Nuclear News Archives

Nuclear repository site near Carlsbad readies for waste from Washington after pause

As of May 6, 2024, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico is preparing to receive nuclear waste from Washington after a two-month pause for maintenance.

currentargus.com

Nuclear waste shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant repository near Carlsbad were suspended for about two months as workers completed numerous maintenance projects at the underground facility.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico calls for comprehensive plutonium cleanup at LANL

A group of anti-nuclear activists used data from Los Alamos National Laboratory to map places where plutonium contamination has been found in areas near the lab. Nuclear Watch New Mexico says that the data indicates plutonium contamination has migrated through the subsurface and into important water sources. The group called for comprehensive cleanup at LANL. […]

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes comprehensive cleanup is imperative, especially in light of expanding nuclear weapons programs.”

nmpoliticalreport.com

A group of anti-nuclear activists used data from Los Alamos National Laboratory to map places where plutonium contamination has been found in areas near the lab.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico says that the data indicates plutonium contamination has migrated through the subsurface and into important water sources. The group called for comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

The data is publicly available and there are more than 100,000 samples for plutonium dating from 1970 to 2023. However, Sophia Stroud, a digital content manager for Nuclear Watch New Mexico, explained that they did not want to include samples on their map that could be linked to fallout from nuclear weapons testing rather than activities at the lab.

They narrowed down the samples to remove plutonium samples that could have come from nuclear weapon testing. That left about 58,100 samples that were taken from below ground between 1992 and 2023.

Of those samples, about 70 percent of them were below detectable levels of plutonium.

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The long path of plutonium: A new map charts contamination at thousands of sites, miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory

Plutonium hotspots appear along tribal lands, hiking trails, city streets and the Rio Grande River, a watchdog group finds

“Nuclear Watch’s driving question, according to Scott Kovac, its operations and research director, concerned a specific pattern of contamination: Had plutonium migrated from LANL dump sites into regional groundwater? The answer, Kovac believes, is yes.”

searchlightnm.org

For years, the public had no clear picture of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium footprint. Had the ubiquitous plutonium at LANL infiltrated the soil? The water? Had it migrated outside the boundary of the laboratory itself?

A series of maps published by Nuclear Watch New Mexico are beginning to answer these questions and chart the troubling extent of plutonium on the hill. One map is included below, while an interactive version appears on Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s website. The raw data for both comes from Intellus New Mexico, a publicly accessible clearinghouse of some 16 million environmental monitoring records offered in recent decades by LANL, the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy.

Approximately 58,100 red dots populate each map at 12,730 locations, marking a constellation of points where plutonium — a radioactive element used in nuclear weapons — was found in the groundwater, surface water or soil. What’s alarming is just how far that contamination extends, from Bandelier National Monument to the east and the Santa Fe National Forest to the north, to San Ildefonso tribal lands in the west and the Rio Grande River and Santa Fe County, to the south.

The points, altogether, tell a story about the porous boundary between LANL and its surrounds. So pervasive is the lab’s footprint that plutonium can be found in both trace and notable amounts along hiking trails, near a nursing home, in parks, along major thoroughfares and in the Rio Grande.

Gauging whether or not the levels of plutonium are a health risk is challenging: Many physicians and advocates say no dose of radiation is safe. But when questions about risk arise, one of the few points of reference is the standard used at Rocky Flats in Colorado, where the maximum allowable amount of plutonium in remediated soil was 50 picocuries per gram. Many sites on the Nuclear Watch map have readings below this amount. Colorado’s construction standard, by contrast, is 0.9 picocuries per gram.

Watchdog group says LANL data shows widespread plutonium migration

“[NukeWatch] argued [their] plutonium migration map provides “compelling evidence of the need for a comprehensive cleanup” at the lab. The Department of Energy instead has proposed a plan to “cap and cover” 190,000 cubic yards of waste in unlined pits and trenches, at an estimated cost of $12 million.

Many local organizations and community leaders, including the Santa Fe County Commission, have opposed the plan, and the New Mexico Environment Department issued a draft order in September calling for a full cleanup — at a cost of about $800 million.”

santafenewmexican.com

LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY
Plutonium migration
Nuclear Watch New Mexico says it has created an interactive map showing plutonium migration from Los Alamos National Laboratory based on the lab’s database of environmental sampling. The map of 58,100 sampling sites, including 17,483 where the element was detected, shows trace amounts of the radioactive element as far away as Cochiti Lake, the group says.

Trace amounts of plutonium from decades of weapons work at Los Alamos National Laboratory have contaminated the Rio Grande at least as far as Cochiti Lake and could be in the regional aquifer that serves a large population of New Mexicans, a nuclear watchdog says.

“That’s been long known,” Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director Jay Coghlan said in a virtual briefing Thursday morning, when the organization unveiled a map of plutonium migration it said was created with LANL’s own data.

“Nevertheless, it’s not generally known by the New Mexican public,” Coghlan said. “What is ‘new news’ is publicly calling that out.”

Nuclear Watch used what it called the lab’s publicly accessible but cumbersome environmental database, Intellus New Mexico, to map 58,100 spots where the lab collected samples between 1992 and 2023, including 17,483 labeled as plutonium “detects.” The interactive map shows the date each sample was collected and the level of plutonium detected, with two “detects” cited in Cochiti Lake, dozens in the Rio Grande east of Los Alamos and thousands around the lab.

Government watchdog says LANL could be doing more to prevent glove box contaminant releases

“In an email, an anti-nuclear watchdog argued the 10 incidents the board lists in the report were “potentially dangerous.”

“The discouraging overall trend is the accelerating frequency of these events as LANL ramps up expanded plutonium pit production,” wrote Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “The Lab feeds the public with empty assurances of safety. However, this trend deserves meaningful course correction before, and not after, LANL begins production.””

santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory is not doing all it can to detect radioactive leaks in glove boxes and prevent the release of airborne contaminants, a federal watchdog said in a review it conducted of the equipment and safety programs after a series of mishaps.

The equipment, made up of sealed compartments and attached protective gloves, aids workers in handling radioactive materials and is deemed essential in the lab ramping up production of plutonium cores, or pits, that trigger nuclear warheads.

Although the lab is addressing problems previously identified with glove box operations — worn gloves not changed soon enough, inadequate staffing and training, leaky ports not sealed — a team found several other deficiencies that should be fixed to reduce hazards, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board wrote in a 13-page report.

Los Alamos decontaminating nuclear waste. Could it save space at repository near Carlsbad?

A report from Nuclear Watch New Mexico posited pit production would generate 57,550 cubic meters of the waste over 50 years, more than half of WIPP’s projected future capacity. This assertion was backed up by a 2019 report from the National Academies of Sciences finding WIPP could lack sufficient space for disposal of surplus plutonium and other DOE planned waste streams in the coming decades.”

currentargus.com

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are hoping to decontaminate some of the nuclear waste from the lab that would otherwise be disposed of at a repository near Carlsbad, as the lab was planning to ramp its production of plutonium pits used to trigger warheads.

Transuranic (TRU) waste from the lab and other Department of Energy facilities is disposed of via burial at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in a 2,000-foot-deep salt deposit about 30 miles east of Carlsbad. TRU waste is made up of clothing, equipment and debris irradiated during nuclear research and other activities.

How Annie Jacobsen mapped out ‘Nuclear War: A Scenario’

“There are new players, new nuclear armed nations that are far more unpredictable than those who have had nuclear weapons in the past.”

, TASK & PURPOSE

It starts with a sudden attack. North Korea, out of paranoia and fear, launches a nuclear strike on the United States, hitting its targets. The United States retaliates with a salvo of its own nuclear missiles. However, in order to hit North Korea, the missiles must pass over Russia. Attempts to communicate with the Russian president fail and Russia’s nuclear warning system makes him think it’s an attack on his country. So he launches his nuclear bombs, this time at the United States.

It’s a global nuclear war. And it happens in minutes.

That’s the setup at the heart of “Nuclear War: A Scenario,” a new book by investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen. The book, released at the end of March, outlines how one attack from an isolated state can set off a chain reaction of nuclear policy, with poor communication and split-second decisions triggering widespread nuclear war. It’s a fictional scena

America’s Nuclear War Plan in the 1960s Was Utter Madness. It Still Is.

We rarely consider the dangers these days, but our existence depends on it.

“‘Humanity is one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,’ cautions UN Secretary-General António Guterres. ‘We must reverse course.'”

BY , MOTHER JONES

Nuclear war is madness. Were a nuclear weapon to be launched at the United States, including from a rogue nuclear-armed nation like North Korea, American policy dictates a nuclear counterattack. This response would almost certainly set off a series of events that would quickly spiral out of control. “The world could end in the next couple of hours,” Gen. Robert Kehler, the former commander of US Strategic Command, told me in an interview.

We sit on the razor’s edge. Vladimir Putin has said he is “not bluffing” about the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction should NATO overstep on Ukraine, and North Korea accuses the US of having “a sinister intention to provoke a nuclear war.” For generations, the American public has viewed a nuclear World War III as a remote prospect, but the threat is ever-present. “Humanity is one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” cautions UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “We must reverse course.”

So far, we haven’t. The Pentagon’s plans for nuclear war remain firmly in place.

The US government has spent trillions of dollars over the decades preparing to fight a nuclear war, while refining protocols meant to keep the government functioning after hundreds of millions of Americans become casualties of a nuclear holocaust, and the annual budgets continue to grow. The nation’s integrated nuclear war plan in the 1960s was utter madness. It almost certainly remains so today.

ARCHBISHOP JOHN C. WESTER’S STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF TRINITY TEST DOWNWINDERS AND URGES PASSAGE OF THE RADIATION EXPOSURE COMPENSATION ACT

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Monday, March 18, 2024– IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The following is a message from Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, and Anne Avellone, Director, Office of Social Justice and Respect Life and Archdiocese of Santa Fe Justice, Peace, and Life Commission:

“Oppenheimer,” a movie released in 2023, many parts of which were filmed in New Mexico, is an expansive biopic of the life of Robert Oppenheimer and his work developing the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, NM and detonating it in the Tularosa Basin at the Trinity site. On March 10, 2024, the movie received seven Academy Awards, including for Best Picture. We are grateful the movie raises awareness of the life and work of Robert Oppenheimer and, in doing so, brings to new audiences an awareness of the development of the atomic bomb and its perils.

However, we recognize the very real and lasting impact of the development and testing of the atomic bomb has had serious and often deadly health impacts on the people of New Mexico and throughout the country. People like uranium miners and the Downwinders of New Mexico are unwitting victims who had no choice in being exposed to radiation. It is unfortunate that such a remarkable and timely film does not acknowledge these realities.

The very same week “Oppenheimer” received so many accolades in the motion picture world, the U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 69 to 30 a bipartisan reauthorization of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which compensates people who have had health issues due to radiation exposure from the atomic testing and uranium mining.
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Tribes Meeting With Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Describe Harms Uranium Mining Has Had on Them, and the Threats New Mines Pose

As spiking uranium prices drive a surge of proposals for new mines, the Navajo Nation joined the Ute Mountain Ute, Havasupai, Northern Arapaho and Oglala Sioux tribes in a commission hearing with federal officials to push back against mining on and near their lands.

By Noel Lyn Smith, Inside Climate News

Entrances to a uranium mine are locked shut outside Ticaboo, Utah. Credit: Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Entrances to a uranium mine are locked shut outside Ticaboo, Utah. Credit: Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Members of five tribes told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that Indigenous communities in the United States continue to suffer from the legacy of uranium mining and will face a persisting threat if new proposals for uranium extraction in the West are authorized during a hearing on Feb. 28 about mining to support the nation’s nuclear industry.

“The U.S. has rarely, if ever, secured tribal consent for uranium production on and near tribal lands,” Eric Jantz, legal director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said. “The cost of the government’s lopsided policies have disproportionately fallen on Native communities.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an organ of the Organization of American States. Its mission is to promote and protect human rights in member states, including the U.S.

Members of the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Havasupai Tribe, Northern Arapaho Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe requested the hearing to tell commissioners about the ramifications of uranium mining on their communities and the inadequate communication and response by the U.S. government, Jantz explained.

“Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War” Explores Impact of US–Soviet Conflict

The nine-part doc examines how two global superpowers have irrevocably altered the course of history.

By Roxanne Fequiere, Netflix

While the the Cold War ended in 1991, even a casual appraisal of current headlines reveals that relations between the United States and Russia — the one-time center of the Soviet Union — remain tense, to say the least. The global repercussions of the Cold War continue to ripple through the current geopolitical landscape to this day, but it can be difficult to understand just how a mid-20th century struggle for ideological dominance continues to ensnare countless nations in ongoing unrest.

Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War, a nine-part documentary series from director Brian Knappenberger, provides a comprehensive appraisal of the events that led to the Cold War and traces the conflict around the world and through the decades.
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NEW YORK TIMES OPINION SERIES ON THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN AN UNSTABLE WORLD

An Introduction: It’s Time to Protest Nuclear War Again

By Kathleen Kingsbury, Opinion Editor, New York Times

The threat of nuclear war has dangled over humankind for much too long. We have survived so far through luck and brinkmanship. But the old, limited safeguards that kept the Cold War cold are long gone. Nuclear powers are getting more numerous and less cautious. We’ve condemned another generation to live on a planet that is one grave act of hubris or human error away from destruction without demanding any action from our leaders. That must change.

The reawakening of America’s nuclear dinosaurs

Are America’s plutonium pits too old to perform in the new Cold War? Or are new ones necessary?

“To look at short-term change [in plutonium pits], scientists have created experiments sensitive enough to detect what happens in real time. There are caveats, though. “There seems to be a corrective mechanism that heals some of that change on longer time scales,” according to Dylan Spaulding, who studies the issue of pit aging for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Raymond Jeanloz agrees: “Something happens over longer time periods that makes [the metal] almost as good as new or maybe as good as new over time periods of 10 or 20 years or more.”

By

Sprinkled across five western states, in silos buried deep underground and protected by reinforced concrete, sit 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Each of those missiles is equipped with a single nuclear warhead. And each of those warheads is itself equipped with one hollow, grapefruit-sized plutonium pit, designed to trigger a string of deadly reactions.

