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

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

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New & Updated

Uranium contaminated property collapsing into Detroit River

Controversy continues to brew following revelations of repeated shoreline collapses into the Detroit River of a property contaminated with uranium, PCBs and other dangerous chemicals from an abandoned Manhattan Project contract facility in Detroit, Michigan.

beyondnuclear.org

Michigan.gov

The most recent collapse into the river occurred on November 26 or 27, 2019 but was not reported until a week later with a tip off to the Windsor Star newspaper just across the river in Canada. A previous collapse into the river occurred in October 2011 did not apparently result in remediations. The old Revere Copper and Brass site, now known as Detroit Bulk Storage, was used in the 1940s to process more than a thousand tons of uranium that was rolled into fuel rods to make the fissionable material for the first atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The facility continued to operate as part of the nation’s atomic bomb assembly line well into the 1950s before winding down and eventually abandoned in 1984. It is considered just one of hundreds of nuclear weapons contractor sites that make up America’s forgotten nuclear “waste land.”

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Here’s how Trump can get a win with Russia — and actually help all Americans

Extension of the New START Treaty would offer Trump an easy diplomatic win.

ARTICLE & ANALYSIS BY: MICHAEL MCFAUL | washingtonpost.com

This image, provided by the U.S. Air Force, shows an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch on Oct. 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The image was taken with a slow shutter speed. (J.T. Armstrong/U.S. Air Force via AP)

President Trump received Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House this week — a meeting that prompted considerable controversy, given the fraught backdrop of U.S.-Russia relations. Yet the coverage — additionally complicated by the impeachment proceedings taking place on Capitol Hill — almost entirely overlooked a crucial topic of the negotiations: the urgent need to keep alive a vital nuclear arms agreement.

Readouts and media reports reveal that Lavrov discussed the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), set to expire in February 2021, with his American interlocutors. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both suggested that China must be included in a future strategic nuclear arms deal, hinting that they may not extend the New START Treaty without Chinese involvement.

That would be a major mistake. The United States and Russia should extend the New START Treaty, an outcome that clearly would serve U.S. national security interests. At the same time, U.S. arms control negotiators could begin discussions with their Chinese counterparts about a new, future multilateral treaty to limit the deployments of nuclear weapons. While doing so, they should recognize that China is already well below the limits on nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles specified by New START and thus need not be a party to this agreement.

But these two negotiations should be sequenced, not linked. Extend the New START Treaty with Russia first; begin strategy stability talks with Russia and China second.

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Pentagon: Nuke official sexually harassed 3 women on his staff, resigns during probe

ARTICLE BY: TOM VANDEN BROOK | usatoday.com

WASHINGTON – A top Pentagon official for nuclear defense sexually harassed three women on his staff and resigned as an investigation substantiated the charges against him, the Defense Department inspector general reported Thursday.

Guy Roberts, who had served as the assistant Defense secretary for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, resigned on April 2 amid a probe into allegations from three women on his staff that he had forced hugs and kisses on them and told inappropriate jokes. The inspector general’s investigation began Feb. 22.


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The New START Treaty Keeps Nuclear Arsenals In Check And President Trump Must Act To Preserve It

Are the stars finally aligning for Washington and Moscow to extend the New START treaty?

ARTICLE & ANALYSIS BY: HANS KRISTENSEN & MATT KORDA | forbes.com

Nuclear arms control is reportedly on the agenda for a rush-meeting between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today. Over the past weeks, Russia had softened its preconditions for extending the New START Treaty––the only strategic arms control agreement still in place between the two nuclear superpower––while

President Donald Trump last week said that he had spoken with President Vladimir Putin and “we are – he very much wants to, and so do we, work out a treaty of some kind on nuclear weapons…”

New START Treaty aggregate numbers of strategic forces

The New START treaty limits US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear forces, and additionally facilitates inspections and exchanges of information on the status and movements of their intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. Signed in 2010, the treaty expires in February 2021 but can be extended for another five years.There is nothing other than personalities and bad advice that is preventing Moscow and Washington from extending New START. Retaining the treaty is clearly in the interest of both countries, particularly as other arms control agreements have been abandoned and military tensions are steadily increasing.

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Win Without War + 37 Orgs: NDAA a Blank Check for Trump’s Reckless Foreign Policy

WASHINGTON — 30 organizations representing a diverse set of issue areas — strengthening diplomacy, protecting migrants and refugees, preventing wars of choice, reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe, combating corruption, promoting human rights and sound environmental policies, and standing up for democratic values — released the following statement regarding the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report:

“Despite the fact that we do not all advocate on the same issues, we are compelled to state clearly in one voice: The results of negotiations for the final text of the NDAA are disastrous. The FY2020 NDAA conference report has been so severely stripped of vital House-passed provisions essential to keeping the current administration in check that it no longer represents a compromise, but a near complete capitulation.

