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.



“The U.S. is beginning an ambitious, controversial reinvention of its nuclear arsenal.
The project comes with incalculable costs and unfathomable risks.”

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!

Map of “Nuclear New Mexico”

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan 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

New & Updated

As New Mexicans Struggle, Sen. Heinrich is Proud of Nuclear Weapons Money

Sen. Heinrich is so proud of all of the nuclear weapons money in New Mexico. He is one of the chief congressional architects of expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores and sits on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee from where he can direct $$billions to the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs.

But during the Department of Energy’s long presence in the Land of Enchantment, according to Census Bureau data New Mexico has slid in per capita income from 32nd in 1959 to 47th in 2022. New Mexico has the most children living in poverty (30%) and is rated dead last in well-being of children and quality of public education. Finally, in a report that the Los Alamos Lab tried to suppress, six county governments surrounding Los Alamos County suffer a net economic loss from LANL.

In fiscal year 2024 DOE will spend $10 billion in New Mexico, 75% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs and 5% for dumping related radioactive wastes in our state. DOE’s budget is 6% greater than the entire operating budget of the State of New Mexico ($9.4 billion).

Senator Heinrich, please explain what good all that nuclear weapons money does for average New Mexicans, and not just for the privileged nuclear weapons enclaves.

For much more, please see nukewatch.org/new-mexico-americas-nuclear-colony

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Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: January 2024

FEDERAL BUDGET NEWS

Half of the federal budget (including Energy and Water appropriations which funds DOE) shuts down January 19 and the other half February 2 if a Continuing Resolution (CR) is not reached. House Speaker Johnson agreed to a previous funding agreement with the Biden Administration but the so-called Freedom Caucus is now in revolt.

Update: On January 18, Congress passes third stopgap funding bill instead of full FY24 budget, keeping the government funded until March. 

Sen. Martin Heinrich aids and abets the new, more dangerous nuclear arms race. He is outspokenly proud of all of the nuclear weapons money in New Mexico, and he is one of the chief congressional architects of expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores. In congress, Heinrich sits on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee from where he can direct $$billions to the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs.

But during the Department of Energy’s long presence in the Land of Enchantment, according to Census Bureau data New Mexico has slid in per capita income from 32nd in 1959 to 47th in 2022. New Mexico has the most children living in poverty (30%) and is rated dead last in well-being of children and quality of public education. Finally, in a report that the Los Alamos Lab tried to suppress, six county governments surrounding Los Alamos County suffer a net economic loss from LANL.

In fiscal year 2024 DOE will spend $10 billion in New Mexico, 75% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs and 5% for dumping related radioactive wastes in our state. DOE’s budget is 6% greater than the entire operating budget of the State of New Mexico ($9.4 billion).

Senator Heinrich, please explain what good all that nuclear weapons money does for average New Mexicans, and not just for the privileged nuclear weapons enclaves.

For much more, please see https://nukewatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/New-Mexico-Americas-Nuclear-Colony.pdf

ACCELERATING NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

North Korea Issues Ominous Warning About Nuclear Strike This Year
North Korea has issued an ominous warning about “the highest risk of clashes this year” between the totalitarian state and its neighbor to the south, which could end in “a nuclear strike,” according to South Korean media. Yonhap News Agency, a major media outlet in Seoul, reported on Thursday that North Korea media condemned recent Army artillery exercises and naval firing drills and exercises. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, said the exercises are “self destructive” and called South Koreans “warmongers,” according to Yonhap.

Colorado Environmental Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Halt Rocky Flats Trail

Lawsuit claims federal agencies did not consider alternatives to “plutonium-contaminated” portion of refuge

Katie Langford| January 8, 2024 denverpost.com

FILE — In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, a sign marks a trailhead at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Broomfield, Colo. In the wake of the Marshall wildifre, local elected officials and managers of the refuge are seeking ways to protect the refuge from future blazes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE — In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, a sign marks a trailhead at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Broomfield, Colo. In the wake of the Marshall wildifre, local elected officials and managers of the refuge are seeking ways to protect the refuge from future blazes. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Physicians for Social Responsibility and five Colorado advocacy groups are suing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and four federal agencies to halt work on a trail through Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia on Monday, claims that the U.S. departments of Transportation and the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not considering alternatives to constructing an 8-mile greenway “through the most heavily plutonium-contaminated portion” of the refuge.

