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

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NukeWatch Compilation of the DOE/NNSA FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.

LANL FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

Livermore Lab FY 2020 Budget Chart – Courtesy TriValley 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

Pakistan ups nuclear rhetoric, carries out launch of ballistic missile

BY AJAY BANERJEE | tribuneindia.com Tribune News Service New Delhi August 29, 2019

Pakistan has successfully test-fired surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi’, capable of delivering multiple warheads up to 290 km, the Army said on Thursday, amid fresh Indo-Pak tensions after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Pakistan on Wednesday closed three aviation routes of the Karachi airspace till August 31, which had promoted speculation about the possible missile-testing.

With this, Pakistan upped its ‘nuclear rhetoric’. The Director General of Inter Service Public Relations (DG-ISPR) said Pakistan on Wednesday night tested a short range nuclear missile in Sindh.

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France Is Still Cleaning Up Marie Curie’s Nuclear Waste

Her lab outside Paris, dubbed Chernobyl on the Seine, is still radioactive nearly a century after her death.

BY TARA PATEL | bloomberg.com

France Is Still Cleaning Up Marie Curie’s Nuclear Waste
Marie Curie working at the Radium Institute, a radioactivity laboratory created for her by the Pasteur Institute and the University of Paris at the University of Paris, 1925. PHOTOGRAPHER: SCIENCE SOURCE

In 1933 nuclear physicist Marie Curie had outgrown her lab in the Latin Quarter in central Paris. To give her the space needed for the messy task of extracting radioactive elements such as radium from truckloads of ore, the University of Paris built a research center in Arcueil, a village south of the city. Today it’s grown into a crowded ­working-class suburb. And the dilapidated lab, set in an overgrown garden near a 17th century aqueduct, is sometimes called Chernobyl on the Seine.

No major accidents occurred at the lab, which closed in 1978. But it’s brimming with radio­activity that will be a health threat for millennia, and France’s nuclear watchdog has barred access to anyone not wearing protective clothing. The lab is surrounded by a concrete wall topped by barbed wire and surveillance cameras. Monitors constantly assess radiation, and local officials regularly test the river.

“We’re proof that France has a serious nuclear waste problem,” says Arcueil Mayor Christian Métairie. “Our situation raises questions about whether the country is really equipped to handle it.”

Nuclear power accounts for almost three-fourths of France’s electricity, vs. a fifth in the U.S. There’s no lasting solution for the most dangerous refuse from the country’s 906 nuclear waste sites, including some of what’s in Arcueil.

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Women’s Equality Day 2019: Diversity Encourages Innovation

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated in the United States in August to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
Nuclear weapons, since their inception, have been associated with masculinity, their use considered the ultimate demonstration of power and dominance. In order to maintain that dominance, the existing patriarchy has framed nuclear abolition as “feminine,” implying that nuclear abolition is weak, emotional and even cowardly. These misguided stereotypes make it extremely difficult for women to be hired, promoted or taken seriously in the national security establishment.

nuclear diplomacy needs more women

“Negotiating successfully requires having the best people, regardless of gender, and recognizing that diversity enhances innovation.”

The story of women in nuclear security reflects many of the broader lessons we’ve learned about gender and politics: that women’s contributions have often been ignored or excluded, risking policies that lack key perspectives, nuance and debate. With today’s high stakes, we need national security policy that includes all of the best ideas. New and lasting solutions require diversity of representation and experience if we’re to solve the issues surrounding humanity’s survival.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/05/23/why-nuclear-diplomacy-needs-more-women/

Arms Control Association: #ThisWeek in Nuclear History: The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon on August 29, 1949 at Semipalatinsk in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Tests continued at the site until 1989 with little regard for their effect on the local people or environment. After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, tests ended at the site and it was officially closed on Aug 29, 1991. The International Day against Nuclear Tests is now observed annually on August 29.

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#ThisWeek in Nuclear History: The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon on August 29, 1949 at Semipalatinsk in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Tests continued at the site until 1989 with little regard for their effect on the local people or environment. After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, tests ended at the site and it was officially closed on Aug 29, 1991. The International Day against Nuclear Tests is now observed annually on August 29. Read more about the terrible health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing and the responsibility of our generation to ensure it never happens again in this month's Arms Control Today, "Close the Door on Nuclear Testing." (Link in bio) #nucleartesting #CTBT #Nomoretests

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Trump Wanted to Nuke Hurricanes to Stop Them From Hitting U.S. Coast: Report

“I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” [Trump said] according to one source who was there.