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Defense Authorization Act 2020 – Out Now

The 3488-page Conference Report is at:
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20191209/CRPT-116hrpt333.pdf
The 741-page Joint Explanatory Statement is at:
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20191209/116hrpt333-JointExplanatoryStatement.pdf
The 19-page bill summary is at:
https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/CRPT-116hrpt333-summary.pdf

On Plutonium Pit Production:

Nuclear Forces have been the cornerstone of our national defense and the conference agreement funds the President’s budget request for Nuclear National Security Administration programs, including nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation activities. In addition, the FY20 NDAA supports the U.S. Strategic Command requirement to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 and doesn’t prohibit the Department from deploying low-yield nuclear weapons. It also clarifies nuclear safety authorities.

1. Page 1907 of the report defines a requirement to submit the costs of complying with cleanup agreements:

SEC. 4409. ESTIMATION OF COSTS OF MEETING DEFENSE ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP MILESTONES REQUIRED BY CONSENT ORDERS.

”The Secretary of Energy shall include in the budget justification materials submitted to Congress in support of the Department of Energy budget for each fiscal year (as submitted with the budget of the President under section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code) a report on the cost, for that fiscal year and the four fiscal years following that fiscal year, of meeting milestones required by a consent order at each defense nuclear facility at which defense environmental cleanup activities are occurring. The report shall include, for each such facility—”(1) a specification of the cost of meeting such milestones during that fiscal year; and ”(2) an estimate of the cost of meeting such milestones during the four fiscal years following that fiscal year.”.

2. On page 1914 of the report: Prohibiting the DOE high-level waste interpretation from being applied (only) to Hanford.

However, the Joint Explanatory Statement (p. 492 of PDF) states: “The conferees note that the inclusion of the provision does not prejudice how to process high-level waste nor does it discourage the use of the Department of Energy’s interpretation of high-level waste in future years or at other locations.”

3. On pages 1942-51 of the report: Changes to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).

Among those changes is trying to ensure DNFSB access to DOE sites. One example is that DNFSB has access to nuclear facilities “without regard to the hazard or risk category assigned to a facility by the Secretary.”

Don’t Let START Stop

Drawing upon six decades of constructive contacts between American and Russian citizens, we the participants in the latest Dartmouth Conference have decided to issue this urgent appeal to our governments, warning of the dangers of a new nuclear arms race and strongly urging both governments to act immediately to extend the New START Treaty beyond its February 2021 expiration.

ARTICLE & ANALYSIS BY: James F. Collins, David Mathews, Vitaliy Naumkin & Yury Shafranik | russiamatters.org

Photo by U.S. Air Force.
The Dartmouth Conference, initiated with the support of President Eisenhower and Chairman Khrushchev, has met 147 times since 1960.  Under its auspices, experienced and thoughtful American and Russian citizens from the fields of diplomacy, military affairs, medicine, religion and others have gathered regularly to develop joint recommendations on the entire range of issues in our relationship.Given the deep concerns we share about the security of our peoples, for the first time in our history we are compelled by the urgency of the situation to issue this public appeal to our governments, founded on our view that the clear threat of an uncontrolled nuclear arms race has re-emerged with the collapse in recent years of key elements of the post-Cold War arms control architecture.For more than four decades, the strategic stability, safety and security of the United States, Russia and the world at large have been protected by this arms control regime.  Those agreements, and the continuing bilateral contacts they required and facilitated, also have helped to limit the risks of military clashes between the two countries.  We express our concern in this regard at the demise of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev, and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement signed by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev.Continue reading

State report: LANL lost track of 250 barrels of nuke waste

The contractor that’s been in charge of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s operations for the past year lost track of 250 barrels of waste, while the company heading the legacy cleanup mislabeled and improperly stored waste containers and took months to remedy some infractions, according to the state’s yearly report on hazardous waste permit violations.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Triad National Security LLC, a consortium of nonprofits that runs the lab’s daily operations, had 19 violations of its permit from the New Mexico Environment Department. Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos, also known as N3B, which is managing a 10-year cleanup of waste generated at the lab, was cited 29 times. Triad’s most notable violation was shipping 250 barrels of mostly mixed waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad without tracking them. Mixed waste contains low-level radioactive waste and other hazardous materials. Inspectors found records still listed the waste at the national lab.