North Korea’s Kim says military should ‘thoroughly annihilate’ US and South Korea if provoked

“In his New Year’s Day address Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he will strengthen his military’s preemptive strike, missile defense and retaliatory capabilities in response to the North Korean nuclear threat.”

| January 1, 2024 apnews.com

 SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his military should “thoroughly annihilate” the United States and South Korea if provoked, state media reported Monday, after he vowed to boost national defense to cope with what he called an unprecedented U.S.-led confrontation.

North Korea has increased its warlike rhetoric in recent months in response to an expansion of U.S.-South Korean military drills. Experts expect Kim will continue to escalate his rhetoric and weapons tests because he likely believes he can use heightened tensions to wrest U.S. concessions if former President Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election in November.

Glove box fire closed part of LANL plutonium facility in November

The federal agency and the lab also have resisted conducting public reviews of pit production, though mishaps and safety infractions are likely to grow more frequent, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“LANL knows that chronic nuclear safety incidences will increase with expanded plutonium pit production for the new nuclear arms race, which in turn would cause greater public resistance,” Coghlan said.

| December 21, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Radiological Control Technicians
Radiological control technicians simulate work processes in a glove box training facility in 2021. A sealed compartment with safety gloves attached caught fire at Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, resulting in officials shutting down a portion of the site’s plutonium facility for 10 days, according to the lab’s and government watchdogs’ reports.  Courtesy Carlos Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory

A sealed compartment with safety gloves attached caught fire at Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, resulting in officials shutting down a portion of the site’s plutonium facility for 10 days, according to the lab’s and government watchdogs’ reports.

Employees were pulverizing 40-year-old legacy materials that were removed from the facility to create more storage and work space when they saw a flash and then a fire inside one of the glove boxes they were using for the task, according to a Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report.

They deactivated the equipment, sounded alarms and promptly left the room. They and other facility workers evacuated the building.

Buried secrets, poisoned bodies

Why did a Truchas woman die with extraordinary amounts of plutonium in her body — and why was she illegally autopsied? For this reporter, the answers hit close to home.

| December 20, 2023 searchlightnm.com

The first reference to her comes, of all places, on an airplane. It’s the end of April and sitting next to me is Jay Coghlan, the executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Both of us are on our way back to Santa Fe from Washington, D.C., after the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s weeklong annual gathering. Coghlan, galvanized by the last several days of activities, spends most of the flight ticking down his list of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s most recent sins. But suddenly he turns to the past.

“Did you know that the person with the highest levels of plutonium in her body after the atomic detonation at Trinity Site was a woman from Truchas?” he asks me. The remark, more hearsay than fact, piques my interest. As Coghlan knows, that’s my pueblito, the place in northern New Mexico where I grew up on land passed down through many generations of women. Tina Cordova — co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium — would know more, he adds. “Ask her.”

Truchas, short for Nuestra Señora del Rosario, San Fernando y Santiago del Río de las Truchas, sits on a ridge in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, 8,000 feet above sea level. With some 370 people in town, most everybody keeps up with the latest mitote, or gossip, at the local post office. A regional variation of Spanish is still spoken by elders. Bloodlines go back centuries. And neighbors might also be relatives. If she is from this tiny, but remarkable, speck on the map, I must at least know of her. My mom, a deft weaver of family trees, definitely would.

Congress should reinstate radiation exposure compensation

“Even though atmospheric nuclear weapons testing ended long ago in 1962, future cancer deaths will still far exceed past deaths due to long-lived fallout. Why is it that our government does not inform us of this future suffering while also failing to justly compensate past and present suffering?” – Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester in a statement supporting those damaged by the nation’s nuclear activities,

THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | December 13, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Getting the U.S. Congress to do the right thing is never an easy task — and in the case of New Mexico residents and their descendants adversely affected by nuclear bomb testing or uranium mining, at times seems almost impossible.

New Mexico is the birthplace of the atomic bomb and site of the first test in 1945. But people here were not included in the original legislation designed to compensate individuals harmed by the nation’s nuclear efforts. Last week, a new injustice: An amendment to the 2024 defense spending bill to allow federal compensation for New Mexicans hurt by mining or testing was struck from the National Defense Authorization Act during House-Senate Armed Service Committee negotiations last week.

