Area G.

The good news is that the fire should slow down if and when it heads toward Area G because it will have to leave the mostly ponderosa forest into pinon and juniper country (which doesn’t crown fire like ponderosa). Also, the Lab has cleared trees and vegetation around Area G, and the fire would have to jump some major canyons just to get there.

So here’s hoping the fire doesn’t get anywhere close to Area G. But watch out if it does. The public should be concerned and really pay close attention. It might be a good time to take a road trip somewhere away from being downwind. This is one fire that cannot be underestimated.

 

Extensive B61 Life Extension Serves Lab’s Self-Interest More than Weapon’s Mission

To add to the uncertainty surrounding the pending B61 Life Extension Program:

The NNSA’s FY 2012 Congressional Budget Request says that among other things the scope of the B61 LEP will include “implementation and maturation of enhanced surety technologies into the nuclear explosive package,” a major rationale for the program to begin with. B61 surety is especially sensitive given their forward deployment in Europe.

During the last few months I have learned the following from anonymous congressional staff:

•           Prestigious consultants to the government (the JASONs) finished a study in January or February on the surety of US nuclear weapons. It is classified with no unclassified summary. One aim of the study (perhaps the aim) was to create baseline criteria for applying surety mechanisms to existing US nuclear weapons.

•           In that study the JASONs raised some concerns that NNSA-proposed enhanced surety technologies could impact nuclear weapons reliability. NNSA is now in the process of responding that its enhanced surety technologies are maturing.

•           Some congressional staff seriously doubts these new surety technologies will be mature enough for inclusion in the B61 LEP if it starts as scheduled in FY 2012 (which begins this October 1). If I understood correctly, these concerns revolve around multi-point safety and optical detonation. It’s not clear to me whether or not the JASONs share these particular concerns.

•           The JASONs are also in the process of preparing a separate cost benefit study on the proposed B61 LEP.

To be clear, I have no way of independently verifying the above, nor do I have a full (or even good) understanding of their implications. It is obvious that the B61 LEP is a very big deal to the nuclear weapons labs. For example, Sandia calls it “the largest effort in more than 30 years, the largest, probably, since the original development of the B61-3, 4, a full-up weapon development effort that began in the late 1970s and entered the stockpile in 1979.” (“Launching the B61 Life Extension Program,” Sandia Lab News, March 25, 2011).

NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs seem anxious to rush the B61 Life Extension Program now before the political momentum of increased nuclear weapons funding as a condition of New START ratification begins to recede. To the contrary, we should hit the pause button on the B61 LEP instead of automatically following the labs’ vested self-interests. In order to prudently conserve taxpayers’ dollars, the B61 LEP should be delayed for a few years while new surety technologies and other issues (such as continuing forward deployment in Europe) are sorted out.

 

Replacement of Neutron Generators is Routine

At a town hall meeting this week in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near the proposed location of the new “UPF” nuclear weapons facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, the state’s junior senator, Bob Corker quipped:

It’s just about the fact that our nuclear arsenal is absolutely obsolete. I saw neutron generators, literally, out in New Mexico that will quit working in the year 2015, which means it renders the weaponry totally obsolete.

Whew. Stunning.

Neutron generators are “limited life components” (LLCs). The NNSA FY 2012 Congressional Budget Request has this to say: Many age-related changes affecting various nuclear warhead components are predictable and well understood. Limited life component exchanges are performed routinely to replace these components periodically throughout the lifetime of the weapon. Components such as power sources, neutron generators and tritium reservoirs deteriorate predictably and must be replaced before their deterioration adversely affects function or personnel safety. Page 50, emphasis added.

Changing out neutron generators in fact appears so routine that it seems the military changes them out in the field. A July 1995 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (p. 78) mentions “On April 11, [1995] Sandia delivered 36 recertified neutron generators to the Navy…” Emphasis added.

NNSA says under FY 2010 Accomplishments for Stockpile Systems: “Delivered all scheduled LLCs (GTS [gas transfer systems, meaning tritium] reservoirs and neutron generators (NG)) and alteration kits to the DoD and Pantex to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile.” NNSA FY 2012 Congressional Budget Request (CBR), p. 61, emphasis added.

Also of interest on the same page: “Selected a common NG for the B61 and B83 that will reduce development, production, and maintenance costs.”

Neutron generators are testable, and the testing devices themselves are being improved. “FY 2010 Accomplishments Stockpile Readiness Nonnuclear Readiness… Deployed Neutron Generator (NG) Testers, which assures neutron generator test capability by modernizing testers as required to support NG production and shelf-life programs.” NNSA FY 2012 Congressional Budget Request, p. 135.

A MC4380 Neutron Generator for the W76-1
Neutron Generator, Sandia Lab News, March 2011

In the current Life Extension Program W76-1’s are being outfitted with new-design neutron generators (the MC4380). Corker is seeing neutron generators in New Mexico because Sandia produces them and loads tritium into the neutron target tubes that are a critical part of neutron generators. Production of neutron generators is being both improved and expanded.

This from Sandia Labs “Labs Accomplishments:”

During FY10, Sandia shipped more than twice as many neutron generator assemblies (NGAs) to its NNSA and military customers than in any previous year. This totaled 850 NGAs and 340 packaging requirement kits. Record completion rates were achieved in four different production areas within the neutron generator supply chain, in concert with a shift to a common neutron generator subassembly that improved production efficiency. Sandia established a balanced supply chain capacity approach to help meet future NG directive schedule challenges with a diverse neutron generator product mix supporting numerous weapon systems.

http://www.sandia.gov/LabNews/labs-accomplish/2011/lab_accomp-2011.pdf, p. 5

Neutron generators themselves are being continuously improved, for example:

In the early 1990s Sandia undertook to design a replacement neutron generator for the W76 nuclear warhead on the Mark 4 reentry body of the Navy’s Trident I system. There were several compelling reasons for doing so, including the need to increase the component’s design margins, simplify its manufacturability, augment its resistance to new profiles of hostile environments, and increase its life span.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/w76.htm

In 1999 the MC4380 Neutron Generator and its MC4378 Timer, MC4705 Voltage Bar, MC4148 Rod, MC4437 Current Stack, and MC4277 Neutron Tube were qualified for use in the Navy’s W76 weapon system. This culminated a multi-year development effort which included the transfer of production capability from the Pinellas Plant to Sandia. This is the first weaponized neutron generator to employ a focused ion-beam neutron tube for higher reliability, the first produced at Sandia, and the first Sandia component with radiation hardness requirements to be qualified without underground testing.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/w76.htm

The neutron generator business is very robust, and Corker’s claims of obsolescence are absurd.

 

 

 

Big Money for the B61’s New Ride

In a mid April report to Congress, the Pentagon stated lifetime cycle costs of the dual [nuclear] capable F-35 Joint Strike Fighter  will exceed $1 trillion. The F-35 will have a lot to do with future forward deployment in Europe (or not) of the proposed heavily modified B61-12 tactical nuclear bomb.

According to Inside Defense, problems with development and production aspects of the F-35 program will delay the deployment of the aircraft another two years and require an additional $7.2 to complete the development phase.

