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

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

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

Ex-SCANA CEO pleads guilty to fraud in SC nuclear fiasco: ‘I’m sorry it’s come to this’

Tom Clements, an environmental activist who criticized the nuclear project even before its abandonment, noticed and shouted a question as the former SCANA executive walked past. “Mr. Marsh, are you going to apologize to the people of South Carolina for this nuclear nightmare?”

By Avery G. Wilks & Conor Hughes | postandcourier.com February 24, 2021 – updated March 5, 2021

Kevin Marsh, then-CEO of SCANA, walks past demonstrators outside a 2017 meeting of the S.C. Public Service Commission shortly after the company abandoned the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project. Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed decade-long expansion. Sean Rayford/Special to The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Former SCANA Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh will spend at least two years in prison and pay back at least $5 million for defrauding electric ratepayers in South Carolina’s $9 billion nuclear power fiasco, according to a plea deal that was presented to a federal judge Feb. 24.

The 65-year-old Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed, decade-long expansion of SCANA’s V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in Fairfield County. Marsh had to surrender his passport at the courthouse but was released without having to post money for bond.

Once one of South Carolina’s top businessmen, Marsh has spent the past six months as a criminal informant and will continue to be a key witness for state and federal prosecutors who continue to probe the V.C. Summer project’s failure. He faces up to 10 years in prison if he does not fully cooperate with that investigation, according to the new terms of his plea deal.

“Justice has been served,” U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Peter McCoy said after the hearing. “For years, institutions and individuals have abused the public trust with little to no accountability. This includes corporations that have increased profits at the expense of their customers. Oftentimes, it’s assumed that these executives will avoid any oversight because of who they are and where they’ve worked.”

Marsh’s first day in court was a long one, a product of a three-year investigation by the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina, State Law Enforcement Division and S.C. Attorney General’s Office that brought both state and federal fraud charges against him.

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That Time an Airman Accidentally Prevented a Nuclear Apocalypse

Perroots wrote, “it is not certain that we looked hard enough or broadly enough for information…For Western collectors the context was peacetime without even the most basic ripples of crisis. For the Soviets, however, the view may have looked quite different.”

In a 1989 memo, CIA officials admitted that Perroots’ letter surfaced “a long standing warning problem, i.e. the need for the intelligence community in Washington to provide more timely, discriminating and accurate warning in support of the theater commander.”

B | taskandpurpose.com FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Lt. Gen Leonard H. Perroots

Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots was on the intelligence desk for U.S. Air Forces Europe on Nov. 5, 1983, when he heard that Soviet Air Forces in East Germany were on high alert and being loaded with munitions. The Air Force officer called his boss, Gen. Billy Minter, who asked Perroots if they should load up for war in response.

“I said that we would carefully watch the situation,” Perroots later wrote in a letter to senior U.S. intelligence officials, “but there was insufficient evidence to justify increasing our real alert posture.”

Little did Perroots know, he had just played a crucial role in averting what could have resulted in armageddon, had the nuclear-capable war machines of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union continued to spin up. Experts later compared the incident, now known as Able Archer 83, to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in terms of how close both sides came to declaring war.

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No Growth, No Big Cuts Likely For First Biden Defense Budget

The full budget, set to be released on May 3, should spark heated debate in Congress between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must increase to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

“You can’t obtain serious and durable cuts in Pentagon spending without an equally serious rethinking of our strategic objectives…Resources constraints should cause us to rethink our strategic objectives, but the Biden team seems unwilling to do that.” – Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the Pentagon, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley

WASHINGTON: Early planning indicates that the Biden administration’s first defense budget might only match last year’s request, marking the second year in a row that the budget request will not keep up with inflation according to several sources familiar with the guidance.

If that planning holds up, the top line for the Pentagon’s 2022 budget will likely come in around the $696 billion the department received in it’s base funding 2021, which was itself just $2.6 billion more than the enacted 2020 budget.

The full budget is now scheduled to be released on May 3. The Biden administration’s first DoD funding request will be delivered to a Congress already split between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must rise significantly in order to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

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Progressives Face Tough Road in Bid to Cut Biden Defense Budget

⋅ ‘Legacy’ weapons programs to come under review, Reed says
⋅ Critics eye Northrop’s intercontinental ballistic missile

By: / bloomberg.com

The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.

“Arbitrary reductions would not be the right way to go,” Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said in an interview Monday. Congress will weigh President Joe Biden’s first budget request and review the military services’ proposals to see if they cut unnecessary, so-called “legacy” weapons programs and facilities, Reed said.

Reed’s position is significant because Biden’s election elevated a narrative within the Democratic Party that the president will be under enormous pressure from progressives to slash defense spending. National security makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary budget.

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Nuclear Weapons — They’re Illegal

“Remember that when your congressional members pitch expanding nuclear weapons production as jobs programs; you can respond that they are illegal. Tell them they should show visionary leadership and moral courage by helping to create cleanup and green energy jobs instead.”

By:  / Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 22 will go down in history as the day when the tide turned against nuclear weapons. That was the day when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into effect, signed by 122 countries.

It specifically prohibits nations from developing, testing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and assisting others in doing so. It reinforces existing international law obligating all states not to test, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

What immediate impact will it have here, given that the Los Alamos National Laboratory is the birthplace of nuclear weapons and now sole producer of plutonium pit triggers for the expanding U.S. stockpile? The brutally honest answer is no impact, not immediately.

But think about it. Nuclear weapons are now internationally illegal, just as horrendous chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction have long been. But nuclear weapons are the worst WMDs, potentially killing millions more while causing radioactive fallout and famine-inducing nuclear winter. Ask your New Mexican congressional members to explain why nuclear weapons shouldn’t be internationally banned just like chemical and biological WMDs, all of which cause agonizing, indiscriminate suffering and death.

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Semis Hauling Millions of Radioactive Loads Across the Country

“…Charles is concerned, not only with the radiation he and other drivers may have been exposed to, but with the fallout from the radioactive rigs that continue to travel our nation’s highways.”

By: Duane Pohlman, WKRC

Semis hauling millions of radioactive loads across the country (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Each year, millions of radioactive loads are shipped across the country, many on trucks that travel right beside you on our highways.

