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

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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Comments to the New Mexico Environment Dept. in Support of Comprehensive Cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Request for a Hearing

Nuclear Watch New Mexico November 6, 2023 | Email

New Mexico Environment Department
Hazardous Waste Bureau
2905 Rodeo Park Drive, Building 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505-6303
By email to [email protected]

SUBJECT: Support for Comprehensive Cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Request for a Hearing

Dear New Mexico Environment Department:
We strongly support the Environment Department’s mandate for comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Material Disposal Area C, an 11.8-acre dump consisting of seven unlined pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. This mandate will help maximize protection of human health and the environment and ensure that our critical drinking water resources are permanently protected.

We completely agree that the cleanup remedy for Area C must, in NMED’s own words, “consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste,” plus a soilvapor extraction system to remove the underground plume of volatile organic compounds (which are typically carcinogenic solvents).

Another large earthquake shows seismic activity continues to increase in West Texas, experts say

The 5.2 magnitude earthquake is tied for the fourth strongest in Texas history. It occurred in an area where oilfield companies have long been injecting wastewater from fracking underground.

By Erin Douglas, The Texas Tribune | November 9, 2023 texasstandard.com

Oil & Gas Industry Joins Fight Against Nuclear Waste Site Proposed in Southeast New Mexico

“The cross-country transport, consolidation, and interim storage of America’s entire inventory of spent nuclear fuel should only be considered once a permanent repository is underway and should never occur absent consent from affected communities,” – Nov 1. Letter from the Permian Basin Coalition (Occidental Petroleum, Concho Resources, Diamondback Energy and Fasken Oil and Ranch)

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | November 7, 2023 currentargus.com

Some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the Permian Basin came out against a proposed nuclear waste facility in southeast New Mexico.

The basin spans southeast New Mexico and West Texas and is regarded as one of the most active fossil fuel regions in the world. It was forecast to produce about 5.9 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) in November, according to the Energy Information Administration. That is about half of the more than 12 million bopd of total U.S. output.

All that oil production is driven by some of the world’s largest energy companies establishing heavy operations in the region.

State program to protect waterways called costly but necessary

“…It’s imperative for the state to gain more autonomy, even if the price seems steep, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a final rule that cemented the high court’s decision into official policy, leaving about 95% of New Mexico’s waters unprotected, the regulators said.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 2, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

State regulators have estimated the time and money required to develop full authority to protect New Mexico’s rivers, streams and lakes in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that sharply narrowed the federal government’s power to regulate wetlands and waterways.

It will cost the state $7 million to $9 million a year to run a program that regulates all types of polluted discharges into state and federal waters and will take seven to 10 years to establish, state officials told the Buckman Direct Diversion Board on Thursday.

Creating a permitting program to cover discharges going into designated waters of the state could be achieved within five years, even though those waters make up a much larger array than the ones that fall under federal jurisdiction, Environment Department officials said.

The state program would be an important step, but only a step, of the river diversion, a joint city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County project that draws water from the Rio Grande, they told the board.

LANL reports glove box breach, tritium drift weeks apart

“…Anti-nuclear activists contend the increasing number of glove box mishaps are part of a trend that will continue as the lab processes more plutonium, partly in pursuit of making the bowling ball-sized cores, or pits, that detonate warheads.

“It’s reasonable to assume it will accelerate with expanded [pit] production,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 1, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

A Los Alamos National Laboratory worker recently punctured a glove used to handle radioactive material in a sealed compartment, and wind blew airborne tritium into the liquid waste treatment facility a few weeks earlier, a federal watchdog reported.

The worker punctured the glove while handling a sharp measuring caliper instead of an electronic device that’s normally used for the task but was disabled, according to an October report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The breach contaminated a protective glove the worker was wearing but not the skin, and it didn’t cause an airborne radioactive release, the report said.

This is the second glove box breach in as many months and among a half-dozen the safety board has reported this year.

State, feds will seek independent expert over chromium plume threatening San Ildefonso Pueblo

“Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s operations director, agreed getting a third set of eyes on the project would be helpful, especially if this expert can suggest an alternative to the pump-and-treat method.”

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican | November 1, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

Federal officials said Wednesday they were pursuing an independent expert to help resolve their dispute with the state on how to clean up a decades-old toxic chromium plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory that has worsened since pumping was shut down seven months ago.

State regulators in March ordered the U.S. Energy Department to stop extracting tainted water, treating it and injecting it back into the 1.5-mile-long plume to dilute the pollution, contending this approach pushed the contaminants toward San Ildefonso Pueblo and deeper into the aquifer.

At a Wednesday meeting, a federal cleanup manager reiterated the Energy Department’s position the pump-and-treat method was reducing the hexavalent chromium and keeping it from spreading to the pueblo — and with the work halted, the contamination is rebounding.

“We’ve erased a lot of the gains we’ve made over the last few years of operating [by shutting down],” said Michael Mikolanis, head of the Energy Department’s environmental management in Los Alamos.

The worsening situation increases the urgency to bring in a third party that can provide fresh analysis and a different perspective to help move the state and federal agencies past their impasse, Mikolanis said.

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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