Ironically, Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor for the F-35. It is also the contractor that runs the Sandia National Laboratories, which is the lead lab for the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP). One of the main purposes of that LEP is transform the B61 “analog controlled” bomb into a “digitally controlled” bomb that mates with the advanced electronics and avionics of the F-35.

The B61 LEP will begin in FY 2012 with $223.6 million in funding. Total cost is currently estimated at ~$5 billion

The Corporate Folly of Nuclear Power

Meltdowns at the reactors are not the biggest threat, as horrific as they are. Instead the biggest threat is the spent fuel rod pools if they lose circulating water.

The reactors at Fukushima were designed by US General Electric, whose corporate slogan is “bringing good things to life.” The Fukushima reactors had their back up diesel generators at ground level, hence a few feet above sea level, and their spent fuel pools on the “top deck” of the reactor buildings, the equivalent of 3-4 stories up. When the earthquake knocked out the electric power required to circulate absolutely essential liquid coolant the diesel generators kicked in as designed. So far so good.

But then the diesel generators were wiped out 55 minutes later by the tsunami (duh!, the Fukushima nuclear power complex is right on the coast – didn’t the “experts” think of that?). The resulting lack of circulating water has precipitated this crisis that is now on the verge of being an unprecedented catastrophe. A spent fuel rod fire can release far more radioactivity than Chernobyl (see below).

The pathetic irony is that to prevent this catastrophe Tokyo Electric MUST get circulating water UP to the spent fuel rod pools because the diesel generators were swamped DOWN below. The placement of the generators and the waste pools relative to each other was exactly and tragically back *sswards. Do not trust “EXPERTS!,” meaning that citizen activism is always required. IT IS A MUST!

I shun hysteria, but this situation is way serious, it could really get out of control. Pray for the Japanese people, already the victims of history’s only two (so far) atomic attacks. If the fuel rods go count this as the 3rd attack, albeit self-inflicted. Nuclear operations require perfect human operation 24/7/eternity (i.e., as long as we run them). Humans are fallible, and nature can shrug us off like flies.

Get rid of nukes, period (except medicine). It takes only once on the balance sheet to wipe out any potential benefits, and indebt seven future generations environmentally, economically, politically and genetically all at the same time. It’s NOT worth it.

To end on a cheery note (not!): “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.” Shakespeare’s King Lear, 4. 1. The gods may do what they want, but don’t let international corporate nuclear power interests kill us. Fight back!

Mother Earth Gives Nuclear Renaissance a Black Eye

Our hearts and prayers go out go out to the people of Japan.

As Japan is faced with the possibility of nuclear meltdowns in five earthquake-damaged nuclear reactors, the U.S. and other countries are re-considering nuclear plans. While it is unlikely that radiation that has leaked or will leak from the Japanese reactor accidents will reach the United States.  This could change if there is an explosion and/or fire affecting one or more of the reactor cores or spent fuel pools. The accident at Chernobyl (25th anniversary is April 26th) affected the entire Northern Hemisphere because of a massive explosion in the core, and an out-of-control fire that burned for days.  This same scenario is unlikely in Japan. But reactors have been damaged beyond repair and old questions are being raised again.

In the U.S., Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts have made statements – “But I think we’ve got to kind of quietly put, quickly put, the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line,” Lieberman stated. “Any plant that is being considered for a seismically vulnerable area in the United States should be reconsidered right now,” Markey said, adding that the Japanese earthquake registering 8.9 in magnitude was “a hundred times greater in intensity” than the level that U.S. plants are built to withstand.

Countries in Europe are pausing to re-consider, also. Japan’s nuclear emergency Monday prompted Germany and Switzerland to halt nuclear programmes as anxious Europe scrambled to review cross-border safety while safeguarding the powerful industry. More

Why were the Fukushima reactors at sea level? Japan’s nuclear accident exposes the dilemma of whether to build power plants on tsunami-prone coasts or inland sites where water supplies are unreliable, a problem likely to be aggravated by climate change, experts say. (More from Reuters)

What happened at the Fukushima plant? “Three of its six reactors were in operation when the earthquake hit. The reactors — which went into service between 1970 and 1979 — are designed to shut down automatically when a quake strikes, and emergency diesel generators began the task of pumping water around the reactors to cool them down. However, these stopped about an hour later. The failure of the back-up generators has been blamed on tsunami flooding by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).” More –

This event shows how Mother Earth can have her way with the best-made plans. The power company said that that 7.9 was the highest magnitude for which they tested the safety for their No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants in Fukushima. The original magnitude was estimated to be 8.9, which would have been 10 ten times the magnitude 7.9 that the structures were tested for. The Japan Meteorological Agency up-rated Friday’s earthquake to 9.0 on the Richter scale, meaning that it was twice as powerful as initially thought. More

Here at home, we have no commercial reactors in New Mexico, but there are national nuclear weapons facilities, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, which currently has plans for a $5 billion addition to the Lab’s plutonium weapons production complex. This addition, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) is being designed to survive a 7.0 magnitude earthquake without releasing plutonium.  Much of the estimated cost is to seismically qualify the CMRR-NF to be built on the fault-ridden Pajarito Plateau. The plans call for a storage vault with the capacity of six metric tons of radioactive materials, such as plutonium.

Now would be a good time to re-consider any plans that make us feel invincible.

 

CMRR FY2012 Budget Request – Blank Check or Black Budget?

CMRR FY2012 Budget Request – Blank Check or Black Budget?

The FY2012 budget request shows $300 million for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project, which is now estimated to cost a total of $6.22 billion. $29.9 million is requested for equipment in the recently completed first building, the Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building (RLUOB). But exactly how will the remaining $270 million be spent? That’s literally “TBD” (To Be Determined). What a great deal – receive $270 million and then decide what to do with it. How lucky the Lab must feel to get a blank check in this era of fiscal restraint.

Is the Lab planning to use some of the $270 million to begin construction of the huge “Nuclear Facility”? Because there is a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) now underway for the NF, any construction funding now could prejudice any decision, or at least would smell like prejudice. A more likely scenario is that the Lab figures that it might be able to stash funds away in some black budget to use on construction later, in effect creating a slush fund that would insulate it from and possible future budget cuts.

Perhaps going back to last year will offer some clues. The FY2011 Congressional Budget Request projected that LANL would ask for a total of $322.1 million for FY2012.

The FY2011 breakout estimated for FY2012 was:

$29.9 million RLUOB Equipment Installation (REI) [This turned out to be exactly the amount requested for FY2012.]

$3 million for Other Project Costs (OPC) [This turned out to be “TBD” for FY 2012.]

$102.8 million for NF design [This turned out to be “TBD” for FY 2012. Not counting any FY2012 funding, $419 million has been spent to date on design of the NF.]

$186.4 million for NF construction [FY2012 was to be the first year that construction funds were to be requested for the NF. This turned out to be “TBD” for FY 2012. But it really should be “0” because there is a SEIS underway.]

If all of the $270 million requested for FY2012 is not for NF design, we deserve to know what it’s for.