It makes sense that the president doesn’t like heavy winds. Photo: AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

BY MATT STIEB | nymag.com August 26, 2019

The president’s understanding of the natural world isn’t particularly deep. He thinks that the noise from wind turbines causes cancer. He’s called climate change a hoax and thinks that cold weather in the winter disproves global warming. He might not get how rivers work, and he definitely doesn’t understand how to stop a forest fire: Last year, he suggested a proper raking could have stalled the disastrous Camp Fire, which killed 83 Californians.

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New & Updated

Engel, McCaul Introduce Legislation to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Michael McCaul, the Committee’s ranking member, today introduced legislation calling on the Trump Administration to retain limits on Russia’s nuclear forces. The “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” calls for an extension of New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits on Russia until 2026, as allowed under the Treaty, unless Russia violates the Treaty or until a new agreement in is in place that provides equal or greater constraints, transparency, and verification measures with regard to Russia’s nuclear forces.

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Producing mass destruction: Private companies and the nuclear weapons industry

ICAN and PAX published a new report that shows how the commercial sector is massively involved in producing nuclear weapons. The report, “Producing mass destruction: Private companies and the nuclear weapons industry”, is part of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb project.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY | dontbankonthebomb.com

FULL REPORT AVAILABLE HERE

Governments are contracting at least US$ 116 billion (€ 102 billion) to private companies in France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States for production, development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. State owned companies in China connected to nuclear weapon production are starting to raise money through bond issuances, while Israeli, Pakistani, North Korean, and Russian nuclear programmes are still not transparent.

ICAN + PAX: New research that shows which 28 private companies are involved in building nuclear weapons.

NPT News in Review 2019

The NPT News in Review is produced by Reaching Critical Will during nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committees and review conferences.

ARMS CONTROL TODAY – REMARKS: Gorging at the Nuclear Buffet Table

“It’s like showing up at a buffet and, instead of having a balanced meal, you say, “I will just gorge on every single capability that is out there.” When you only need a balanced meal to do the job, you don’t need to eat everything at the nuclear buffet table, including offensive and defensive weapons.

BY SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN | armscontrol.orgMay 2019

Unlike a dinner buffet where it’s “all you can eat at a fixed price,” the nuclear buffet table requires you to pay for everything. With the current spending plan, that is right now estimated to be $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years by the Congressional Budget Office. If you add on all the other capabilities this administration apparently wants to add on, you’re talking about an even bigger price tag.” Senator Chris Van Hollen, Appropriations Committee”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) argues against unrestrained nuclear weapon spending during his remarks at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting. (Photo: Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)

Before I ever thought of running for elected office, I interacted a lot with folks at the Arms Control Association and in the arms control community back in the 1980s. I grew up in a Foreign Service family in many places around the world, but one of the things that I remember most and that had a great impact on me was when I read Jonathan Shell’s New Yorker series, “The Fate of the Earth,” that described what would happen to the planet after a nuclear war.

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A Tale of Two Consent Orders and What Is Needed

On March 1, 2005, after arduous negotiations and threats of litigation, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Department of Energy (DOE), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) entered into a Consent Order specifying the schedule for investigation and cleanup of the Lab’s hundreds of contaminated sites.

In June 2016, NMED and LANL signed a new Consent Order that solved many of LANL’s problems by removing fines and enforceable schedules.

Read/Download the full fact sheet pdf HERE 

The Madness of Nuclear Deterrence

“The dangers have only become more acute in the decades since I tried to convince Thatcher.”

BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV | wsj.com

‘Deterrence cannot protect the world from a nuclear blunder or nuclear terrorism,” George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn recently wrote. “Both become more likely when there is no sustained, meaningful dialogue between Washington and Moscow.” I agree with them about the urgent need for strategic engagement between the U.S. and Russia. I am also convinced that nuclear deterrence, instead of protecting the world, is keeping it in constant jeopardy.

