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.

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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

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Pantex Plant FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

KCP FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

Livermore Lab FY 2021 Budget Chart – Courtesy Tri-Valley CAREs – VIEW

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Click the image to view and download this large printable map of DOE sites, commercial reactors, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear transportation routes, surface waters near sites and transport routes, and underlying aquifers. This map was prepared by Deborah Reade for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

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

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

Recent Posts

Atomic Anniversary Brings U.S. Nuclear Official to New Mexico

“Los Alamos is facing of a 2026 deadline to begin producing at least 30 of the plutonium cores a year — a mission that has the support of the most senior Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation as the work is expected to bring jobs and billions of federal dollars to update buildings or construct new factories. The effort has drawn much criticism from watchdog groups that long have been concerned about the lab’s safety record, missed deadlines, repeated cost overruns and the pace of cleaning up contamination resulting from decades of bomb making and nuclear research.”

BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRIAN | apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE — The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration is in New Mexico this week as part of a nationwide tour of the federal government’s nuclear security operations.

The visit by Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test in Southern New Mexico, which marked the world’s first atomic blast on July 16, 1945. She’s scheduled to lead a commemoration Thursday at the historic V-Site at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where early testing and some assembly of the atomic bomb took place.

Gordon-Hagerty has been spearheading the federal government’s recent efforts to resume and ramp up production of the plutonium cores that are used to trigger nuclear weapons. The work will be split between Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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Trinity Downwinders:  75 Years and Waiting

Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC)

REMEMBERING THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRINITY TEST

***  I M M E D I A T E    P R E S S    R E L E A S E  ***

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Virtual Event at 9:00 a.m. MDT

Access at www.trinitydownwinders.com

Trinity Downwinders are commemorating the 75th Anniversary since the first nuclear test was conducted anywhere in the world and bringing attention to the fact that New Mexicans still have not received Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) benefits.

RECA was passed in 1990 by the US Government to provide health care coverage and compensation to downwinders from other parts of the country but has never included the people of New Mexico.  The fund has paid out over 2.3 Billion Dollars in reparations to downwinders of the Nevada Test site but never to New Mexico downwinders.  It also provides the best health care coverage available.

Trinity Downwinders will commemorate the New Mexicans who have died from cancer and other radiation exposure related diseases during this event and read firsthand accounts of the bomb blast.

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Funding Nuclear Weapons at a Time of National Crisis

Nuclear weapons represent the greatest imminent existential threat to our very existence and to every social, racial, environmental and economic justice movement that we are working for, since ultimately it is all connected.

BY: ROBERT DODGE | cpmmondreams.com

This time of awakening has drawn attention to the connection and challenges we face as a nation and world. (Photo: Ralf Schlesener/ICAN)

Today, July 15, we fund our nation’s priorities. This year, the nation is awakening to the problems of systemic and institutionalized racism while simultaneously grappling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has no end in sight. The Black Lives Matter movement is receiving its due attention and communities are demanding demilitarization of police forces and tactics and reprioritization of funding to address the needs of communities to bring forth a socially just, environmentally sustainable and peaceful community. City councils are taking a close look at police budgets and many citizens are calling for participatory budgeting with input in the budgets of their cities as they move to determine their own priorities. Nationally, with our massively bloated defense budget, it is also the time we fund the nuclear arms race even as nations around the world work to pass a nuclear ban treaty, the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, similar to those banning all other weapons of mass destruction.

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15 LANL Workers Tested for Radiation Exposure After Mishap

“Mishandled glove boxes are a long-standing problem at the lab, but having 15 workers possibly exposed to radiation because of one breach is a high number and could become more common as the plutonium plant ramps up production of nuclear cores.” — Scott Kovac, research and operations director for nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“The 15 workers is just an example of things to come,” Kovac said.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

A view inside a conveyer alley where contained handling takes place. The gloveboxes are designed for preparing uranium and plutonium carbide compounds.
publicintegrity.org

Fifteen employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium plant were tested for radiation exposure after a “glove box” breach in June contaminated the work area.

