Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

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LANL’s Central Mission: Los Alamos Lab officials have recently claimed that LANL has moved away from primarily nuclear weapons to “national security”, but what truly remains as the Labs central mission? Here’s the answer from one of its own documents:

LANL’s “Central Mission”- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications (PDF) 4/27/11

Banner displaying “Nuclear Weapons Are Now Illegal” at the entrance in front of the Los Alamos National Lab to celebrate the Entry Into Force of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty on January 22, 2021

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Follow the Money!

Map of “Nuclear New Mexico”

Nuclear Watch Interactive Map – U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan and and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands after signing the arms control agreement banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missles, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty.

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

The Wall St. Journal has compiled a searchable database of contaminated sites across the US. (view)
Related WSJ report: https://www.wsj.com

New Nuclear Media: Art, Films, Books & More

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New & Updated

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped end the Cold War, has died

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who played a pivotal role in the end of the Cold War, has died at the age of 91 in Moscow.

August 30, 2022

Mr. Gorbachev's first five years in power were marked by significant, even extraordinary, accomplishments:

  • He presided over an arms agreement with the United States that eliminated for the first time an entire class of nuclear weapons, and began the withdrawal of most Soviet tactical nuclear weapons from Eastern Europe.
  • He withdrew Soviet forces from Afghanistan, a tacit admission that the invasion in 1979 and the nine-year occupation had been a failure.
  • While he equivocated at first, he eventually exposed the nuclear power-plant disaster at Chernobyl to public scrutiny, a display of candor unheard-of in the Soviet Union.
  • He sanctioned multiparty elections in Soviet cities, a democratic reform that in many places drove stunned Communist leaders out of office.
  • He oversaw an attack on corruption in the upper reaches of the Communist Party, a purge that removed hundreds of bureaucrats from their posts.

nytimes.com

Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died aged 91, was the most important world figure of the last quarter of the 20th century. Almost singlehandedly he brought an end to 40 years of east-west confrontation in Europe and liberated the world from the danger of nuclear conflagration.

The man who oversaw the end of the Cold War and then the end of the Soviet Union has died.

Reformist politician ended one-party communist rule and halted the global arms race

‘We’re losing our people’: COVID ravaged Indigenous tribes in New Mexico. Did uranium mining set the stage?

Today, hundreds of mines lie abandoned across New Mexico’s Indigenous lands. So do scores of eroding radioactive landfills meant to bury uranium mine waste.

By Eli Cahan, Capital & Main | August 26, 2022 usatoday.com

As a young girl, Arlene Juanico would rush to gather the laundry before the explosions started.

When the alarms sounded, Juanico would hustle to grab the clean garments off the clothesline before she was enveloped by dust clouds. But Juanico’s little legs usually couldn’t get her back to shelter in time.

That’s when the yellow-flecked dust – emerging from detonations in the sacred mesa the Laguna tribe knows as Squirrel Mountain – would catch up to her. That’s when it would enter Juanico’s throat, burrowing deep into her lungs.

It’s the same dust she would confront when, as an adult, she worked for the Anaconda Copper Co.

And it’s the dust that would persist in her lungs, kidneys and bones. There, hidden in the dark recesses of her chest, the particles lay until one day decades later a CT scan would show Juanico and people like her why they hadn’t been able to take a full breath in decades. They’d get a similar diagnosis – idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – one mangled lung at a time.

A warning sign affixed to a barbed wire fence looms outside the Church Rock uranium mine near the Navajo community at Red Water Pond Road, about 10 miles east of Gallup, New Mexico.

As such, the dangers of one of the largest uranium mines in American history didn’t abate when the dust clouds dissipated.

NPT Review Conference fails to address current security environment

“In a year when a nuclear-armed state invaded a non-nuclear armed state, a meeting of nearly all countries in the world failed to condemn Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons in the context of its invasion, and failed to take any steps that would advance nuclear disarmament.”

After four weeks of meetings, the 10th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference has failed. Despite the final draft outcome document being significantly weakened throughout the negotiations, Russia refused to accept the final version and the conference ended without an agreement. 

ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) | August 27, 2022 icanw.org

The document had many problems. In a year when a nuclear-armed state invaded a non-nuclear armed state, a meeting of nearly all countries in the world failed to condemn Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons in the context of its invasion, and failed to take any steps that would advance nuclear disarmament. It has failed to address the urgency of the moment.

The Bizarre Mystery of the Only Armed Nuke America Ever Lost

The lost nuke has never been found—only the pilot’s helmet was recovered, and the government kept it secret for years.

BY MATTHEW GAULT | VICE NEWS | August 29, 2022 vice.com

U.S. NATIONAL ARCHIVES PHOTO

…On December 5, 1965, U.S. Navy Lt. Douglas Webster was supposed take an A-4E Skyhawk loaded with a nuclear bomb into the sky. On the USS Ticonderoga aircraft carrier, stationed in the Philippine Sea about 70 miles from Okinawa, Japan, the crew loaded the weapon onto the vehicle and Webster got into the cockpit. The crew then pushed the plane to an elevator that would bring it up to the flight deck.

The plan was for Webster to fly around, then land back on the aircraft carrier where the crew would unload the weapon. Webster never made it into the air. The Skyhawk rolled out of the elevator and the crew began to frantically wave at Webster, calling on him to hit the breaks. “According to testimony during the post-incident Board of Inquiry investigation, the pilot seemed oblivious to the whistles and was looking down,” Chief Petty Officer Delbert Mitchell, who was on the crew that loaded the bomb onto the Skyhawk, told the U.S. Naval Institute in 2019.

Navy crew desperately tried to stop the Skyhawk, but they only managed to pivot it in place as it rolled inevitably to the side of the carrier. It hit the netting on the side of the elevator, broke through it, and fell into the ocean. The nuke was armed. “We never saw Lieutenant Webster after he climbed into the cockpit or knew what efforts he might have attempted to get out of the Skyhawk, but we were stunned to witness a plane, pilot, and nuclear weapon fall into the ocean,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and the rest of the ship looked into the ocean and watched as the Skyhawk sank into the ocean, its landing gear sticking straight up into the air. Efforts to save Webster and recover the nuclear bomb started immediately. The Navy called in other ships to aid with the search but discovered no sign of the missing nuke or plane—they only ever found Webster’s helmet.

The Navy did not talk about the incident for decades. It reported the incident to Congress a year later when the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy was studying the shocking number of Broken Arrows, but the general public wouldn’t learn that America had lost an active nuke off the coast of Japan until 1989.


The US military is still missing 6 nuclear weapons that were lost decades ago

“After Robert McNamara took the post of Secretary of Defense later that year, he pointed to that incident and another nuke loss over Texas as evidence of how close the U.S. has come to accidental detonations, despite “spending millions of dollars to reduce this problem to a minimum.”

“By the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted,” McNamara was quoted as saying in an article by The Guardian.”

The U.S. military had 32 nuclear accidents during the Cold War, and several nuclear weapons remain unaccounted for.

BY  | TASK AND PURPOSE | August 25, 2022 taskandpurpose.com

From car keys to glasses to rifles, everyone misplaces something important from time to time. But when you’re the U.S. government, sometimes that important thing is a superweapon that is designed to destroy cities and kill millions of people.

Over the decades, the U.S. military has had 32 nuclear accidents, also called “Broken Arrow” incidents. These incidents include accidental launches, radioactive contamination, loss of a nuclear weapon or other unexpected events involving nuclear weapons. Luckily, of those 32 accidents, there were only six U.S. nuclear weapons that could not be located or recovered, and of those six weapons, only one was capable of a nuclear detonation when it was lost.

While even one missing nuclear weapon sounds scary, it’s worth noting that the Soviet Union lost far more during the Cold War, often due to submarines sinking with a dozen or more nuclear missiles on board.