I asked her: “Are you really comfortable sitting on a nuclear powder keg?” I showed her a diagram representing the world’s nuclear arsenals, grouped into hundreds of squares. Each square, I told her, is enough to eliminate human civilization as we know it. I was unable to persuade Margaret Thatcher. We hear the same arguments today, including in the U.S. and Russia.
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Report: LANL Nuclear Safety Falls Short

This article illustrates why planned expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos Lab has a high probability of failure.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is again facing criticism for failing to ensure nuclear safety in its operations, this time from a U.S. Department of Energy assessment office. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal)

BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The U.S. Department of Energy has again found that Los Alamos National Laboratory falls short in ensuring nuclear safety in its operations, even as the lab moves toward a major increase in plutonium work under a mandate to ramp up manufacture of the cores of nuclear weapons.
A report released Monday by a DOE assessment team provides a long list of problems in how LANL manages nuclear safety issues. It notes deficiencies by both the private consortium that managed the lab for about 12 years before losing the $2 billion-plus annual operating contract last year and as well Triad National Security LLC, which took over Nov. 1.
The report says former contractor Los Alamos National Security LLC, or LANS, allowed safety issues to fester with “significant weaknesses.”

There are “institutional behaviors that have allowed identified problems to go uncorrected, problem recurrences to be routinely accepted, and corrective actions to often be delayed for years,” according to the report DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments.

The safety lapses are serious enough that they could lead to another shutdown of operations at LANL’s plutonium facility, the assessment suggests.

Read the report HERE
From the report’s executive summary: Overall, this assessment identified significant weaknesses in the LANS IM [issues management] process and institutional behaviors that have allowed identified problems to go uncorrected, problem recurrences to be routinely accepted, and corrective actions to often be delayed for years.Although the assessment team did not identify any immediate threats to workers, the public, or the environment, these weaknesses in IM, if uncorrected, can allow layers of defense for nuclear safety to degrade to the extent they did leading to the pause in July 2013 of key fissile material operations in the Plutonium Facility at LANL for over four years.

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“According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), EM’s environmental liability grew by about $214 billion from fiscal years 2011 through 2018, more than doubling its cleanup liability in just six years. This dramatically outpaced the roughly $45 billion EM spent on cleanup activities during that period.”

“NukeWatch: We should be expanding cleanup programs instead of nuclear bomb production that made this mess to begin with.”

View the PDF

Our Episode 03 doesn’t have the Night King or hordes of the undead, BUT I do get to talk with Leah Greenberg, co-founder of Indivisible and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019, to discuss her journey from congressional staffer to community organizer. She talks about how the idea for a 2016 handbook ignited a progressive movement of civic engagement for everyday people. Also, Ploughshares Fund’s own Michelle Dover reflects on the legacy of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. John Carl Baker takes a closer look at the motives and intentions of Trump’s offer for arms control talks with Russia and China.

You can listen here: http://pressthebutton.libsyn.com/
Or – Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

View the Filed Brief here
View an Exhibit of Recent Earthquakes in the Area here
More on the UPF Lawsuit here

DOD Official Ducks Question of Plutonium Pit Assurance if Congress Allows Only 1 Site

BY EXCHANGE MONITOR

WASHINGTON – A senior Pentagon official declined to say here Wednesday whether he believes the Department of Energy can deliver nuclear warheads for next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles on time if Congress does not fund both the plutonium-pit production plants the civilian agency wants to build.

“I’m aware of the issue, but I wouldn’t want to sort of step on my colleagues’ toes by addressing the details,” David Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said following a speech at the Brookings Institution. “I’ll defer on that one, for the time being, at least.”

In an email, a spokesperson with DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said the agency “is focused on the two-site approach for plutonium pit production that was endorsed by the Nuclear Weapons Council in May 2018.”

The Donald Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called on the NNSA to annually manufacture 80 pits — fissile nuclear-weapon cores — by 2030.

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In the second episode of Press The Button, the new podcast from Ploughshares Fund, Ned Price, former spokesperson for President Obama’s National Security Council and current Director of Communications and Policy with National Security Action, sits down with host Joe Cirincione. Also: this week’s nuclear news analysis with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Nuclear Field Coordinator and Senior Program Officer John Carl Baker.

You can listen here: http://pressthebutton.libsyn.com/
Or – Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

Critical Events & Action Items

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Nuclear News

The Ban Treaty: What’s Next?