Air monitors sounded an alarm at the facility when an operator accidentally ripped off the protective gloves attached to a sealed compartment for handling plutonium after the worker weighed and packaged plutonium-238 oxide powder.

The breach contaminated the worker’s protective clothing, hair and skin, and caused enough potential airborne exposure that other workers had to be tested for radiation, according to a report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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Trump Plan to Build Nuclear Bombs Divides a Scarred Factory Town

“To me, they haven’t proven that this is going to be safe,” said Pete LaBerge, a 70-year-old retiree who lives about three miles away from the Savannah River Site in nearby Windsor, which has 150 residents. He worries about a release of radiation. “Part of my theory is it’s sort of a make-work program for the Energy Department.”

BY: ARI NATTER & CHARLIE MCGEE | bloomberg.com

A factory along South Carolina’s Savannah River produced tritium and plutonium for U.S. nuclear weapons during the Cold War, employing thousands of workers but leaving behind a toxic legacy of radioactive waste.

Now the Trump administration has proposed spending $9 billion over 10 years to restart production of bomb parts there and at another site. The plan has raised the welcome prospect of new jobs though also rekindled environmental fears. And it’s set off alarms about a new nuclear arms race just as key treaties with Russia lapse.

“It’s a waste of money and dangerous,” said Stephen Young, an expert on arms control and international security issues for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

ABC NEWS FILE PHOTO Nov., 20, 2013, file photo, radioactive waste, sealed in large stainless steel canisters, are stored under a five-feet of concrete in a storage building at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.

President Donald Trump’s plan, announced by the departments of Energy and Defense in 2018, calls for restarting production of nuclear bomb ‘pits’ at the South Carolina site and another one in New Mexico. The bowling-ball sized spheres of plutonium act as the trigger in a nuclear warhead, setting off the explosive chain reaction.

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WIPP: Nuclear Watchdog Group Again Challenges Utility Shaft in New Mexico Supreme Court

The Southwest Research and Information Center previously filed a motion to the court in April, seeking to block the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) temporary approval (TA) of plans for the shaft that saw no public hearing or comment process.

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | carlsbadcurrentargus.com

The $100 million project to build the shaft was intended to increase airflow to the WIPP underground, where transuranic (TRU) waste is permanently disposed of, to allow emplacement of waste and mining of panels where it is emplaced to occur simultaneously.

A nuclear watchdog group in Albuquerque filed two appeals in New Mexico Supreme Court last week, seeking to block the construction of a utility shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

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‘Will to fight together’: Fiji’s has taken another bold step in the battle against nuclear weapons

“For many in the Pacific, memories of the impact of nuclear weapons testing still exist, its legacies continue, and the Pacific-wide solidarity that started in Fiji carries lessons for the world.”
Ratification of United Nations treaty banning atomic weapons honours a half-century of anti-nuclear activism

By: Vanessa Griffen & Talei Luscia Mangioni | theguardian.com

The Against Testing on Mururoa (ATOM) committee protests on the streets of Suva, Fiji, in the 1970s Photograph: The Guardian

In the streets of Suva in the 1970s it was the young who carried the cause. In afros, headbands and bell-bottom jeans they handed out pamphlets and printed newsletters, performed skits and variety shows, gave lectures, and led rallies on the streets of Fiji’s capital.

Crowds heard firebrand speeches from church leaders, trade unionists, university staff and student leaders.

The Atom (Against Testing on Mururoa) committee, formed in Fiji in 1970, was dedicated to educating, creatively but powerfully, the Fijian public of the dangers of radioactive fallout from French testing and colonialism in the Pacific.

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China Challenges the U.S. to Reduce Its Nuclear Arsenal to Same Level

BEIJING — If the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, China would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiation with the U.S and Russia, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday.

REUTERS/NEW YORK TIMES | nytimes.com

The U.S. has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.