“Compared to the Soviet Union, the U.S. record is pretty impressive, given how many nuclear weapons it has operated and transported everywhere over the years,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, told Task & Purpose.

palomares
Barrels of contaminated soil collected at Palomares, Spain for removal to the United States, 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

In fact, U.S. government agencies often go to great lengths to secure lost weapons. One such incident occurred on Jan. 17, 1966, when a B-52 and a KC-135 refueling tanker collided over southern Spain and scattered four B-28 thermonuclear bombs around the fishing village of Palomares. The conventional explosives for two of the bombs exploded, but the nuclear components did not detonate because they were not armed. The U.S. military sent troops to pick up the undetonated one that fell on land, clean up the radioactive pieces scattered by the two which detonated, and find the fourth which landed in the sea. The U.S. government even dispatched a submarine to find the one in the Mediterranean Sea. Called ‘Alvin,’ the small deep-ocean sub was high-tech for its time, but the crew nearly died when the sub was almost entangled in the parachute that was still attached to the bomb on the ocean floor. Meanwhile, the service members who helped find the landward bombs and clean up the wreckage also developed cancers which they say are linked to that mission 56 years ago.

Considering the extent to which the U.S. looks for lost nukes like it did in Palomares, the stories behind the five instances where recovery crews could not locate or recover weapons are extraordinary. Below is a list of those five accidents, one of which resulted in two missing nuclear weapons. Keep in mind that in all but one, the lost nuclear weapons did not include the pit or capsule that contains the components for triggering a nuclear detonation. That means we can all sleep a little easier knowing those weapons cannot blow up a city. However, the U.S. government still classifies those pit-less devices as nuclear weapons: sophisticated, expensive machines that at the time were closely-guarded tools of mass destruction. And there are many more out there from other governments like the Soviet Union which may never be found.

Nuclear waste shipments to repository near Carlsbad lagging behind goals for 2022

“So far in FY 2022, most of WIPP’s shipments came from Idaho National Laboratory to fulfill statutory agreements between the DOE and the State of Idaho.”

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | August 26, 2022 currentargus.com

Nuclear waste managers in New Mexico are about 90 shipments of waste short of their goal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for fiscal year 2022 which ends in about a month.

Records show WIPP accepted 206 shipments so far for FY 2022, which runs from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022.

During an Aug. 4 meeting before lawmakers, WIPP officials said the facility was targeting 299 shipments this year.

Transuranic (TRU) waste is shipped to WIPP near Carlsbad for permanent disposal in an underground salt deposit about 2,000 feet below the surface.

It comes from U.S. Department of Energy facilities throughout the nation, and is made up of clothing materials and equipment irradiated during nuclear activities.

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NNSA Finally Starts Overdue Los Alamos Lab Environmental Study for Nuclear Weapons Programs That Are Already Underway

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency with the Department of Energy, released a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In its formal notice, NNSA avoids mentioning the elephant in the room, the already predetermined expanded production of plutonium “pits,” the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. This is in direct contradiction to the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that federal agencies take a “hard look” at proposed actions before implementation.

Moreover, future pit production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile, but instead is for speculative, untested new-design nuclear weapons for the accelerating nuclear arms race. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is already spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars to upgrade plutonium facilities and hire more workers for more weapons of mass destruction. This site-wide EIS is a “check off the box” exercise for all the major changes since the last site-wide EIS in 2008. Since then the Lab has fundamentally changed into a nuclear weapons production site as its main mission.

The Department of Energy boosted Lab funding to $4.6 billion in FY 2023 (21% higher than FY 2022), which begins this coming October 1. Of that, $3.6 billion is slated for NNSA’s core nuclear weapons research and production programs, with expanded plutonium pit production taking the biggest slice of the pie at $1.63 billion. The percentage of nuclear weapons funding at LANL has steadily grown as the Lab increasingly banks its future on being a nuclear weapons production site. Today it is 73% of total institutional funding. country.

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Watchdog groups call review at US nuclear lab ‘sham’ process

“This is too little too late, a sham process designed to circumvent citizen enforcement of the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “The key sentence in NNSA’s announcement is that absent any new decisions in the site-wide environmental impact statement, the agency will continue to implement decisions it previously made behind closed doors.”

By | August 19, 2022 apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. government is planning to review the environmental effects of operations at one of the nation’s prominent nuclear weapons laboratories, but its notice issued Friday leaves out federal goals to ramp up production of plutonium cores used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The National Nuclear Security Administration said the review — being done to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act — will look at the potential environmental effects of alternatives for operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory for the next 15 years.