All of those missiles are on “hair-trigger alert,” poised for hundreds of targets in Russia — any one of which could raze all of downtown Moscow and cause hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Except — what if it doesn’t? What if, in a nuclear exchange, the pit fizzles because it’s just too old? In that case, would the weapon be a total dud or simply yield but a fraction of its latent power?

Outwardly, at least, that’s the question driving a whole new era of plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility in South Carolina.

“The issue of plutonium pit aging is a Trojan horse for the nuclear weaponeers enriching themselves through a dangerous new arms race,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, an anti-nuclear group based in Santa Fe. “Future pit production is not about maintaining the existing, extensively tested stockpile. Instead, it’s for deploying multiple new warheads on new intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

Jay Coghlan, the executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, successfully lobbied former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in 2006 for an amendment to require a plutonium pit aging study by the group of scientists called JASON. Nadav Soroker/Searchlight New Mexico Nadav Soroker

 

Keeping Outer Space Nuclear Weapons Free

In the coming weeks, Washington, Beijing, and other capitals need to pressure Putin to abandon any ideas about putting nuclear weapons in orbit. As President Joe Biden noted on Feb. 16, that deployment “hasn’t happened yet, and my hope is it will not.”

By Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association

Fifty-seven years ago, through the Outer Space Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to codify a fundamental nuclear taboo: nuclear weapons shall not be stationed in orbit or elsewhere in outer space. But there is growing concern that Russia is working on an orbiting anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons system involving a nuclear explosive device that would, if deployed, violate the treaty, undermine space security, and worsen the technological and nuclear arms race.

The flash created by the Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test on July 9,1962 as seen from Honolulu, 900 miles away. (Wikimedia Commons)
The flash created by the Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test on July 9,1962 as seen from Honolulu, 900 miles away. (Wikimedia Commons)

The White House confirmed on Feb. 15 that U.S. intelligence uncovered evidence that Russia is developing an ASAT weapon that “would be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty, to which more than 130 countries have signed up to, including Russia.” Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a nondenial denial, claiming on Feb. 20 that Russia remains “categorically against…the placement of nuclear weapons in space.”

An ASAT system involving a nuclear explosive device could produce a massive surge of radiation and a powerful electromagnetic pulse that, depending on the altitude of the explosion and the size of the warhead, could indiscriminately destroy, blind, or disable many of the 9,500 commercial and military space satellites now in orbit.

More indictments for Ohio nuclear crimes

Former executives face a judge — in their ankle monitors

By Linda Pentz Gunter,

It was called “likely the largest bribery money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.” And the shoes are still dropping. Or should that be ankle monitors? Because these latter belong to the three latest criminals indicted for their roles in a scheme that saw FirstEnergy hand over $61 million in bribes to Ohio politicians and their co-conspirators to secure favorable legislation.

That bill, known as HB6, guaranteed a $1.3 billion bailout to FirstEnergy in order to keep open its two failing Ohio nuclear power plants, Davis-Besse and Perry, as well as struggling coal plants. The nuclear portion of the bill has since been rescinded, but Ohio consumers are still paying to prop up two aging coal plants, to the tune of half a million dollars a day, amounting to an extra $1.50 a month on every ratepayer’s electric bill.

The $61 million bribery plot was the mastermind of then speaker of the Ohio House, Larry Householder, who is now a household name in Ohio for all the wrong reasons. He was sentenced last June to 20 years in prison for his part in the conspiracy. GOP Chairman Matt Borges, was also found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and sentenced to five years in federal prison. Both men say they will appeal.

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Hawley vows to attach radiation exposure extension to all bills

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) will attach an amendment reauthorizing and expanding a law compensating Americans exposed to radiation by the federal government to all items moving on the Senate floor, his office confirmed Monday.

BY ZACK BUDRYKRACHEL FRAZIN,

© Allison Robbert

In a letter to Republican Senate colleagues, Hawley urged the caucus to back an amendment reauthorizing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) and expanding its coverage to New Mexico, Missouri, Idaho, Montana, Guam, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alaska.

“Our reauthorization bill passed the Senate last summer with a strong bipartisan vote, and I am grateful for much support from our Conference,” Hawley wrote. “Now we must finish the job. There are RECA claimants in every state, including each of yours. They will benefit if this bill is passed. Simply put, this is the right thing to do.”

Hawley’s announcement comes as the government is set to shut down at the end of this week without a funding agreement —

and his insistence on including radiation compensation, which a number of Republicans have opposed, could further complicate efforts to avoid a shutdown.

The law, enacted in 1990, compensates Americans who were downwind of nuclear testing or exposed to radiation through uranium ore mining. The states covered under the current law include residents of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona and their survivors. However, it does not cover those in New Mexico near the site of the 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test, nor does it cover residents of Missouri exposed to radiation through uranium processing at Mallinckrodt Chemical Works.

President Biden has already reauthorized the law, which was set to sunset in 2022, a further two years, but it is set to expire this year without further action.

Nuclear Waste Storage in the UK: Council pulls the plug on the nuclear waste facility in Yorkshire

“…As the events in South Holderness have proved, the explicit government policy requiring community consent for a [Geological Disposal Facility] seems self-defeating. Like turkeys voting for Christmas, is there ever likely to be a majority anywhere in favour of one?”

By Angus Young, Yorkshire Bylines,

Local opinion is divided – not necessarily evenly – following a decision by councillors on East Riding Council to dramatically pull the plug on proposals for a possible underground nuclear waste facility in South Holderness, just weeks after a process that could have taken years had formally started.

The vote to withdraw the council from a working group it had previously agreed to join to oversee the initial phase of consultation was taken at a full meeting of the authority in Beverley. After a 14-minute debate, all but one councillor voted in support of a motion to immediately walk away from the working group. Under the terms of consultation set by the government, it effectively ended the process before it had really begun.

Campaigners celebrate decision to drop nuclear waste disposal plans

For campaigners who had mobilised quickly to protest against it, the vote was a victory. Lynn Massey-Davis, chairperson for the South Holderness Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) Action Group, said the fact that just over 1,300 people had joined the group in just over four weeks reflected wider opposition in communities across the area. She said:

“The first time I went into the village centre after it was announced, someone came up to me with tears in their eyes. I hugged her and I knew we had to work hard to end this uncertainty for everyone.

“I am really proud that we started this group and website and that other people joined in and worked so very hard over such a short period of time to turn the tide of opinion towards considering removing this threat to us all.

“This is an unprecedented level of community action in such a small place and shows why we are unique and special.”

Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) – part of the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority – said it “fully respected” the council’s decision and would now start winding down the working group having staged a series of informal village hall drop-in events over the last month.

Aging infrastructure could pose risks at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste site

Don Hancock at the Southwest Research and Information Center argued the infrastructure issues at WIPP were due to the facility aging beyond its originally intended lifetime, since the facility was built in the 1980s and began accepting waste in 1999…“The facilities are at the end of that lifetime,” Hancock said. “The idea that it could operate for decades longer, just is not true.”

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus 

An elevator used to move mined salt out of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant drew concerns from federal oversight officials as gradually collapsing salt put excess stress on the hoist.

The salt “creep” is what gradually buries the waste disposed of at WIPP, placed in the facility after being trucked from nuclear facilities around the U.S. and emplaced in the 2,000-foot-deep salt deposit about 30 miles east of Carlsbad.

DNFSB sealBut the salt’s natural collapse also stressed the salt handling shaft to a point that left it in danger of collapse, according to the latest report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board published Feb. 2.

That report also contended WIPP’s operations contractor Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO) had not conducted a “formal” analysis of the safety and operational impacts of taking the shaft out of service.

On Jan. 4, a preventative maintenance inspection rated the shaft as “unsatisfactory,” the report read, due to its “overstressed” condition.

“The Board’s staff remains concerned regarding the lack of formal analysis covering the nuclear safety and operational impacts if Salado Isolation Mining Contractors, LLC (SIMCO) must take the Salt Handling Shaft out of service,” read the report.

 

It’s been a decade since the radiological release at WIPP. Here’s what has happened since then.

Watchdog groups point to lower shipments after incident. Officials tout tighter safety protocols

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus 

A drum of nuclear waste ruptured 10 years ago in the underground of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant repository near Carlsbad, triggering a series of events that saw the facility close for three years while officials worked to assess the incident and prevent future incidents.

The incident resulted in a release of radioactive materials in the underground on Feb. 14, 2014, and WIPP ceased receiving and disposing of shipments of nuclear waste until 2017.

The drum came from Los Alamos National Laboratory and was packaged with the wrong material which caused materials to heat up and rupture the drum.

This led to widespread air contamination in the underground, where drums to nuclear waste from facilities across the country are buried in a salt deposit about 2,000 feet beneath the surface.

The US Military Almost Deployed Nuclear Missile Trains on American Railroads During the Cold War

In particular, 1983 served as a dangerous flashpoint, with the distrust and paranoia between the East and West amped up after the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 and nearly misinterpreted a NATO exercise simulating a nuclear attack for the real thing…“In 1983, the two nuclear superpowers were like blindfolded boxers careening toward a death match.”

| February 20, 2024 military.com

A Peacekeeper Rail Garrison car is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
A Peacekeeper Rail Garrison car is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Cuban Missile Crisis was two decades in the rearview, but in the early 1980s, Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union remained feverishly high.

In particular, 1983 served as a dangerous flashpoint, with the distrust and paranoia between the East and West amped up after the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 and nearly misinterpreted a NATO exercise simulating a nuclear attack for the real thing. That year also saw the Air Force successfully flight-test the Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time as the Defense Department sought to develop a mobile ICBM system. U.S. military leaders were playing a game of catch-up, though, because the Soviets already had deployed one. As a 2022 Air & Space Forces Magazine article put it: “In 1983, the two nuclear superpowers were like blindfolded boxers careening toward a death match.”

The Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, which largely oversaw the bombing capability of America’s nuclear weapons from 1946 until 1992, had been trying to implement a mobile ICBM system since 1971, but struggled to reach a consensus on what that would look like. Finally, President Ronald Reagan, who had labeled the Soviet Union “the Evil Empire” during a March 1983 speech, issued a national security directive on Dec. 19, 1986, to develop the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison program.

 

State Sues Holtec for Mishandling Asbestos at Pilgrim Reactor Site

Attorney general says demolition put workers and residents at risk

| February 15, 2024 provincetownindependent.org

BOSTON — Mass. Attorney General Andrea Campbell has filed a civil complaint against Holtec Decommissioning International, owner of the shuttered Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, for a long list of violations related to improperly handling, storing, shipping, and disposal of asbestos-laced debris during the plant’s demolition.

The complaint cites work done between January 2021 and September 2023. The improper handling put the health of workers and residents near the plant in jeopardy, according to the complaint, which seeks penalties of $25,000 per day for each violation.

The attorney general’s office filed the 28-page suit on Feb. 14 in Suffolk Superior Court. Assistant Attorney General John Craig, from the office’s environmental division, states that Holtec didn’t hire the required asbestos inspector before demolishing a 32-foot-high water tower in 2021. Asbestos-laced paint on the exterior of the tower was not removed and properly disposed of, the complaint charges, and it wound up in flakes on the work site and mixed in with metal scraps from the tower.

 

Public given more time to comment on LANL’s steps against toxic plume

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s operations director, said the proposed actions seem broad, lacking important details on what actually would be done. Also, it would make more sense to have the Environment Department sign off on a plan of action — because the agency has final say — before going through the NEPA process.”They’re doing it backward,” Kovac said.”

| February 12, 2024 santafenewmexican.com

The public will have an additional month to weigh in on a federal report assessing the possible impacts of the latest proposed measures for cleaning up a toxic chromium plume beneath Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The U.S. Energy Department issued the 115-page environmental assessment in November, then offered a 60-day period for public comment that was set to end Monday but now will go to March 13.

 

Building a World Without Nuclear Weapons

Building a World Without Nuclear Weapons: Online Forum January 27, 2024

Building a world without nuclear weapons: An urgent imperative

Online forum held January 27, 2024 with musicians What the World Needs Now Interfaith Coalition Singers, host Peter Metz, Bishop John Stowe (Lexington KY), moderator Claire Schaeffer Duffy, and panelists Archbishop John Wester (Santa Fe NM), Dr. Ira Helfand, and Marie Dennis. With a special message from Rep. Jim McGovern (MA).


The fallout never ended

Decades of nuclear weapons tests and other radioactive experiments injured or killed scientists, soldiers, and innocent bystanders. Many of them, and their relatives, have never been compensated, but new efforts may change that. A former Senate staffer and expert on the US nuclear program looks back at its harmful effects, and how the government addressed them—or didn’t.

| February 1, 2024 thebulletin.org

‘Castle Bravo’ on March 1, 1954 on Bikini Atoll produced the largest yield and fallout of all US nuclear weapons tests (US Department of Energy).

Attorney general seeks to deny Holtec $260M state tax break

In appeal to state Supreme Court, AG lists major concerns about Camden nuclear tech firm

| February 2, 2024 njspotlightnews.org

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin is appealing to the state Supreme Court to ban Holtec International, a Camden nuclear technology firm dogged by a history of ethical issues, from collecting a $260 million tax break awarded in 2014.

Platkin, in a petition to the court filed Thursday, wrote that Holtec must not be allowed to get away with lying on its application for the largest tax break in state history. Rewarding Holtec’s “material” misrepresentations, Platkin argued, would undermine state contract law and encourage other applicants to deceive the state.

“The question is whether a business that concealed prior misconduct when seeking millions in incentives can nevertheless walk away scot-free,’’ wrote Platkin, who is contending that the appellate court which decided in favor of Holtec made critical legal errors.

New York Times: Tax Break Scandal Leads to $5 Million Fine for N.J. Energy Company

A business tied to George Norcross III, a high-profile New Jersey Democrat, has agreed to pay a $5 million penalty after a criminal investigation into hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks that the energy company, Holtec International, was awarded.

| January 30, 2024 nytimes.com

The fine, announced early Tuesday by the state attorney general’s office, enables officials from Holtec, a company based in Camden, N.J., that dismantles nuclear power sites, to avoid criminal prosecution linked to a 2018 application for $1 million in tax credits.

Mr. Norcross, an insurance executive who sits on the board of Holtec, has for decades held an outsize grip on New Jersey politics and has used his clout in the national Democratic Party and in Camden County, as well as his fund-raising ability, to influence state legislation. Mr. Norcross has never held elected office, and his power has waned over the last several years after a series of embarrassing legislative losses in South Jersey.