The federal government says the shipments are safe, but some of those who handle and haul the toxic material disagree.

In this exclusive Local 12 Investigation, Chief Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman interviews two of those workers.

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PLOUGHSHARES FUND: JAY COGHLAN – MY FIRST GRANT: NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO

Jay Coghlan looks back at NukeWatch NM’s first grant from Ploughshares Fund

Jay Coghlan is the executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a nonprofit organization founded by veteran anti-nuclear activists that seeks to promote environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities, mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs, greater accountability and cleanup in the nationwide nuclear weapons complex, and consistent US leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Jay recently spoke with us on the initial reaction to Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s first grant from Ploughshares Fund, what has been accomplished since their founding in 1999, and what you can do to continue supporting their work.

What was your reaction when you found out that you received a grant?

My initial reaction was one of surprise. I was new to the work and didn’t really feel worthy of the trust that the Ploughshares Fund had put into me. Second came elation and the realization that I could become professional and devote myself to the work full time, which I view as a necessity. Third came a strong feeling of gratitude, which I still feel 28 years later because of Ploughshares’ incredible steadfast and consistent support.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in this field?

What I am most proud of is having played a central role in beating back four attempts by the US government to expand plutonium pit bomb core production, which has been the chokepoint of resumed US industrial-scale nuclear weapons production ever since a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. This work included convincing a New Mexico senator to require an independent plutonium pit lifetime study which in 2006 concluded that pits last at least a century. Shortly thereafter, in conjunction with a restrained budget environment, Congress deleted funding for a new-design nuclear weapon called the Reliable Replacement Warhead and related expanded plutonium pit production.

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Newly Released Documents Shed Light on 1983 Nuclear War Scare with Soviets

“On a hair trigger”: The Soviet Union put warplanes loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert during a 1983 war scare that was one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.

By: Nate Jones & David E. Hoffman / Washington Post

The Soviet Union put fighter-bombers loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert in East Germany during a NATO nuclear weapons command exercise in November 1983, and the alert included “preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons,” according to newly released U.S. intelligence records that confirm a “war scare” during some of the most tense months of the Cold War.

It was disclosed previously that the NATO exercise, named Able Archer 83, triggered worries in the Kremlin. But the new documents provide precise details for the first time of the Soviet military response to the NATO exercise, an annual event that practiced a simulated nuclear attack on the forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

According to the documents, the heightened Soviet alert was raised in the fighter-bomber divisions of Soviet forces stationed in East Germany. All command posts were ordered to be manned around-the-clock by augmented teams. In tandem, the chief of the Soviet air forces, Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, ordered all units of the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland to be covered by the alert.
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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

“We are very pleased that Native American-owned firms are being considered and selected for the remediation of uranium mine sites,” Valinda Shirley, executive director of the Navajo EPA Shirley said in a statement. “The award of these contracts propels the cleanup of our priority mine sites across the Navajo Nation.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, worth up to $220 million over the next five years.

The majority of the funding comes from the $1 billion Tronox settlement in 2015. According to the EPA, work is scheduled to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. A news release stated that the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950s.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to:

  • Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture,
  • Environmental Quality Management Inc.,
  • Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

In addition, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and clean-up of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, the news release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a prepared statement:

The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups. We strongly encourage these companies to create more opportunities for Navajo businesses to receive sub-contracts for the work related to assessments and clean-up efforts. We have many Navajo-owned entrepreneurs and businesses that have the expertise and experience to help clean-up our communities.

Each of the companies will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building.

READ THE ENTIRE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

New & Updated

Checking in: WIPP maintenance work ‘on schedule’ during 2-month operations pause

At WIPP, the waste is delivered from facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Energy around the country and buried in an underground salt deposit which gradually collapses and encases the waste permanently.

By:  | currentargus.com March 15, 2021

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant halted waste emplacement and handling operations for the last month at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad while an array of maintenance projects was completed.

The facility, which permanently disposes of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste about 2,000 feet underground, planned the outage for about two months until April 14 to allow workers to complete routine upgrades to its infrastructure and other needed work.

During the two-month pause, WIPP planned on 97 activities from six departments including mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, work control, safety and engineering.

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Japan Hasn’t Recovered 10 Years After Fukushima Meltdown

“There is an old laboratory adage that says, “The best way to clean up a spill is not to have a spill,” and this applies on a much larger scale to the entirety of northern Japan, where cleanup will remain economically unfeasible.”

Truthout March 11th, 2021

Weeds grow in the parking lot of an abandoned restaurant along Route 6, just outside the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a multiple-reactor meltdown following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Shiho Fukada for The Washington Post)

On March 11, 2011, a devastating offshore earthquake and ensuing tsunami rocked Japan and resulted in nuclear meltdowns in three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. Until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were placed on a one-year hiatus because of concerns over COVID-19, the Japanese government had portrayed these events as the “Recovery Olympics.” It had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase a claimed restoration of Japan since it was devastated in 2011. But has Japan really “recovered?”

Recently, corresponding author Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), co-author Maggie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education) and I published our second peer-reviewed journal article analyzing hundreds of radioactive samples from northern Japan that we collected with assistance from Japanese citizens and scientists. Our sampling on five occasions over almost a decade totaled 70 days on the ground.

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LANL W-87-1 Nuclear Warhead and Proposed Expansion into Santa Fe

“CCNS asks that we look more closely at LANL’s claim to boost the local economy – an extra cup of coffee in the morning, a bagel for lunch, a tank of gasoline, a trip to the bank to deposit the salaries of some of the highest paid employees in New Mexico? LANL’s taxes are already contributing to Santa Fe’s economy. Such claims depend on redefining what is meant by “economic support” because there is no commercial product, nothing that is a benefit to the community.”

nucleractive.org March 11th, 2021

The W-87-1, a new plutonium pit for a proposed nuclear warhead for fighting a full-scale nuclear war, would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  A plutonium pit is a grapefruit sized radioactive core of a nuclear warhead.  The plutonium pit would fit on a proposed Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile.  Many people question the need for a new estimated one billion dollar weapon, which they say is “outdated and unnecessary.”  https://fas.org/issues/icbm-information-project/ (Federation of American Scientists); https://www.internationalpolicy.org/program/Arms-%26-Security-Program (Issue Brief:  Inside the ICBM Lobby:  Special Interests or The National Interest, Center for International Policy’s Arms & Security Program); and https://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/capitalizing-on-conflict (Capitalizing on conflict:  How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arm sales, Center for Responsive Politics).