That work includes preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons worldwide and other projects related to national security and global stability, the notice said.

Watchdog groups contend that regardless of the review, the NNSA will march ahead with its production plans for plutonium cores at Los Alamos.

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Federal agency to conduct sitewide review of Los Alamos National Laboratory

“This is in direct contradiction to the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that federal agencies take a ‘hard look’ at proposed actions before implementation,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement.

So much happened after 2008 that called for a new, thorough impact study years ago, including the plutonium facility’s “checkered nuclear safety history” that led to its major operations shutting down for more than three years, Coghlan said.

A new sitewide analysis now, Coghlan said, will merely “rubber stamp the billions of taxpayers’ dollars being sunk into a predetermined decision to expand plutonium pit production at LANL.”

By Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com The Santa Fe New Mexican | August 19, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

LANL receives $5 billion to upgrade aging facilities
The National Nuclear Security Administration announced it will conduct a sitewide environmental review at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Associated Press File Photo

The federal agency that oversees nuclear weapons will conduct a sitewide environmental review at Los Alamos National Laboratory, breaking from its past resistance to performing fresh analysis of potential impacts as the lab gears up to make 30 nuclear warhead triggers a year.

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced in the Federal Register on Friday it would do a sitewide analysis of the lab under the National Environmental Protection Act and would take public comment until Oct. 3.

It’s the first time the agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, has done a new sitewide environmental impact statement in 14 years.

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ACTION ALERTS

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Interfaith Panel Discussion on Nuclear Disarmament - August 9

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Posts Related to: NUCLEAR SAFETY

“Gateway Drug to Nuclear War” Feeds More Nuke Addiction

“Gateway Drug to Nuclear War” Feeds More Nuke Addiction

The Trump Administration’s high policy document, the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), released February 2, includes recommendations for the deployment of lower yield, “more usable” nuclear warheads. This will only feed the US addiction to nukes.

An article on the same day in The American Conservative, “Trump’s Nuke Plan Raising Alarms Among Military Brass”, quotes one retired senior Army officer who tracked the NPR as saying that nuclear neocons were providing Donald Trump with “gateway drug for nuclear war.”

From that article –

So while the [NPR’s] recommendations won’t necessarily be a surprise, what is less public is the bitter battle during its drafting that pitted senior Army and Navy warriors against nuclear wonks inside the Defense Department. That fight—over the exorbitant costs associated with the NPR, and charges that it could make nuclear war more likely—are bound to continue through implementation.

“It’s one thing to write a policy,” a senior Pentagon civilian privy to the NPR fight told The American Conservative, “and it’s another thing to have it implemented. What the NPR is recommending will break the bank, and a lot of people around here are worried that making nuclear weapons more usable isn’t what we should be doing. The conventional military guys have dug in their heels, they’re dead-set against it. This battle isn’t over.”

In effect, the congressionally mandated review calls for the U.S. to deploy two new types of lower yield nuclear warheads, generally defined as nuclear bombs below a five kiloton range (the one dropped on Hiroshima was 20 kilotons), that could be fitted onto a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and one, yet to be developed, that would be fitted onto a submarine-launched cruise missile. Additionally, the NPR calls for “recapitalizing” the complex of nuclear laboratories and plants, which, taken together with the proposed modernization program of the U.S. nuclear arsenal (the “triad”), will almost certainly cost in excess of the estimated price tag of $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years.

The article continues that Army and Navy officers worry that senior administration officials would promote massive new funding initiatives at the expense of badly needed funding for conventional military readiness. They also worry, more urgently, that the administration would put the nation on the slippery slope to nuclear escalation.

NukeWatch’s bottom line: Addiction to nukes is a potentially world-ending problem.

Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review goes in the opposite direction of meeting our long-term need to eliminate the one class of weapons of mass destruction that can truly destroy our country. It will instead set back nonproliferation and arms control efforts across the globe, and further hollow out our country by diverting yet more huge sums of money to the usual fat defense contractors at the expense of public education, environmental protection, natural disaster recovery, etc. Under the Trump Administration, expect Medicare and Social Security to be attacked to help pay for a false sense of military security. Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review is part and parcel of that.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Please help support NukeWatch.