Fu Cong, head of arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the trilateral negotiation.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

New & Updated

Congress Should Hit Pause On The New Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

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

ARTICLE BY: MATT KORDA | forbes.com

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

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

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

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Stalking Chernobyl

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

ARTICLE BY: LINDA PENTZ GUNTER | beyondnuclear.org

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

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

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

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

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

ARTICLE BY: LINDA WALKER | beyondnuclear.org

Alla Yaroshinskaya

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

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

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

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

ARTICLE BY: VALERIE INSINNA| defensenews.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NNSA Production Sites Hunker Down Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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

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

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

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The Coronavirus Can’t Stop America’s Nukes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lawmakers cry foul as Trump considers retreating from Open Skies Treaty

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

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

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

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

Researchers Find Plutonium Particles in Soil Near Rocky Flats

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

ARTICLE BY: KEELY SUGDEN | kdvr.com

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

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

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

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

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

OREPA

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

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

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

ARTICLE BY: CONNIE LEE | nationaldefensemagazine.org

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

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

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Critical Events

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Click above for more information on the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear Media

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R.I.P. Jerry Fuentes – A True Los Alamos Legend

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Nuclear News

Congress Introduces Legislation to Expand Compensation for Radiation Exposure

Luján, Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Expand Compensation for Individuals Impacted by Radiation Exposure

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, introduced legislation to expand compensation for individuals exposed to radiation while working in and living near uranium mines or downwind from nuclear weapon test sites.
Tens of thousands of individuals, including miners, transporters, and other employees who worked directly in uranium mines, along with communities located near test sites for nuclear weapons, were exposed during the mid-1900s to dangerous radiation that has left communities struggling from cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.

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Peace Activists Cut into Nuclear Weapons Base, Foiling Increased Security

International peace activists cut through new “security” fencing meant to keep nuclear weapons under control.
International peace activists cut through new “security” fencing meant to keep nuclear weapons under control.
BÜCHEL, Germany — Calling themselves “Treaty Enforcement Action,” four peace activists (from the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands) cut through two perimeter fences and quickly entered the Büchel Air Base here around 4 p.m. July 10, 2019, carrying banners declaring the US and German Air Force’s planned use of nuclear weapons here makes the base a “crime scene.” While posing for photographs, the four were detained by air base security personnel, and later taken to jail in Koblenz and held overnight. All eight were released early Thursday.Continue reading

Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Breaks Nuclear Deal Limit. Here’s What That Means

An Iranian security official in protective clothing walks through a uranium conversion facility in 2005. Iran says it is now enriching uranium above the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal. Vahid Salemi/AP
An Iranian security official in protective clothing walks through a uranium conversion facility in 2005. Iran says it is now enriching uranium above the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal.
Vahid Salemi/AP

BY GEOFF BRUMFIEL | npr.org July 7, 2019

Iran has crossed another line set in the 2015 nuclear deal between it and major world powers.

According to state media, Iran has begun enriching uranium above levels enshrined in the agreement. The move sends a signal that Iran is losing patience with a deal that has not provided the economic relief promised, more than a year after the United States withdrew from the agreement.

By Monday, Iran had reached levels of around 4.5% enrichment, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the semiofficial Fars news agency. He warned that Iran could go as high as 20% in the future, though that level is “not needed now.”

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran has crossed the line.

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Dangerous chromium plume closer to Los Alamos County well

Chemical contamination more than four times the state limit was detected late last month at the edge of a plume in the aquifer roughly 1,000 feet below Los Alamos National Laboratory.

BY REBECCA MOSS | santafenewmexican.com June 21, 2019

It is the closest high-level measurement of hexavalent chromium detected near the well used to pump drinking water to Los Alamos County, roughly a third of a mile away.

“Our drinking water supply is safe, and we are vigilantly working to keep it that way,” said Tim Glasco, utilities manager for Los Alamos County.

Hexavelent chromium, an industrial chemical tied to lung and other cancers, was found pooled below Sandia and Mortandad canyons in 2005, and environmental managers have since been working to define the full scope of the contamination. It spans at least a mile long and half-mile wide, and abuts San Ildefonso Pueblo.