The total congressional budget request for LANL in Fiscal Year 2021 is approximately $3.7 billion.  Approximately 80 percent is for nuclear weapons activities, or $3 billion.

Recently LANL signed two 10-year leases for nearly 96,000 square feet of space in three vacant office buildings in Santa Fe.  LANL plans for 75 employees to be based in one building on the corner of West Alameda and Guadalupe, and 500 more in two buildings on the hill above the intersection of St. Michael’s and Pacheco.  It is calculated that of those employees, 460 will work on nuclear weapons.

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10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

11 March 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the triple catastrophe which marked the life of many residents of Eastern Japan: a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left almost 18,500 people killed or missing. Much has been achieved in disaster-hit areas but they are still seriously recovering, and the staggering loss of life and community is still being felt by the nation today. The impacts on communities from the ongoing dispersal of radioactive contamination released from the explosions at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima have been disastrous. Tokyo will probably face a massive earthquake in the next 30 years, and Japan must prepare for this next big quake while the Fukushima nuclear meltdown on Japan’s north-eastern coast remains firmly in the minds of everyone there.

Since the disaster, tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral lands. The harm extends far beyond the immediate threat to health – as well as destroying livelihoods, it has destroyed an entire way of life.

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Staffing, scheduling problems imperil projects at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, report says

Within the report, the GAO pointed to “significant” staffing shortages at WIPP that could prevent WIPP from completing construction projects needed to increase the facility’s space for waste disposal and allow for more workers in the underground to mine and emplace waste simultaneously.

By:  | currentargus.com March 11, 2021

Staffing and other problems at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant continued to be voiced by the federal government’s watchdog agency in a two-year report seeking to identify struggling areas in the government and ways to improve operations.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified the U.S. Department of Energy’s contract and project management at both the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) as one of six areas in its 2021 “High Risk List” that had showed some improvement since the last such report in 2019.

The EM manages WIPP on a federal level as low-level nuclear waste is permanently disposed of in an underground salt bed at the facility near Carlsbad.

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63 Years Ago – March 11, 1958: The Atomic Bomb that Faded into South Carolina History

Two women recall the bizarre day in 1958 when an atomic bomb fell out of the sky and landed on a Mars Bluff farm outside Florence.

Thankfully, the nuclear warhead, which at 30 kilotons was twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, didn’t go off. But its TNT trigger did, leveling the farmhouse and leaving a massive crater. Such “broken arrow”incidents took place an extremely troubling number of times during the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

House nears vote to repeal nuclear plant bailout

“We need to hit the reset button and start from scratch here,” state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D., Parma) said. “We can’t continue this nonsense of pretending that the corruption didn’t happen.”

By: JIM PROVANCE | The Blade, Toledo (TNS)  

COLUMBUS — A House committee Tuesday set the stage for a full chamber vote to partly repeal provisions of a state law at the heart of a $61 million Ohio Statehouse bribery scandal.

The full Ohio House of Representatives was expected to vote Wednesday.

This would mark the House’s first action to undo a $1 billion, consumer-financed bailout of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor and the Perry plant east of Cleveland. That law has come to epitomize shady, backroom dealing hidden even to those lawmakers ultimately manipulated to get it passed.

Two players and a nonprofit, dark-money corporation have already pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges carrying up 20 years in prison for the individuals. Three others — including former House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) — face similar charges.

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Nuclear Power Looks to Regain Its Footing 10 Years after Fukushima

Economics may play a stronger role than fear in steering nuclear power toward a slow decline.

“The pace of nuclear technologies’ progress could also be a factor in clean-energy strategies turning away from such power generation. Small modular reactors, along with other experimental designs, are not expected to begin commercial operations (or even testing) until the 2030s at the earliest, according to the DOE. This suggests that small reactors are unlikely to make a meaningful difference in reducing carbon emissions within the next 20 years. And at that point, they will have to compete in a future energy landscape that has been transformed even further by cheaper renewables and energy-storage technologies.”

“One imagines that solar will be more ingrained and cheaper, wind may be more ingrained and cheaper, the offshore wind will be developed, maybe batteries will be better developed, and storage will be better developed,” says Allison Macfarlane, who was chair of the NRC in 2012–2014. “That’s the market nuclear will have to compete in.”

By: | scientificamerican.com March 9, 2021

Nuclear power faces a wobbly future 10 years after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. But the industry’s unstable footing has less to do with the Fukushima accident—and more to do with how a natural gas glut and the rise of renewable power have transformed the global energy landscape.

Fukushima has certainly left its mark on the nuclear industry. When the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami occurred on March 11, 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. Since then about a third of them have been permanently shut down, and only nine have resumed operation.

“In Japan, [the accident is] still an outsize event,” says Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It not only had direct and indirect environmental consequences that they’re still dealing with—and a price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars to clean it up—but also it shattered the confidence of the Japanese people in nuclear power, which the authorities had always assured them was totally safe.”

Additionally, the accident spurred regulatory reviews of nuclear power worldwide and accelerated a preexisting plan in Germany to completely phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. Other countries, including Spain, Belgium and Switzerland, are in the process of doing so within the next 14 years.

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After 75 years, it’s time to clean Bikini

“It is time, finally, to recognize and right the wrongs perpetrated by the US government in the Marshall Islands. The US forced a new and dangerous technology on the native lands and peoples, without fully comprehending the short- and long-term consequences.”

A nuclear weapon test by the US military at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: US Defense Department image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed with PD-USGov-Military.

