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.

“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...

Over the past several months, I’ve been asked, including by colleagues, why I want to raise awareness on nuclear arms control when the world faces so many other challenges — climate change, rising authoritarianism and economic inequality, as well as the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Part of the answer is that both of those active conflicts would be far more catastrophic if nuclear weapons were introduced into them...The other answer lies in our recent history. When people around the world in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s began to understand the nuclear peril of that era, a vocal constituency demanded — and achieved — change.

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”

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan 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 & Updated

LANL plume cleanup halted due to water concerns

Milestones to meet in the coming year are to work on three monitoring wells and complete two reports, said Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s operations director. He called the effort inadequate for a large contaminated area discovered two decades ago.

“We’re going to have to do better than that,” Kovac said after the meeting. “We should be a lot farther along by now.”

Kovac also questioned why the report on the lab’s site-wide groundwater monitoring should be deemed a milestone. It’s something that must be done every year, so the lab’s parent agency shouldn’t get points for it, he said.

SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | March 31, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

State regulators’ order to halt injections of treated water into the sprawling chromium plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory will go into effect Saturday as scheduled, federal and state officials confirmed this week at an annual meeting to review cleanup of legacy waste.

Regulators say the technique of extracting contaminated water, treating it and pumping it back into the decades-old plume is not fixing or containing the problem but instead is stirring up the hexavalent chromium and pushing it both toward San Ildefonso Pueblo and deeper into the aquifer.

The U.S. Energy Department’s environmental managers at Los Alamos insist the pump-and-treat method is working to dilute the toxic chromium and prevent its spread but said at a Wednesday meeting they would cease injections on Friday.

“Right now, we don’t have another avenue for any of that extracted water, so it will effectively be turning off the system for the interim measure for the chromium plume treatment,” said Troy Thomson, environmental remediation program manager for N3B, the lab’s legacy waste cleanup contractor.

A state Environment Department manager reiterated the agency’s position that the injection wells were placed inside the plume rather than on the borders, causing the injected water to spread the contaminants outward.

START treaty: Russia stops sending nuclear arms info to US

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said: ‘There will be no notifications at all’ with Washington as the US also stops sharing data on its nuclear weapons with Moscow.

Aljazeera | March 30, 2023 aljazeera.com

Russia will no longer share detailed information on its nuclear weapons with the United States as outlined in the New START treaty, a senior official in Moscow has said, as Russia’s military began drills with its Yars intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers in Siberia while fighting in Ukraine rages and tension with the US mounts.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies on Wednesday that Moscow had halted all information exchanges with Washington after suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty last month.

Putin says Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus

The U.S. said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said. “We remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance.”

By The Associated Press – NPR | March 25, 2023 npr.org

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev during a meeting in Moscow on Saturday. Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans on Saturday to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a warning to the West as it steps up military support for Ukraine.

Putin said the move was triggered by Britain’s decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles. Russia plans to maintain control over those it sends to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Putin said.

He didn’t say how many nuclear weapons Russia would keep in Belarus. The U.S. government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which include bombs that can be carried by tactical aircraft, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery rounds.

A nuclear power plant leaked contaminated water in Minnesota. Here’s what we know

Xcel is based in Minneapolis, Minn., and operates in eight states around the U.S. Its two nuclear power plants are both based in Minnesota. Monticello is about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis and has a population of about 15,000 people.

By , NPR | March 19, 2023 npr.org

This July 24, 2008 photo shows the Monticello nuclear power plant in Monticello, MN. In November 2022, the plant confirmed a 400,000 gallon leak of water containing tritium and reported it to officials. The leak wasn’t known to the public until Thursday. Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

Minnesota officials are monitoring the cleanup of a 400,000 gallon leak of contaminated water from a nuclear power plant in the city of Monticello run by the energy giant Xcel Energy. Officials said there is no danger from the leak.

The leak was detected nearly four months ago and reported to state and federal regulators. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission posted a notice publicly at the time, but the company and state agencies did not notify the general public until last week.

“Xcel Energy took swift action to contain the leak to the plant site, which poses no health and safety risk to the local community or the environment,” the company announced in a statement on Thursday. Ongoing monitoring has confirmed that the leak “is fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water,” the company said.

Santa Fe Reporter Letter to the Editor: March 15

Cover, March 15: “The Foilies”

Notorious LANL delays

Concerning the article “presenting the nationwide look at the last year’s most terrible transparency,” the Santa Fe Reporter could have stayed home and reported on its own backyard. The Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are notorious for their lengthy delays in honoring Freedom of Information Act requests. As a federal judge ruled in one of our FOIA lawsuits, “administrative officials invoke every conceivable delaying technique and force citizens requesting information under the FOIA to resort to expensive litigation for vindication of their rights. Information is often useful only if it is timely. Thus, excessive delay by the agency in its response is often tantamount to denial.”

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Sample Surplus Plutonium Disposition Comments – Copy, Paste, Edit & Submit yours!!

*NNSA will accept comments submitted through this weekend (3/19)* Please use our sample comments below and submit your own! The more you can edit and personalize, the better; however, simply copying our comments is fine if you are short on time!