Regarding NNSA’s Defense Nonproliferation Programs and MOX

I think it would be a big mistake to give unqualified support to restoring funds for NNSA’s Defense Nonproliferation Programs. In my view the best thing that could be done for those programs would be to kill the Mixed Oxide reactor fuel (MOX) program and revive immobilization for ultimate plutonium disposition.

I endorse the strategy of cutting MOX so that the other nonproliferation programs could be spared cuts. I suspect that may be more politically feasible rather than trying to persuade Congress to transfer money from nuclear weapons programs to nonproliferation. [Having said that, I will be trying to cut weapons $$$ regardless.]

I am actually somewhat impressed by the House proposed cuts, after they did propose a 12.8% cut to the requested FY11 NNSA Total Weapons Activities, so apparently there are no sacred cows. I think a cost benefit argument could be made in that the other nonproliferation programs save us money in the long run by discouraging/suppressing nuclear weapons proliferation, whereas there is no economic benefit that I am aware coming from the MOX program (which will probably become a heavy economic liability anyway).

The FY 2011 request for total Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation was $2,687,167,000. In the on-deck continuing resolution to fund the remainder of FY 2011 the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee wants to cut it to $2,085,200,000.  A full 27% of the FY11 Nonproliferation request is dedicated to the MOX program under Fissile Materials Disposition. MOX is arguably a proliferating program instead of a nonproliferation program (never mind potential safety problem and taxpayer giveaways to the nuclear industry).

FY 2011 Request for Fissile Materials Disposition:
Irradiation, Feedstock, and Transportation = 107,787,000
MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site = 475,788,000
Waste Solidification Building (SRS) = 57,000,000
Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility Construction  (SRS) = 80,000,000
Total = 720,575,000

There is nearly 3/4 billion dollars for MOX in the FY11 request. In contrast there is only $29,985,000 in the FY11 request for Uranium Disposition, which is mostly  down blending of the immense stores of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium at

Y-12 (the Project on Government Oversight estimates 200-300 metric tons). As far as Fissile Materials Disposition goes that should really be prioritized.

Maybe MOX could be low hanging fruit now, but beware that the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) is now something like more than 50% constructed. Further, the Advanced Recovery and Integrated Extraction System (ARIES) at LANL’s Plutonium Facility-4 is lined up to provide the first two metric tons of feedstock. If something is to be done about MOX it should be done in the near term.

LANL Gestures to Gas Shortage

In response to statewide natural gas outages across New Mexico, LANL closed February 4th. The gesture may reflect that LANL gas use is roughly the equivalent[1] of 22,310 people, nearly the same as the 25,000 people that media reports are without recent service.

Although shutting down LANL would almost make up for the shortage in gas affecting northern New Mexico, it is not quite that equitable. LANL and the Los Alamos town site have their own dedicated gas pipeline coming from the NW San Juan Basin, in New Mexico. Whereas Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Espanola, Taos etc are fed natural gas from the Permian Basin gas fields in Texas. Therefore it is questionable that curtailing operations (which cost taxpayers ~$6 million/per day) at LANL helps to relieve gas supplies in northern New Mexican communities.

It also begs the question of why aren’t Northern New Mexico gas supplies coming from the plentiful San Juan basin, one of the largest reserves in the nation, which is geographically closer? Espanola and Taos are reportedly suffering in recent subzero temperatures because they are at the “end of the line” of gas coming from Texas. But the privileged Lab and Los Alamos town site would not be subject to the same short supply.


[1] According to the 2006 LANL Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement the Lab uses an average of 37.4 million cubic meters of natural gas annually, or 1.32 billion cubic feet (1 cubic meter = 35.31 cubic feet). Wikipedia says Americans use 18.4 trillion cubic feet per year. U.S. population is around 311 million people, hence per person use = 59,164 cubic ft/yr. Population of Espanola = ~10,000, hence uses ~ 591,640,000 cubic ft/yr. Population of Taos = 5,550, hence uses ~ 328,360,200 cubic ft/yr. Therefore, LANL uses twice as natural gas as Espanola, 4 times as much as Taos. TA-55 (site of plutonium pit production) alone uses 45 million cubic ft per year.

Nuclear Science Week, by the makers of the “Bomb”

This press release from NNSA is really deceptive. The words “nuclear” and “science” are used quite a bit, but “weapons” only like in “As we continue to turn a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise.” The uninformed reader would get the impression that NIF, DARHT and the Z machine are not really about nuclear weapons, when of course they are.

Also, the uninformed might get the impression that the National Ignition Facility has already achieved ignition, which couldn’t be farther from the truth (and it’s doubtful that NIF ever will achieve ignition). Nor is DARHT yet working as advertised, even after more than a decade of operations.  And then there are the cost overruns: NIF from ~$1 billion to ~$5 billion and DARHT from ~$35 million to ~$275 million, not including dubious reprogramming of other monies for both projects.

And supercomputers fighting AIDS and bringing “products to market faster” (can you spell j-o-b-s?). It’s a wonderful world, this “21st century nuclear security enterprise.”

I cringe to think that a congressional staffer (or anybody) would read stuff like this and think it true.

NNSA Will Not be “Burdened” by Costs for Clean-Up at New KCP

I found what I think is an interesting quote concerning the new KCP  in NNSA’s FY 2011 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (which is the plan that NNSA showboats to Congress).

“Finally, because the new facility [KCP] will be leased, there will be no capital investment and NNSA will not be burdened by costs for legacy disposition should the mission ever be discontinued.”   NNSA FY11 SSMP Annex D, p. 44,

This sounds to me like the federal government is walking away from any future obligation to clean up any contamination at the new Kansas City Plant. I think that interesting given how there is no real federal commitment to clean up the old plant which is badly contaminated.

The rest of NNSA’s FY 2011 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (summary and Annex A) can be viewed.
Annex B and C are classified.

If NNSA won’t be burdened for clean-up, who will?

Weight Restrictions for Weapons Workers?

Question: What is the tripping-man impact scenario for a nuclear weapons production technician?

Answer: A 280 lb production technician traveling 2 .5 miles per hour.

We are all familiar with the horrible impacts that nuclear weapons have on humans, but now we have an Analysis of Human Impacts on Weapons. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) recently reviewed the Hazard Analysis Reports (HARs) for several nuclear explosive operations at the Pantex Plant and found that Plant could have a weight problem with its production technicians (PTs).

Of concern is that the weapons design agency supplies data on weapons responses for “tripping-man impact scenarios” based on the energy imparted by a 280 lb PT traveling 2.5 miles per hour. Tools and parts could break if someone larger tripped into a warhead while going faster that 2.5 mph. And Pantex has no controls in place to limit these human impact energies.

The DNFSB concluded that the “maximum PT impact energy does not represent an uncontrolled environment, such as lightning, earthquake, or meteorological conditions.” Pantex imposes other physical qualifications for PTs (such as age, sight, speech), as well as other limitations specified by the Human Reliability Program. They believe that weapon responses should be reevaluated for higher impact energies, or that Pantex should limit PT weights.