BY: Hart RapaportIvana Nikolić Hughes | thebulletin.org March 9, 2021

Due to their remote location in the Northern Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini Atoll were spared the worst of the mid-Pacific fighting between the American and Japanese armies in the final years of World War II. Their millennia-old culture and sustainable way of life ended abruptly when, in early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt, a representative of the occupying United States Navy, informed King Juda and other Bikini residents that the US would begin to test nuclear weapons near their homes. Wyatt asked the Bikinians to move elsewhere, stating that the temporary move was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.” Though Wyatt may have believed his words to be true, the show of might by the US that followed neither ended all conflict, nor was the exodus short-lived. Seventy-five years later, Bikinians have yet to return.
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Can the Energy Department store 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for 10,000 years?

Safely ridding the nation of one of the world’s largest excess stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium will be no minor feat. At issue is the US Energy Department’s 2016 decision to dilute and dispose of, all told, about 48.2 metric tons of plutonium, including 26.2 tons of components, known as “pits,” from several thousand dismantled thermonuclear warheads and 22 metric tons in other forms…If one gram of soil contains as little as 1.587 micrograms of plutonium, the Energy Department is required by federal standards to geologically isolate it from the environment for at least 10,000 years at WIPP.

By: Robert Alvarez | March 8, 2021 

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has received more than 12,500 shipments of transuranic waste since operations began in 1999.

The nuclear age is undergoing a paradigm shift. During much of the latter half of the past century, the nuclear enterprise was ascendant; now, it has entered a period of decline and uncertain long-term custodianship. This reversal of fortune is especially apparent in the United States’ efforts to rid itself of its unwanted reserves of plutonium. It’s been more than 75 years since a blinding flash lit up the pre-dawn sky at Alamogordo in the Chihuahua Desert of New Mexico. On July 16, 1945, a single gram of the grapefruit-size sphere of plutonium at the center of the world’s first nuclear explosion released three times the destructive force of the largest conventional bomb used during World War II. [1]

Thereafter, the United States government built a grossly oversized nuclear arsenal and never envisioned having to stop building it. Between 1944 and 1994, the Energy Department and its predecessors produced 99.5 metric tons of plutonium for use in an estimated 70,000 nuclear weapons. (An additional 11 tons were produced or acquired for research and development purposes.)

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This Is How the Biggest Arms Manufacturers Steer Millions to Influence US Policy

Five of the nation’s biggest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies and General Dynamics — spent a combined $60 million in 2020 to influence policy, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics.

By: Stephen Losey

The paper, “Capitalizing on conflict: How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arms sales,” details how a network of lobbyists and donors steered $285 million in campaign contributions and $2.5 billion in lobbying spending over the last two decades, as well as hiring more than 200 lobbyists who previously worked in government.

The amount of money at stake is immense, both at home and abroad, the center states on its website, OpenSecrets.org. Not only is a significant portion of the Pentagon’s $740 billion annual budget spent on weapons, the report explains, but American defense firms agreed to sell $175 billion in weapons to other countries over the last year. That includes deals to sell $23 billion in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and drones to the United Arab Emirates, and billions more in sales to Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, it adds.

The practice appears unlikely to change significantly under the Biden administration.

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A Decade Later: Human Suffering and Failures of Fukushima

Fukushima Daiichi 2011-2021

By:

The decontamination myth and a decade of human rights violations

The following is the Executive Summary from the new Greenpeace report. Download the full report.

As a result of a catastrophic triple reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 11 March 2011, several tens of thousands of square kilometres in Fukushima Prefecture and wider Japan were contaminated with significant amounts of radioactive caesium and other radionuclides. The first Greenpeace radiation expert team arrived in Fukushima on 26 March 2011, and Greenpeace experts have since conducted 32 investigations into the radiological consequences of the disaster, the most recent in November 2020.

This report, the latest in a series, chronicles some of our principal findings over recent years, and shows how the government of Japan, largely under prime minister Shinzo Abe, has attempted to deceive the Japanese people by misrepresenting the effectiveness of the decontamination programme as well as the overall radiological risks in Fukushima Prefecture. As the latest Greenpeace surveys demonstrate, the contamination remains and is widespread, and is still a very real threat to long term human health and the environment.

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Santa Fe councilors question LANL coalition membership

BY: Kyle Land /

What’s the actual benefit to the city?

That was the question Santa Fe city councilors debated Monday as they considered the city’s membership in the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

At the center of it all was a revised Joint Powers Agreement for the coalition, which officials hope will solve some of the group’s long-standing organizational issues.

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Panel weighs benefits to LANL communities coalition

BY: Sean P. Thomas sthomas@sfnewmexican.com /  Updated 

Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villarreal renewed her concerns Monday about the city’s involvement in a joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

During a Finance Committee meeting Monday, Villarreal said she has yet to understand how the city benefits from the agreement, which calls for a $10,000 contribution.

“Why is it important we are part of this coalition?” she asked. “It’s never been clear to me about the benefits and how it holds up the values that we care about in Santa Fe.”

The city is one of nine cities, counties, towns and tribal governments that make up the regional coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities in Northern New Mexico a more official say in decision-making pertaining to job development and cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

But controversy emerged in recent years over the organization’s spending practices.

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How Green Berets prepared to carry ‘backpack nukes’ on top-secret one-way missions during the Cold War

“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light Team told Insider.

BY: Stavros Atlamazoglou / March 1st, 2021 businessinsider.com

A Green Light operator conducting a high-altitude, low-opening jump with the MK54 SADM. Courtesy photo
  • In the Cold War, strategists wanted nuclear weapons they could use without sparking a nuclear war.
  • That led to the development of tactical nuclear weapons for use against targets.
  • Teams of Green Berets trained to carry those nukes to their targets and saw it as a one-way mission.

Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.

With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.

But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.

As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.
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Critical Events

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Environment Department files complaint against U.S. Department of Energy to speed clean-up of legacy waste, terminate 2016 Consent Order at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Non-compliance with 2016 Consent Order causing unacceptable delays, threatening public health and the environment

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

Nuclear News

Ongoing ‘review’ forces Pentagon official to pull out of SC pit production briefing

A Pentagon official backed out of a plutonium pit production briefing in Columbia this week because the Biden administration is “engaged in a full review of the program,” according to Rick Lee, the chairman of the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council.