Still, he has remained one of the state’s most feared unelected politicians.

“We are sending a clear message: No matter how big and powerful you are, if you lie to the state for financial gain, we will hold you accountable — period,” Matthew J. Platkin, New Jersey’s attorney general, said in a statement.

Holtec, in a statement, denied “any misconduct.”


Controversial Camden-based nuclear parts maker to pay $5M fine

 

New Mexico Archbishop Wester calls Catholics to work for nuclear abolition

“So, too, must we be prophets warning of the nuclear dangers,” Wester told participants. “So, too, must we be humble and faithful to God while bringing down the Goliath of nuclear weapons. We know that it’s not God’s purpose to end humanity in radioactive ashes. Instead, he wants to elevate the human race to light and salvation. But God’s purpose is worked through his instruments. So, let us get to work.” – Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico

BY DENNIS SADOWSKI, The National Catholic Reporter

This image taken with a slow shutter speed on Oct. 2, 2019, and provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force via AP/Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong)
This image taken with a slow shutter speed on Oct. 2, 2019, and provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force via AP/Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong)

In the estimation of longtime peace advocate Marie Dennis, a gradual shift is taking place in communities, churches and schools around the world to embrace nonviolence in solving conflict.

From religious leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo to neighborhoods in her hometown of Washington, D.C., people are coming together to seek new and creative paths to build peaceful communities, she said.

They may be small steps, but the glimmers in everyday life give her hope that conflict and even wars, including nuclear war, eventually can be overcome, Dennis told National Catholic Reporter following a Jan. 27 webinar hosted by Pax Christi USA and the Pax Christi Massachusetts chapter.

The webinar marked the third anniversary of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming into force on Jan. 22, 2021.

doomsday clock

The 2024 Doomsday Clock announcement from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

A moment of historic danger: It is still 90 seconds to midnight

2024 Doomsday Clock Announcement

Ominous trends continue to point the world toward global catastrophe. The war in Ukraine and the widespread and growing reliance on nuclear weapons increase the risk of nuclear escalation. China, Russia, and the United States are all spending huge sums to expand or modernize their nuclear arsenals, adding to the ever-present danger of nuclear war through mistake or miscalculation.

In 2023, Earth experienced its hottest year on record, and massive floods, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters affected millions of people around the world. Meanwhile, rapid and worrisome developments in the life sciences and other disruptive technologies accelerated, while governments made only feeble efforts to control them.

The members of the Science and Security Board have been deeply worried about the deteriorating state of the world. That is why we set the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight in 2019 and at 100 seconds to midnight in 2022. Last year, we expressed our heightened concern by moving the Clock to 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been—in large part because of Russian threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

Today, we once again set the Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight because humanity continues to face an unprecedented level of danger. Our decision should not be taken as a sign that the international security situation has eased. Instead, leaders and citizens around the world should take this statement as a stark warning and respond urgently, as if today were the most dangerous moment in modern history. Because it may well be.

But the world can be made safer. The Clock can move away from midnight. As we wrote last year, “In this time of unprecedented global danger, concerted action is required, and every second counts.” That is just as true today.

Continue reading the full 2024 Doomsday Clock statement.

Watch the 2024 Doomsday Clock announcement above.

Nuclear deterrence is the existential threat, not the nuclear ban treaty

In the words of Melissa Parke, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), “Nuclear deterrence may well work until the day it doesn’t.” What happens when nuclear deterrence fails? The problem is that it is impossible to create a plan for that day.

| January 22, 2024 thebulletin.org

Antinuclear activist march to mark the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in New York, January 20, 2023. - The TPNW, the first legally binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons, entered into force on January 22, 2021. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)
Antinuclear activist march to mark the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in New York, January 20, 2023. – The TPNW, the first legally binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons, entered into force on January 22, 2021. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

In a deeply misguided article in this publication, Zachary Kallenborn contends that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a threat to humanity. To build this narrative, Kallenborn does not simply present nuclear deterrence as a stable and useful framework for avoiding conventional wars. Rather, he goes beyond the common deterrence arguments to assert that nuclear weapons restrain world wars, which allows nations to work together on addressing existential threats. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nuclear deterrence is a myth. Nuclear deterrence involves a nation state maintaining a believable threat of retaliation to deter an adversary’s attack. This relies on demonstrations of the readiness and the capacity to use nuclear weapons—a highly dangerous form of bluff which, in turn, makes those targeted increase their hardware and rhetoric. We are currently witnessing this kind of escalation among several nuclear weapon possessor states, which could result in nuclear war.

Nuclear deterrence rests on decision makers always behaving rationally; even if different states and parties weigh values, threats, and possible consequences in the same way, individual leaders do not always behave rationally.

The Nuclear Ban Treaty Is Taking a Step Forward

Given the treaty is steadily becoming a part of international nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament architecture, it is imperative for the United States, nuclear-armed states and states under the U.S. nuclear extended deterrence “umbrella” to consider how they can also productively engage with the treaty and its states parties,

| January 17, 2024 armscontrol.org

On the afternoon of the first day of December 2023, the UN conference room in New York was filled with long and powerful applause, when the state parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), known informally as the “nuclear ban treaty,” concluded the second meeting on implementation since it entered into force in January 2021.

It has been just five years since the treaty was concluded in 2017, but the TPNW is already helping to bolster the international nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament architecture by reinforcing the norms against nuclear weapons use and providing a path for non-nuclear weapon states and communities and populations adversely affected by nuclear weapons to engage in efforts to advance disarmament and address the damage done by past nuclear weapons testing and use.

Since the TPNW opened for signature, the number of states parties has grown to 70. Significantly, the number of non-signatory observer states that have joined the TPNW meetings to learn more about the treaty has also grown. Their participation underscores that states inside and outside the TPNW can advance progress toward their shared goals: preventing nuclear war and moving closer to the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Victims of nuclear weapon development plan Hill barrage

Advocates seek expansion of Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

| January 11, 2024 rollcall.com

A lobbying blitz is expected this month from advocates for the untold thousands of Americans harmed by radiation from government nuclear projects dating back to World War II, starting with development and testing of the first atomic bomb.

Senators pushing to expand aid for radiation victims were infuriated in December when a provision to reauthorize a compensation fund that expires in June was stripped from the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act prior to Senate passage, largely because of concerns about the projected price tag: $147 billion over 10 years.

Now groups ranging from a coalition of mothers in the St. Louis area to the Navajo Nation are planning visits to Capitol Hill to demand expansion and a longer renewal of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, a 1990 law that provided aid to uranium workers and those exposed to any of nearly 200 nuclear tests in Nevada between 1945 and 1962. The law did not cover those exposed to the first nuclear detonation in White Sands, N.M., in 1945.

Colorado Environmental Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Halt Rocky Flats Trail

Lawsuit claims federal agencies did not consider alternatives to “plutonium-contaminated” portion of refuge

Katie Langford| January 8, 2024 denverpost.com

FILE — In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, a sign marks a trailhead at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Broomfield, Colo. In the wake of the Marshall wildifre, local elected officials and managers of the refuge are seeking ways to protect the refuge from future blazes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE — In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, a sign marks a trailhead at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Broomfield, Colo. In the wake of the Marshall wildifre, local elected officials and managers of the refuge are seeking ways to protect the refuge from future blazes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Physicians for Social Responsibility and five Colorado advocacy groups are suing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and four federal agencies to halt work on a trail through Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia on Monday, claims that the U.S. departments of Transportation and the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not considering alternatives to constructing an 8-mile greenway “through the most heavily plutonium-contaminated portion” of the refuge.

Environmental Assessment (EA) For Chromium Plume At LANL Now Out For Review

| December 19, 2023 ladailypost.com

Summary

Groundwater sampling data from monitoring wells at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) indicate the presence of chromium contamination in the regional aquifer resulting from historical use of potassium dichromate, a corrosion inhibitor, in cooling tower water that was discharged to an outfall as part of operational maintenance activities.

DOE is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate alternatives for remedial action as part of the Chromium Interim Measures and Characterization Campaign identified in Appendix A of 2016 Compliance Order on Consent between DOE and the New Mexico Environmental Department.

Public Comment Opportunities

DOE is accepting public comments on the draft EA through Feb. 12, 2024. Please submit public comments using one of the following methods:

Email:

[email protected]. Please use the subject line: Chromium Draft EA Comment

U.S. Mail:

  • EM-LA NEPA Document Manager, U.S. DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, 1200 Trinity Drive, Suite 400, Los Alamos, NM 87544

Draft EA:

  • DOE has prepared a draft EA (DOE/EA-2216) to evaluate alternatives for remedial action as part of the Chromium Interim Measures and Characterization Campaign identified in Appendix A of 2016 Compliance Order on Consent between DOE and the New Mexico Environmental Department.

For further information:

North Korea’s Kim says military should ‘thoroughly annihilate’ US and South Korea if provoked

“In his New Year’s Day address Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he will strengthen his military’s preemptive strike, missile defense and retaliatory capabilities in response to the North Korean nuclear threat.”

| January 1, 2024 apnews.com

 SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his military should “thoroughly annihilate” the United States and South Korea if provoked, state media reported Monday, after he vowed to boost national defense to cope with what he called an unprecedented U.S.-led confrontation.

North Korea has increased its warlike rhetoric in recent months in response to an expansion of U.S.-South Korean military drills. Experts expect Kim will continue to escalate his rhetoric and weapons tests because he likely believes he can use heightened tensions to wrest U.S. concessions if former President Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election in November.

Glove box fire closed part of LANL plutonium facility in November

The federal agency and the lab also have resisted conducting public reviews of pit production, though mishaps and safety infractions are likely to grow more frequent, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“LANL knows that chronic nuclear safety incidences will increase with expanded plutonium pit production for the new nuclear arms race, which in turn would cause greater public resistance,” Coghlan said.

| December 21, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Radiological Control Technicians
Radiological control technicians simulate work processes in a glove box training facility in 2021. A sealed compartment with safety gloves attached caught fire at Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, resulting in officials shutting down a portion of the site’s plutonium facility for 10 days, according to the lab’s and government watchdogs’ reports.  Courtesy Carlos Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory

A sealed compartment with safety gloves attached caught fire at Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, resulting in officials shutting down a portion of the site’s plutonium facility for 10 days, according to the lab’s and government watchdogs’ reports.

Employees were pulverizing 40-year-old legacy materials that were removed from the facility to create more storage and work space when they saw a flash and then a fire inside one of the glove boxes they were using for the task, according to a Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report.

They deactivated the equipment, sounded alarms and promptly left the room. They and other facility workers evacuated the building.

Buried secrets, poisoned bodies

Why did a Truchas woman die with extraordinary amounts of plutonium in her body — and why was she illegally autopsied? For this reporter, the answers hit close to home.

| December 20, 2023 searchlightnm.com

The first reference to her comes, of all places, on an airplane. It’s the end of April and sitting next to me is Jay Coghlan, the executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Both of us are on our way back to Santa Fe from Washington, D.C., after the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s weeklong annual gathering. Coghlan, galvanized by the last several days of activities, spends most of the flight ticking down his list of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s most recent sins. But suddenly he turns to the past.

“Did you know that the person with the highest levels of plutonium in her body after the atomic detonation at Trinity Site was a woman from Truchas?” he asks me. The remark, more hearsay than fact, piques my interest. As Coghlan knows, that’s my pueblito, the place in northern New Mexico where I grew up on land passed down through many generations of women. Tina Cordova — co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium — would know more, he adds. “Ask her.”

Truchas, short for Nuestra Señora del Rosario, San Fernando y Santiago del Río de las Truchas, sits on a ridge in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, 8,000 feet above sea level. With some 370 people in town, most everybody keeps up with the latest mitote, or gossip, at the local post office. A regional variation of Spanish is still spoken by elders. Bloodlines go back centuries. And neighbors might also be relatives. If she is from this tiny, but remarkable, speck on the map, I must at least know of her. My mom, a deft weaver of family trees, definitely would.

Congress should reinstate radiation exposure compensation

“Even though atmospheric nuclear weapons testing ended long ago in 1962, future cancer deaths will still far exceed past deaths due to long-lived fallout. Why is it that our government does not inform us of this future suffering while also failing to justly compensate past and present suffering?” – Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester in a statement supporting those damaged by the nation’s nuclear activities,

THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | December 13, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Getting the U.S. Congress to do the right thing is never an easy task — and in the case of New Mexico residents and their descendants adversely affected by nuclear bomb testing or uranium mining, at times seems almost impossible.

New Mexico is the birthplace of the atomic bomb and site of the first test in 1945. But people here were not included in the original legislation designed to compensate individuals harmed by the nation’s nuclear efforts. Last week, a new injustice: An amendment to the 2024 defense spending bill to allow federal compensation for New Mexicans hurt by mining or testing was struck from the National Defense Authorization Act during House-Senate Armed Service Committee negotiations last week.

Compensation for radiation exposure had been included as part of the defense spending bill in an amendment sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján along with GOP Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Luján has sponsored radiation exposure compensation bills in every Congress since he first was elected to the House in 2008.

New information tool on nuclear weapons seeks to identify the next arms control strategies

“The sum of this data shows a familiar, albeit distinctly important, pattern: As nuclear weapon technologies surged forward, the world entered uniquely dangerous periods in which crises erupted despite a plethora of different nuclear capabilities. Crisis after crisis, steps to control an unchecked arms race were found to be both stabilizing and mutually beneficial—only to be discarded or violated, tempting disaster.”

By Andrew Facini, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | December 4, 2023 thebulletin.org

The way countries view nuclear weapons is shifting. As past arms control measures have ended or decayed, the United States, Russia, and China are investing heavily (again) in their nuclear arsenals, pursuing new capabilities and discarding constraints once seen as fundamentally stabilizing.

For those of us seeking to cultivate nuclear policies geared toward enhancing strategic stability, the current trend reflects a worrying loss of perspective—a forgetting of the hard-earned lessons of the Cold War. To help put today’s trends in their historical context, at team of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) developed a new visualization tool and information system that maps every type of nuclear weapon fielded by the five nuclear weapons states (P5) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—from their inception to present day.