Once Again – It’ll Cost More and Take Longer

Decades of nuclear materials production at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Savannah River Site in South Carolina have left 37 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste in 49 underground storage tanks. This is just a small part of DOE’s Cold War cleanup legacy that currently has an estimate of $360+ billion to remediate across the country. This estimate keeps going up.

The United States Government Accountability Office released a September 2010 report about persistent concerns with efforts to cleanup these underground radioactive waste tanks. Like so many GAO reports before, the findings are that it will cost more and take longer:

Emptying, cleaning, and permanently closing the 22 underground liquid radioactive waste tanks at the Savannah River Site is likely to cost significantly more and take longer than estimated in the December 2008 contract between DOE and Savannah River Remediation, LLC (SRR). Originally estimated to cost $3.2 billion, SRR notified DOE in June 2010 that the total cost to close the 22 tanks had increased by more than $1.4 billion or 44 percent. Much of this increase is because DOE’s cost estimate in the September 2007 request for proposals that formed the basis of the December 2008 contract between DOE and SRR was not accurate or comprehensive.

Legacy cleanup at Los Alamos is currently estimated by the Lab to be around $2-3 billion.  This is required to be complete by 2015 by a consent Order agreement with the State of NM.  This estimate includes the Lab’s version of cleanup, which is leaving most the waste in the ground perched above our aquifer. Actually removing the waste is estimated at $20 billion. The final decision on what type of cleanup will be made by the State, which would like to have you the public’s input.

Cleanup at Los Alamos is one project that needs to cost more.

CMRR is Key to Expanded Plutonium Pit Production

While being narrowly correct, LANL PR man Kevin Roark is misleading when he claims [in a June 25, Letter to the Editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican  newspaper] that plutonium pit production will not take place in the new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project (CMRR). What he fails to disclose is that the Lab is not building just one facility, but instead is creating an integrated manufacturing complex for expanded production for which the CMRR is absolutely key. This complex will consist of LANL’s existing production facility “PF-4” with ~$300 million in upgrades; CMRR’s already completed first phase, the $400 million “Rad Lab”; and the future $4 billion CMRR “Nuclear Facility,” now being debated.

The Nuclear Facility will be literally next door to PF-4 and linked to it via underground tunnel. While pits are physically manufactured in PF-4’s glovebox lines, the Nuclear Facility’s central missions of “materials characterization” and “analytical chemistry” are essential operations that ensure “weapons-grade” plutonium and pit production quality control. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s own documents show that the Nuclear Facility is being specifically sized to support expanded production of up to 80 pits per year, quadruple LANL’s currently approved rate. It is also planned to have a vault for up to six metric tons of “special nuclear materials,” capable of storing around 1,000 pits.

Roark must think that New Mexicans are naïve enough to accept the Lab’s claims that the CMRR is all about “science” even as LANL becomes more and more a production site. Sadly, this is only part and parcel of the substantial rebuilding of the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex, which will also include a new $3.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility in Tennessee and a new privately financed Kansas City Plant for production of the 1,000’s of nonnuclear components that go into a nuclear weapon.

Many New Mexicans hoped for serious mission diversification at Los Alamos, which some $5 billion sunk into its plutonium infrastructure will almost certainly shut the door on. Schools in Santa Fe and all across the country are being closed due to lack of funding. Nevertheless, our government is preparing to spend some $10 billion to build new production plants even as we are purportedly working toward the declared long-term national security goal of a nuclear weapons-free world. To get there, citizens need to push the politicians to meet the needs of everyday people, not those of the vested nuclear weaponeers.

Revised Estimates for Safer Gloveboxes Hurt Budget

On the heels of a GAO report made public Monday, which stated that accounting procedures used by various branches of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex are preventing NNSA from pinpointing the exact total cost of maintaining its nuclear deterrent, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) has released a weekly report also showing LANL’s inability to accurately estimate even the tiniest of specific costs.

In the June 4th weekly report for Los Alamos Lab, the DNFSB stated that the Lab underestimated the cost of seismically upgrading gloveboxes at its plutonium pit production complex by an order of magnitude. The DNFSB stated, “…the expected cost of seismic upgrades to individual gloveboxes has risen from an original estimate of about $80,000 per glovebox to a current estimate of approximately $850,000.” In addition, the Lab also ended up doubling the number of gloveboxes that need the upgrades as a priority up to 157.

So, in effect, the Labs original estimate for this glovebox work was $6.4 million (80 gloveboxes at $80,000 each), but the revised estimate is now $133.4 million (157 gloveboxes at $850,000 each). It’s hard to understand how new bracing and bolts to upgrade the legs of these gloveboxes could cost $80,000 each, much less $850,000. It’s not rocket science. Maybe the private corporation running the Lab underestimated the profits that they wanted to make for this much-needed work.  Make no mistake, there will be performance- based incentive award fees  for the work, as well as for the design and even the estimates.

In safety documents, the Lab originally stated that these upgrades would be done by 2011 to mitigate the possible off-site dose of plutonium to the public in the event of a large earthquake and subsequent facility fire. Guess what? The Lab will be behind schedule as well as way over budget. But LANL is already using its commitment for future glovebox seismic upgrades to reduce the mitigated dose consequence for a seismically-induced event in its dose calculations. So the public will be safe, only on paper, until the Lab finds the time and the money to upgrade those glovebox legs.

The Lab should focus on upgrading existing facilities and equipment and prove its ability and desire to protect the public before embarking on unneeded new construction, such as the CMRR – Nuclear Facility.

A Bargain – But At What Cost?

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a new report today. Actions Needed to Identify Total Costs of Weapons Complex Infrastructure and Research and Production Capabilities, GAO-10-582, June 2010

I’ll start with the conclusion –

Within the global community, the Administration, and Congress, a bargain is being struck on nuclear weapons policy. Internationally, if the [START] treaty is ratified, significant stockpile reductions [will] have been negotiated between the United States and Russia. Domestically, a new Nuclear Posture Review has provided an updated policy framework for the nation’s nuclear deterrent. To enable this arms reduction agenda, the Administration is requesting from Congress billions of dollars in increased investment in the nuclear security enterprise to ensure that base scientific, technical, and engineering capabilities are sufficiently supported … For its part, NNSA must accurately identify these base capabilities and determine their costs in order to adequately justify future presidential budget requests and show the effects on its programs of potential budget increases. As it now stands, NNSA may not be accurately identifying the costs of base capabilities because … NNSA cannot identify the total costs to operate and maintain essential weapons activities facilities and infrastructure, … Without taking action to identify these costs, NNSA risks being unable to identify the return on investment of planned budget increases on the health of its base capabilities or to identify opportunities for cost saving…NNSA has the opportunity to mitigate these risks by addressing them through the ongoing revision of work breakdown structures and through identifying means of collecting the total costs … Without taking these actions, NNSA will not have the management information it needs to better justify future budget requests by making its justifications more transparent. Additionally, the availability of this information will assist Congress with its oversight function. (Pg. 25)

It looks like NNSA does not know exactly the total costs of its infrastructure budget, but it does know that it wants more. The report tells us that without identifying the total costs of products and capabilities, NNSA will be challenged to explain the effects of funding changes or justify the necessity for increased investment to support or enhance base capabilities. (Pg. 25)

The reduction in nuclear warhead numbers will mean an increase spending. “In such an environment, NNSA is likely to face increased scrutiny of its planning, programming, and budget execution to determine the effect of funding increases on the overall health of base capabilities.” (Pg. 24)

Curating the Stockpile: Remanufacturing Fogbank

I only now happened to run across the article below from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Nuclear Weapons Journal about how the remanufacturing of Fogbank was reestablished. As dated as it is, I think its implication is very important that existing programs are more than sufficient to keep the nuclear weapons stockpile safe and reliable, until eventual disarmament.