By:  | postandcourier.com

Rick Lee, the chairman of the S.C. Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council, pictured here during a meeting in 2018. The council met in Columbia on Monday. (Colin Demarest/Staff)
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters Drew Walter was scheduled to make a presentation about pit production – the crafting of nuclear weapon cores, potentially in both South Carolina and New Mexico – “and why the Department of Defense feels it’s imperative that we get underway with the program,” Lee said.
But until the new administration settles on “what they want to do moving forward,” the chairman continued, Walter “would not be available for that kind of gathering.”
Exactly what the purported review covers or drills down on is unclear. A big question, Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements suggested Wednesday, “is if there is any kind of formal review of pits and overall nuclear weapons modernization at DOE and DOD.”

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Report: Cancer death rates rising near Fermi nuclear plant

A new study is looking to test baby teeth from children living near the plant.

By: Tricia Ennis | 13abc.com

(Photo: DTE Energy) (WNDU)

NEWPORT, Mich. (WTVG) – A new report from the Radiation and Public Health Project claims that the cancer death rate in Monroe County, Michigan is on the rise and it’s tying that growth to the Fermi 2 nuclear plant in Newport.

According to the report, which uses public health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of death due to cancer in Monroe County was roughly equal to that of the rest of the United States. Since 1988, that rate has risen steadily, reaching 11.3% higher than the national average in the most recent 10 years (2009-2018). From 2014-2018, that rate was 14.3% higher than the national average, amounting to 1,794 deaths. In the period between 1969 and 1978, outlines the report, that rate was 4.5% lower than the national average.

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By: William D. Hartung | Arms & Security Program

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) have been called “some of the most dangerous weapons in the world” by former Defense Secretary William Perry, because under current policies the president would have only a matter of minutes to decide whether to launch them in a crisis, increasing the risks of an accidental nuclear war.1 Despite this reality, proposals for reducing this risk have routinely been blocked, in significant part due to a group of Senators from states that host ICBM bases or ICBM maintenance and development activities, often referred to as the ICBM Coalition. The Coalition includes Senators from Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

The polices promoted by the ICBM Coalition and its allies do not have wide public support. A recent poll conducted by ReThink Media and the Federation of American Scientists found that 60% of Americans supported either forgoing the development of a new ICBM, eliminating ICBMs altogether, or eliminating all nuclear weapons, an indication that a change in current ICBM policies would have significant public support.

REPORT SUMMARY

FULL REPORT

Putin, Biden Should Aim For More Arms Curbs: Gorbachev

Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency that the two leaders  – who spoke by phone after Biden’s inauguration last month – should meet and discuss further arms curbs.

By: AFP NEWS – Agence France Presse /

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin and new US President Joe Biden to push for deeper restrictions on nuclear weapons.

Tensions soared between the two nations under previous US leader Donald Trump, fuelled by allegations of sweeping cyberattacks and a litany of other disagreements.

But soon after Biden took office, the two powers extended a pact that limits each side to 1,550 nuclear warheads, which Putin hailed as a positive development.
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The Future of War in Biden’s America

Danny Sjursen offers a Bidenesque tour of U.S. militarism.

By: Danny Sjursen Tom’s Dispatch | consortiumnews.com

2009: Vice President Joe Biden with U.S. sailors stationed in San Diego who were preparing to deploy to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. (U.S. Navy, Amanda L. Ray)

Hard as it is to believe in this time of record pandemic deaths, insurrection, and an unprecedented encore impeachment, Joe Biden is now officially at the helm of the U.S. war machine.  He is, in other words, the fourth president to oversee America’s unending and unsuccessful post-9/11 military campaigns.

In terms of active U.S. combat, that’s only happened once before, in the Philippines, America’s second-longest (if often forgotten) overseas combat campaign.

Yet that conflict was limited to a single Pacific archipelago. Biden inherits a global war — and burgeoning new Cold War — spanning four continents and a military mired in active operations in dozens of countries, combat in some 14 of them, and bombing in at least seven. 

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Bombs Away: Weapon Systems That Biden Administration Could Curtail or Retire

Here are some of weapons that might be reviewed by the president-elect

By: Michael R. Gordon | Wall Street Journal

President-elect Joe Biden has said that he will reduce “excessive” expenditures on nuclear modernization. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2017 that the Pentagon’s plans for updating and sustaining the nuclear triad of air, sea and land-borne weapons would cost $1.2 trillion, and some lawmakers say the eventual cost might exceed $1.5 trillion. Here are some of the weapons that might be reviewed.
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DOE Publishes Reactor Impact Statement

“Given that no clear mission need has been established for the VTR and with an estimated price tag of $3 billion to $6 billion, with completion ranging from 2026 to 2030, it is doubtful if the project will go forward..Just as for other costly, complex DOE projects, the price tag is certain to grow and the schedule certain to slip if the project is pursued.” — Savannah River Site Watch

By: NATHAN BROWN nbrown@postregister.com

Idaho National Laboratory photo

The U.S. Department of Energy has released the draft environmental impact statement for a test reactor it would like to build at Idaho National Laboratory.

The statement on the Versatile Test Reactor was released Monday and is available online through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s website, energy.gov/ne/office-nuclear-energy. Public comment will conclude 45 days after the federal Environmental Protection Agency publishes notice in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on Dec. 31. DOE will then hold two virtual public hearings, dates to be announced.
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Nuclear Media

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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.

Critical Events

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New & Updated

New United Kingdom Defense Strategy a Troubling Step Back on Nuclear Policy

“We have RCLC, which is funded primarily by the Department of Energy funds, yet DOE doesn’t necessarily listen to the resolutions that we put forward about reducing plutonium pit production. They don’t ask us what we think as city of Santa Fe residents.”

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2021
Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext 104

The United Kingdom announced today that it will move to increase its total nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling by over 40 percent and reduce transparency about its nuclear arsenal. This is a needless and alarming reversal of the longstanding British policy to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons.

These changes, which are outlined in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, are also inconsistent with the British government’s prior pledges on nuclear disarmament under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United Kingdom now joins China and perhaps Russia as the permanent members of the UN Security Council that are planning to increase the size of their warhead stockpiles.

