Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

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

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

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

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Follow the Money!

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

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Blog Posts

Why Funding for the SLCM Nuclear Warhead Should Be Deleted

Introduction: In 1991, in response to the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union, President George H. Bush ordered the withdrawal of all nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) from U.S. surface ships and submarines. In 2018 President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review proposed to redeploy SLCMs on Virginia-class attack submarines, saying they would provide the United States with “a needed non-strategic regional presence” that would address “the increasing need for flexible and low-yield options.”1 Congress subsequently approved $15.2 million in FY 2022 funding for the Navy’s new cruise missile and nuclear warhead.

In March 2022 President Biden transmitted a new classified Nuclear Posture Review to Congress that reportedly canceled the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile. In parallel, his proposed FY 2023 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has no funding for the SLCM nuclear warhead. This has prompted some congressional pushback, with one suggested compromise being continuing modest research funding. But as a Congressional Research Service analysis put it: “The Navy indicated that the program was “cost prohibitive and the acquisition schedule would have delivered capability late to need.” 

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The Twisted Myth that Nuclear Weapons Make Us Safer

“Mutually Assured Destruction” has been the MO of the world’s nuclear powers for decades. If Russia points a giant nuclear warhead toward the U.S., we would gear up to point an even more massive missile their way, and then, in theory, Russia shrugs its shoulders and says, “Eh, not worth it.” They would be completely “deterred” from advancing a nuclear attack based on the reality that doing this would mean the entire country, continent, and ultimately, the entire world, would become obliterated as we know it; the cost and the risk greatly outweigh any benefit. According to this thesis, the existence of nuclear weapons makes the cost of war seem frighteningly high and thus “discourage[s] states from starting any wars that might lead to the use of such weapons” (Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,”) The idea that nuclear weapons make conventional war safer is a widely used as a framing for why we need nukes at all, with one specific reason being framing that nuclear weapons can still be the equalizer against superior conventional forces.

The official NATO website was updated as recently as a few days ago (May 17, 2022), and reads in its header, “NATO is committed to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, it will remain a nuclear alliance (emphasis my own).” What happens to the theories of “Deterrence” and “Mutually Assured Destruction” when we take a closer look? What is the possibility for NATO ever disbanding because a nuclear alliance is no longer needed? If all of the over 12,000 nuclear warheads in the world somehow magically disappear, would we be better off? Or would these theories prove correct, and would World War III start imminently with conventional weapons (or sticks and stones, as the saying goes)?

A recent (May 23, 2022) headline reads, “‘Destroy whole UK in two minutes!’ Russia MP threatens nuclear strike in on-air outburst” with a summary below, “A RUSSIAN MP has boasted during a TV interview that a nuclear strike could “destroy the whole UK in two minutes” amid mounting hostility between London and Moscow.”

This article certainly doesn’t seem to bode well for the theory that nuclear weapons make conventional war safer. On the contrary, Putin has been able to escalate war with Ukraine because of Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal, not despite it. Although the risk of this conflict actually going nuclear is low, the question is undeniably raised (again, for most, for the first time since the 19050s and ’60s) if future wars could escalate beyond the nuclear threshold.

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New & Updated

CNN – Russian Navy’s massive submarine could set the stage for ‘a new Cold War’ in the oceans

“Both US and Russian officials have said the torpedoes could deliver warheads of multiple megatons, causing radioactive waves that would render swathes of the target coastline uninhabitable for decades.”

Brad Lendon, CNN, CNN | July 23, 2022 cnn.com

The Belgorod nuclear-powered submarine, pictured in 2019. CREDIT: CNN

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) The Russian Navy has taken delivery of what is the world’s longest known submarine, one its maker touts as a research vessel — but what others say is a platform for espionage and possibly nuclear weapons.

The Belgorod was turned over to the Russian Navy earlier this month in the port of Severodvinsk, according to the country’s largest shipbuilder, Sevmash Shipyard.

Experts say its design is a modified version of Russia’s Oscar II class guided-missile submarines, made longer with the aim to eventually accommodate the world’s first nuclear-armed stealth torpedoes and equipment for intelligence gathering.

If the Belgorod can successfully add those new capabilities to the Russian fleet, it could in the next decade set the stage for a return to scenes of the Cold War under the ocean, with US and Russian subs tracking and hunting each other in tense face-offs.

Tularosa Basin Downwinders honor those killed from aftermath of bomb tests

“We come here to remember those people (who died) so that they’re never forgotten,” Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium co-founder and Director Tina Cordova said.