Launched last week, the Nuclear Weapons Systems Project seeks a “qualitative rethink” by providing a curated data source for all major nuclear delivery systems ever deployed. By seeing more easily what has changed and when, users can better identify the benefits of states’ long trajectory of narrowing the types of nuclear capabilities in the world, understand the risks of a new expansion of nuclear capabilities, and develop ways to de-risk the current situation and prevent future security crises.

2023 Highlighted Articles

Saudi Arabia Offers Its Price to Normalize Relations With Israel | March 11, 2023

House conservatives issue new list of demands that could upend debt ceiling talks | March 10, 2023

Saudi Arabia Seeks U.S. Security Pledges, Nuclear Help for Peace With Israel | March 9, 2023

US Must Sharpen Attention to Potential Global Crisis Posed by Russia and China | March 9, 2023

Pentagon Developed Contingency Plan for War With Iran | March 1, 2023

One year later, new dangers threaten Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant | February 28, 2023

U.N. Agency Confirms Iran Produced Enriched Uranium Close to Weapons Grade | February 28, 2023

China’s Imports of Russian Uranium Spark Fear of New Arms Race | February 28, 2023

Is Russia Preparing for a Nuclear Weapons Test? | February 26, 2023

‘Our Support Will Not Waver,’ Biden Says After Putin Signals Sharper Break | February 21, 2023

Israel: 'all possible means on the table' to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapon | February 17, 2023

Artificial intelligence should not control nuclear weapons use, officials say | February 16, 2023

Russian-linked malware was close to putting U.S. electric, gas facilities ‘offline’ last year | February 14, 2023

Russian diplomat says ties with US in ‘unprecedented crisis’ | February 9, 2023

North Korea claims to show off ‘greatest’ nuclear attack capability | February 9, 2023

China Has More ICBM Launchers Than U.S., American Military Reports | February 7, 2023

Putin ally warns NATO of nuclear war if Russia is defeated in Ukraine | January 19, 2023

Russia produces first set of Poseidon super torpedoes - TASS | January 16, 2023

Lockheed-Funded Granger Vows to Protect Defense Spending | January 13, 2023

Trump discussed using a nuclear weapon on North Korea in 2017 and blaming it on someone else, book says | January 12, 2023

In a First, South Korea Declares Nuclear Weapons a Policy Option | January 12, 2023

North Korea: What we can expect from Kim Jong-un in 2023 | January 3, 2023

N. Korea’s Kim vows ‘exponential’ increase in nuclear arsenal in new year | January 1, 2023

Nuclear News Archive – 2022

‘More than 1,000’ New Mexicans call State to oppose plutonium plan at nuclear waste site

PRESS CONFERENCE MAR. 1, 2022 - NEW MEXICANS SUPPORT GOVERNOR ACTING TO STOP WIPP EXPANSION

Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus March 4, 2022 currentargus.com

“New Mexico agreed to host WIPP after carefully crafting agreements that limit what the federal government can do with it. It was afraid that this very thing would happen, and DOE didn’t disappoint,” she said Tuesday during a press conference in Santa Fe.

“WIPP’s mission can only be changed if the DOE breaks every legal agreement that it made with New Mexico in order to get it to host the WIPP site in the first place.”

Also concerning, Weehler said, was the transportation plan to ultimately bring the plutonium to WIPP.

Mostly originating at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, the waste would first travel to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LAN) in northern New Mexico via truck for processing.

Continue reading

Why You Should Care about the Expanding WIPP Mission

Cindy Weehler gave a powerful speech during the March 1, 2022 press conference at the New Mexico Capitol about why you should care about the expanding mission for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  People are opposing the Department of Energy (DOE) WIPP expansion plans that violate the law.  We provide Weehler’s speech below.

Weehler is Co-Chair of 285 ALL, a neighborhood issues awareness group based south of Interstate 25.  Before the press conference, she presented over 1,100 petition signatures to the Governor’s Office.  The petition reads:

Petition to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

New Mexicans call on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to stand up for public health and the environment by stopping the expansion of the nuclear waste facility called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico.

New Mexicans oppose the nuclear waste expansion at WIPP because:

  1. The federal government’ plans would transport more nuclear weapons waste to WIPP than is allowed.*
  2. The plutonium nuclear waste in the WIPP expansion is still dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years and endangers the health of our families and future generations.
  3. Unless New Mexico says ‘NO’ to WIPP expansion, other disposal locations will not be developed, and WIPP and NM will always be the only dump site, which is not fair. New Mexico never agreed to bear the burden of being the only nuclear waste dump site in the country.
  4. The federal government has not been transparent about its WIPP expansion plans, and has repeatedly refused to discuss the plans publicly, including in hearings on the WIPP Permit. Many New Mexicans are not even aware of those plans. We deserve a transparent and fair process that includes the voices of all impacted communities.

We strongly support, and urge our Governor to take all necessary actions, including denying permits for the piecemeal expansion.

Continue reading

A new generation is being introduced to the nuclear threat

A new generation is being introduced to the nuclear threatPhoto: The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

“Nuclear weapons keep all of us imperiled, even when we aren’t technically at war.

BY: © CNN |

(CNN) First things first: Despite Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and despite Russian posturing about nuclear weapons, it seems wildly unlikely that the current conflict will descend into a nuclear crisis. But that reality doesn’t change the fact that this invasion, and Russian swagger about its nuclear capabilities, ratchets up tensions in an already-deadly situation — and brings a renewed (if still slim) threat of nuclear war to a generation that has never experienced this particular (apocalyptic) fear.

“I would now like to say something very important for those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address last week about his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Continue reading

New Mexico governor asked to stand up to more nuclear waste

This citizen petition highlights the frustration of New Mexicans with DOE’s Environmental Management program. We fully expect the Department of Energy to meaningfully engage with stakeholders in New Mexico communities on this issue.” – Nora Meyers Sackett, governor spokeswoman. 

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | AP NEWS March 1, 2022 apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A coalition of environmentalists and nuclear watchdogs on Tuesday delivered more than 1,000 petition signatures to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asking her to take all steps necessary to stop any expansion of the federal government’s nuclear repository in southeastern New Mexico.

Dozens of people gathered at the state Capitol because they are concerned about the potential for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to be a disposal site for diluted plutonium.

They said the dump was never intended for that type of radioactive waste.

Continue reading

BREAKING: Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the military to put its nuclear forces on the highest level of alert in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by NATO countries.

“In a shocking move that unearthed long-buried fears from the Cold War era, Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch on Sunday, ratcheting up tensions with Europe and the United States over the conflict.

The Russian president told his defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in “special regime of combat duty.”

He said that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” toward Russia in addition to stiff economic sanctions and cutting leading Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system.”

AP NEWS February 27, 2022 apnews.com

NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard

Michail Gorbachev discussing German unification with Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Helmut Kohl in Russia, July 15, 1990. Photo: Bundesbildstelle / Presseund Informationsamt der Bundesregierung.

Declassified documents show security assurances against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner

Slavic Studies Panel Addresses “Who Promised What to Whom on NATO Expansion?”

Washington D.C., December 12, 2017 – U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (http://nsarchive.gwu.edu).

The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels.

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Bury it? Shoot it into space? Why scientists still can’t find a place for nuclear waste

“Currently no options have been able to demonstrate that waste will remain isolated from the environment over the tens to hundreds of thousands of years.” – Nuclear waste expert Andrew Blowers, author of The Legacy of Nuclear Power” and former member of the UK’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.

BY: © CNN | February 27, 2022 cnn.com

(CNN) A major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, to be released Monday, is expected to warn that humans are wrecking the planet so profoundly that we may run out of ways to survive the crisis. The report speaks of a “rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

This might make it tempting to rush to nuclear energy as a quick, low-carbon fix. But its faults are numerous, not least that there is still no answer to the 80-year-old question: Where to store the burgeoning tons of highly radioactive spent fuel? Propositions abound: from catapulting it into space, ditching it between tectonic plates, or burying it deep underground on remote islands.
But try as they have, scientists can’t find a safe, long-term, cost-effective way to dispose of nuclear waste.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant leadership expect nuclear waste site to be open until 2050

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration claims that a little more than half of WIPP’s future capacity will be reserved for future plutonium pit bomb core production. Further, those new radioactive wastes would be given priority over existing legacy cleanup wastes.

To quote:

“The combined TRU waste (1,151 m3) generated over 50 years would be 57,550 m3, which would account for 53 percent of the projected available capacity at WIPP. In addition, use of WIPP capacity for national security missions such as pit production would be given priority in the allocation process.”

DOE/EIS-0236-S4-SA-02, December 2019, Final Supplement Analysis of the Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, p. 65, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2020/01/f70/final-supplement-analysis-eis-0236-s4-sa-02-complex-transformation-12-2019.pdf

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Courtesy of WIPP

NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO IS OPPOSED TO THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO BEING THE NATION’S LARGEST PLUTONIUM WASTE PRODUCER AS WELL AS THE NATION’S ONLY PLUTONIUM WASTE DUMP.

BY: Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus | February 25, 2022

Nuclear waste will continue being buried at a facility near Carlsbad for the coming decades, as far into the future as 2050 or 2080.

In preparation for that continued mission of disposing of the nation’s transuranic (TRU) waste – mostly clothing materials and equipment irradiated during nuclear activities – the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant saw myriad projects at the site aimed at increasing airflow and ensuring enough space is available for the waste.

Continue reading

EXPLAINER: Does Putin’s alert change risk of nuclear war?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s implied threat to turn the Ukraine crisis into a nuclear war presents President Joe Biden and U.S. allies with choices rarely contemplated in the atomic age. One choice is whether to raise the alert level of U.S. nuclear forces in response. Putin put Russian nuclear forces in what he called a “special regime of combat duty.”

By ROBERT BURNS | AP NEWS February 27, 2022 apnews.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s implied threat to turn the Ukraine war into a broader nuclear conflict presents President Joe Biden with choices rarely contemplated in the atomic age, including whether to raise the alert level of U.S. nuclear forces.

This turn of events is all the more remarkable for the fact that less than a year ago, Putin and Biden issued a statement at their Geneva summit that seemed more in keeping with the idea that the threat of nuclear war was a Cold War relic. “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” they agreed.

Putin waves nuclear sword in confrontation with the West

By merely suggesting a nuclear response, Putin put into play the disturbing possibility that the current fighting in Ukraine might eventually veer into an atomic confrontation between Russia and the United States.

By JOHN DANISZEWSKI | AP NEWS February 25, 2022 apnews.com

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — It has been a long time since the threat of using nuclear weapons has been brandished so openly by a world leader, but Vladimir Putin has just done it, warning in a speech that he has the weapons available if anyone dares to use military means to try to stop Russia’s takeover of Ukraine.

The threat may have been empty, a mere baring of fangs by the Russian president, but it was noticed. It kindled visions of a nightmarish outcome in which Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine could lead to a nuclear war through accident or miscalculation.

“As for military affairs, even after the dissolution of the USSR and losing a considerable part of its capabilities, today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states,” Putin said, in his pre-invasion address early Thursday.

By  | The Interecpt February 25, 2022 theintercept.com

AS THE WEEK BEGAN, nonproliferation advocates weren’t optimistic that President Joe Biden would stand by his early commitments to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.” He might reverse former President Donald Trump’s decisions to pursue a nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile or to retain the B83 gravity bomb, the most destructive weapon in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, they thought. He might roll back Trump’s policy allowing a nuclear response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” or even consider a coveted “no first use” policy that Biden had shown interest in as vice president. But prospects that he would do the heavier lifting and halt Northrop Grumman’s contract to replace the intercontinental ballistic missile system — considered one of the most dangerous and unnecessary weapons in the nuclear arsenal — were practically nonexistent. Combined with multiple other weapons programs, the brand-new ICBM system puts the U.S. in its largest nuclear modernization effort since the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (THE INTERCEPT)

Santa Fe archbishop sees nuclear disarmament as moral imperative

“…If we have nuclear weapons, and if we, heaven forbid, got to the point where we use them on each other, it would be catastrophic. And so I want this to be a conversation, not really a historical one about should we have dropped the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I want to be a conversation on: Should we work toward nuclear disarmament?

KUNM February 24, 2022 kunm.org

Trinity_Test_Mushroom_Cloud_4s.jpg
Atomicarchive.Com Via WikiMedia Commons / The 1945 Trinity Test in southern New Mexico was the first nuclear explosion.

New Mexico is where the atomic age began and the nuclear industry still looms large here, with Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory bringing significant economic impact.

But the Archbishop of Santa Fe wants the state, and the world, to forge a new way forward. Rev. John C. Wester issued a pastoral letter last month calling for total nuclear disarmament. Wester spoke to KUNM’s Megan Kamerick about how his perspective changed during a visit to cities in Japan where the United States dropped atomic bombs in World War II. This interview is an excerpt of a longer interview that will air on New Mexico in Focus Friday Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

JOHN C. WESTER: It was just so horrific, especially with the children. I mean, the whole thing was difficult. But I read that the children saw the bright light, and they ran to the window to see what the light was, you know, and I can only imagine what happened either then or shortly after with the exposure to the radiation.

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Putin’s Nuclear Threat Sets the West on Edge

By promising a response “never seen” in history if other countries interfere in Ukraine, the Russian leader upended decades of relative stability.

By  | WIRED February 24, 2022 wired.com

THE FIRST IMAGES out of Russia’s fresh invasion of Ukraine appeared to herald a fairly traditional land war: tanks battling, artillery firing, and planes swooping low over cities. But even as Western leaders moved to craft a strong response to Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression, they did so warily, conscious that the dramatic escalation in Eastern Europe could spill over into two new domains with much larger implications for the world beyond: cyberspace and nuclear weaponry.

In his speech early Thursday morning, Moscow time, Putin announced what he called a “special military operation” and issued a stark warning against Western intervention.

“No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history,”

He said, in remarks officially translated by the Kremlin that seemed to leave little doubt as to the threat of nuclear retaliation.

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This is what would happen to Earth if a nuclear war broke out between the West and Russia

Climate change is not the only man-made threat that could wipe out humanity; a nuclear war would also do that

By MATTHEW ROZSA | Salon February 19, 2022 salon.com

Suddenly, the threat of nuclear war feels closer than it has in decades. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists updated their Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight, and President Joe Biden has issued increasingly ominous statements reflecting how the looming conflict over the Ukraine that could ensnare both Russia and the west into conventional war.