The review attributes the need to increase the total stockpile ceiling from 180 warheads to 260 warheads to “the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats,” but it does not explain how raising the number of warheads will enhance deterrence against these threats.
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New Mexico demands more of US when addressing nuclear waste

“Some elected officials and watchdog groups say the list is another indication that New Mexico is on the back burner when it comes to cleaning up legacy waste. They’re also raising concerns that new waste generated by Los Alamos when it ramps up production of key nuclear warhead components will need to be cleaned up and could further sideline decontamination efforts.”

krqe.com March 15th, 2021

FILE – In this April 2019, file photo, provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory, barrels of radioactive waste are loaded for transport to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) at the Radioactive Assay Nondestructive Testing (RANT) facility in Los Alamos, N.M. New Mexico is going after the federal government for failing to make progress on cleaning up contamination left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research at one of the nation’s premier nuclear labs. In a civil complaint filed in federal court, the state says the plan by the U.S. Energy Department lacks substantive and appropriate targets for dealing with waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Nestor Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – The U.S. Energy Department has rolled out its 2021 priorities for cleaning up tons of toxic waste left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research at scientific installations and defense sites around the country.

The list includes a goal of sending 30 shipments from the birthplace of the atomic bomb — Los Alamos National Laboratory — to the federal government’s underground waste repository in southern New Mexico.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

For the NPT to work, plutonium has to go

Dealing with uranium enrichment is complicated because nuclear power plants use enriched uranium fuel, but that should not hold us back from eliminating the danger we can eliminate—plutonium.

Plutonium pellet. US Energy Department public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), whose tenth review conference is coming up in August, is in trouble, and not only because of the crescendo of complaints about the failure of the nuclear-armed states to implement nuclear disarmament. The treaty is threatened with irrelevancy because its controls have not kept up with the times. It was drafted over 50 years ago, when it was widely believed that nuclear energy represented the future and would soon take over the generation of electricity. Not surprisingly, countries put few treaty restrictions on access to technology or materials other than to impose international inspection, and even that was circumscribed. We now have a more realistic view of the dangers of access to fuels that are also nuclear explosives (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) and also of the limited economic utility of these fuels for powering reactors. If we want an effective NPT, we have to eliminate these dangerous materials from civilian nuclear power programs. 

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Checking in: WIPP maintenance work ‘on schedule’ during 2-month operations pause

At WIPP, the waste is delivered from facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Energy around the country and buried in an underground salt deposit which gradually collapses and encases the waste permanently.

By:  | currentargus.com March 15, 2021

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant halted waste emplacement and handling operations for the last month at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad while an array of maintenance projects was completed.

The facility, which permanently disposes of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste about 2,000 feet underground, planned the outage for about two months until April 14 to allow workers to complete routine upgrades to its infrastructure and other needed work.

During the two-month pause, WIPP planned on 97 activities from six departments including mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, work control, safety and engineering.

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Japan Hasn’t Recovered 10 Years After Fukushima Meltdown

“There is an old laboratory adage that says, “The best way to clean up a spill is not to have a spill,” and this applies on a much larger scale to the entirety of northern Japan, where cleanup will remain economically unfeasible.”

Truthout March 11th, 2021

Weeds grow in the parking lot of an abandoned restaurant along Route 6, just outside the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a multiple-reactor meltdown following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Shiho Fukada for The Washington Post)

On March 11, 2011, a devastating offshore earthquake and ensuing tsunami rocked Japan and resulted in nuclear meltdowns in three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. Until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were placed on a one-year hiatus because of concerns over COVID-19, the Japanese government had portrayed these events as the “Recovery Olympics.” It had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase a claimed restoration of Japan since it was devastated in 2011. But has Japan really “recovered?”

Recently, corresponding author Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), co-author Maggie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education) and I published our second peer-reviewed journal article analyzing hundreds of radioactive samples from northern Japan that we collected with assistance from Japanese citizens and scientists. Our sampling on five occasions over almost a decade totaled 70 days on the ground.

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LANL W-87-1 Nuclear Warhead and Proposed Expansion into Santa Fe

“CCNS asks that we look more closely at LANL’s claim to boost the local economy – an extra cup of coffee in the morning, a bagel for lunch, a tank of gasoline, a trip to the bank to deposit the salaries of some of the highest paid employees in New Mexico? LANL’s taxes are already contributing to Santa Fe’s economy. Such claims depend on redefining what is meant by “economic support” because there is no commercial product, nothing that is a benefit to the community.”

nucleractive.org March 11th, 2021

The W-87-1, a new plutonium pit for a proposed nuclear warhead for fighting a full-scale nuclear war, would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  A plutonium pit is a grapefruit sized radioactive core of a nuclear warhead.  The plutonium pit would fit on a proposed Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile.  Many people question the need for a new estimated one billion dollar weapon, which they say is “outdated and unnecessary.”  https://fas.org/issues/icbm-information-project/ (Federation of American Scientists); https://www.internationalpolicy.org/program/Arms-%26-Security-Program (Issue Brief:  Inside the ICBM Lobby:  Special Interests or The National Interest, Center for International Policy’s Arms & Security Program); and https://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/capitalizing-on-conflict (Capitalizing on conflict:  How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arm sales, Center for Responsive Politics).

The total congressional budget request for LANL in Fiscal Year 2021 is approximately $3.7 billion.  Approximately 80 percent is for nuclear weapons activities, or $3 billion.

Recently LANL signed two 10-year leases for nearly 96,000 square feet of space in three vacant office buildings in Santa Fe.  LANL plans for 75 employees to be based in one building on the corner of West Alameda and Guadalupe, and 500 more in two buildings on the hill above the intersection of St. Michael’s and Pacheco.  It is calculated that of those employees, 460 will work on nuclear weapons.