Submit Via email to [email protected]:

Ms. Maxcine Maxted, NEPA Document Manager
National Nuclear Security Administration
Office of Material Management and Minimization
P.O. Box A, Aiken, SC 29802

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Biden Releases Record NNSA Nuclear Weapons Budget

President Biden has released his proposed FY 2024 budget for the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The budget for NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” for nuclear weapons research and production programs is slated to increase by 10% to $18.8 billion.

Of that $18.8 billion requested for FY 2024, over $3 billion is devoted to “Life Extension Programs” or “Alterations” that extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons by decades while giving them new military capabilities. It also includes two new-design nuclear weapons, the W87-1 ICBM warhead (increased 50% to $1 billion) and the sub-launched W93 warhead (increased 62% to $390 million). Meanwhile, funding for dismantlements that provide a good nonproliferation example and save taxpayers’ money by eliminating long-term security costs is decreased by 4% to $53.7 million. That is a small fraction of one percent of NNSA’s Total Weapons Activities.

Two bright spots, yet still small relative to the U.S.’ planned $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program, are the zeroing out of funding for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) warhead and stronger language on the retirement of the 1.2 megaton B83 bomb. Trump proposed to bring back nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, which were retired by President George H. Bush after the end of the Cold War. Biden’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review canceled the SLCM, but Congress insisted on funding it, which will only grow stronger with Republican control the House.

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Biden Releases Record NNSA Nuclear Weapons Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 14, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email | Scott Kovac – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – President Biden has released his proposed FY 2024 budget for the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The budget for NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” for nuclear weapons research and production programs is slated to increase by 10% to $18.8 billion.

Of that $18.8 billion requested for FY 2024, over $3 billion is devoted to “Life Extension Programs” or “Alterations” that extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons by decades while giving them new military capabilities. It also includes two new-design nuclear weapons, the W87-1 ICBM warhead (increased 50% to $1 billion) and the sub-launched W93 warhead (increased 62% to $390 million). Meanwhile, funding for dismantlements that provide a good nonproliferation example and save taxpayers’ money by eliminating long-term security costs is decreased by 4% to $53.7 million. That is a small fraction of one percent of NNSA’s Total Weapons Activities.

Two bright spots, yet still small relative to the U.S.’ planned $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program, are the zeroing out of funding for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) warhead and stronger language on the retirement of the 1.2 megaton B83 bomb. Trump proposed to bring back nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, which were retired by President George H. Bush after the end of the Cold War. Biden’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review canceled the SLCM, but Congress insisted on funding it, which will only grow stronger with Republican control the House.

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Savannah River Nuclear Solutions receives ‘very good’ rating from National Nuclear Security Administration

“The performance evaluation report was released after Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a lawsuit asking the court to require the NNSA to release its performance evaluation reports for all eight nuclear weapons research and production sites.”

By Matthew Christian [email protected], Post and Courier | March 13, 2023 postandcourier.com

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions earned a rating of “very good” from the National Nuclear Security Administration and will receive over $39 million of the nearly $44 million available to it during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2022 according to a recently released performance evaluation report.

LANL operator gets good review, but safety, production concerns remain

“One watchdog group, which requested the complete reports, said the lab appears to have consistent struggles in its quest to produce pits.

“’It’s more indication that production is prioritized over safety,’” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “’And even then, there’s apparent problems with production.’”

By Scott Wyland [email protected], Santa Fe New Mexican| March 13, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s primary contractor earned an overall good rating on a federal performance review but continued to wrestle with worker safety problems, production inefficiencies and staying on schedule on projects required to make nuclear warhead triggers by the target date.

FOX 13 Investigates: Tons of radioactive waste from Europe arrived in Utah last year

“Certainly, becoming a world destination site for radioactive waste disposal is not something that appeals to the tribe,” – Scott Clow, the environmental programs director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

By Nate CarlisleFOX 13 NEWS | March 12, 2023 fox13now.com

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah — About 660 metric tons of radioactive material from Estonia traveled to a mill in southeast Utah last year, according to state inspection reports.

The state of Utah had approved the shipments to the mill, sitting on U.S. Highway 191 between Blanding and White Mesa. The latter is a community belonging to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

The tribe worries about the chance for pollution.

In Response to Lawsuit, NNSA Releases FY 2022 Performance Evaluation Reports as “Frequently Requested Documents” as Required by FOIA; Reveals Pit Production Schedule is Likely Increasingly Delayed

Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration[1] (NNSA) finally posted its FY 2022 Performance Evaluation Reports to its electronic “FOIA Reading Room.” These reports are “Frequently Requested Documents” as defined by the Freedom of Information Act (meaning three or more requests) and are therefore required to be posted under the law. The catalyst for this was a lawsuit filed by Nuclear Watch New Mexico in September 2022.

NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear weapons research and production sites[2] grade annual contractor performance and award performance fees accordingly. Approximately 57,000 people are employed by the NNSA nuclear weapons complex, 95% of them contractor personnel. The Department of Energy and NNSA (or its predecessor DOE Defense Programs) have been on the independent Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars since 1992.

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