Compensation for radiation exposure had been included as part of the defense spending bill in an amendment sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján along with GOP Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Luján has sponsored radiation exposure compensation bills in every Congress since he first was elected to the House in 2008.

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: December 2023

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: December 2023
RECA supporters face setback after House omits compensation from defense bill / KOB4 kob.com/new-Mexico/reca-supporters-face-setback-after-house-omits-compensation-from-defense-bill/

Nuclear weapons issues

Final conference by Senate and House Armed Services Committee deleted expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that would have covered Trinity Test Downwinders, among others. In contrast, it authorized tens of billions for expanding nuclear weapons programs. So, it’s nothing for those harmed by nuclear weapons testing and production in New Mexico, but radical expansion of those programs that did harm them.

The FY 2024 Defense Authorization Act added money above Biden’s request for pit production at the Savannah River Site and the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and its new nuclear warhead. The Biden Administration opposed the SLCM, but Congress authorized it anyway.

LANL SWEIS

The 2020 Supplement Analysis that we had robustly critiqued with comprehensive formal comments, which DOE/NNSA have ignored, contains analysis of pit production based solely off the 2008 SWEIS pit analysis. Our single biggest point in the 2020 SA comments was the need for a programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production.

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Homily and Statement by Archbishop Wester to the Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

On November 29, 2023, the 34th anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day, and in conjunction with the Second Meeting of the State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester gave a homily on nuclear disarmament at Our Church of the Savior near the United Nations. Dorothy Day was a life-long anti-nuclear weapons activist and is now being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church.

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New information tool on nuclear weapons seeks to identify the next arms control strategies

“The sum of this data shows a familiar, albeit distinctly important, pattern: As nuclear weapon technologies surged forward, the world entered uniquely dangerous periods in which crises erupted despite a plethora of different nuclear capabilities. Crisis after crisis, steps to control an unchecked arms race were found to be both stabilizing and mutually beneficial—only to be discarded or violated, tempting disaster.”

By Andrew Facini, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | December 4, 2023 thebulletin.org

The way countries view nuclear weapons is shifting. As past arms control measures have ended or decayed, the United States, Russia, and China are investing heavily (again) in their nuclear arsenals, pursuing new capabilities and discarding constraints once seen as fundamentally stabilizing.

For those of us seeking to cultivate nuclear policies geared toward enhancing strategic stability, the current trend reflects a worrying loss of perspective—a forgetting of the hard-earned lessons of the Cold War. To help put today’s trends in their historical context, at team of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) developed a new visualization tool and information system that maps every type of nuclear weapon fielded by the five nuclear weapons states (P5) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—from their inception to present day.

Launched last week, the Nuclear Weapons Systems Project seeks a “qualitative rethink” by providing a curated data source for all major nuclear delivery systems ever deployed. By seeing more easily what has changed and when, users can better identify the benefits of states’ long trajectory of narrowing the types of nuclear capabilities in the world, understand the risks of a new expansion of nuclear capabilities, and develop ways to de-risk the current situation and prevent future security crises.

Second meeting of states parties agrees nuclear deterrence is the problem

“A joint statement endorsed by 26 nuclear affected community-led organisations, and supported by a further 45 allied organisations said ‘We have the right and responsibility to speak about what nuclear weapons really do… We call on States Parties to the TPNW to push relentlessly for its universalisation.’”

ICAN | UPDATES | December 1, 2023 icanw.org

N94 countries participated in the meeting as states parties or observers including some that currently endorse the use of nuclear weapons in their defence doctrines. These countries engaged in a robust and interactive debate during the week, adopting a political declaration and package of decisions.

Nuclear deterrence is a cause of global instability and insecurity

One of the adopted decisions included, for the first time ever, an agreement to work together to challenge the false narratives of nuclear deterrence. States parties mandated states, the International Committee of the Red Cross and ICAN and other stakeholders and experts, “To challenge the security paradigm based on nuclear deterrence by highlighting and promoting new scientific evidence about the humanitarian consequences and risks of nuclear weapons and juxtaposing this with the risks and assumptions that are inherent in nuclear deterrence.

There remains an information gap between what would actually happen as a result of nuclear war and the policies of the nuclear-armed states and their allies, and efforts to bridge this gap are the primary responsibility of those whose policies include the use of nuclear weapons.