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New Mexico land boss concerned with nuclear waste proposal

BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says southeastern New Mexico, which is home to one of the world’s most prolific oil and gas basins, is not the right place for storing spent nuclear fuel.

In a letter to Holtec International, she outlined her concerns about plans to build a multibillion-dollar facility that would be capable of temporarily storing tons of high-level radioactive waste from commercial reactors around the U.S.

Nearly 2,500 oil and gas wells and other mineral developments operated by dozens of different businesses are located within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius of the proposed site. Garcia Richard contends that storing the waste above active oil, gas and mining operations raises serious safety concerns.

She accused the company of not addressing the potential safety issues and suggested that it hasn’t been forthcoming in its filings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is considering whether to issue a 40-year license for the facility.

“There is no guarantee that high-level nuclear waste can be safely transported to and through New Mexico. There is no guarantee that there won’t be a hazardous interaction between the storage site and nearby oil, gas and mining activities. There is no guarantee that this site will truly be ‘interim’ and won’t become the permanent dumping ground for our nation’s nuclear waste,” she said in a statement.

Holtec International has argued that the federal government has unmet obligations to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of waste building up at nuclear power plants and the proposed facility is needed.

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LANL cleanup costs continue piling up

The U.S. Department of Energy in 2016 drafted a list of 17 projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory and in the surrounding town to clean up soil and groundwater that remained contaminated decades after the Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear weapons work.

At the time, more than $2 billion had been spent in a decade on environmental cleanup projects. The Department of Energy estimated it would cost another $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion to finish the job — and up to 25 more years.

The work is far from complete.

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said cleanup costs have been “woefully underestimated,” and that an updated cost analysis is overdue.

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Nuclear Waste Storage Concerns Raised By Panel Members During Santa Fe Forum

Participating in a panel on nucelar waste in New Mexico Wednesday in Santa Fe
Participating in a panel on nucelar waste in New Mexico Wednesday June 19, 2019 in Santa Fe were, from left, Don Hancock, Sally Rodgers, Rep. Christine Chandler and State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

BY MAIRE O’NEILL
maire@losalamosreporter.com

Multiple concerns were raised by panel members Wednesday June 21, 2019 during a forum on nuclear waste in the state of New Mexico hosted by the Santa Fe Democratic Party Platform and Resolutions Committee at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe.

Land Commissioner Garcia Richard said her office has direct oversight of mineral leasing at the proposed Holtec site. She made public a letter she sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expressing her concerns about representations made by Holtec to the NRC and New Mexicans about its control of the proposed site as well as agreements it claims to have secured from the state Land Office. She said while the Eddy-Leah County Energy Alliance LLC privately owns the surface of the proposed site, the State Land Office owns the mineral estate and that has not been disclosed by Holtec.

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LANL Cleanup: What you can do

Please consider attending and giving public comments at local public meetings concerning cleanup at Los Alamos. Public comments do make a difference!

Follow NukeWatch and submit public written comments. We frequently comment on environmental impact statements and provide sample comments. Support Us: https://nukewatch.org/get-involved/donate/

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.

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Seismic Expert Issues Scathing Review of NNSA Earthquake Study at Oak Ridge Nuclear Bomb Plant

| orepa.org

David D. Jackson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles, issued a scathing review of the latest study to analyze earthquake risks at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, saying, “The agency’s analysis is defective in numerous regards. It falls far short of relevant professional and scientific standards.”

Jackson was asked by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance to review the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Draft Supplement Analysis (SA) of a 2011 Environmental Impact Statement on plans for continued nuclear weapons production at the Oak Ridge production complex. In September, 2019, federal judge Pamela Reeve set aside two previous SAs and ordered NNSA to prepare additional environmental analysis with special attention paid to the risks presented by earthquakes.

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DoE Could be Ready to Go With Minimal Nuke Test in Nevada in ‘Months,’ Pentagon Official Says

It would take only a matter of months for the Department of Energy to perform an underground nuclear-explosive test with minimal diagnostics, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

| defensedaily.com

Previous heads of the agency’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have talked “about a very quick test with limited diagnostics, though certainly diagnostics, within months,” said Drew Walter, who is performing the duties of deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters.