Full scale global nuclear war is hard to fathom. One nuclear launch could set off a chain of events that would radically alter life on the planet. Millions would die in the initial blasts and millions more would starve as the climate changed and our way of life withered. Just how are we supposed to reckon with the possibility of such wide-scale destruction?

And, some fear, war with nuclear weapons. It is a prospect that has haunted human beings since the dawn of the Cold War. Politicians who were perceived as too open to the idea of nuclear war would pay for their hawkishness at the polls. Motion pictures from “Dr. Strangelove” to “The Day After” have depicted an uninhabitable world, filled with lethal amounts of radiation and short on necessities like food and water.

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The Bomb and Us: Why Gen Z Should Care About Nuclear Disarmament

“Some scholars, including Kenneth Waltz, have gone so far as arguing that we should allow nuclear weapons proliferation as a method of promoting peace. However, this deterrence-based approach does not take into account the possibility of accidental and unauthorized nuclear explosions, or of nuclear terrorism, two very real menaces.”

Anna Bartoux February 10, 2022 cpreview.com

An anti-nuclear weapons protest in front of the White House. Photo taken by Matthew S.

You cannot go around saying to people that there is a 100% chance that they’re gonna die. You know? It’s just nuts. —President Orlean, “Don’t Look Up,” 20:40

This line is from the new Netflix sensation, “Don’t Look Up,” a movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in the role of two astronomers trying to raise awareness about a comet on a collision course with Earth. “Don’t Look Up” has prompted the interest of many because of its not-so-hidden political commentary on the apathy surrounding climate change, however, few seem to realize the relevance of the movie’s message for another, even less recognized issue: nuclear disarmament.

Indeed, the extent to which nuclear weapons still threaten our lives today is little understood. Despite being one of the most socially engaged and politically minded generations across a range of topics, few Gen Zers really consider the nuclear issue with the urgency it demands.

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Los Alamos lab contractor receives good rating in annual review but had safety lapses – Santa Fe New Mexican

The cursory assessment winds up glossing over what could be serious problems at the lab, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“The full evaluation reports used to be available; there’s nothing classified about them,” Coghlan said. “It’s all paid for by the taxpayer, and the taxpayer has a right to know how the contractor has performed.”

THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | February 11, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

A “very good” rating was enough to earn Triad a $22.76 million bonus, which, combined with its annual fixed fees, adds up to $46.67 million …

Six B-21s in Production, Fuel Control Software Already Tested

The nuclear modernization effort, however, does face one potentially significant hurdle, particularly for missiles such as the GBSD and the Long Range Standoff Weapon: the production of plutonium “pits” that go in the center of nuclear warheads.

The National Nuclear Security Administration had set a goal of producing 30 pits per year by 2026 and 80 by 2030. But, “I think NNSA will readily admit they’re not going to make that requirement,” Wolfe said.

By Greg Hadley  airforcemag.com

The B-21 Raider continues to be a “model” program for the Air Force, with six of the new bombers currently in production and some of its software already validated through digital testing, a top general at Air Force Global Strike Command said Feb. 9.

Speaking at the 2022 Nuclear Deterrence Summit, Maj. Gen. Jason R. Armagost said the new stealth bomber will likely fly in 2022, echoing previous predictions by other Air Force officials.

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[Los Alamos Reporter] NNSA Whitewashes LANL Performance, Hides Information From Taxpayers

The Los Alamos Reporter February 10, 2022 losalamosreporter.com

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is releasing only cursory, three-page summaries of its FY 2021 Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs), which provide scant information and essentially whitewash contractor performance. For context, the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons and cleanup programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project and contractor mismanagement for 27 consecutive years. In 2012 Nuclear Watch New Mexico sued to obtain the full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports, after which NNSA caved in and immediately provided them. However, that unfortunately resulted in no legal settlement requiring annual releases of the full and complete PERs, and now the agency is back to suppressing information on contractor performance paid for by the American taxpayer.

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Newsweek Exclusive: Ukraine Crisis Could Lead to Nuclear War Under New Strategy

“In the new nuclear war plan, integration of all military and non-military weapons in the American armory is labeled the new deterrent. Planners seek to debilitate and immobilize any enemy rather than physically destroy it. The dividing line between what is nuclear and what is conventional has been blurred more than ever…”

February 4, 2022 NEWSWEEK newsweek.com

Three thousand American troops are headed to Europe, with thousands more on stand-by in response to the Kremlin’s threats against Ukraine. President Joe Biden is pondering further actions—and as U.S.-Russia tensions rise, a new American nuclear war plan, previously unknown, lurks in the background.

For the first time, the war plan fully incorporates non-nuclear weapons as an equal player. The non-nuclear options include the realm of cyber warfare, including cyber attacks on the basic workings of society like electrical power or communications. Rather than strengthen deterrence, the emergence of countless options and hidden cyber attack schemes weakens deterrence, obscures the nuclear firebreak and makes escalation more likely. Why? Because an adversary such as Russia can be confused about where preparations for nuclear war start, and whether a multi-domain attack is merely a defense or the makings of a first strike.

It isn’t the war plan of yesterday with hair-trigger alerts, bolts from the blue and global destruction. Instead, the standalone nuclear option has become the integration of many options: nuclear, conventional and unconventional, defensive as well as offensive, “non kinetic” as well as “kinetic.”

President Biden alluded to this widened spectrum of warfare on February 7 when he warned that if Russia crossed the Ukraine border, the United States would bring an end to Nord Stream 2, the natural gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany, and one that the Russian energy economy depends on.

NEW Report from ICAN: No place to hide: nuclear weapons and the collapse of health care systems

ICAN is launching a report revealing that the healthcare systems in ten major cities around the world would be desperately overwhelmed by the immediate impact of the detonation of just one nuclear weapon. The study models the detonation of one 100-kiloton airburst nuclear explosion over major cities in each of the nine nuclear-armed states and Germany, which hosts U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory. It then examines how many hospital beds, doctors, nurses and where information is available, ICU beds and burn care centres would be left to treat hundreds of thousands to over one million injured people.

Concerns raised about a Marshall-style wildfire on former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site

Some worry about a release of residual plutonium into the air; refuge officials say it’s safe

The Denver Channel February 8, 2022 thedenverchannel.com

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

December’s Marshall fire spared the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, an expanse of grasslands between Superior and Arvada that, had winds shifted, could have provided 6,200 acres of additional drought-stricken fuel to the destructive blaze.

What if a fire like the one that burned down more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County on Dec. 30 had turned suddenly south and raced across the refuge, where for 40 years triggers for nuclear warheads were assembled as part of the country’s Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union?

That was the topic of discussion Monday at a Rocky Flats Stewardship Council meeting, where elected officials from communities surrounding the refuge came together to talk about the potential hazards — including the release of deadly plutonium from the soil into the air — that could arise from an event like the Marshall fire on refuge land.

“Rocky (Flats) has burned before, Rocky will burn again in the future,” the council’s executive director, Dave Abelson, said. “Those are just facts. You can’t stop wildfire, as we all know.”

Ukraine and the Threat of Nuclear War

“The great powers can no longer pursue a zero-sum game to see who will come out on top. It is possible that one of them will emerge on top of the heap—but the heap may well be a global ash pile.”

Ira Helfand The Nation February 8, 2022 thenation.com

“I was born in Ukraine and I will die in Ukraine,” said Mykhailo “Grandpa” Hural, a Ukrainian soldier on the front line near the village of Zolote.Matt Bradley / NBC News

As the crisis in Ukraine deepens, it is appropriate to consider what the actual consequences of war there might be. An armed conventional conflict in Ukraine would be a terrible humanitarian disaster.

Last week, US government officials estimated that the fighting could kill 25,000 to 50,000 civilians, 5,000 to 25,000 Ukrainian military personnel, and 3,000 to 10,000 Russian soldiers. It could also generate 1-to-5 million refugees.

These figures are based on the assumption that only conventional weapons are used. However, if the conflict spread beyond Ukraine’s borders and NATO became involved in the fighting, this would become a major war between nuclear-armed forces with the very real danger that nuclear weapons would be used—and the public debate about this crisis is utterly lacking in discussion of this terrible threat.

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‘Dumping ground?’: Human impacts of New Mexico nuclear industry haunt proposed waste project

“We are not important to them. All we’re good for is to have a site, an area where they can dump their nuclear waste. We have to fight that. We’re a sacrifice zone for New Mexico and that has to end.” – Bernice Gutierrez, 76, a retired social worker living in Albuquerque, who was born eight days before the Trinity blast in Carrizozo.

Adrian Hedden and Thomas C. Zambito Carlsbad Current-Argus February 5, 2022 currentargus.com

An aerial view of the aftermath of the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site in New Mexico in 1945. The device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. Credit Associated Press

The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated at a test site in the southern New Mexico desert during the summer of 1945, sending a multi-hued cloud thousands of feet in the air and carving out a crater in the earth a half-mile wide and eight-feet deep.

Sand was fused by the heat, forming a glass-like substance that would come to be known as “trinitite,” a reference to the Trinity nuclear weapon test site, about 36,000 acres in south-central New Mexico where the blast took place.

All that stood between the test site and surrounding area was a chain-link fence.

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3 Questions With Archbishop John C Wester

“[Nuclear Diarmament] is a human life issue. This is the sanctity of life because nuclear arms, in fact, could wipe out life as we know it. It can wipe out the planet. It’s an issue of poverty. What are we gonna do in New Mexico? We have a huge issue in poverty. We’re spending, the next [30] years, $1.7 trillion on our nuclear arsenal; that money could go to the poor.

William Melhado The Santa Fe Reporter February 2, 2022 sfreporter.com

When John C Wester returned to Santa Fe after visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2017, he noticed a jarring juxtaposition between the atrocities committed by the United States government and the proximity of his work to the birthplace of the nuclear bomb. It opened his eyes to the line that had been crossed. As the Archbishop of the Santa Fe Archdiocese, Wester called for a renewed conversation for nuclear disarmament in a pastoral letter published last month.

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Bill Reignites Holtec Nuclear Waste Debate

“Interim in this case effectively means permanent…We have great concern about that public safety component of any private waste moving through the state to a facility” — Sarah Cottrell Propst, the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department secretary.

BY THERESA DAVIS / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal February 1, 2022 abqjournal.com

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

A bill aimed at banning disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in New Mexico has reignited debate over Holtec International’s plans for an interim nuclear waste storage facility between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Senate Bill 54, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, cleared the Senate Conservation Committee 5-3 on Tuesday with no recommendation.

The U.S. does not have a permanent storage site for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.

Nuclear fears mount as Ukraine crisis deepens

Officials and experts are warning that a Russian invasion could inadvertently trigger a nuclear exchange with the U.S.

By BRYAN BENDER January 28, 2022 POLITICO

 As Russian troops bear down on Ukraine and the United States prepares its own military buildup in Eastern Europe, concerns are growing across the ideological spectrum that the standoff could inadvertently escalate into the unthinkable: nuclear war.

President Joe Biden has insisted that he will not use American forces to directly defend Ukrainian territory against a possible Russian invasion. But that is no guarantee that the two sides won’t come to blows.

The Archbishop and the Bomb

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is seen during a virtual press conference Jan. 11 to discuss his pastoral letter on the growing need for nuclear arms disarmament. (CNS screengrab/YouTube, Archdiocese of Santa Fe)

January 31, 2022 Where does the Catholic Church stand on nuclear weapons? Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe joins co-host Tom Collina to discuss the Church’s historical advocacy of nuclear disarmament and his new pastoral letter urging the global abolition of such weapons.

On Early Warning, co-host Michelle Dover sits down with Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher for The Nation, who is also involved with the American Committee on US-Russia Accord. She discusses the current topic headlining in the news: elevated tensions in Ukraine.

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · YouTube · Google Play · Sticher
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

COVID-19 an obstacle for nuclear waste disposal at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, officials say

Officials plan to ramp up operations as pandemic hoped to subside
“With continued increases in shipments, WIPP officials said they hoped to fill the seventh disposal panel by the middle of 2022, planning to begin emplacing waste in the eighth and final panel as mining the area was completed last year.”

Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus January 31, 2022 currentargus.com

COVID-19 continued to strain operations to dispose of nuclear waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, officials said, slowing shipments accepted at the repository near Carlsbad last year.

Nuclear Colonialism in the Age of the Ban Treaty January 25, 2022

Nuclear Colonialism in the Age of the Ban Treaty January 25, 2022

The Affected Communities Working Group of the Nuclear Ban Treaty Collaborative hosted a discussion marking the one-year anniversary of the entry into force of the nuclear ban treaty on January 25, 2022.

“…That’s how the NRC operates – they want to just run the script and get it done and they’ll answer all your questions “later.” So the next step for us is to go into higher court and see if we can at least get some attention drawn to the very fact that giving them a license is illegal.

The National Waste Policy Act does not allow private organizations to move commercial waste from commercial facilities.

So there’s that problem, and then of course we have to consider that they don’t have all our questions answered yet, like: Who owns the waste? Where is it going to go and who is going to own it? And on the transportation route who is going to own it? And when it gets to the site? There’s no telling, there’s no answer – we don’t know yet. So we have all these questions that haven’t been answered.”

“My question is: Will this #nuclearwaste ever leave? Part of NEPA says that these consolidated interim storage (CIS) sites are temporary. For how long? 30? 40? 50? 100 years? We have to be careful,”

– Rose Garnder with the Alliance for Environmental Strategies in Eunice, New Mexico

Nuclear weapons development coming soon to Los Alamos National Laboratory amid safety concerns

During the question and answer period, Nuclear Watch New Mexico executive director Jay Coghlan said he was fascinated to hear that there was some funding allocated for a new SWEIS.

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Savannah River Site Watch subsequently in June 2021 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina’s Aiken Division against the DOE and NNSA, arguing pit production should not be increased until site-wide environmental analysis were conducted at both facilities.”

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | January 29, 2022 alamogordonews.com

A main component of nuclear weapons was poised to be built in New Mexico after federal regulators granted approval for a plan to prepare Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for the work.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, announced earlier this month it approved LANL’s project to prepare areas of the lab to be used in plutonium pit production – a project known as LAP4.