Trump’s Nuke Plan Raising Alarms Among Military Brass

Cost of Nuclear Weapons Upgrades and Improvements Increases to $1.2 Trillion

Cost of Nuclear Weapons Upgrades and Improvements Increases to $1.2 Trillion

Today, in Washington, DC, the Congressional Budget Office released its new report Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046, which it summarized as:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most recent detailed plans for nuclear forces, which were incorporated in the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request, would cost $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars over the 2017–2046 period: more than $800 billion to operate and sustain (that is, incrementally upgrade) nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them.

That planned nuclear modernization would boost the total costs of nuclear forces over 30 years by roughly 50 percent over what they would be to only operate and sustain fielded forces, CBO estimates. During the peak years of modernization, annual costs of nuclear forces would be roughly double the current amount. That increase would occur at a time when total defense spending may be constrained by long-term fiscal pressures, and nuclear forces would have to compete with other defense priorities for funding.

To put this in perspective, the Congressional Research Service has estimated the total post-9.11 costs of the “Global War on Terrorism” at $1 trillion and all of World War II at $4 trillion. It is also roughly the same amount that the Trump Administration is beginning to push for in questionable missile defense technologies and tax cuts for the already rich, adding to uncertainties how the average American taxpayer can afford it.

Expanded U.S. nuclear capabilities under the rubric of “modernization” include:

  • The wholesale rebuilding of the Department of Energy’s production complex for nuclear weapons, with new and/or upgraded manufacturing plants for nonnuclear, plutonium and highly enriched uranium components expected to be operational until ~2080;
  • A perpetual cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs that refurbish existing nuclear warheads while giving them new military capabilities (see, for example, https://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578); and
  • Completely new intercontinental ballistic missiles, destabilizing cruise missiles, heavy bombers and submarines to deliver the rebuilt nuclear weapons.

Driving this astronomical expense is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of “deterrence,” thousands of warheads are being refurbished and improved to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government. As a top-level 2013 Defense Department policy document put it, “The new guidance [in Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review] requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.”

A new Nuclear Posture Review under President Trump is currently scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Among other things, it is expected to overturn the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review’s prohibition against new-design nuclear weapons, possibly promoting more usable “mini-nukes”, and to shorten the lead-time necessary to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing.

Nuclear weapons “modernization” is a Trojan horse for the indefinite preservation and improvement of the US nuclear weapons arsenal, contrary to the 1970 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty and the nuclear weapons ban treaty passed this last June by 122 nations at the United Nations (for which the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). Contrary to those treaties, all eight existing nuclear weapons powers are modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, while the newest ninth power North Korea is engaged in heated, bellicose rhetoric with President Trump. But clearly the astronomical expense of US nuclear weapons modernization is not needed to deal with North Korea.

Ironically, “modernization” may actually undermine national security because the nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia) are pushing radically new weapons designs that can’t be full-scale tested, or, alternatively, if they were to be tested would have severe international proliferation consequences. The most prudent way to maintain stockpile safety and reliability would be to hew to the extensively tested pedigree of the existing stockpile while performing rigorous surveillance and well proven methods of maintenance, including the routine exchange of limited life components. As a 1993 Stockpile Life Study by the Sandia Labs concluded:

It is clear that, although nuclear weapons age, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desires. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapons retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision. (Parenthesis in the original.)

While the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study is obviously dated, it is still relevant because no new-design nuclear weapons have been manufactured since then (which may soon change). Further, the findings of that study have since been bolstered by subsequent expert independent studies (see, for example, https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/JASON_ReportPuAging.pdf and https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/lep.pdf).

Nevertheless, under nuclear weapons “modernization” the labs are pushing so-called Interoperable Warheads for both land and sub-launched ballistic missiles that will combine elements of three different warheads into a new untested design. The Los Alamos Lab is now tooling up to produce new plutonium pits for those warheads, which will not be exact replicas, thus introducing uncertainties into performance reliability. To compound the irony, the US Navy doesn’t even want the Interoperable Warhead (see https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf and http://seapowermagazine.org/stories/20170525-IW.html).