“A fuller test, fully diagnostic, and lots of data, all the bells and whistles, so to speak, might be measured in years. But ultimately, if the President directed because of a technical issue or a geopolitical issue, a system to go test, I think it would happen relatively rapidly.”

Walter also said that he believes the NNSA has a borehole at the Nevada National Security Site that would be suitable for such a rapid test.

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ACT NOW TO STOP THE NEW BOMB PLANT!

The National Nuclear Security Administration was told by a federal judge to prepare a new analysis of the risks of an earthquake at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where nuclear weapons parts are made. Instead, NNSA prepared a very narrow analysis of the effects of an earthquake on three buildings at Y-12. They published this Supplement Analysis in April and invited public comment.

If you want to read the Supplement Analysis, you can find it on OREPA’s website: www.orepa.org. On the right hand column, just under the UPF lawsuit heading.

Your comments should be sent by May 26 to:
Ms. Terri Slack
P.O. Box 2050
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
or by email to: NEPA.Comments@npo.doe.gov

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Smith, Cooper Statement on Trump Administration’s Withdrawal From the Open Skies Treaty

May 21, 2020 | PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Jim Cooper (D-TN), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, today issued the following statement in response to reports that the Trump Administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty:

“The Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty is a slap in the face to our allies in Europe, leaves our deployed forces in the region at risk, and is in blatant violation of the law. This decision weakens our national security interests, isolates the United States since the Treaty will continue without us, and abandons a useful tool to hold Russia accountable.

“What’s more, this decision has been made without any consultation with Congress. Not only does the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act require a minimum 120-days’ notification of the withdrawal notice, but also multiple communications from the House Armed Services Committee and other congressional chairmen have gone unanswered.

“The Trump Administration continues to give Russia the upper hand with regards to arms control, which leaves our allies and deployed forces less protected in Europe. Despite the Department of Defense’s rhetoric about the dire need to prepare for ‘great power competition,’ this decision will undoubtedly do the exact opposite, and further fracture our relationships with allies needed to push back against Russian aggression in the region.”

Citing financial cost of pandemic, House liberals demand cut in military spending

Twenty-nine of the House’s most liberal Democratic members called Tuesday for a cut in military spending in the yearly national defense authorization bill — a declaration, they said, that is meant to focus federal resources on the coronavirus pandemic.

MIKE DEBONIS | washingtonpost.com

The demand, however, stands to greatly complicate the Democratic-controlled House’s ability to advance the National Defense Authorization Act, one of the most consequential must-pass measures that Congress assembles each year. It is likely to generate objections from Republicans and more moderate Democrats alike — and create headaches for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.

The signers are almost all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including lead sponsors Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), who have long called for lower levels of Pentagon spending to free more resources for domestic spending. But the pandemic, they argue, presents a new imperative for defense cuts.

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Scuttlebiz: Will ‘pit production’ save SRS?

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of urgency by the federal law “requiring” pit production begin by 2030. That law carries as much weight as the 1982 federal act requiring the nation to have a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain 12 years ago. Still waiting…”

DAMON CLINE | augustachronicle.com

It’s a choice that – from a local economic development perspective – isn’t much of a choice.

Here it is: 1) Convert the Savannah River Site’s unfinished Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility into a nuclear weapons plant; or 2) Let the MOX plant keep rotting while New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory continues producing the nation’s stockpile of “plutonium pits.”

Considering that about $9 billion is at stake, and that SRS needs a new “mission,” I believe it’s safe to assume local leaders want what’s behind Door No. 1.

The National Nuclear Security Administration laid out the two alternatives last month in a draft environmental impact study addressing the nation’s need to manufacture 80 new nuclear weapon cores a year by 2030.

