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Press Releases

Watchdogs Urge Big Cut to Contractor Fees at the Sandia Labs

Washington, DC and Santa Fe, NM

Today, the Project On Government Oversight and Nuclear Watch New Mexico sent the Department of Energy Secretary a letter urging that the FY 2014 contractor incentive award fee for the Sandia National Laboratories be completely denied. The two watchdog organizations wrote to the Secretary earlier this month to urge him to cut performance incentive award fees at least in half for the Los Alamos Lab contractor because of substandard performance that led to the contamination of 21 workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the indefinite closure of that multi-billion facility. As deplorable as the Los Alamos situation is, the Sandia case is arguably worse because it involves direct violations of federal law that prohibit contractor use of taxpayers’ dollars to lobby the government for further work.

The Sandia Labs are run by the for-profit Sandia Corporation, wholly owned by the country’s largest contractor, the Lockheed Martin Corporation. According to its current contract with the federal government, the Sandia Corporation could earn up to $9.8 million in FY 2014 performance incentive award fees (it also stands to receive $18.3 million in fixed fees). In addition, Lockheed Martin could receive $2.8 million for “Home Office And Other Corporate Support,” which includes the subcategory “Provision of Corporate Ethics.” The Department of Energy should refuse to pay both because of improper lobbying of Congress and federal officials and Lockheed Martin’s ethical failure while doing so.

Watchdog Urges Increasing DOE Accountability in Wake of Fines

Santa Fe, NM

Today the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declared multiple violations at both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). NMED plans to fine WIPP $17.7 million and LANL $36.6 million due to major procedural problems related to the handling of radioactive transuranic (TRU) wastes that contributed to two significant incidents at WIPP earlier this year.

In addition to “failure to adequately characterize waste” and other violations, LANL was cited for the processing of nitrate-bearing wastes and adding neutralizing agents to that waste stream. LANL treated this procedure as if it was outside the state hazardous waste permit, but NMED determined that these operations were not exempt. LANL treated 100s of waste drums without a permit, and one of these was apparently the cause of the February 14, 2014, radioactive release at WIPP that contaminated 21 workers.

NNSA Considers Stuffing More Plutonium Into New Facility

Despite the fact that no one has come up with a good reason to increase plutonium pit production for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, officials want to study the possibility of radically increasing the amount of plutonium allowed in a recently completed laboratory at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Deputy Administrator for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Programs, Don Cook, has requested an analysis to increase the radioactive materials inventory in the recently completed Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB) to up to 400 grams of plutonium-239, the isotope used in nuclear weapons. The RLUOB, which originally was limited to 8.4 grams of Pu 239, was built as Phase 1 of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at LANL that would have expanded plutonium pit production to 50 – 80 pits per year (pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons). LANL’s current capacity is 20 pits per year. Phase 2 of the CMRR project, the “Nuclear Facility,” was canceled because of lack of clear need and a bulging ten-fold increase in costs.

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Fired LANL Expert, Lab Watchdogs Team Up; Launch Project to Increase Nonproliferation Programs, Cut Exorbitant Nuclear Weapons “Modernization” Programs

Santa Fe, NM

Today, Dr. James (Jim) E. Doyle and Nuclear Watch New Mexico begin a collaborative project to assess and augment the nonproliferation programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Our ultimate goal is to redirect the focus of three national security labs from wasteful nuclear weapons research and production programs to expanded research and development of the monitoring and verification technologies needed for global abolition.

This project is a direct follow-on to Dr. Doyle’s February 2013 study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? Doyle had clarified that he was stating his own personal views, and not those of his employer, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where he was a senior nonproliferation expert. Nevertheless, out of caution, Doyle had successfully submitted his study to the Lab’s classification review process. But as his study became more widely known, LANL retroactively classified it without credible justification, despite the fact that it has been continuously available on the internet. Moreover, a common sense reading makes clear that nothing in Doyle’s study deserves restriction.

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LANL Fires Nonproliferation Specialist; Lab Abuses Classification Procedures to Restrict Nuclear Weapons Abolition Message

Santa Fe, NM

Today, the Center for Public Integrity broke a story on how Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) fired its nonproliferation specialist James Doyle. That firing followed an inquiry by the Center to senior Lab management about a study Doyle completed in his personal capacity arguing for the abolition of nuclear weapons. LANL retroactively classified his report, which Nuclear Watch believes is a clear abuse of proper classification procedures.

Doyle’s study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? has long been available at our website www.nukewatch.org and an independent online publisher. Any quick reading shows it has no information whatsoever about nuclear weapons designs and materials that would merit classification. The study is instead a 28-page narrative argument by a nationally recognized nonproliferation expert for eliminating the stockpile, while citing the aspirations of both Presidents Reagan and Obama to abolish nuclear weapons. But Los Alamos Lab didn’t like Doyle’s message and sought to kill it through classification. Not coincidentally, LANL’s 2.2 billion dollar annual budget is just under two-thirds nuclear weapons research, testing, and production.

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Nuclear News

Hawaii, California Preparing for North Korean Nuclear Attack

A startling headline, but alas, true. Precautionary measures no doubt, in case the angry war of words goes to military violence and a possible nuclear exchange. It’s unlikely Kim would fire a first strike at the US mainland; but in response to a US strike on North Korea, well maybe. Apparently, some people are seeing America’s ‘military option’ becoming more likely.

Hawaii residents told to prepare for nuclear attack as tensions reach new high

“The state will begin testing a siren warning system, a wailing sound, in November. It would give people about 12 to 15 minutes to get to safety, after which they would be required to stay indoors for 48 to 72 hours.”

-North Korea: California’s plans for nuclear attack revealed

“The threat of a nuclear attack on California is real enough that a regional task force circulated a document to help the state prepare for a ‘catastrophic’ strike.”

-From Independent.co.uk

See also October 10, 2017:
-University of Hawaii sent an email to students Monday with tips on how to prepare for a nuclear attack

Controversy After Another Test of the B61-12 Nuclear Smart Bomb

The editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko, warned that the second test of the B61-12 could indicate that the US is speeding up its rearmament program while “both Washington and Brussels are considering the scenario of a limited nuclear war in Europe.” He added that NATO forces have already conducted drills in the Baltic Sea, including mock nuclear strikes on Russia. “During regular exercises, including those in the Baltic Sea, the air forces of NATO countries have repeatedly carried out combat training tasks involving tactical nuclear strikes on targets located in the northwest of our country,” Korotchenko told RIA Novosti (ref).

NNSA press release on the B61-12 tests: (view/download PDF)

There are an estimated 180 B61 nuclear bombs stored at NATO bases in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey. 

 

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