You may recall that the loss of Fogbank was a bit of a crisis that seriously delayed the W76 Life Extension Program. It had at various times been used as rationale for why existing LEPs would not work in the long run because of necessary changes to materials, loss of knowledgeable workforce, etc. By extension this was used to argue why Reliable Replacement Warheads should be designed and built.

But this article demonstrates that all that was needed was to simply give some emphasis to reestablishing fogbank production. Plus as an added bonus, it has some pleasing wonky detail. “It’s the impurity, stupid!” [see link below]

LANL Nuclear Weapons Journal, Issue 2 • 2009, pp. 21-22
Fogbank: Lost Knowledge Regained

Power of the Purse over DOE Projects

I was in Washington, DC last week and heard a number of congressional offices express support for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility, indicating what we already know, that it will be very difficult to defeat directly. However, the issue of costs is another matter, and I have some hope that the Nuclear Facility can die a death of 1,000 cuts.

For example, while in DC I met with a staff person knowledgeable about DOE project cost accounting requirements introduced by the Senate Armed Services Committee. I expressed my concern that LANL could implement its first segment of CMRR-Nuclear Facility construction without having come up with total costs, thus steamrolling the project.  [Reminder: we are now $4.5 billion for estimated total project costs and climbing.]  That staffer said that sort of thing will not be allowed to happen. Further, while being in favor of some advance site prep, that staffer said LANL would not be allowed to construct the concrete batch plant and replace 225,000 cubic yards of weak volcanic ash strata with “lean concrete” until total project costs are in.

The requirements were introduced as SEC. 4713. NOTIFICATION OF COST OVERRUNS FOR CERTAIN DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY PROJECTS.

I realize this is not a showstopper, but it is something. It should slow the CMRR-NF down some, which hopefully we can capitalize on. Further, it may provide us with ammo over the project’s tremendous and escalating costs.

Nick Roth of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability was instrumental in suggesting this cost accounting requirement to Congress.

Three Huge New Facilities Rebuild U.S. Nuclear Weapons Production Capacity

Modern nuclear weapons are comprised of three general types of components: plutonium pit primaries, uranium/lithium secondaries that are triggered by the primaries, and the 1,000’s of non-nuclear components that create deliverable weapons of mass destruction (fuzes, radar, bomb cases, etc.). The U.S. is aggressively pursuing major new production facilities for all three types. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico, the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project” will be the keystone to a revived plutonium manufacturing complex. The proposed “Uranium Processing Facility” (UPF) at the Y-12 Site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will be the future production plant for warhead secondaries. A new “Kansas City Plant” (KCP) in Missouri for nonnuclear components production is slated for groundbreaking in August 2010. Each of these three major new production facilities is expected to operate for the next half-century, in sharp contradiction to the declared national and global security goal of a nuclear weapons-free world.

A Compromised START

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is a staunch supporter of arms control treaties, particularly since they can be confidence building steps toward the long term goal of creating the nuclear weapons-free world articulated by President Obama.

However, we fear that arms control treaties will be turned on their heads to become in effect armament treaties for the American nuclear weapons complex. We think our fears are now concretely realized by the Obama Administration’s “modernization plan” attached to yesterday’s submittal of New START to the Senate for ratification.

As you probably know, the Obama plan is to increase funding for the NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs from $6.4 billion in FY10 to $9 billion by FY 2018, which is a 76% increase above the Cold War annual average of $5.1 billion. We think that is obviously a serious step backwards on the road to a nuclear weapons-free world, especially when the labs seem intent on introducing new military capabilities to existing types of U.S. nuclear weapons.

There have been calls for unconditional public support of New START. Yet current political realities are that New START will be heavily conditioned by both the Obama Administration and the Senate to include the revitalization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

In concrete terms, this means dramatically increased funding for huge new production plants for plutonium, uranium and nonnuclear components, respectively the Los Alamos CMRR-Nuclear Facility, the Y-12 Uranium Processing Facility and the new Kansas City Plant.

It also means future aggressive Life Extension Programs that will substantially modify the nuclear explosives package, a serious threshold that we have not yet crossed (and which could effectively recreate the Reliable Replacement Warheads that NNSA sought but Congress rejected, but by another name). We also need to remain aware of the failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999, but which nevertheless profited the nuclear weapons labs and complex by some $100 billion to date under the Stockpile Stewardship Program to compensate for the loss of underground full-scale testing.

We don’t question that appeals for public support of New START should go forward. But as NGOs we are also entrusted with public responsibility to provide a fuller picture.

We argue that certain conditions for New START ratification, such as increased funding for new production facilities, LEPs and stockpile work, should be publicly explained, and lead to qualified instead of unconditional support of New START ratification.

Obama Bails Out Arms Reduction Treaty by Dramatically Increasing Nuclear Weapons Budgets

Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday President Obama submitted the new bilateral Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia to the Senate for ratification. At the same time he submitted a modernization plan required by Congress that “includes investments of $80 billion to sustain and modernize the [U.S.] nuclear weapons complex over the next decade.” Given that two-thirds of the Senate is required for treaty ratifications a large political fight was always expected over a second attempt at ratifying the previously rejected Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, last December all 40 Republican senators plus one independent wrote to President Obama demanding modernization of both the stockpile and complex as a condition for New START ratification. Meanwhile, the prospects for ratification of the CTBT (first proposed by Prime Minister Nehru of India in 1954) look increasingly dim.

In response to Republican demands, the Obama Administration plans to increase funding for the nuclear weapons research and production programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by more than 40% from $6.4 billion in FY 2010 to $9 billion by 2018. In turn, $9 billion is 43% above the average annual cost of $5.1 billion during the Cold War for analogous Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs.

The one-page unclassified summary of the modernization plan declares

U.S. nuclear weapons will undergo extensive life extension programs in the coming years to ensure their safety, security and effectiveness. Maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent requires that the United States operates a modern physical infrastructure and sustain a highly capable workforce.

That may seem intuitively logical on the face of it, but NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs are subtly changing the frame of debate to favor their own interests. Independent scientists have repeatedly found that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe and reliable and can be so maintained by existing life extension programs. Past NNSA budget requests repeatedly invoke a “reliable” stockpile, but its FY 2011 request is full of references to an “effective” stockpile.

NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino claimed at a recent presentation to international delegations at the United Nations for the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference that the U.S. is meeting its disarmament obligations in good faith. At the same time, he repeatedly stated the U.S.’s need to maintain an “effective” stockpile. When asked what effective meant he replied it meant having confidence in the nuclear weapons stockpile underpinned by the right mix of infrastructure and people.

In order to extract increased funding, NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs are trying to shift the debate over maintaining the stockpile from technical arguments over warhead safety and reliability to subjective arguments over maintaining an exorbitant research and production complex and workforce. This will not only cost enormous sums of money, which is what the labs seek, but will also perversely undermine confidence in the stockpile because of planned changes, including new military capabilities, that will be made to existing, previously tested weapons. Giving the nuclear weapons labs a blank check contradicts Obama’s declared national security goal of a future nuclear weapons-free world. Instead, he should be redirecting the labs into dramatically increased nonproliferation programs, cleanup, and meeting today’s national security threats of nuclear terrorism, energy dependence and climate change.

The one-page unclassified summary of the Obama modernization plan for the stockpile and nuclear weapons complex.

The average annual cost of $5.1 billion during the Cold War for DOE defense programs is derived from Atomic Audit, The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, Steven Schwartz, et.al., Brooking Institution Press, DC, 1998, Table A-2, p. 561 (adjusted for inflation).

NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino’s presentation to the NPT Review Conference

For more background, please see “Labs Seek “Stockpile Modernization” Through Test Ban Ratification – Updating” of Treaty “Safeguards” to Protect Nuclear Weapons Budgets

Of particular interest are cited Los Alamos Lab viewgraphs that state “Technically: there is little difference between a ratified CTBT, and the current testing moratorium” and “There are several ways to sustain capabilities… Get more money.” The point is that the nuclear weapons labs are fully aware that treaty ratifications are an opportunity for them to secure more funding, as they did in the build up to the 1999 ratification process that rejected the CTBT.

A Tale of Two Cross-Sections

At the recent LANL Hazardous Waste Permit Hearings, the public was presented with two cross-sections of the current understanding of the geology under the Lab’s largest nuclear waste disposal area, Tech Area 54. These cross sections are important because the NM Environment Department, with public input, will soon have to decide the final disposition of the over 800,000 cubic yards of radioactive and hazardous waste buried there. The options range from leaving the waste in place with some sort of cover to exhuming the waste.

The geology under the site is very complicated and includes layers of lava flows, ash falls, and old stream beds. The waste is buried in unlined pits, shafts and trenches and is perched 800 – 1000 feet above our sole-source aquifer. Some of the more soluble contaminants, such as tritium, perchlorate, explosives, and chromium have already made their way to the aquifer from other parts of the Lab. The cross-sections are needed to understand the contaminant pathways from the dumps to the aquifer.

First, the Lab’s version – (click on image for larger picture)

The Lab's TA-54 Cross-Section Version

The MDAs, or Material Disposal Areas or dumps, are across the top. MDA G is the largest by far. The PM-#s are wells where drinking water is drawn. The R-#s are characterization and contaminant sampling wells. The elevation is on each side. The top of the regional aquifer is the horizontal blue line near 5800′. There are some perched aquifers shown, too.  The one question is a new structure that the Lab is calling a “dike” discovered by well R-22.

The NM Environment Department’s Version – (click on image for larger picture)

NMED's TA-54 Cross-Section

The Environment Department’s version gives a different interpretation of the fractures that could be pathways to the aquifer. It has many question marks, including the “vent” and the perched aquifers.

We appreciate the two versions. With so many unknowns, with so much waste, and with such a potential negative impact to our aquifer, the most protective course would be to remove the waste.

New Nuclear Facility – An Attempt to Divide and Conquer

During our March 3, 2010 CMRR public meeting in Los Alamos, the CMRR DOE Project Manager told us the the final estimate for the CMRR Nuclear Facility was scheduled for 2014. Additionally we learned that the CMRR Project as a whole is planning to segment some of the work into smaller projects with their own separate schedules for estimates and construction.
This project and cost segmentation concerns us in that much of the preliminary (but huge) infrastructure construction will be completed before the final cost estimates of the CMRR-NF are available.
The Infrastructure Package Construction, including the concrete batch plant, utilities, excavation, etc., will be completed in 2013. The road relocation and the basemat, which includes 225,000 cubic yards of concrete, are also scheduled to be completed in 2013. Even the structural concrete for the building itself, another 130,000 yds3 of concrete, is due to start before estimated final project costs are available.
The current cost estimates for the entire CMRR Project are now pegged at $4.5 billion (from an original $660 million in 2004), but are also listed as “TBD” in the NNSA FY11 budget request, in other words still not known. To allow the infrastructure to be completed, or even started, before final cost estimates for the Nuclear Facility are complete would condone the NF being built at any price.
We request that Congress strongly pressure NNSA in the authorization and appropriations processes for final CMRR Project cost estimates, and bar NNSA from proceeding with major infrastructure investments for the Nuclear Facility until those final Project cost estimates are provided.

Coghlan Report from NPT Rev Con

I’m in New York City for the first week of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that opened today (Monday May 3). Yesterday global citizens marched from Times Square to the United Nations demanding nuclear weapons abolition. I was very moved to see ~10,000 people from ~25 countries pour into this little park across from the UN, where NukeWatch and some 40 other organizations had information waiting for them.

My main gig here is about the 3 proposed huge nuclear weapons production plants the U.S. is planning to spend some $10 billion on over the next decade. They are the “Nuclear Facility” that will keystone an expanded plutonium complex at Los Alamos; the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Site near Oak Ridge, TN; and the new Kansas City Plant (KCP). These facilities will expand production capability up to 80 new warheads per year. For more, see New US Production Facilities.

When I talked to folks (half from other countries) here for the Conference about these new facilities, most invariably say, “But, but, buuuuuuuut… what about Obama?” Their eyes get big when I tell them Obama doubled FY 2011 funding for the Nuclear Facility and UPF (KCP is privately financed, hence outside the federal budget). I guess they heard the part loud and clear from Obama in Prague about a nuclear weapons-free world, but not so much when he said probably not in my lifetime.

If left just up to him, I suppose that would be the case, given that these production facilities are expected to operate until 2065. But at least there are ~10,000 global citizens here in NYC pushing for sooner than that. We’ll see what concrete results the NPT Review Conference brings.

The CMRR-Nuclear Facility Is All About Expanding Plutonium Pit Production Capacity

In response to a question by Senator Jeff Bingaman at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 14, 2010, NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino stated “We will not make pits in the CMR replacement facility. We’ll make them in the existing older facility.”

That is narrowly true, but highly misleading. In fact, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project is all about expanding plutonium pit production capabilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from the presently sanctioned level of 20 per year to up to 80. [Plutonium pits are the fissile “triggers” that initiate fusion in today’s modern thermonuclear weapons.] Yes, PF-4, LANL’s existing plutonium facility, performs the actual physical manufacturing of pits. However, that production cannot take place without “analytical chemistry” (AC) and “materials characterization” (MC) before production to make sure that the plutonium is weapons-grade, and extensive AC and MC sampling during production for stringent “war reserve” quality control.