Mislabeled containers should be taken seriously because they can cause incidents if the contents aren’t identified, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Lab personnel didn’t update the shipping data because they were waiting for WIPP to acknowledge it had received the waste, lab spokesman Matt Nerzig said in an emailed statement. “There was no risk to public health or safety and the inventory is now correct,” Nerzig said, adding that shipping updates now will be done when waste leaves the lab. But a watchdog group said failing to track such a high volume of waste is an egregious error that falls in line with the lab’s long history of serious missteps.

“The fact that LANL has mischaracterized, misplaced, mis-inventoried — or whatever — 250 barrels of waste is pretty astounding,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “We see mistakes being made by a new contractor. So definitely, all of this is cause for concern.”

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Flammable hazard stalls LANL’s plutonium operations, waste shipments

Concerns that a calcium residue might be flammable prompted officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory to curtail plutonium operations and suspend waste shipments in early November, according to a federal report.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

The lab suspended most waste generation and certification at its plutonium facility and halted all waste shipments after officials questioned the accuracy of documentation, particularly on how much calcium-and-salt residue remained in transuranic waste after processing, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent oversight panel, said in a Nov. 15 report that was publicly released Friday.

Calcium is used to help reduce oxidation in plutonium. Traces of the substance typically linger after processing, and if they are too high, they can ignite when exposed to open air, the report says.

The report didn’t say how long the operations and waste shipments were suspended. A lab spokesman could not comment Monday.

Officials from multiple agencies met in Carlsbad on Nov. 5 and 6 to discuss the hazard, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, Triad National Security LLC — the consortium that operates the lab — and N3B, a cleanup contractor. They concluded there wasn’t enough evidence of a flammable calcium level to keep operations suspended, the report said.

However, they decided to withhold shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant until further testing could be conducted, the report said.

The underground storage facility near Carlsbad forbids waste that has volatile chemicals mixed in.

WIPP became more vigilant about testing for flammable mixtures after a waste container was packaged in 2014 with a volatile blend of wheat-based kitty litter and nitrate salts, which caused it to explode and leak radiation. WIPP shut down for almost three years while it underwent a $2 billion cleanup.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Hazardous Waste Permit Renewal Begins for LANL

“If DOE and LANL continue to treat the public with disdain, it is going to be a long and difficult permitting process. All in all, this first meeting was disappointing and unproductive.” — Joni Arends, of CCNS

nuclearactive.org

This week the renewal of the New Mexico Environment Department hazardous waste permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) began in a very controlled public meeting at the Cities of Gold in Pojoaque.  There was no presentation by the Department of Energy (DOE) or its contractor, Triad National Security, LLC, about their plans to renew the application.  If the public had questions, they were instructed to write them on a half-sheet comment and question card.  There was no explanation about if and how those comments and questions would be answered.

Listen to the full story:

Hazardous Waste Permit Renewal Begins for LANL

CCNS has prepared a pre-emptive sample public comment letter you can use to express what needs to be included in LANL’s permit application, including proposals to install confined burn and detonation facilities, and coming into compliance with the federal and state hazardous waste laws and regulations dealing with tank systems (that are used to treat liquid hazardous and radioactive waste) and seismic requirements.  The last surface rupture on the Pajarito Plateau fault system was 1,400 years ago – thus requiring additional LANL submittals and NMED review.  LANL_Permit_Renewal_App_public_comment_120519 The current ten-year LANL permit expires in late December 2020.  Under the regulations, the permit application is due to the Environment Department 180 days before the permit expires, or in late June 2020.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/lanl-permit/  The hazardous waste permit renewal application for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is on the same timeline.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp-permit-page/  CCNS and others have made numerous requests to both LANL and WIPP management to submit their applications in the spring of 2020 to give additional opportunity for the public to review both.  At the meeting, CCNS asked when LANL would submit its application.  A LANL staff member said they could not disclose the date.

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Defense policy deal creates Space Force, sidesteps border wall controversy

ARTICLE BY JOE GOULD | defensenews.com

A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers involved in annual defense authorization negotiations finalized a sweeping deal late Monday that creates a new Space Force among other policies, but it dropped contentious border wall restrictions and several other provisions favored by progressives.

The 3,488-page compromise bill, which supports $738 billion in defense spending for 2020, left out limits on the border wall, low-yield nuclear weapons and the president’s authorization to wage war on Iran. However, Democratic leaders did win ― in exchange for the Space Force ― an agreement for 12 weeks of paid parental leave to millions of federal workers, which could give some House Democrats otherwise opposed to the large defense bill a reason to vote for it.

The agreement caps months of negotiations made unusually complex because Democrats control the House and Republicans the Senate. The House is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday, as Congress has only a few days to pass the bill before the House’s Christmas recess begins Thursday afternoon. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

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Sandia Labs Appoints Director

The next director of Sandia National Laboratories has ties to both national laboratories in New Mexico.