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The American public is being sold a bill of goods in so-called nuclear weapons modernization, which will fleece the taxpayer, enrich the usual giant defense contractors, and ultimately degrade national security. Inevitably this won’t be the last major price increase, when the taxpayer’s money could be better invested in universal health care, natural disaster recovery, and cleanup of the Cold War legacy wastes. Nuclear weapons programs should be cut while relying on proven methods to maintain our stockpile as we work toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. That is what would bring us real security.”

# # #

CBO Weapons Costs Chart
Estimated Costs of US Nuclear Weapons for the next 30 years

 

The Congressional Budget Office’s report Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046, October 2017, is available at https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53211

For the Congressional Research Service’s estimated war costs see Costs of Major US Wars, June 2010, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22926.pdf

The quote on top-level counterforce nuclear weapons doctrine is from

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C.

Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original)http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

The 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study is available at https://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Sandia_93_StockpileLife.pdf

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to advocate for nuclear weaponeers?

From our colleague Don Hancock at the Southwest Research and Information Center:

Two members (Roberson and Santos) of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) have gone public over an internal dispute about a Memorandum of Agreement between DNFSB and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in which DNFSB staff would be detailed to NNSA so that, among other things, they would be “advocating for and defending NNSA’s FY 2018 budget request.” The internal memo is posted at: https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/12526/Memo%20from%20Roberson%20and%20Santos%2C%20Objection%20to%20Memorandum%20of%20Agreement%20with%20DOE.NNSA%20.pdf

The memo is dated last Friday (August 11) and the detail would start August 21. Not a good sign that DNFSB is, in part, going from overseeing DOE weapons sites to advocating for NNSA’s budget. – End –

Our comment:

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly objects to this attempt by the National Nuclear Security Administration to compromise the Safety Board. DNFSB has played a vital role in protecting the public from dangerous nuclear weapons activities that have been riddled with safety lapses, incompetence, cost overruns and mismanagement. The Safety Board is commissioned by Congress, not NNSA, and we fully expect the New Mexican congressional delegation to protect the Safety Board’s independence and objectivity.”

NMED claims revised Consent Order is a stronger enforcement tool. Not so!

Rebecca Moss at the New Mexican has another hard charging article on safety lapses at the Los Alamos Lab.  See “Lab might have known dangerous waste was unmarked” at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lab-might-have-known-dangerous-waste-was-unmarked/article_19d37b31-219a-5620-954c-a62fa9620d2a.html

If the New Mexico Environment Department is claiming, as this article reports, that its revised Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a stronger enforcement tool than the original 2005 Consent Order, then it is being highly disingenuous (to put it politely).

Interested citizens should judge for themselves. The 2016 revised Consent Order is available at http://www.lanl.gov/environment/protection/compliance/order-on-consent.php

The revised Consent Order was a giveaway by NMED to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. It is clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup.

The new Consent Order allows LANL and DOE to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up. Not long after the revised Consent Order went into effect, DOE took advantage by estimating a lifetime budget that projected a top range of $3.8 billion to clean up the Lab by 2040. That works out to only around $150 million per year, when NMED is already on record that $250 million per year is needed. Most egregious of all, DOE claimed that only 5,000 cubic meters of wastes needed to be cleaned up, purposively misleading the public and politicians by willfully ignoring the ~200,000 cubic meters of radioactive and toxic wastes known to be buried in LANL’s biggest dump alone.

Some of the highlights (or perhaps better put as lowlights) of the revised Consent Order are:

  • “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…” P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department
  • “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order is held hostage to DOE’s budget.“… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.
  • “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

Given all this, how can NMED claim with a straight face that the 2016 revised Consent Order is a stronger enforcement tool? This is just more of the Martinez administration coddling the nuclear weapons industry in New Mexico. Indeed, NMED had the gall to give LANL more than 150 extensions to the original Consent Order, and then turned around and claimed the Consent Order was not working and replaced it with a toothless tiger. Furthermore, and this is telling, the main Consent Order negotiator for NMED left shortly after it was signed to go work for a DOE contractor!

New Mexicans should demand comprehensive, enforceable cleanup at the Lab, which would be a real win-win, permanently protecting our precious water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.