It’s a mistake to get hung up on different facilities, when an integrated plutonium complex for expanded pit production capability is being created through proposed construction of the CMRR’s “Nuclear Facility” and upgrades to PF-4. It’s silly to think of them as separate facilities just because they’ll be under two different roofs. PF-4 and the Nuclear Facility will be next door to each other, linked by underground tunnel, with highly integrated operations and much exchange of special nuclear materials between them (especially given the Nuclear Facility’s planned vault for up to six metric tons of “special nuclear materials”).

The CMRR Nuclear Facility is being specifically sized to support pit production capability of 50 – 80 pits per year. An internal NNSA study of planned alternatives advocated for a “baseline version (22,500 ft2 of Pu lab space) of the CMRR-NF…, resulting in a production capacity of 50-80 ppy” [pits per year]. Independent Business Case Analysis of Consolidation Options for the Defense Programs SNM and Weapons Programs, TechSource, Inc, December 2007, p. 5-3, parentheses in the original. This “Business Case” is one of NNSA’s hundreds of reference documents for its 2008 Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. [To conveniently find it, use “TechSource 2007a.”]

That 22,500 ft2 of Pu lab space is exactly what is being designed for the Nuclear Facility now. “CMRR Project Nuclear Facility… Baseline under development …. 22,500 Net Square Feet Lab Space.” CMRR Project Update, LANL, Public Meeting, Los Alamos, New Mexico March 3, 2010, 7th viewgraph.

Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the for-profit corporation that runs Los Alamos, has already been paid for installing additional equipment in PF-4 that in conjunction with the future CMRR-Nuclear Facility will expand plutonium pit production capability to up to 80 pits per year. “Build Six New W88 Pits & Install Equipment in FY 2008 to Increase Pit Capacity to 80 Pits Per Year by the Operational Date of a CMRR-Nuclear Facility – Available Fee $1,079,915 – Awarded Fee $1,079,915.” FY 2008 Performance Evaluation Report for the Los Alamos National Security, LLC’s Management and Operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, NNSA, p. 9.

NNSA echoes this in its FY 2010 Supplemental Stockpile Stewardship Plan. Under Key Recent Accomplishments the agency boasts of “New equipment installed as scheduled for gradual capacity increases to 80 pits per year potential by scheduled operational date for Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility.” Table 1-1, NNSA/Office of Defense Programs, FY 2010 – 2014 Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship Plan, p. 14.

In sum, suggestions or representations by NNSA and LANL that the $4.5 billion CMRR Project is not about pit production are at best half-truths. Its massive proposed “Nuclear Facility” is, in fact, all about expanded pit production capability.

What the New Definition of “New” Is

On March 16 I met with a senior congressional staff members. I raised the issue of what is “new.” I specifically pointed to an earth-penetrating variant of the B61 gravity bomb (the B61-11) that was rushed to the stockpile in 1997, likely because of a perceived threat of an alleged Libyan hardened underground bioweapons facility. B61’s are believed to have selectable yields, ranging from .3 kilotons to 300 kilotons.

The destructive effects of earth-penetrating weapons (even if they penetrate 10 meters or less) rise exponentially due to shock “coupling” with geologic strata. The B61-11, with a yield of up to 300kt, was designed to and did replace the monster 9-megaton surface-burst B53. Earth-penetration is indisputably a new military capability for the B61 bomb. But because the B61-11 has the same military mission as the B53 to destroy hardened deeply buried targets (never mind the extreme differences in yields, while arguably lower yield weapons are more “usable”), this senior HASC staffer asserted that the B61-11 was not a “new” nuclear weapon.

This is not an isolated case. I then went on to raise the current example of the sub-launched W76 that is now being refurbished in an ongoing Life Extension Program (LEP). It is being endowed with a new fuze that gives it selectable heights of burst and a more accurately targetable reentry vehicle. So it not only can hit a smaller target, but the lower the altitude of the burst, the more it can hold hardened bunkers or underground facilities at risk. Pete Nanos, then head of Naval Strategic Systems (and later controversial LANL Director), wrote in 1997 that the refurbished 100kt W76-1Mk4 would be transformed into a hard target killer, one that is a “counterforce” weapon against military assets rather a “countervalue” (“city-buster”) weapon of deterrence.

But because refurbished W76s could replace the hard target killer mission of 450kt. sub-launched W88s, this HASC staffer again maintained that it was not a “new” weapon. Never mind that there are less than an estimated 400 W88s, while the Bush Administration planned to run some 2,000 W76’s through LEP’s, which would radically alter the strategic equation (we don’t yet know how many Obama will refurbish).

To add to my case, now Under Secretary for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Ellen Tauscher (former congresswoman for the CA district that sites Livermore Lab) has also indicated that if a modified existing U.S. nuclear weapon, no matter how profoundly changed, assumes the mission of another existing nuclear weapon, then it is not a “new” nuclear weapon.

Needless to say the specific missions of U.S. nuclear weapons are highly classified. But the bottom line is that our stockpile is enough to kill this planet many times over. The U.S. Government appears poised to run many existing nuclear weapons through extreme makeovers (including plutonium pit triggers) that clearly give them new military capabilities. But because there is little theoretical end to what nuclear weapons can blow up (on this planet anyway) our government will continue to deny that these heavily modified existing nuclear weapons are “new” nuclear weapons as long as they assume the missions of other existing nuclear weapons.

In other words, they think they can do whatever they damn well please, and still not call it a new nuclear weapon.

LANL Installing Equipment for Manufacuring 80 Plutonium Pits Per Year

The question arose at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability meeting this week over the potential level of future pit production at LANL and the role that the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project – Nuclear Facility will play in it.

See the below from the
FY10-14 Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship Plan, p. 14, under “Recent Key Accomplishments”: (emphasis added)

“More than six new W88 plutonium pits
manufactured. New equipment installed as
scheduled for gradual capacity increases to
80 pits per year
potential by scheduled
operational date for Chemistry and Metallurgy
Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility.”

This whole document is worthwhile reading (3.7MB).

Senator Bingaman Supports More Nuclear Plants

In the January/February issue of Mother Jones magazine Mariah Blake writes that New Mexico’s Senator Bingaman aided by Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska) has introduced legislation likely to be included in the coming climate bill that would create a Clean Energy Development Agency (CEDA) within DOE with authority to extend a ‘virtually unlimited number of loan guarantees—without congressional review—to utilities to build nuclear plants.’  Blake goes on to say that both Bingaman and Mirkowski are ‘top recipients of the nuclear industry’s campaign largesse.’  Interested utilities would have to pay an unspecified fee to get a loan guarantee but, if the historical default rate from the 1st generation of US nuclear power folly is a guide, these fees will not come close to covering defaults. Blake continues: “According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if 100 new plants are built, as key Republican lawmakers have called for, the price of bad loans could total at least $360 billion—and that’s assuming zero cost overruns.”