Nuclear Disarmament Urged by Catholic Archbishop in New Mexico, Birthplace of Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear Disarmament Urged by Catholic Archbishop in New Mexico, Birthplace of Nuclear Weapons

As the Biden administration reviews U.S. nuclear weapons policy, over 60 advocacy groups, including Veterans for Peace and CodePink, recently issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of hundreds of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“The notion is if you get rid of those ICBMs, you reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war, and it’s a first step towards more rational nuclear policy,” says William Hartung, research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

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The Tularosa Downwinders Have Waited 75 Years for Justice

Even though the first atomic bomb exploded in their state, New Mexicans were never compensated for the health consequences of nuclear contamination. These campaigners have vowed to change that.

By Sofia Martinez | The Nation thenation.com January 22, 2022

Nuclear New Mexico

“It’s been over 75 years—we can’t wait anymore,” states Tina Cordova, cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.

The group, which came together in 2005, is seeking environmental justice for the victims and survivors, called Downwinders, who were contaminated by the testing of the world’s first nuclear bomb on July 16, 1945. Its goal is to extend and expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).

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Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Nominations are open for the Third Annual Gorbachev/Shultz, Voices Youth Award 2022

PR Newswire January 24, 2022

SAN FRANCISCOJan. 24, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons Third Annual Voices Youth Award will be given to a youth who, or organization which, has pioneered or been part of exemplary programs and actions to engage youth in the local, regional or global movement to abolish nuclear weapons. The award honors the legacy of former U.S.S.R. President Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S.A. Secretary of State George Shultz in their efforts for nuclear disarmament.

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Photos from Celebrations of the 1st Anniversary of the Nuclear Ban Treaty – January 22, 2022

Nuclear News Archives – 2021

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

 fas.org March 17th, 2021

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

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

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NNSA Says No Injuries, Contamination During February 26 Incident At LANL Plutonium Facility

February 26 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility (PF-4) waste generator site at Technical Area 55 involving sparking in a where a metal waste item in a transuranic waste drum has resulted in a potential noncompliance notification to the New Mexico Environment Department.

By: | Los Alamos Reporter March 17, 2021

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office confirmed that there were no injuries, no fire, contamination or release of material to the environment.

“During normal waste packaging operations, small sparks were observed in a plastic waste bag containing a High Efficiency Particular Air (HEPA) from a titanium welding area inside a glovebox,” she said. “The staff at TA-55 responded quickly and effectively, appropriately following safety protocol to evacuate the area and notify the Los Alamos Fire Department.”

A March 12 letter from NNSA to NMED noting the potential for noncompliance under the Hazardous Waste Facility permit says preliminary calculations indicate that there is no imminent or potential threat to human health or the environment and that NNSA is providing this report as a precautionary measure to keep NMED informed of the fact-finding extent of condition and the planned recovery path.

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Ongoing ‘review’ forces Pentagon official to pull out of SC pit production briefing

A Pentagon official backed out of a plutonium pit production briefing in Columbia this week because the Biden administration is “engaged in a full review of the program,” according to Rick Lee, the chairman of the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council.

By:  | postandcourier.com

Rick Lee, the chairman of the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council, pictured here during a meeting in 2018. The council met in Columbia on Monday. (Colin Demarest/Staff)
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters Drew Walter was scheduled to make a presentation about pit production – the crafting of nuclear weapon cores, potentially in both South Carolina and New Mexico – “and why the Department of Defense feels it’s imperative that we get underway with the program,” Lee said.
But until the new administration settles on “what they want to do moving forward,” the chairman continued, Walter “would not be available for that kind of gathering.”
Exactly what the purported review covers or drills down on is unclear. A big question, Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements suggested Wednesday, “is if there is any kind of formal review of pits and overall nuclear weapons modernization at DOE and DOD.”

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Local Governments Should Leave the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

Summary: Local governments get little in return for being members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC). That is because the Coalition is ineffective, dysfunctional, wastes taxpayers’ money and stands in the way of genuine, comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The RCLC was created to serve the interests of the Department of Energy and Los Alamos County, both of whom strongly support expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons and supply 80% of the Coalition’s funding. The Regional Coalition brings no discernible economic benefit to local governments other than already rich Los Alamos County because the Lab’s presence is an economic net loss to them. Local governments should not put their time and money into the Coalition. Instead, their constituents would be better served if local governments left the coalition and advocated for comprehensive cleanup that would permanently protect the environment while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

Background

In 2011 the Department of Energy pulled promised funding from the Community Involvement Fund administered by the New Mexico Community Foundation that supported independent, often critical citizen and tribal analyses of DOE cleanup programs. At the same time DOE began funding the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities modeled on earlier alliances with local governments around the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, CO and the Mound Plant, near Mound, OH.

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The Nuclear Weapons Dimensions of the 2021 Integrated Review: A First Look

ACROSS THE POND AND OVER TO THE SAVANNAH RIVER AND NEW MEXICO MOUNTAINS: The UK will rearm itself with new American-made W93 warheads, and the plutonium pits for these weapons will be manufactured here at LANL and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

BY: basicint.org March 16th, 2021

Today’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (IR), Global Britain in a Competitive Age, is said to contain the most comprehensive review of UK nuclear weapons policy since the end of the Cold War (pp.76-78). Although there is certainly some continuity with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, it sets a decisive course away from the United Kingdom’s long-term trend towards nuclear arms reductions and greater transparency.

Warhead Numbers and Transparency

The most headline-grabbing change to UK nuclear weapons policy is the increase to the cap on its overall nuclear warhead stockpile from 180 to 260, which was leaked last week and is now confirmed. This 44.4% increase decisively moves the Johnson Government away from the pledge made by the Coalition Government in 2010 to limit numbers to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s. While neither confirming that numbers will actually rise nor stating the precise reasons for this change, the IR claims vaguely that the previous target cap must be abandoned due to ‘recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats’ (p.76).

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New United Kingdom Defense Strategy a Troubling Step Back on Nuclear Policy

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

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2021
Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext 104

The United Kingdom announced today that it will move to increase its total nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling by over 40 percent and reduce transparency about its nuclear arsenal. This is a needless and alarming reversal of the longstanding British policy to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons.

These changes, which are outlined in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, are also inconsistent with the British government’s prior pledges on nuclear disarmament under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United Kingdom now joins China and perhaps Russia as the permanent members of the UN Security Council that are planning to increase the size of their warhead stockpiles.

The review attributes the need to increase the total stockpile ceiling from 180 warheads to 260 warheads to “the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats,” but it does not explain how raising the number of warheads will enhance deterrence against these threats.
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New Mexico demands more of US when addressing nuclear waste

“Some elected officials and watchdog groups say the list is another indication that New Mexico is on the back burner when it comes to cleaning up legacy waste. They’re also raising concerns that new waste generated by Los Alamos when it ramps up production of key nuclear warhead components will need to be cleaned up and could further sideline decontamination efforts.”

krqe.com March 15th, 2021

FILE – In this April 2019, file photo, provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory, barrels of radioactive waste are loaded for transport to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) at the Radioactive Assay Nondestructive Testing (RANT) facility in Los Alamos, N.M. New Mexico is going after the federal government for failing to make progress on cleaning up contamination left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research at one of the nation’s premier nuclear labs. In a civil complaint filed in federal court, the state says the plan by the U.S. Energy Department lacks substantive and appropriate targets for dealing with waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Nestor Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – The U.S. Energy Department has rolled out its 2021 priorities for cleaning up tons of toxic waste left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research at scientific installations and defense sites around the country.

The list includes a goal of sending 30 shipments from the birthplace of the atomic bomb — Los Alamos National Laboratory — to the federal government’s underground waste repository in southern New Mexico.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

For the NPT to work, plutonium has to go

Dealing with uranium enrichment is complicated because nuclear power plants use enriched uranium fuel, but that should not hold us back from eliminating the danger we can eliminate—plutonium.

Plutonium pellet. US Energy Department public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), whose tenth review conference is coming up in August, is in trouble, and not only because of the crescendo of complaints about the failure of the nuclear-armed states to implement nuclear disarmament. The treaty is threatened with irrelevancy because its controls have not kept up with the times. It was drafted over 50 years ago, when it was widely believed that nuclear energy represented the future and would soon take over the generation of electricity. Not surprisingly, countries put few treaty restrictions on access to technology or materials other than to impose international inspection, and even that was circumscribed. We now have a more realistic view of the dangers of access to fuels that are also nuclear explosives (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) and also of the limited economic utility of these fuels for powering reactors. If we want an effective NPT, we have to eliminate these dangerous materials from civilian nuclear power programs. 

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Checking in: WIPP maintenance work ‘on schedule’ during 2-month operations pause

At WIPP, the waste is delivered from facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Energy around the country and buried in an underground salt deposit which gradually collapses and encases the waste permanently.

By:  | currentargus.com March 15, 2021

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant halted waste emplacement and handling operations for the last month at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad while an array of maintenance projects was completed.

The facility, which permanently disposes of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste about 2,000 feet underground, planned the outage for about two months until April 14 to allow workers to complete routine upgrades to its infrastructure and other needed work.

During the two-month pause, WIPP planned on 97 activities from six departments including mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, work control, safety and engineering.

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Japan Hasn’t Recovered 10 Years After Fukushima Meltdown

“There is an old laboratory adage that says, “The best way to clean up a spill is not to have a spill,” and this applies on a much larger scale to the entirety of northern Japan, where cleanup will remain economically unfeasible.”

Truthout March 11th, 2021

Weeds grow in the parking lot of an abandoned restaurant along Route 6, just outside the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a multiple-reactor meltdown following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Shiho Fukada for The Washington Post)

On March 11, 2011, a devastating offshore earthquake and ensuing tsunami rocked Japan and resulted in nuclear meltdowns in three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. Until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were placed on a one-year hiatus because of concerns over COVID-19, the Japanese government had portrayed these events as the “Recovery Olympics.” It had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase a claimed restoration of Japan since it was devastated in 2011. But has Japan really “recovered?”

Recently, corresponding author Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), co-author Maggie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education) and I published our second peer-reviewed journal article analyzing hundreds of radioactive samples from northern Japan that we collected with assistance from Japanese citizens and scientists. Our sampling on five occasions over almost a decade totaled 70 days on the ground.

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Report: Cancer death rates rising near Fermi nuclear plant

A new study is looking to test baby teeth from children living near the plant.

By: Tricia Ennis | 13abc.com

(Photo: DTE Energy) (WNDU)

NEWPORT, Mich. (WTVG) – A new report from the Radiation and Public Health Project claims that the cancer death rate in Monroe County, Michigan is on the rise and it’s tying that growth to the Fermi 2 nuclear plant in Newport.

According to the report, which uses public health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of death due to cancer in Monroe County was roughly equal to that of the rest of the United States. Since 1988, that rate has risen steadily, reaching 11.3% higher than the national average in the most recent 10 years (2009-2018). From 2014-2018, that rate was 14.3% higher than the national average, amounting to 1,794 deaths. In the period between 1969 and 1978, outlines the report, that rate was 4.5% lower than the national average.

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LANL W-87-1 Nuclear Warhead and Proposed Expansion into Santa Fe

“CCNS asks that we look more closely at LANL’s claim to boost the local economy – an extra cup of coffee in the morning, a bagel for lunch, a tank of gasoline, a trip to the bank to deposit the salaries of some of the highest paid employees in New Mexico? LANL’s taxes are already contributing to Santa Fe’s economy. Such claims depend on redefining what is meant by “economic support” because there is no commercial product, nothing that is a benefit to the community.”

nucleractive.org March 11th, 2021

The W-87-1, a new plutonium pit for a proposed nuclear warhead for fighting a full-scale nuclear war, would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  A plutonium pit is a grapefruit sized radioactive core of a nuclear warhead.  The plutonium pit would fit on a proposed Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile.  Many people question the need for a new estimated one billion dollar weapon, which they say is “outdated and unnecessary.”  https://fas.org/issues/icbm-information-project/ (Federation of American Scientists); https://www.internationalpolicy.org/program/Arms-%26-Security-Program (Issue Brief:  Inside the ICBM Lobby:  Special Interests or The National Interest, Center for International Policy’s Arms & Security Program); and https://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/capitalizing-on-conflict (Capitalizing on conflict:  How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arm sales, Center for Responsive Politics).

The total congressional budget request for LANL in Fiscal Year 2021 is approximately $3.7 billion.  Approximately 80 percent is for nuclear weapons activities, or $3 billion.

Recently LANL signed two 10-year leases for nearly 96,000 square feet of space in three vacant office buildings in Santa Fe.  LANL plans for 75 employees to be based in one building on the corner of West Alameda and Guadalupe, and 500 more in two buildings on the hill above the intersection of St. Michael’s and Pacheco.  It is calculated that of those employees, 460 will work on nuclear weapons.

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Staffing, scheduling problems imperil projects at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, report says

Within the report, the GAO pointed to “significant” staffing shortages at WIPP that could prevent WIPP from completing construction projects needed to increase the facility’s space for waste disposal and allow for more workers in the underground to mine and emplace waste simultaneously.

By:  | currentargus.com March 11, 2021

Staffing and other problems at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant continued to be voiced by the federal government’s watchdog agency in a two-year report seeking to identify struggling areas in the government and ways to improve operations.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified the U.S. Department of Energy’s contract and project management at both the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) as one of six areas in its 2021 “High Risk List” that had showed some improvement since the last such report in 2019.

The EM manages WIPP on a federal level as low-level nuclear waste is permanently disposed of in an underground salt bed at the facility near Carlsbad.

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63 Years Ago – March 11, 1958: The Atomic Bomb that Faded into South Carolina History

Two women recall the bizarre day in 1958 when an atomic bomb fell out of the sky and landed on a Mars Bluff farm outside Florence.

Thankfully, the nuclear warhead, which at 30 kilotons was twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, didn’t go off. But its TNT trigger did, leveling the farmhouse and leaving a massive crater. Such “broken arrow”incidents took place an extremely troubling number of times during the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

House nears vote to repeal nuclear plant bailout

“We need to hit the reset button and start from scratch here,” state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D., Parma) said. “We can’t continue this nonsense of pretending that the corruption didn’t happen.”

By: JIM PROVANCE | The Blade, Toledo (TNS)  

COLUMBUS — A House committee Tuesday set the stage for a full chamber vote to partly repeal provisions of a state law at the heart of a $61 million Ohio Statehouse bribery scandal.

The full Ohio House of Representatives was expected to vote Wednesday.