“We just want to thank the people who have continued to support us and hope that more and more people will get involved with us. We always want to thank the people that have supported us throughout the years… We’re just going to keep fighting the fight.”

Nicole Maxwell, Alamogordo Daily News | July 19, 2022 alamogordonews.com

Luminarias filled the Tularosa Little League baseball field Saturday, July 16 to commemorate the more than 800 people whose deaths were attributed to radiation exposure believed to result from atomic bomb tests at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo.

The tests that began on July 16,1945 and for decades were blamed for widespread cancers and other diseases among nearby residents.

To mark the 77th anniversary of the Trinity atomic bomb tests, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium held its annual candlelight vigil at the Tularosa Little League baseball field.

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Governor: NM Won’t Be a ‘Dumping Ground” for Nuclear Waste

“None of this waste we’re talking about is in New Mexico…If it actually were a good thing, if it were safe, Holtec or anybody else wouldn’t be thinking about trying to find someplace else.” Don Hancock, nuclear waste program director at the Southwest Research and Information Center

Public News Service | July 19, 2022 publicnewsservice.org

After being rejected by Texas and Utah, the federal government has now picked New Mexico to house the nation’s spent nuclear fuel, but the governor said the state will not be a “dumping ground.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced last week it intends to issue a license to Holtec International, to locate a toxic waste storage facility in Lea County. Holtec has proposed to transport high-level nuclear waste from the East Coast across the country via rail lines to a facility slated for the state’s southeast corner.

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“LAZY format”: A Failed WIPP Community Engagement Meeting in Santa Fe

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Environmental Management held a Presentation and “Community Forum” for Santa Fe on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), formatted as a hybrid in-person and Zoom meeting on Thursday, July 7, 2022. Nuclear Watch New Mexico is extremely unsatisfied with the outcome of this meeting, and is not alone in criticizing both the substance of the meeting and the format.

We have recorded this public forum with the chat included because there was an overwhelming amount of participation within the chat, and we feel the chat is a valuable resource in and of itself, as well as a testament to the large amount of community concern present around the subject of WIPP. View that recording HERE (and below).

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Critics displeased with forum on nuclear waste site

What was billed as a public forum in Santa Fe for the underground nuclear waste disposal site in Carlsbad turned out to be a lengthy slide show with only a handful of questions addressed, angering activists and at least one public official.

“[Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen] wrote a letter to federal emergency management officials…complaining about how the forum was conducted, she said. One official wrote back, expressing sympathy and saying the forums are supposed to foster public participation and boost transparency, Hansen said. If those are the goals, Hansen added, then this forum failed miserably.”

“I feel the people were treated with such disrespect,” Hansen said.

The Santa Fe New Mexican | July 8, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

The 100-plus people who attended the Thursday night forum for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center were told to jot down their questions on index cards about the repository, which has stirred controversy since it opened in 1999.

WIPP takes radioactive materials from Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as out-of-state sources such as the Hanford Site and Idaho National Laboratory.

The containers of transuranic waste — mainly contaminated gloves, clothing, equipment, soil and other materials — are entombed in salt caverns 2,150 feet underground. WIPP was initially planned to bury waste for 25 years, but federal managers now say it can run until at least 2083.

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Feds replace underground waste storage management with $3 billion deal

“A watchdog group criticized the Energy Department for choosing a subsidiary of Bechtel, a former partner in the consortium Los Alamos National Security LLC, which improperly packaged the waste drum that exploded at WIPP.”

“A private corporation that blew up WIPP operations in 2014 is now going to run WIPP?” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “Does the Department of Energy have no contractor accountability?”

The Santa Fe New Mexican | July 8, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

The U.S. Energy Department has awarded a $3 billion, 10-year contract to a Bechtel subsidiary to replace the current operator running the underground waste storage site in Carlsbad.

Tularosa Basin Range Services, based in Reston, Va., will take over daily operations of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after Nuclear Waste Partnership’s contract expires Sept. 30.

Tularosa Basin, whose parent company is Chicago-based Bechtel National Inc., was among five bidders, and its proposal was “determined to be the best value to the government,” the Energy Department said in a statement.

The contract will go for four years, with six one-year extensions available after that.

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Faulty ventilation seal caused radioactive leak at LANL

An improperly sealed ventilation system caused the radioactive leak that contaminated three workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium facility earlier this year, requiring one of the employees to receive medical treatment, according to an internal federal review.