So if fellow New Mexicans do not want MORE federal subsidies wasted in nuclear power plant construction they should send a ‘boo and hiss’ email to Senator Bingaman. I had not realized how completely Jeff had donned the pro-nuke mantle of Pete Domenici—and I deplore it!

TIME TO TAKE SENATOR BINGAMAN TO TASK!

When Jeff Bingaman replaced Pete Domenici as New Mexico’s senior Senator, environmentalists were pleased. But is Bingaman the new Domenici? Is he stepping into Pete’s radioactive shoes as chief procurer of pork for nuclear contractors, the environment be damned?
Consider this: Bingaman’s so-called “Clean Energy” legislation sticks taxpayers with a huge financial burden to cover unlimited loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants– yet another bailout for fat-cats who’ve already bankrupted us, just like the banks, insurance execs and military contractors. No nuclear plant has ever been built on schedule or within budget. And with no remotely viable solution to the nasty spent-fuel-rod problem, all eyes will be on NM’s sadly flawed WIPP repository as a place to stick the waste out of sight and out of mind. New Mexicans were promised that power-plant waste would never come to WIPP, but with Yucca Mountain in Nevada getting the red light, how long can we trust in that long-ago promise?
Now how about the weapons side of the nuclear equation? Talking out of both sides of his mouth like a true US Senator, Bingaman has weakly endorsed mission diversification at the national weapons Labs, then backed the fat increases for bomb facilities and new designs in Obama’s ghastly proposed federal budget for 2011. Bingaman lamely says this tragic misuse of tax dollars is “good for our state.” Hey, Jeff! If something is bad for the nation and bad for the world, it is not good for our state. And those new radioactive and chemical wastes from cranking out H-bombs will all become a permanent feature here in New Mexico. Thanks for drowning us in nuclear waste from all sides, Senator!!! You’re dooming us to an abusive relationship with a couple of dead-end industries whose profits end up elsewhere, when we could be creating a much brighter and cleaner future for our lovely state. Nuclear waste is permanent. The handful of jobs we get out of it are temporary–the way a Senate seat should be.
Friends, if this makes you as mad as it makes me, give Bingaman a trip to the woodshed. His toll-free NM # is 800-443-8658 and his DC office is 202-224-5521.

New Plutonium Facility Estimate Embraces $4.5 Billion

Buried in Volume 1 of the Department of Energy’s FY 2011 Congressional Budget Request are the Details of Project Cost Estimate for LANL’s proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement (CMRR) Project. (Pg.226 & 227)

The Details –

$164 million –       The cost of the Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building (RLUOB) recently finished with construction

$199 million –       The estimated cost of equipment for the RLUOB scheduled to be installed by 2013.

$3.4 billion –          The current estimate of the Proposed Nuclear Facility due to be completed in 2018.

$782 million –       “Contingency”

$4.5 Billion –         Total

This does not D&D of the existing CMR (estimated at $500 million).

DOE Fails to Make Minimum Payment on Environmental Cleanup

Last I looked, the Cold War ended 18 years ago. We won. OK, I used to think we won, but there is still a big debt that needs to be paid off before any victory party.

The Department of Energy’s Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2009 (Pg.52) gives some sobering figures. Even with extra Recovery funding ($5.1 billion) and all the usual appropriations (about $6 billion) the Department’s “total unfunded environmental cleanup and disposal liabilities” still increased by over $1 billion in 2009. The current estimate for the cleanup of environmental contamination resulting from past operations of the nuclear weapons complex is $262.7 billion. Given that this estimate will surely increase yearly, at this rate, DOE will pay off its existing Cold War environmental liability, well…never.

Yet the Department continues on a shopping spree and rings up new $4 billion facilities that will generate new wastes. DOE must stop creating new waste when the legacy waste is still posing a threat, and should greatly increase the annual cleanup funding at least until it starts to make a dent in the amount owed. Until then, somebody please, cut up the credit card.

More from the Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2009 –

“At all sites where these activities took place, some environmental contamination occurred. This contamination was caused by the production, storage, and use of radioactive materials and hazardous chemicals, which resulted in contamination of soil, surface water, and groundwater. The environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production also includes thousands of contaminated buildings and large volumes of waste and special nuclear materials requiring treatment, stabilization, and disposal. Approximately one-half million cubic meters of radioactive high-level, mixed, and low-level wastes must be stabilized, safeguarded, and dispositioned, including a quantity of plutonium sufficient to fabricate thousands of nuclear weapons. “ (Pg.52)

Mother of Nuclear Weapons Complex Modernization speaks at Global Zero Summit

Re : Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, addressing Global Zero Summit, Paris, February 3, 2010

The good news is there is no bad news in her speech… she basically goes rhetorical using standard mountain climbing analogy language of journeying to the summit of a world free of nuclear weapons.

But it’s an ironic speech given that Tauscher is the Mother of Nuclear Weapons Complex Modernization.  As chairwoman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of House Armed Services she saw to it that the Perry-Schlesinger Strategic Posture Commission was legislatively created in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act.  At the time, she represented the California congressional district that is home to the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory. In May 2009 that Commission came out with recommendations to modernize the complex. Tauscher then saw to it that the FY2010 Defense Authorization Act required “a report on the plan… to modernize the nuclear weapons complex” as a condition for ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kyl in part used the Commission’s recommendations as the basis for a letter from 40 Republican senators + Lieberman telling Obama there’s no way he’s going to get START ratification without complex modernization. His letter also moved the fight up over complex modernization to START ratification, previously considered a bit of a no-brainer, instead of the expected fight over ratification of the long-sought-for Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  On Monday, February 1, President Obama released a federal budget that dramatically increased funding for new US nuclear weapons production facilities. So it’s strange to hear Tauscher, now State Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, play to the crowd at the summit for Global Zero, whose purpose is to abolish nuclear weapons in 20 years.

She had nary a word to say on how under “modernization” the US is designing and building three new production plants for plutonium, uranium and nonnuclear components for nuclear weapons. In fact, groundbreaking for one of them, the Kansas City Plant, just might occur just before the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference that begins May 3.  Let’s see how Obama and Tauscher explain that to the international delegations at the United Nations!

Despite Non-Proliferation Pledge – $7B for Nuclear Arsenal

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.

Obama’s New Budget Increases Funding for Nuclear Weapons Production Facilities; Cuts Dismantlements

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.

Meet the Nuke Boss, Just Like the Old Boss!

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!

Kansas City (Nuke Plant) Blues

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
$673 million.

•   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
selected it.

•   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.

Sandia Claims Technology Supports the CTBT While Modernizing Weapons

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.

Update – Lab Shipment Scare at Sunport

Phil Parker at the Journal gives an update.

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.

Lab Tries To Ship Explosives on Commercial Airline

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?

Lab’s Cyber Security Still Not Trustworthy

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.

Complete excavation of Area G now estimated at only $9.1 billion

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]

What NIF Might Do?

The gist of NNSA’s important announcement: After $5 billion and counting,
(emphases mine)

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.

Further,

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?

Operations at Plutonium Facility stood down due to fire suppression system

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.

(Un)Reliable Replacement Rationale

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.

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