This would mark the House’s first action to undo a $1 billion, consumer-financed bailout of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor and the Perry plant east of Cleveland. That law has come to epitomize shady, backroom dealing hidden even to those lawmakers ultimately manipulated to get it passed.

Two players and a nonprofit, dark-money corporation have already pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges carrying up 20 years in prison for the individuals. Three others — including former House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) — face similar charges.

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Nuclear Power Looks to Regain Its Footing 10 Years after Fukushima

Economics may play a stronger role than fear in steering nuclear power toward a slow decline.

“The pace of nuclear technologies’ progress could also be a factor in clean-energy strategies turning away from such power generation. Small modular reactors, along with other experimental designs, are not expected to begin commercial operations (or even testing) until the 2030s at the earliest, according to the DOE. This suggests that small reactors are unlikely to make a meaningful difference in reducing carbon emissions within the next 20 years. And at that point, they will have to compete in a future energy landscape that has been transformed even further by cheaper renewables and energy-storage technologies.”

“One imagines that solar will be more ingrained and cheaper, wind may be more ingrained and cheaper, the offshore wind will be developed, maybe batteries will be better developed, and storage will be better developed,” says Allison Macfarlane, who was chair of the NRC in 2012–2014. “That’s the market nuclear will have to compete in.”

By: | scientificamerican.com March 9, 2021

Nuclear power faces a wobbly future 10 years after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. But the industry’s unstable footing has less to do with the Fukushima accident—and more to do with how a natural gas glut and the rise of renewable power have transformed the global energy landscape.

Fukushima has certainly left its mark on the nuclear industry. When the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami occurred on March 11, 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. Since then about a third of them have been permanently shut down, and only nine have resumed operation.

“In Japan, [the accident is] still an outsize event,” says Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It not only had direct and indirect environmental consequences that they’re still dealing with—and a price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars to clean it up—but also it shattered the confidence of the Japanese people in nuclear power, which the authorities had always assured them was totally safe.”

Additionally, the accident spurred regulatory reviews of nuclear power worldwide and accelerated a preexisting plan in Germany to completely phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. Other countries, including Spain, Belgium and Switzerland, are in the process of doing so within the next 14 years.

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After 75 years, it’s time to clean Bikini

“It is time, finally, to recognize and right the wrongs perpetrated by the US government in the Marshall Islands. The US forced a new and dangerous technology on the native lands and peoples, without fully comprehending the short- and long-term consequences.”

A nuclear weapon test by the US military at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: US Defense Department image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed with PD-USGov-Military.

BY: Hart RapaportIvana Nikolić Hughes | thebulletin.org March 9, 2021

Due to their remote location in the Northern Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini Atoll were spared the worst of the mid-Pacific fighting between the American and Japanese armies in the final years of World War II. Their millennia-old culture and sustainable way of life ended abruptly when, in early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt, a representative of the occupying United States Navy, informed King Juda and other Bikini residents that the US would begin to test nuclear weapons near their homes. Wyatt asked the Bikinians to move elsewhere, stating that the temporary move was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.” Though Wyatt may have believed his words to be true, the show of might by the US that followed neither ended all conflict, nor was the exodus short-lived. Seventy-five years later, Bikinians have yet to return.
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By: William D. Hartung | Arms & Security Program

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) have been called “some of the most dangerous weapons in the world” by former Defense Secretary William Perry, because under current policies the president would have only a matter of minutes to decide whether to launch them in a crisis, increasing the risks of an accidental nuclear war.1 Despite this reality, proposals for reducing this risk have routinely been blocked, in significant part due to a group of Senators from states that host ICBM bases or ICBM maintenance and development activities, often referred to as the ICBM Coalition. The Coalition includes Senators from Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

The polices promoted by the ICBM Coalition and its allies do not have wide public support. A recent poll conducted by ReThink Media and the Federation of American Scientists found that 60% of Americans supported either forgoing the development of a new ICBM, eliminating ICBMs altogether, or eliminating all nuclear weapons, an indication that a change in current ICBM policies would have significant public support.

REPORT SUMMARY

FULL REPORT

Can the Energy Department store 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for 10,000 years?

Safely ridding the nation of one of the world’s largest excess stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium will be no minor feat. At issue is the US Energy Department’s 2016 decision to dilute and dispose of, all told, about 48.2 metric tons of plutonium, including 26.2 tons of components, known as “pits,” from several thousand dismantled thermonuclear warheads and 22 metric tons in other forms…If one gram of soil contains as little as 1.587 micrograms of plutonium, the Energy Department is required by federal standards to geologically isolate it from the environment for at least 10,000 years at WIPP.

By: Robert Alvarez | March 8, 2021 

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has received more than 12,500 shipments of transuranic waste since operations began in 1999.

The nuclear age is undergoing a paradigm shift. During much of the latter half of the past century, the nuclear enterprise was ascendant; now, it has entered a period of decline and uncertain long-term custodianship. This reversal of fortune is especially apparent in the United States’ efforts to rid itself of its unwanted reserves of plutonium. It’s been more than 75 years since a blinding flash lit up the pre-dawn sky at Alamogordo in the Chihuahua Desert of New Mexico. On July 16, 1945, a single gram of the grapefruit-size sphere of plutonium at the center of the world’s first nuclear explosion released three times the destructive force of the largest conventional bomb used during World War II. [1]

Thereafter, the United States government built a grossly oversized nuclear arsenal and never envisioned having to stop building it. Between 1944 and 1994, the Energy Department and its predecessors produced 99.5 metric tons of plutonium for use in an estimated 70,000 nuclear weapons. (An additional 11 tons were produced or acquired for research and development purposes.)

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This Is How the Biggest Arms Manufacturers Steer Millions to Influence US Policy

Five of the nation’s biggest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies and General Dynamics — spent a combined $60 million in 2020 to influence policy, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics.

By: Stephen Losey

The paper, “Capitalizing on conflict: How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arms sales,” details how a network of lobbyists and donors steered $285 million in campaign contributions and $2.5 billion in lobbying spending over the last two decades, as well as hiring more than 200 lobbyists who previously worked in government.

The amount of money at stake is immense, both at home and abroad, the center states on its website, OpenSecrets.org. Not only is a significant portion of the Pentagon’s $740 billion annual budget spent on weapons, the report explains, but American defense firms agreed to sell $175 billion in weapons to other countries over the last year. That includes deals to sell $23 billion in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and drones to the United Arab Emirates, and billions more in sales to Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, it adds.

The practice appears unlikely to change significantly under the Biden administration.

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Putin, Biden Should Aim For More Arms Curbs: Gorbachev

Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency that the two leaders  – who spoke by phone after Biden’s inauguration last month – should meet and discuss further arms curbs.

By: AFP NEWS – Agence France Presse /

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin and new US President Joe Biden to push for deeper restrictions on nuclear weapons.

Tensions soared between the two nations under previous US leader Donald Trump, fuelled by allegations of sweeping cyberattacks and a litany of other disagreements.

But soon after Biden took office, the two powers extended a pact that limits each side to 1,550 nuclear warheads, which Putin hailed as a positive development.
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A Decade Later: Human Suffering and Failures of Fukushima

Fukushima Daiichi 2011-2021

By:

The decontamination myth and a decade of human rights violations

The following is the Executive Summary from the new Greenpeace report. Download the full report.

As a result of a catastrophic triple reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 11 March 2011, several tens of thousands of square kilometres in Fukushima Prefecture and wider Japan were contaminated with significant amounts of radioactive caesium and other radionuclides. The first Greenpeace radiation expert team arrived in Fukushima on 26 March 2011, and Greenpeace experts have since conducted 32 investigations into the radiological consequences of the disaster, the most recent in November 2020.

This report, the latest in a series, chronicles some of our principal findings over recent years, and shows how the government of Japan, largely under prime minister Shinzo Abe, has attempted to deceive the Japanese people by misrepresenting the effectiveness of the decontamination programme as well as the overall radiological risks in Fukushima Prefecture. As the latest Greenpeace surveys demonstrate, the contamination remains and is widespread, and is still a very real threat to long term human health and the environment.

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Department of Energy, nuclear oversight agency on ‘high-risk’ list

“This is more than just chronic behavior — it’s like institutionalized bad management,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

By: Scott Wyland [email protected] | santafenewmexican.com March 3, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy and its agency overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons program have serious enough problems with managing contractors and projects — including for nuclear waste cleanup — that they made a government watchdog’s “high-risk” list again this year.

Both the Energy Department and its branch known as the National Nuclear Security Administration have made some progress in how they manage personnel, facilities and waste disposal, but they still are deficient in key areas, the Government Accountability Office said in its biannual high-risk report.

The report lists programs and operations that are high-risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement — and some require an overhaul.

The GAO issues the reports at the start of each new session of Congress. They have led to more than $575 billion in cost benefits to the federal government in the past 15 years, the GAO said.

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Santa Fe councilors question LANL coalition membership

BY: Kyle Land /

What’s the actual benefit to the city?

That was the question Santa Fe city councilors debated Monday as they considered the city’s membership in the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

At the center of it all was a revised Joint Powers Agreement for the coalition, which officials hope will solve some of the group’s long-standing organizational issues.

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Panel weighs benefits to LANL communities coalition

BY: Sean P. Thomas [email protected] /  Updated 

Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villarreal renewed her concerns Monday about the city’s involvement in a joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

During a Finance Committee meeting Monday, Villarreal said she has yet to understand how the city benefits from the agreement, which calls for a $10,000 contribution.

“Why is it important we are part of this coalition?” she asked. “It’s never been clear to me about the benefits and how it holds up the values that we care about in Santa Fe.”

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

But controversy emerged in recent years over the organization’s spending practices.

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How Green Berets prepared to carry ‘backpack nukes’ on top-secret one-way missions during the Cold War

“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light Team told Insider.

BY: Stavros Atlamazoglou / March 1st, 2021 businessinsider.com

A Green Light operator conducting a high-altitude, low-opening jump with the MK54 SADM. Courtesy photo
  • In the Cold War, strategists wanted nuclear weapons they could use without sparking a nuclear war.
  • That led to the development of tactical nuclear weapons for use against targets.
  • Teams of Green Berets trained to carry those nukes to their targets and saw it as a one-way mission.

Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.

With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.

But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.

As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.
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New Mexico alleges in court filing Los Alamos National Lab failed to clean up nuclear waste

“I’m glad that NMED went to court. If LANL is serious, they should not be spending lots of federal time and resources and lawyers to fight this…They should be trying to see what they can do to come to an agreement with NMED.” — Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the Southwest Research and Information Center

By: Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus / March 2nd, 2021 currentargus.com

Los Alamos County/Santa Fe New Mexican Courtesy photo

An alleged failure to clean up hazardous and radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) led the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to take the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to court in hopes of seeing the DOE address its concerns.

In a complaint filed in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe County, NMED alleged the DOE displayed a “pattern” of failing to meet deadlines and benchmarks for hazardous waste clean-up at the federal nuclear facility in northern New Mexico.

NMED sought to terminate a 2016 consent order, enacted during the past administration, citing a lack of adequate targets and progress in cleaning up waste at the facility.

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Gorbachev’s Greatest Hits

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev did more for global nuclear disarmament than any other person in history

Gorbachev made history, then freed history by opening his documents

Briefing Book #746 | Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya & Thomas Blanton / March 2nd, 2021 nsarchive.gwu.edu

Mikhail Sergeyevich Turns 90; Archive marks milestone with new publication of Gorbachev memcons with Castro, Mitterrand, and Shamir; compilation of dozens of Gorbachev primary sources.

Washington, D.C., March 2, 2021 – The first and only president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, is turning 90 years old today in Moscow.   On the occasion of his anniversary, the National Security Archive has compiled a collection of postings called “Gorbachev’s Greatest Hits.”  These documents help illuminate the story of the end of the Cold War, political reform of the Soviet system, and the vision of a world built on universal human values.

This compendium, accompanied by a collection of Russian-language documents on the Archive’s Russia Page, is intended to encourage scholars and others to revisit and study those miraculous years in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the global confrontation stopped, walls fell, peoples found freedom, and Europe was seen as a common home.  Though not for long.

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Modeling Software Once Led Us to the Precipice of Nuclear War. What Will AI Do?

The Pentagon must heed the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer amid its artificial-intelligence aspirations.

By: Steve Blank Defense One / March 1st, 2021 defenseone.com

TECH. SGT. BOYD BELCHER/US ARMY

In 1983, the world’s superpowers drew near to accidental nuclear war, largely because the Soviet Union relied on software to make predictions that were based on false assumptions. Today, as the Pentagon moves to infuse artificial-intelligence tools into just about every aspect of its workings, it’s worth remembering the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer.

Two years earlier, the Soviet Union had deployed a software program dubbed RYAN, for Raketno Yadernoye Napadenie, or sudden nuclear missile attack. Massive for its time, RYAN sought to compute the relative power of the two superpowers by modeling 40,000 military, political, and economic factors, including 292 “indicators” reported from agents (spies) abroad. It was run by the KGB, which employed more than 200 people just to input the data.

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New Mexico Environment Department Takes Legal Action To Terminate Defective LANL Cleanup “Consent Order”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 25, 2021

The New Mexico Environment Department has announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate a “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Nuclear Watch New Mexico, which has fought against that Consent Order ever since it went into effect nearly five years ago, strongly supports and applauds NMED’s decision.

Much to its credit, in 2005 the State of New Mexico successfully compelled DOE to enter into a strong, enforceable Consent Order after years of tough negotiations and lawsuits brought against it by DOE and the University of California (then LANL’s manager). However, at the Lab’s request the anti-regulation Susanna Martinez Administration eviscerated that Consent Order with more than 150 milestone extensions.

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State sues DOE over LANL cleanup

The lawsuit notes that Nuclear Watch New Mexico previously filed a lawsuit against the DOE over its non-compliance with the 2016 Consent Order.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement that “What New Mexicans really deserve (is) to have needed cleanup drive funding instead of the budget that DOE wants driving cleanup. We strongly salute the Environment Department for taking legal action against DOE’s scheme of expanding dirty nuclear weapons production over cleanup.”

By: T.S. LAST / JOURNAL NORTH / February 25th, 2021 at 11:45pm Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The state Environment Department has lost patience with the U.S. Department of Energy over what it says is a “continuing pattern of delay and noncompliance” with the cleanup of hazardous legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posing a health risk to people in surrounding communities.