Ray Acheson

“The next process is going to be signing on to the treaty. It’ll open for signature at the U.N. in New York on the 20th of September. And after that, they’ll have to go through a national ratification process in order for it to enter into force. But that should all happen within the next year or two, and then it will be international law that is binding on all of the countries that have adhered to it, which means, in some cases, they’re going to have to change their practices and policies that may enable or facilitate the use or the possession of nuclear weapons.

“There could be economic divestment, for example, from nuclear weapon-producing companies. There could be changes of national law that currently permit transit of nuclear weapons through territorial waters. There could be different shifts in policies and practices around military training exercises that currently involve the preparation to use nuclear weapons. And it will also be an iterative process of building up the stigmatization and the norm against nuclear weapons through the public policy, through parliaments and through national discourse.”

Ray Acheson is director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; she represents WILPF on the steering committee of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Interview with Rick Wayman and Ira Helfland on the Ban Treaty

Rick Wayman:

“I think one of the most exciting things about this treaty process is the very deep and meaningful involvement of civil society, of my group, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Many of us were under the umbrella of an international campaign called the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. This voice really was unstoppable, but I also want to mention, to the credit of the nations that participated in this UN process, they gave civil society a big voice. It was really unlike any other UN process that I have been a part of before. I think that this, in many ways, revolutionized the way that international diplomacy and international treaties are made, so I’m very excited about that and very hopeful for the future.”

Ira Helfland:

“The nuclear weapons states did not participate in this process and that’s been the root of the problem. They have not wanted to honor their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The rest of the world has finally lost patience. They’re concerned by the overwhelming medical evidence that even a very limited nuclear war would be a worldwide catastrophe. The rest of the international community has issued a real challenge saying that they will no longer accept a situation in which nine countries hold the entire world, including their own people, hostage to these terribly dangerous nuclear arsenals.”

Read the full interview at The RealNews.com

Rick Wayman is the Director of Programs and Operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, and is Co-Chair of the ‘Amplify: Generation of Change’ network for nuclear abolition.

Ira Helfand is a co-Founder and Past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and co-President of PSR’s global federation the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Disposal By Dilution

U.S. DOE Documents Obtained via FOIA Request Confirm “Mission Need” to Expand “Dilute and Dispose” Method of Plutonium Disposition at Savannah River Site, Replacing MOX

The “dilute and dispose” process would package and dispose of the plutonium as waste rather than processing it for use as nuclear reactor fuel. The disposal processes consists of mixing plutonium oxide with “stardust,” a secret inert material, into small containers that are then placed in drums for geologic disposal.

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UN Adopts Treaty To Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

The treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of those activities. In addition, nations must not allow nuclear weapons to be stationed or deployed on their territory. (See FAQs on the treaty provisions at ICAN)
ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn: “We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security… No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable- no matter the circumstance- yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do. Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.” (ref: ICAN)

Ban Treaty adopted yay! 

Ray Acheson, director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom disarmament program, ‘Reaching Critical Will’: “This is a treaty made by people. By diplomats who got inspired by an idea and went home to change their government’s positions. By activists writing, thinking, and convening, bringing together governments and civil society groups to figure out how to make things happen. By survivors who give their testimony despite the personal trauma of reliving their experiences… By campaigners who mobilize nationally to raise awareness and pressure their governments. By politicians who truly represent the will of their people and speak the truth in parliaments…” (Nuclear Ban Daily July 8)

Perry Project statement: UN Adopts New Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Arms Control Assoc: New Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty Marks a Turning Point

Union of Concerned Scientists: Historic Treaty Makes Nuclear Weapons Illegal

Ploughshares Fund: A Stunning Rebuke To The Nuclear-Armed States

US, UK, France joint statement: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”

Fukushima unit 4 Nuclear Power Station

Fishermen Express Fury as Fukushima Plant Set to Release Radioactive Material into Ocean

777,000 tons stored in 580 tanks at the Fukushima plant, which is quickly running out of space… Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has been urging Tepco to release the water. Tepco chief Kawamura says he feels emboldened to have the support of the NRA chairman.

Despite the objections of local fishermen, the tritium-tainted water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant will be dumped into the sea, a top official at Tokyo Electric says.