The Santa Fe New Mexican | July 7, 2022 santafenewmexican.com

The review says a misaligned connection between the ventilation system and a glove box allowed radioactive material to slip through a degraded gasket on an old, unused port, raising questions about how these systems are inspected and maintained.

A glove box is a sealed compartment with attached gloves that workers use to handle radioactive material. The review looked at a January radioactive release involving a glove box, one of several such incidents reported in recent years.

In its newly posted June 3 report, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board gave a summary of the review conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a U.S. Energy Department branch.

The nuclear security agency’s review made 27 conclusions and listed nine areas that need correction to prevent similar incidents.

Ukraine war fears as UK’s nuclear plants vulnerable to attack in ‘nightmare scenario’

The UK’s nuclear plants could be on the frontlines of any conflict with Russia and would be vulnerable to an attack in any future conflict: “If a nuclear power plant was hit by a missile in the UK, Europe or Ukraine, there could be catastrophic widespread radioactive contamination.” – Dr. Paul Dorfman, Associate Fellow, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), Sussex Business School, University of Sussex.

MATTHEW DOOLEY | July 3, 2022 express.co.uk

The war in Ukraine has put civilian nuclear plants on the frontline of a military conflict for the first time in history, Dr Paul Dorfman has claimed that the conflict in Ukraine has shown that the UK’s own civilian nuclear infrastructure is at risk of attack, and likely cannot be defended.

World’s most nuclear-contaminated island where people can never return to live

In 2010, UNESCO declared Bikini Atoll a World Heritage Site as a reminder of the immense power and influence of nuclear weapons on human civilisation.

“Starting in the late 1960s, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission declared Bikini Atoll finally to be safe again for human habitation, and allowed some former residents to return…But this action was cut short a decade later, when a study showed that the levels of Cesium-137 in returnees’ bodies had increased by 75 percent.”

Charlie Duffield, Mirror UK | June 27, 2022 mirror.co.uk

United States detonating an atomic bomb at Bikini Atoll in Micronesia for the first underwater test of the device in 1946
United States detonating an atomic bomb at Bikini Atoll in Micronesia for the first underwater test of the device in 1946 ( Image: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A small ring of coral islands in the Pacific Ocean named Bikini Atoll remains uninhabitable to humans after it was used as a site for nuclear weapon testing.

After atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War 2, US military leaders began plotting extra nuclear weapons tests.

They landed on the remote location of Bikini Atoll – which has a land mass of just two square miles, and is part of the larger Marshall Islands chain.

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Action Alerts

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Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

View Recording of the March 9th PDA CNM Community Gathering:

PDA CNM Community Gathering - March 9, 2022 - Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

PDA CNM welcomed Archbishop John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, and our own executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Jay Coghlan, to speak at their March 9, 2022 monthly gathering: “[Archbishop Wester's] courage in speaking out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons inspires us at PDACNM to follow his example and continue the fight against this peril, especially given the threat of a possible imminent war between two nuclear powers.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, has worked successfully against radioactive incineration at the Los Alamos National Lab, and in Clean Air Act, Freedom of Information Act and National Environmental Policy Act lawsuits against the Department of Energy. He prompted a 2006 independent study that concluded plutonium pits last at least a century, refuting the NNSA’s assertion that we “need” new-design nuclear weapons and expanded plutonium pit production.”

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New Nuclear Media: Recent Books, Art, Film & More

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Past Nuclear News

Six B-21s in Production, Fuel Control Software Already Tested

The nuclear modernization effort, however, does face one potentially significant hurdle, particularly for missiles such as the GBSD and the Long Range Standoff Weapon: the production of plutonium “pits” that go in the center of nuclear warheads.

The National Nuclear Security Administration had set a goal of producing 30 pits per year by 2026 and 80 by 2030. But, “I think NNSA will readily admit they’re not going to make that requirement,” Wolfe said.

By Greg Hadley  airforcemag.com

The B-21 Raider continues to be a “model” program for the Air Force, with six of the new bombers currently in production and some of its software already validated through digital testing, a top general at Air Force Global Strike Command said Feb. 9.

Speaking at the 2022 Nuclear Deterrence Summit, Maj. Gen. Jason R. Armagost said the new stealth bomber will likely fly in 2022, echoing previous predictions by other Air Force officials.

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Wake up call on nuclear waste! Meet the National Radioactive Waste Coalition!