After a dispute resolution process broke down, the New Mexico Environment Department late Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against the DOE in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. It claims that DOE has failed to meet objectives identified in compliance orders in 2005 and 2016 and has dragged its feet in cleaning up contamination left behind from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

It asks that a court-supervised process be conducted to resolve the issues.

“We’re a state agency, and our patience is long,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a phone interview. “But our patience runs out quickly when there’s an inability to meet promises.”

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New Mexico sues feds over LANL cleanup, plans tougher oversight

Jay Coghlan, executive director of nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico, agreed that hard deadlines are crucial in making real headway on cleanup.

“The main thing we would want is to have cleanup drive funding instead of a budget that [the Energy Department] wants driving cleanup,” Coghlan said.

By: Scott Wyland santafenewmexican.com | Feb 25, 2021

Worker moves drums of transuranic (TRU) waste at a staging area curtesy
Worker moves drums of transuranic (TRU) waste at a staging area. By filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy, state regulators now hope to dissolve the existing consent order regulating waste cleanup at the lab and impose tougher rules for disposing of transuranic waste. Credit: Richard Robinson

State regulators are suing the U.S. Department of Energy for what they say is a failure to adequately clean up legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and they will impose tougher rules for disposing of waste generated at the lab during the Cold War and Manhattan Project.

Critics have bashed the 2016 agreement for waste cleanup — known as a consent order — that was crafted under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, saying it weakened the original 2005 order by eliminating real deadlines and imposing few penalties for slow or deficient work.

The lawsuit, filed in state District Court, seeks to cancel the consent order, fine the Energy Department about $330,000 for not meeting its cleanup obligations and have the court oversee mediation between the two parties for a new waste agreement.

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Ex-SCANA CEO pleads guilty to fraud in SC nuclear fiasco: ‘I’m sorry it’s come to this’

Tom Clements, an environmental activist who criticized the nuclear project even before its abandonment, noticed and shouted a question as the former SCANA executive walked past. “Mr. Marsh, are you going to apologize to the people of South Carolina for this nuclear nightmare?”

By Avery G. Wilks & Conor Hughes | postandcourier.com February 24, 2021 – updated March 5, 2021

Kevin Marsh, then-CEO of SCANA, walks past demonstrators outside a 2017 meeting of the S.C. Public Service Commission shortly after the company abandoned the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project. Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed decade-long expansion. Sean Rayford/Special to The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Former SCANA Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh will spend at least two years in prison and pay back at least $5 million for defrauding electric ratepayers in South Carolina’s $9 billion nuclear power fiasco, according to a plea deal that was presented to a federal judge Feb. 24.

The 65-year-old Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed, decade-long expansion of SCANA’s V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in Fairfield County. Marsh had to surrender his passport at the courthouse but was released without having to post money for bond.

Once one of South Carolina’s top businessmen, Marsh has spent the past six months as a criminal informant and will continue to be a key witness for state and federal prosecutors who continue to probe the V.C. Summer project’s failure. He faces up to 10 years in prison if he does not fully cooperate with that investigation, according to the new terms of his plea deal.

“Justice has been served,” U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Peter McCoy said after the hearing. “For years, institutions and individuals have abused the public trust with little to no accountability. This includes corporations that have increased profits at the expense of their customers. Oftentimes, it’s assumed that these executives will avoid any oversight because of who they are and where they’ve worked.”

Marsh’s first day in court was a long one, a product of a three-year investigation by the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina, State Law Enforcement Division and S.C. Attorney General’s Office that brought both state and federal fraud charges against him.

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That Time an Airman Accidentally Prevented a Nuclear Apocalypse

Perroots wrote, “it is not certain that we looked hard enough or broadly enough for information…For Western collectors the context was peacetime without even the most basic ripples of crisis. For the Soviets, however, the view may have looked quite different.”

In a 1989 memo, CIA officials admitted that Perroots’ letter surfaced “a long standing warning problem, i.e. the need for the intelligence community in Washington to provide more timely, discriminating and accurate warning in support of the theater commander.”

B | taskandpurpose.com FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Lt. Gen Leonard H. Perroots

Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots was on the intelligence desk for U.S. Air Forces Europe on Nov. 5, 1983, when he heard that Soviet Air Forces in East Germany were on high alert and being loaded with munitions. The Air Force officer called his boss, Gen. Billy Minter, who asked Perroots if they should load up for war in response.

“I said that we would carefully watch the situation,” Perroots later wrote in a letter to senior U.S. intelligence officials, “but there was insufficient evidence to justify increasing our real alert posture.”

Little did Perroots know, he had just played a crucial role in averting what could have resulted in armageddon, had the nuclear-capable war machines of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union continued to spin up. Experts later compared the incident, now known as Able Archer 83, to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in terms of how close both sides came to declaring war.

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No Growth, No Big Cuts Likely For First Biden Defense Budget

The full budget, set to be released on May 3, should spark heated debate in Congress between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must increase to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

“You can’t obtain serious and durable cuts in Pentagon spending without an equally serious rethinking of our strategic objectives…Resources constraints should cause us to rethink our strategic objectives, but the Biden team seems unwilling to do that.” – Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the Pentagon, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley

WASHINGTON: Early planning indicates that the Biden administration’s first defense budget might only match last year’s request, marking the second year in a row that the budget request will not keep up with inflation according to several sources familiar with the guidance.

If that planning holds up, the top line for the Pentagon’s 2022 budget will likely come in around the $696 billion the department received in it’s base funding 2021, which was itself just $2.6 billion more than the enacted 2020 budget.

The full budget is now scheduled to be released on May 3. The Biden administration’s first DoD funding request will be delivered to a Congress already split between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must rise significantly in order to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

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Progressives Face Tough Road in Bid to Cut Biden Defense Budget

⋅ ‘Legacy’ weapons programs to come under review, Reed says
⋅ Critics eye Northrop’s intercontinental ballistic missile

By: / bloomberg.com

The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.

“Arbitrary reductions would not be the right way to go,” Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said in an interview Monday. Congress will weigh President Joe Biden’s first budget request and review the military services’ proposals to see if they cut unnecessary, so-called “legacy” weapons programs and facilities, Reed said.

Reed’s position is significant because Biden’s election elevated a narrative within the Democratic Party that the president will be under enormous pressure from progressives to slash defense spending. National security makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary budget.

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Nuclear Weapons — They’re Illegal

“Remember that when your congressional members pitch expanding nuclear weapons production as jobs programs; you can respond that they are illegal. Tell them they should show visionary leadership and moral courage by helping to create cleanup and green energy jobs instead.”

By:  / Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 22 will go down in history as the day when the tide turned against nuclear weapons. That was the day when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into effect, signed by 122 countries.

It specifically prohibits nations from developing, testing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and assisting others in doing so. It reinforces existing international law obligating all states not to test, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

What immediate impact will it have here, given that the Los Alamos National Laboratory is the birthplace of nuclear weapons and now sole producer of plutonium pit triggers for the expanding U.S. stockpile? The brutally honest answer is no impact, not immediately.

But think about it. Nuclear weapons are now internationally illegal, just as horrendous chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction have long been. But nuclear weapons are the worst WMDs, potentially killing millions more while causing radioactive fallout and famine-inducing nuclear winter. Ask your New Mexican congressional members to explain why nuclear weapons shouldn’t be internationally banned just like chemical and biological WMDs, all of which cause agonizing, indiscriminate suffering and death.

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Semis Hauling Millions of Radioactive Loads Across the Country

“…Charles is concerned, not only with the radiation he and other drivers may have been exposed to, but with the fallout from the radioactive rigs that continue to travel our nation’s highways.”

By: Duane Pohlman, WKRC

Semis hauling millions of radioactive loads across the country (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Each year, millions of radioactive loads are shipped across the country, many on trucks that travel right beside you on our highways.

The federal government says the shipments are safe, but some of those who handle and haul the toxic material disagree.

In this exclusive Local 12 Investigation, Chief Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman interviews two of those workers.

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PLOUGHSHARES FUND: JAY COGHLAN – MY FIRST GRANT: NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO

Jay Coghlan looks back at NukeWatch NM’s first grant from Ploughshares Fund

Jay Coghlan is the executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a nonprofit organization founded by veteran anti-nuclear activists that seeks to promote environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities, mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs, greater accountability and cleanup in the nationwide nuclear weapons complex, and consistent US leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Jay recently spoke with us on the initial reaction to Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s first grant from Ploughshares Fund, what has been accomplished since their founding in 1999, and what you can do to continue supporting their work.

What was your reaction when you found out that you received a grant?

My initial reaction was one of surprise. I was new to the work and didn’t really feel worthy of the trust that the Ploughshares Fund had put into me. Second came elation and the realization that I could become professional and devote myself to the work full time, which I view as a necessity. Third came a strong feeling of gratitude, which I still feel 28 years later because of Ploughshares’ incredible steadfast and consistent support.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in this field?

What I am most proud of is having played a central role in beating back four attempts by the US government to expand plutonium pit bomb core production, which has been the chokepoint of resumed US industrial-scale nuclear weapons production ever since a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. This work included convincing a New Mexico senator to require an independent plutonium pit lifetime study which in 2006 concluded that pits last at least a century. Shortly thereafter, in conjunction with a restrained budget environment, Congress deleted funding for a new-design nuclear weapon called the Reliable Replacement Warhead and related expanded plutonium pit production.

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Newly Released Documents Shed Light on 1983 Nuclear War Scare with Soviets

“On a hair trigger”: The Soviet Union put warplanes loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert during a 1983 war scare that was one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.

By: Nate Jones & David E. Hoffman / Washington Post

The Soviet Union put fighter-bombers loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert in East Germany during a NATO nuclear weapons command exercise in November 1983, and the alert included “preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons,” according to newly released U.S. intelligence records that confirm a “war scare” during some of the most tense months of the Cold War.

It was disclosed previously that the NATO exercise, named Able Archer 83, triggered worries in the Kremlin. But the new documents provide precise details for the first time of the Soviet military response to the NATO exercise, an annual event that practiced a simulated nuclear attack on the forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

According to the documents, the heightened Soviet alert was raised in the fighter-bomber divisions of Soviet forces stationed in East Germany. All command posts were ordered to be manned around-the-clock by augmented teams. In tandem, the chief of the Soviet air forces, Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, ordered all units of the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland to be covered by the alert.
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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

“We are very pleased that Native American-owned firms are being considered and selected for the remediation of uranium mine sites,” Valinda Shirley, executive director of the Navajo EPA Shirley said in a statement. “The award of these contracts propels the cleanup of our priority mine sites across the Navajo Nation.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, worth up to $220 million over the next five years.

The majority of the funding comes from the $1 billion Tronox settlement in 2015. According to the EPA, work is scheduled to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. A news release stated that the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950s.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to:

  • Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture,
  • Environmental Quality Management Inc.,
  • Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

In addition, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and clean-up of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, the news release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a prepared statement:

The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups. We strongly encourage these companies to create more opportunities for Navajo businesses to receive sub-contracts for the work related to assessments and clean-up efforts. We have many Navajo-owned entrepreneurs and businesses that have the expertise and experience to help clean-up our communities.

Each of the companies will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building.

READ THE ENTIRE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

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LANL Looks to Reduce Risks of Volatile Waste

“Many of the drums probably have sat around for years, even decades, posing a hazard,” said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“It’s an example of nuclear weapons work getting the priority while cleanup and waste management is on the back burner,”

Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking steps to address the hazards posed by dozens of barrels of radioactive waste mixed with incompatible chemicals, which have the potential to explode.

The lab is responding to a report in October by the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which found the lab had failed to analyze chemicals present in hundreds of containers of transuranic nuclear waste.

Incompatible chemicals could blend together and cause a container to burst, releasing a high level of radiation that would threaten workers and the public, the report said.

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Groups Seek Broader Review of Nuclear Work

Federal installations face a deadline of making 80 cores per year by 2030, with the first 30 due in five years.

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico, South Carolina-based SRS Watch and California-based Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment sent a letter to the U.S. Energy Department last week, asking that a rigorous environmental review be done before production is ramped up at Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.”

By: Susan Montoya Bryan | mbtmag.com Feb 18th, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Watchdog groups want the Biden administration to reconsider a decision by a U.S. agency not to conduct a more extensive environmental review related to production of the plutonium cores used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The renewed request comes as federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina face a deadline of making 80 cores per year by 2030, with the first 30 due in five years.

With jobs and billions of dollars in spending at stake, the effort to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress over the years, especially among New Mexico Democrats whose districts stand to benefit from the economic windfall. The Biden administration has taken swift action to reverse some policies by the Trump administration but has yet to say whether it plans to push ahead with making more plutonium cores. It does say that work is being reviewed.

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Nuke groups pressing Biden administration for more pit production environmental review

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CAREs, represented by the the S.C. Environmental Law Project, in early February sent a letter and supporting documents to the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration outlining grave concerns and allegations of cut corners.

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements holds a large photo of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a never-completed nuclear fuel plant at the Savannah River Site.
Staff photo by Colin Demarest

A coalition of nuclear watchers and nonprofits is again lobbying the federal government to conduct a more rigorous environmental review of plans to produce nuclear weapon cores in South Carolina and New Mexico, this time hoping the new administration is more amenable.

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CAREs, represented by the the S.C. Environmental Law Project, in early February sent a letter and supporting documents to the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration outlining grave concerns and allegations of cut corners.
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Editorial: LANL’s lack of wildfire plan, action irresponsible

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One would think an entity with 13 nuclear facilities that experienced two catastrophic wildfires in recent years would be taking fire prevention seriously.

After all, the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire burned about 7,500 acres of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, resulting in $331 million in damages. And that figure doesn’t include an estimated $15 million in lost productivity per week during a 15-day shutdown and recovery period.

And then there was the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. While it ultimately burned only about 1 acre of LANL land, it forced roughly 10,000 LANL employees out of their offices and out of Los Alamos for more than a week.

But according to a recent report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, managers at LANL have not fully implemented measures designed to reduce the impact from wildland fires, including tree thinning in buffer zones below overhead power lines.

The report is so disappointing because the Las Conchas Fire, which burned about 156,293 total acres, started when a tree fell on a power line in the Santa Fe National Forest, resulting in a fast-burning “crown fire” that burned through tree canopy.

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