Read More…

North Korea Missile Test Curtsey of Rodong Simun

North Korea Finally Tests an ICBM

“As with most of North Korea’s recent long-range missile tests, this one used a so-called “lofted” trajectory to keep the missile from overflying neighboring countries while still demonstrating high performance. If the data is correct, preliminary trajectory reconstructions indicate that if the missile were fired on a more efficient trajectory it would reach a range of anywhere from 6,700 to 8,000 km. David Wright, who provided the 6,700 km figure, acknowledges that his early analysis did not include the effect of the Earth’s rotation and the performance would probably be higher if the missile were launched in an easterly direction. The United States, of course, is to the east of North Korea. By any standard, this is the performance of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Fired from North Korea, it probably couldn’t reach the contiguous United States, but Hawaii and Alaska would be within reach.”

John Schilling, 38North.org

Final Negotiations Begin on Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty View/download PDF

An Open Letter from Scientists in Support of the UN Nuclear Weapons Negotiations

Selected Elements of a Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons

Statements and working papers to the conference

The International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms is calling for a a prohibition on “threat of use”. (ref)

Unfold Zero, the World Future Council, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and the Basel Peace Office are calling for a prohibition on the financing of nuclear weapons production. (ref)

We have a dossier on the background and trajectory of this initiative, and we’ll keep it up to date with news and developments: Ban Treaty dossier.

For further in-depth coverage of these negotiations, see the Reaching Critical Will and ICANwebsites. Also note the ban treaty blog at ICAN for daily news and developments.

Mattis “Open To Rethinking” New ICBMs and Nuclear Cruise Missiles

Pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who opposes the planned nuclear cruise missile (LRSO), Defense Secretary Mattis told a Senate Budget Hearing June 14 he’s open to rethinking the triad, as well as the LRSO.

Mattis said he would be consulting with former Defense Secretary William Perry, who has advocated eliminating one leg of the triad by phasing out the land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. Perry met with Mattis on the day of the hearing, and later tweeted, “Very wide ranging, candid, and productive discussion with Sec Def Mattis at the Pentagon today.”

Perry is also strongly opposed to developing new nuclear cruise missiles, which he says are “uniquely destabilizing” weapons, because an adversary cannot tell a conventional missile from a nuclear-armed version, risking miscalculation in a crisis.

“I register loud and clear the potential destabilizing view that some people see this weapon bringing and I’m taking that on board,” Mattis said. see the Washington Examiner 

Note that both ICBMs and the nuclear cruise missiles – the two weapons systems most frequently seen by experts as unnecessary and dangerous, are Air Force systems, and that Heather Wilson, a long time pal of the weapons contractors, is now Secretary of the Air Force.

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.

New & Updated

Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They’re Talking.

Nearly everyone who’s seen it and lived to tell the tale describes it the same way: a horrifying, otherworldly thing of ghastly beauty that has haunted their life ever since.

VIDEO BY MORGAN KNIBBE | theatlantic.com

“The colors were beautiful,” remembers a man in Morgan Knibbe’s short documentary The Atomic Soldiers. “I hate to say that.”

“It was completely daylight at midnight—brighter than the brightest day you ever saw,” says another.

Many tales of the atomic bomb, however, weren’t told at all. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an estimated 400,000 American soldiers and sailors also observed nuclear explosions—many just a mile or two from ground zero. From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

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New START Must Be Extended, Without or Without China

The baffling non-answers from the senior administration officials strongly suggest that the president’s impulse for a grand U.S.-Chinese-Russian arms control bargain is not backed up with a realistic plan.

BY DARYL KIMBALLnationalinterest.org

On May 14, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Sochi, Russia to discuss what the State Department called a “new era” in “arms control to address new and emerging threats” with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin.

The trip follows reports that Donald Trump has directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China that should include: “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.”

U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, have criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because it only limits U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons and does not cover Russia’s stockpile of sub-strategic warheads in central storage inside Russia.

New START, which caps each side’s enormous and devastating long-range nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers, will expire in February 2021 if Trump and Putin don’t agree to an extension.
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Trump Prepared to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sale: Senators

Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Democrats warn Trump may use ’emergency’ loophole to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.

WILLIAM ROBERTS | aljazeera.com

Washington, DC – Democrats in the United States Senate have warned that the Trump administration is preparing to approve a major new arms sale to Saudi Arabia, using an “emergency” loophole to bypass Congress.