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Huge Deficit = Defense Budget Cuts? Maybe Not

The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood.

| breakingdefense.com

The current Washington consensus sees deep defense budget cuts in the face of soaring deficits driven by the emergency legislation to stabilize the American economy as it reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may be wrong. The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood. The next administration — Republican or Democratic — will develop budgets beyond that, but the constraints of long-standing strategy will prevent major changes to force structure and acquisition that would drive deep budget cuts.   

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Will the Trump administration’s accusations doom the nuclear test ban treaty?

“Although US accusations are unlikely to be true, they could give a convenient pretext to officials who want to withdraw the US signature from the treaty, allowing the United States to resume its own nuclear testing. In fact, that may be the entire point.”

ANDREAS PERSBO | thebulletin.org

In April, while most of the world was focused on defeating a devastating viral pandemic, the US State Department quietly released its annual compliance report, describing whether and how the United States and other countries have been abiding by various arms control agreements. The report is sober reading for those hoping that the coronavirus would usher in a new era of international collaboration.

The report made waves for raising “concerns” about China’s adherence to a “zero-yield” nuclear testing standard, as called for by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although neither the United States or China has ratified the treaty, both have signed it, and both claim to abide by a nuclear testing moratorium.

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Released From Silence

One year anniversary of the release of the documentary short film “The Atomic Soldiers”

“The Atomic Soldiers” lets the veterans who witnessed the Hood test in Nevada tell their own stories. But the painful memories sometimes choke their recollections, leaving long and moving silences in place of words. “You don’t send 14,000 troops through ground zero and not call it anything but genocide,” says one.

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Ground U.S.-North Korean Diplomacy in International Law

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical.

| nationalinterest.org

In the years since the summits between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi, U.S.-North Korean diplomacy has fizzled to a halt. This is a grave mistake. Both North Korea and the United States need to get serious about reviving diplomatic efforts to eliminate their nuclear weapons.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical. North Korean and U.S. nuclear weapons put the rest of the world at risk—and drain valuable resources from needed economic recovery efforts and social services. ICAN estimated that together North Korea and the United States spent $36 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The United States spent $35.4 billion and North Korea spent about $0.6 billion.

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Trump Admin Sprints to Weaken Environmental Protections During Pandemic

‘There’s a lot they want to get done before the election, just in case.’

The Trump administration is diligently weakening U.S. environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, U.S. federal agencies have eased fuel-efficiency standards for new cars; frozen rules for soot air pollution; proposed to drop review requirements for liquefied natural gas terminals; continued to lease public property to oil and gas companies; sought to speed up permitting for offshore fish farms; and advanced a proposal on mercury pollution from power plants that could make it easier for the government to conclude regulations are too costly to justify their benefits.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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Quotes

“The Cold War times have passed. We don’t need an rearmament debate, we need a debate about disarming. We cannot answer today’s security questions with the deterrence ideologies from last century.”

– Oliver Meier in Berlin, in response to a question about the INF Treaty

Chinese “carrier killers” (military vehicles carrying DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles, potentially capable of sinking a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in a single strike) during a 2015 military parade in Beijing.

Cold War times | REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool/File Photo

“Is a nuclear World War III preventable? Yes, but only if preventing it becomes a central, common objective of our moment. And time is already running out.”

truthout.org  When it comes to relations between Donald Trump’s America, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Xi Jinping’s China, observers everywhere are starting to talk about a return to an all-too-familiar past. “Now we have a new Cold War,” commented Russia expert Peter Felgenhauer in Moscow after President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
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Trump Administration “Lowering the bar for level of protection of future generations and the environment…”

apnews.com  U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, writes to the DOE, “No one disputes the difficulty of retrieving and treating high-level waste from Hanford’s aging storage tanks. However, lowering the bar for level of protection of future generations and the environment by changing the definition of what has always been considered high-level waste requiring permanent disposal is a significant change.”

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The Trump administration wants to reclassify some radioactive waste left from the production of nuclear weapons to lower its threat level and make disposal cheaper and easier.

The proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy would lower the status of some high-level radioactive waste in several places around the nation, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.

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