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10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

11 March 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the triple catastrophe which marked the life of many residents of Eastern Japan: a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left almost 18,500 people killed or missing. Much has been achieved in disaster-hit areas but they are still seriously recovering, and the staggering loss of life and community is still being felt by the nation today. The impacts on communities from the ongoing dispersal of radioactive contamination released from the explosions at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima have been disastrous. Tokyo will probably face a massive earthquake in the next 30 years, and Japan must prepare for this next big quake while the Fukushima nuclear meltdown on Japan’s north-eastern coast remains firmly in the minds of everyone there.

Since the disaster, tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral lands. The harm extends far beyond the immediate threat to health – as well as destroying livelihoods, it has destroyed an entire way of life.

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Staffing, scheduling problems imperil projects at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, report says

Within the report, the GAO pointed to “significant” staffing shortages at WIPP that could prevent WIPP from completing construction projects needed to increase the facility’s space for waste disposal and allow for more workers in the underground to mine and emplace waste simultaneously.

By:  | currentargus.com March 11, 2021

Staffing and other problems at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant continued to be voiced by the federal government’s watchdog agency in a two-year report seeking to identify struggling areas in the government and ways to improve operations.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified the U.S. Department of Energy’s contract and project management at both the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) as one of six areas in its 2021 “High Risk List” that had showed some improvement since the last such report in 2019.

The EM manages WIPP on a federal level as low-level nuclear waste is permanently disposed of in an underground salt bed at the facility near Carlsbad.

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63 Years Ago – March 11, 1958: The Atomic Bomb that Faded into South Carolina History

Two women recall the bizarre day in 1958 when an atomic bomb fell out of the sky and landed on a Mars Bluff farm outside Florence.

Thankfully, the nuclear warhead, which at 30 kilotons was twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, didn’t go off. But its TNT trigger did, leveling the farmhouse and leaving a massive crater. Such “broken arrow”incidents took place an extremely troubling number of times during the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

House nears vote to repeal nuclear plant bailout

“We need to hit the reset button and start from scratch here,” state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D., Parma) said. “We can’t continue this nonsense of pretending that the corruption didn’t happen.”

By: JIM PROVANCE | The Blade, Toledo (TNS)  

COLUMBUS — A House committee Tuesday set the stage for a full chamber vote to partly repeal provisions of a state law at the heart of a $61 million Ohio Statehouse bribery scandal.

The full Ohio House of Representatives was expected to vote Wednesday.

This would mark the House’s first action to undo a $1 billion, consumer-financed bailout of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor and the Perry plant east of Cleveland. That law has come to epitomize shady, backroom dealing hidden even to those lawmakers ultimately manipulated to get it passed.

Two players and a nonprofit, dark-money corporation have already pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges carrying up 20 years in prison for the individuals. Three others — including former House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) — face similar charges.

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Nuclear Power Looks to Regain Its Footing 10 Years after Fukushima

Economics may play a stronger role than fear in steering nuclear power toward a slow decline.

“The pace of nuclear technologies’ progress could also be a factor in clean-energy strategies turning away from such power generation. Small modular reactors, along with other experimental designs, are not expected to begin commercial operations (or even testing) until the 2030s at the earliest, according to the DOE. This suggests that small reactors are unlikely to make a meaningful difference in reducing carbon emissions within the next 20 years. And at that point, they will have to compete in a future energy landscape that has been transformed even further by cheaper renewables and energy-storage technologies.”

“One imagines that solar will be more ingrained and cheaper, wind may be more ingrained and cheaper, the offshore wind will be developed, maybe batteries will be better developed, and storage will be better developed,” says Allison Macfarlane, who was chair of the NRC in 2012–2014. “That’s the market nuclear will have to compete in.”

By: | scientificamerican.com March 9, 2021

Nuclear power faces a wobbly future 10 years after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. But the industry’s unstable footing has less to do with the Fukushima accident—and more to do with how a natural gas glut and the rise of renewable power have transformed the global energy landscape.

Fukushima has certainly left its mark on the nuclear industry. When the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami occurred on March 11, 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. Since then about a third of them have been permanently shut down, and only nine have resumed operation.

“In Japan, [the accident is] still an outsize event,” says Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It not only had direct and indirect environmental consequences that they’re still dealing with—and a price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars to clean it up—but also it shattered the confidence of the Japanese people in nuclear power, which the authorities had always assured them was totally safe.”

Additionally, the accident spurred regulatory reviews of nuclear power worldwide and accelerated a preexisting plan in Germany to completely phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. Other countries, including Spain, Belgium and Switzerland, are in the process of doing so within the next 14 years.

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After 75 years, it’s time to clean Bikini

“It is time, finally, to recognize and right the wrongs perpetrated by the US government in the Marshall Islands. The US forced a new and dangerous technology on the native lands and peoples, without fully comprehending the short- and long-term consequences.”

A nuclear weapon test by the US military at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: US Defense Department image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed with PD-USGov-Military.

BY: Hart RapaportIvana Nikolić Hughes | thebulletin.org March 9, 2021

Due to their remote location in the Northern Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini Atoll were spared the worst of the mid-Pacific fighting between the American and Japanese armies in the final years of World War II. Their millennia-old culture and sustainable way of life ended abruptly when, in early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt, a representative of the occupying United States Navy, informed King Juda and other Bikini residents that the US would begin to test nuclear weapons near their homes. Wyatt asked the Bikinians to move elsewhere, stating that the temporary move was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.” Though Wyatt may have believed his words to be true, the show of might by the US that followed neither ended all conflict, nor was the exodus short-lived. Seventy-five years later, Bikinians have yet to return.
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Can the Energy Department store 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for 10,000 years?

Safely ridding the nation of one of the world’s largest excess stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium will be no minor feat. At issue is the US Energy Department’s 2016 decision to dilute and dispose of, all told, about 48.2 metric tons of plutonium, including 26.2 tons of components, known as “pits,” from several thousand dismantled thermonuclear warheads and 22 metric tons in other forms…If one gram of soil contains as little as 1.587 micrograms of plutonium, the Energy Department is required by federal standards to geologically isolate it from the environment for at least 10,000 years at WIPP.

By: Robert Alvarez | March 8, 2021 

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has received more than 12,500 shipments of transuranic waste since operations began in 1999.