“I am expecting that the administration is going to notice a major arms sale through emergency powers,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, told Al Jazeera on Thursday, after he said an administration official gave the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “informal notice” of the forthcoming announcement.

US arms control law allows Congress to reject weapons sales to foreign countries but an exemption in the law allows the president to waive the need for congressional approval by declaring a national security emergency.

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Last week, Nuclear Watch New Mexico was in Washington participating in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 31st annual DC Days. As a recent addition to the NukeWatch NM staff, this was my first time attending DC Days. The week consisted of a Sunday training day followed by three days straight of lobbying meetings with congress and other government departments that have a huge say in new nuclear weapons or energy developments. When the meeting days concluded, I also attended ANA’s Spring Meeting, which is a two-day debriefing and planning session to discuss thoughts on the week and new plans for the year ahead. This week was not only informative but enlightening, in terms of how I learned the ins-and outs of congress and the true functioning (or lack thereof, occasionally) of government. A large part of why I learned as much as I did and why I did feel so engaged, was due to being surrounded by the most genuine and helpful set of people. I would not have felt as comfortable in this world of politics (which is completely foreign to me) if it was not for the other members of ANA organizations that treated me as an equal contributor, despite my lack of knowledge in certain areas. This is a brief introduction to my time in DC, but there are more technical issues to discuss! A following post will contain the specific details of the issues ANA, and NukeWatch specifically, tackled during the week, including: Lobbying for No New Bomb Plants, Reducing proposed plutonium pit production, fighting Yucca mountain & consolidated interim storage – proposing alternatives to these, supporting a No First Use Policy, and much, much more.

Parties Prepare to Start Mediation Over WIPP Waste Volume

 The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located in the massive salt of the Salado Formation. b. Contact Handled transuranic nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in New Mexico in TRUPac II containers. c. Remote Handled nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in a 72B cask. d. Over 10,000 nuclear waste drums and standard waste boxes filling 1 of 56 rooms to be filled at WIPP. Note the higher activity remote handled waste plunged into boreholes in the wall to the right (like SNF could be) and plugged with a 4-foot metal-wrapped cement plug. The Valentine’s Day leak of 2014 occurred from a single drum in Panel 7 Room 7. Source: DOE CBFO
Source: DOE CBFO

Face-to-face mediation is expected in June between public interest groups and the New Mexico Environment Department over changes to the way waste volume is calculated underground at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

exchangemonitor.com | May 23, 2019

The New Mexico Court of Appeals often encourages mediation in cases involving state agencies in hopes parties can bridge their differences outside the courtroom, officials say.

A lawsuit filed in January by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), which challenged a change to the state hazardous waste permit for WIPP, has been stayed pending the talks.

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi issued the stay May 2 and called for the parties to file a status report on the mediation by July 31.

The mediation itself should occur in late June, SRIC Administrator Don Hancock said by email.

Then-state Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate in December authorized a permit modification allowing DOE to stop counting empty spaces between container drums as transuranic waste. The order adopted the findings of state hearing officer, who recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual waste inside containers.

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Study questions whether LANL, DOE can meet ‘pits’ production goal

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the report “makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons. … They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely. Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.”

ARTICLE BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – A recent study casts serious doubts on the potential success of any of the options considered by the U.S. Department of Energy for meeting mandates on the manufacture of plutonium cores for nuclear weapons – most of them involving Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The congressionally funded study also says that it would be “very high risk” to try to meet the nation’s ambitious goals for making bomb “pits” by installing more equipment and adding an extra work shift for a production “surge” at LANL’s existing plutonium facility, an idea that has been discussed.

Some of the risks cited in the report include whether there is the ability to stage, store and ship waste, and “the transport/transfer complexity of radioactive material.”