New evidence on the impacts of nuclear weapons demand action from the global community

New research was presented during the meeting as well, including that there is much greater understanding of the cascading effects on food supplies, the financial system and energy supplies that help us better predict the likely effects of nuclear detonations.

The Second Meeting of States Parties on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Since the invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, to the recent situation in Israel/Gaza, the risk of impending nuclear war has been a reality considered by many for the first time.  As stated at a side event during the weeklong meeting of States Parties on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) held last week from November 27 to Decmber 1st, Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), warned that the wide-scale violence brought by these two events “continue to heighten the risk that nuclear weapons could actually be used.” This fear is made all the more tangible when considering also that earlier this month, the Putin announced Russia would be revoking its ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Terasaki pointed out is a “serious setback for the cause of nuclear disarmament.”

As stated in the article, The Voices of Victims of Nuclear Weapons Testing, “these realities make convening the current Second Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, which concludes December 1, all the more important and a crucial opportunity to revive momentum for nuclear disarmament and abolition.”

McGovern is first member of Congress to address UN about Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

“For some reason, we have a lot of the establishment that say it’s just a fact that we have to live with it,” McGovern said…“If we can’t reach our goal quickly, maybe we can engage in curtailing nuclear weapons.”

“Anything can happen if there’s the political will,”

By SCOTT MERZBACH, THE DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE | November 27, 2023 gazettenet.com

NORTHAMPTON — A treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons and ban anything associated with their development and manufacture has been ratified by 69 countries, with an additional 28 countries in the process of ratification, since the international agreement was signed in 2017.

The United States, though, along with many of its allies and another eight nations that possess nuclear weapons, remain holdouts to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, otherwise known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.

For the first time on Monday, though, as the weeklong Second Meeting of State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons got underway at the United Nations in New York, a member of the U.S. Congress was present for the discussions.

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: November 2023

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: November 2023

Nuclear weapons issues

New bomb: The Pentagon has announced a new nuclear bomb, the B61-13. The B61-12 is now in production and will be forward deployed in Europe. But it has a dial-a-yield that maxes out at 50 kilotons. The new B61-13 will max out at 360 kt to get at hardened deeply buried targets (both have limited earth-penetrating capabilities). At one time, production of the B61-12 at least potentially signified retirement of the 1.2 megaton surface burst B83 strategic bomb, but now production of the B61-13 will probably be relatively quick at the tail end of already scheduled B61-12 production.

See: https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3571660/department-of-defense-announces-pursuit-of-b61-gravity-bomb-variant/ and https://media.defense.gov/2023/Oct/27/2003329624/-1/-1/1/B61-13-FACT-SHEET.PDF

See excellent analysis by the Federation of American Scientists:

https://fas.org/publication/biden-administration-to-build-a-new-nuclear-bomb/

Strategic Posture Review:  Commissioned by Congress,

“The Commission recommends that a strategy to address the two-nuclear-peer threat [Russia and China] environment be a prerequisite for developing U.S. nuclear arms control limits for the 2027-2035 timeframe. The Commission recommends that once a strategy and its related force requirements are established, the U.S. government determine whether and how nuclear arms control limits continue to enhance U.S. security…”
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CRITICAL EVENTS

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ACTION ALERTS

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New Nuclear Media: Art, Films, Books & More

Fallout from a nuclear past: A new book explores the human toll of “nuclear colonization” in New Mexico

Of the three waves of colonization New Mexico has undergone — Spanish, American and nuclear — the latter is the least explored. And for author Myrriah Gómez, there were personal reasons to reveal the truth about how “nuclear colonization” has altered the state’s past and continues to shape its future.

By Alicia Inez Guzmán Searchlight New Mexico | December 2022 searchlightnm.org

Gómez, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, is the author of  “Nuclear Nuevo México,” a book that explores the history of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the fundamental tension of living in its shadow. Its publication this month by the University of Arizona Press couldn’t be timelier: Los Alamos is currently preparing to build plutonium “pits” that act as triggers in nuclear weapons, putting the lab front and center in an ongoing national debate about nuclear impacts.

“If Spanish colonialism brought Spanish colonizers and U.S. colonialism brought American colonizers,” as Gómez writes in her book, “then nuclear colonialism brought nuclear colonizers, scientists, military personnel, atomic bomb testing, and nuclear waste among them.”

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