The nuclear age is undergoing a paradigm shift. During much of the latter half of the past century, the nuclear enterprise was ascendant; now, it has entered a period of decline and uncertain long-term custodianship. This reversal of fortune is especially apparent in the United States’ efforts to rid itself of its unwanted reserves of plutonium. It’s been more than 75 years since a blinding flash lit up the pre-dawn sky at Alamogordo in the Chihuahua Desert of New Mexico. On July 16, 1945, a single gram of the grapefruit-size sphere of plutonium at the center of the world’s first nuclear explosion released three times the destructive force of the largest conventional bomb used during World War II. [1]

Thereafter, the United States government built a grossly oversized nuclear arsenal and never envisioned having to stop building it. Between 1944 and 1994, the Energy Department and its predecessors produced 99.5 metric tons of plutonium for use in an estimated 70,000 nuclear weapons. (An additional 11 tons were produced or acquired for research and development purposes.)

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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Must Reads

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Ron Rosenbaum, in his fascinating and highly readable “How The End Begins” (2011) notes that when Kissinger told Nixon that Ellsberg was “the most dangerous man in America” he wasn’t referring to the Pentagon Papers but to what Ellsberg knew about top secret nuclear war plans from his work at RAND. Ellsberg had also made off with thousands of nuclear war-fighting strategy documents in addition to the Pentagon Papers, but decided to release the latter first. As it turned out much of the nuclear papers were lost during the turmoil following the Pentagon Papers release. This book, long overdue, is about what he learned then.

Ellsberg recalls being tasked to review the strategic war-fighting plans in effect under Eisenhower, and discovering that they called for “hitting every city, actually every town, above 25,000 population” in Russia and China and to some extent East Europe. Pressed for an estimate of death toll, the pentagon came back with 600 million dead. And that was not counting US and West European death tolls. “I thought, ‘This is the most evil plan that has ever existed. It’s insane.'”

Referring to US and Russian ICBM forces still to this day on alert: “Here is what we now know: the United States and Russia each have an actual Doomsday Machine.”

Democracy Now interview with transcript

Harper’s Magazine excerpt, Dec 6, 2017

Dave Davies excellent NPR interview

at Amazon

The U.S. Sprayed, Injected and Fed Radiation to Countless Innocents in Secret Cold War-Era Testing

Behind the Fog by Martino-TaylorMilitary scientists exposed American civilians to radiation without their knowledge or consent. “Behind the Fog” documents a dark chapter of “large-scale organizational deviance”…

From the publisher:

“Martino-Taylor documents the coordinated efforts of a small group of military scientists who advanced a four-pronged secret program of human-subject radiation studies that targeted unsuspecting Americans for Cold War military purposes… Agency and academic partnerships advanced, supported, and concealed the studies from the public at large who ultimately served as unwitting test subjects.

‘They targeted the most vulnerable in society… They targeted children. They targeted pregnant women in Nashville. People who were ill in hospitals. They targeted wards of the state. And they targeted minority populations.’

Martino-Taylor’s comprehensive research illuminates a dark chapter of government secrecy, the military-industrial-academic complex, and large-scale organizational deviance in American history. In its critical approach, Behind the Fog effectively examines the mechanisms that allow large-scale elite deviance to take place in modern society.”

(ABC News story / publisher’s book page)

Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die.

Raven Rock by Garrett M. Graff“Raven Rock is this massive, hollowed-out mountain. It’s a free-standing city… with individual buildings, three-story buildings, built inside of this mountain. It has everything that a small city would- there’s a fire department there, there’s a police department, medical facilities, dining halls. The dining facility serves four meals a day, it’s a 24 hour facility, and it was sort of mothballed to a certain extent during the 1990s as the Cold War ended and then was restarted in a hurry after Sept. 11 and has been pretty dramatically expanded over the last 15 years, and today could hold as many as 5,000 people in the event of an emergency.”

Almighty

Almighty Dan ZakCourage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age 

By Dan Zak, reviewed by Kai Bird

“Zak’s narrative is a perfectly measured blend of biography, suspense and history. He skillfully uses the small, finite story of the Y-12 protest [the break-in 4 years ago by Sister Rice and friends] to explore our national identity as a people whose culture is now intimately connected with things nuclear. Our bomb culture has not come cheap; the environmental costs have been devastating for many communities. And even though scores of governments- but not our own- are on record supporting a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons, Zak shows this is still an outlier dream. He quotes a United States admiral intoning: ‘I don’t see us being nuclear-free in my lifetime. Or in yours.’

We are stuck with Armageddon in our dreams. And in the meantime the Sister Megans of our bomb culture will no doubt try again and again to cry out against our complacency. But truly, it seems hopeless. As Billy Pilgrim laments repeatedly in Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’, ‘So it goes.'”

more at NYTimes


Interview with Dan Zak, “Almighty” author 

A Texas public radio interview with the very knowledgable and thoughtful Dan Zak, author of “Almighty”. Dan discusses The Lieu-Markey bills to restrict presidential authority to launch nuclear war, the B61-12 nuclear bomb and its new capabilities, the planned trillion-dollar “modernization” of the US nuclear arsenal, North Korea, deterrence, and the Oak Ridge Y-12 break-in of 2012.

audio podcast

Quotes

“I am pleased to recognize today’s entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades. The treaty is an important step towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and a strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament,”

January 22nd 2021 – UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.

“…We’re in a storytelling crisis, and the kind of storytelling that we are talking about right now needs to be revved up to the nth degree. While we—those of us in the journalism and nuclear spaces—understand the gravity of where we are, and how dangerous our current global stockpile is, and that we have fewer means of communication for de-escalation than ever, the rest of the world isn’t getting it. And as the pandemic worsens, this issue is getting less and less attention”

A cropped image of the cover of “Fallout,” by Lesley M. M. Blume, which tells the behind-the-scenes story of John Hersey’s reporting on Hiroshima. Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster

“Analytical attempts to belittle or undermine the significance of this treaty may appease the minority of countries that cling to these weapons of mass destruction for now, but make no mistake — the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a game-changer. And it is not going anywhere.”

Policy and Research Coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (and former Nuclear Watch New Mexico Intern)

 
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