The study goes further and questions the overall plan to ramp up U.S. pit production, which is estimated to cost $14 billion to $28 billion, saying that “eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.”
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Federal workers struggle for years to prove they got sick on the job

Part 2 of NCR’s look at the toxic legacy of one nuclear weapons plant

BY CLAIRE SCHAEFFER-DUFFY | ncronline.org

The Kansas City Plant, pictured May 16, 2019, is under demolition by a private developer. The white bags in the foreground are designed to handle up to 3,000 pounds, or the equivalent of four 55-gallon drums, each of household hazardous waste. (NCR photo/Toni-Ann Ortiz)

Editor’s note: As the government invests in the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while weakening environmental regulations and federal laws protecting worker safety, National Catholic Reporter looks at the toxic legacy of one shuttered weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri.
In a three-part series about the Kansas City Plant on Bannister Road and its successor eight miles south, NCR reviews hundreds of pages of government reports and environmental summaries, and interviews more than two dozen sources, including five plant workers and their families, three former federal employees who worked nearby, nuclear industry and government officials, health experts, business sources, state environmental regulators and a former city councilman.
This is Part 2. Read Part 1 here.

If the Kansas City Plant was not a “dirty” site, then why were its workers getting sick and dying prematurely? The question haunted television reporter Russ Ptacek. In November 2009, he began investigating the Bannister Federal Complex, a 300-acre property that housed the post-war nuclear components plant as well as various federal offices leased by the General Services Administration (GSA). Ptacek began his inquiry after he was shown a list of nearly 100 sick and dying workers compiled by Barbara Rice, a retired data analyst, who worked for 31 years on the GSA side of the complex.

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“This report makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons. After all, this is the gang that can’t shoot straight. They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely. Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece  the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.” — Jay Coghlan, Director – Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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Frantic parents fear for kids after radioactive contamination found at Ohio middle school

“It’s so scary that my child has been exposed to this because I have no idea how it’s going to affect him,” one mother said.

BY SAFIA SAMEE ALI | nbcnews.com

Ashley Day has always worried about the health risks of living a few miles from a defunct nuclear power plant in Piketon, Ohio. So, when her son Kendon came home Monday and told her school had been canceled for the rest of the year, she had a sinking feeling there was a connection.

A few hours later, her fears were confirmed: The Scioto Valley Local School District declared in a letter that Zahn’s Corner Middle School would be shut down for the remainder of the school year because of possible radioactive contamination from the nearby Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which the federal Department of Energy is in the process of decommissioning.

“I felt anxiety, anger, and paranoia all at once,” she said. “It’s so scary that my child has been exposed to this because I have no idea how it’s going to affect him.”

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Editorial: LANL leaders must make safety the lab’s top mission

Falling short of the bare minimum in the eyes of the DOE is a far cry from where the public expects or needs LANL to be.

The Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board has a great editorial except for this part – 

Because LANL is home to some of the best and brightest in the nuclear industry. It is the home of the Manhattan Project. And its future is important not only to the prosperity of our state, but also to our national security.

Editorial: LANL leaders must make safety the lab’s top mission

“Falling short of the bare minimum in the eyes of the DOE is a far cry from where the public expects or needs LANL to be.”

lanl
Credit: Christopher Thompson for The New York Times

BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD | cnn.com

A new lab manager, a new mission to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal with 30 plutonium “pits” for nuclear bombs, and the same old lackadaisical approach to safety.

Welcome to Los Alamos National Laboratory, a company town where the culture is apparently so ingrained, even tough Department of Energy criticisms are unable to penetrate. At a time when saber-rattling is de rigueur, when concerns over North Korea’s arsenal and a nuclear Iran are high, when HBO is airing “Chernobyl,” that does nothing to instill public trust.

LANL got dinged last year after it mistakenly used a commercial air cargo service for a cross-country radioactive plutonium shipment. In 2014, LANL’s use of the wrong kitty litter burst a storage barrel and prompted a nearly three-year shutdown of the nation’s one-and-only nuclear waste repository, WIPP in Carlsbad. And the year before, a general slate of safety issues at the lab prompted a moratorium on plutonium work.

The latest weaknesses “if uncorrected, can allow layers of defense for nuclear safety to degrade to the extent they did leading to the pause in July 2013 of key fissile material operations in the Plutonium Facility at LANL for over four years,” the DOE audit says.

And that is a huge issue considering the lab is ramping up production on the devices that act as nuclear bomb triggers. The 30-pit order is expected to be met in six years, and there’s no other facility in the country that can fill it.

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James Doyle

“Many citizens, scientists and laymen alike, view nuclear-weapons abolition as an essential milestone in the development of human civilization, a moral, ideological and practical campaign that could catalyze the transformation of international relations and improve the outlook for civilization at a critical time.”

 

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