ARTICLE BY: SCOTT TURNER

abqjournal.com © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

James S. Peery will succeed Stephen Younger who is retiring at the end of the year. He will become the 16th laboratories director in Sandia’s 70-year history and will officially lead the labs beginning Jan. 1.

Peery, 57, worked at Sandia from 1990 to 2002 and then again from 2007 to 2015. He has served in multiple leadership capacities at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories during his career. He currently serves as Associate Laboratory Director of National Security Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Peery’s appointment was announced Monday afternoon

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LANL Proposes Satellite “Campus” in Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported: 

“Santa Fe city leaders asked for developers’ ideas on what to do with the city-owned midtown campus…The National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA], which administers the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract, submitted a master developer proposal to build an open-campus environment with administrative offices, sustainable green spaces, engineering space, light manufacturing, training facilities and research and development…

[A NNSA spokesperson said] “LANL is undergoing unprecedented growth and expects to hire more than 1,000 new personnel annually for the next several years. Having a new campus — midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories [LANL and Sandia]— to house professional staff, scientists, and engineers in partnership with the city of Santa Fe — would be very beneficial.” ”

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POPE FRANCES CALLS FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS ABOLITION

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons while paying homage to the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two cities were both destroyed by atomic weapons designed and produced by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located in northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese.

The Holy Father declared: 

“With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home. The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.  How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”

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LANL Proposes Satellite “Campus” in Santa Fe as Part of Expanded Production of Plutonium Nuclear Weapons Triggers

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported:

“Santa Fe city leaders asked for developers’ ideas on what to do with the city-owned midtown campus…The National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA], which administers the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract, submitted a master developer proposal to build an open-campus environment with administrative offices, sustainable green spaces, engineering space, light manufacturing, training facilities and research and development…

[A NNSA spokesperson said] “LANL is undergoing unprecedented growth and expects to hire more than 1,000 new personnel annually for the next several years. Having a new campus — midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories [LANL and Sandia]— to house professional staff, scientists, and engineers in partnership with the city of Santa Fe — would be very beneficial.” ”

LANL’s growing jobs are primarily for expanded production of plutonium pits (the radioactive triggers of nuclear weapons) which helps to fuel the new global arms race. Over the last decade the Santa Fe City Council has passed three different resolutions against expanded plutonium pit production. Seventy percent (and growing) of LANL’s ~$2.6 billion annual budget is for core nuclear weapons research and production programs, while the remainder directly or indirectly supports those programs. In contrast, LANL’s renewable energy budget is .007% of its nuclear weapons budget and the Lab has zero dedicated funding to fight climate change. Moreover, LANL claims that its cleanup is more than half complete, intentionally omitting that it plans to leave ~150,000 cubic meters of toxic and radioactive wastes permanently buried uphill from the Rio Grande and above our common groundwater aquifer.

Just this last Sunday Pope Francis called for the abolition of nuclear weapons while in Japan paying homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. It would be supremely ironic if the City of Santa Fe hosted a satellite campus for a massive institution that spends 2 billion dollars (and counting) every year on nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Mayor Webber and the Santa Fe City Council surely know that the institutionalized presence of a nuclear weapons production laboratory in our city would generate a tremendous amount of controversy, a controversy they could well do without. The leaders of the City of Santa Fe should nix LANL’s proposal for a satellite campus in our town as a nonstarter and an affront to St. Francis de Assisi, the saint of peace.”

# # #

The Santa Fe New Mexican article is available at

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/business/developer-proposals-hint-at-what-s-in-store-for-city/article_2ec04f5c-156f-53fe-b034-9939ea167b4a.html

How to Change the Face of Nuclear Policy: Diversify

Research has repeatedly shown that diverse teams generate the best outcomes and that the presence of women in policy discussions adds value and sustainability to policies and impact.

ARTICLE BY: LAURA S. H. HOLGATE & MICHELLE DOVER| nationalinterest.org

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

It has been one year since more than thirty leaders in nuclear policy stood up to advance gender equality through public pledges in support of institutional change. Since then, Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, a leadership network in nuclear policy committed to breaking down gender barriers and making gender equality a working reality, has grown to include the leaders of over forty-two organizations worldwide. The latest, Thomas Mason, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, marks the first U.S. national laboratory director to join their ranks.

Collectively, the group has made 140 specific, time-bound commitments ranging from pledging to increase women’s participation in panels, events, and publishing, to establishing paid internship programs and bringing gender diversity to their Boards of Directors. Champions also pledge to use their own cachet as speakers to improve the gender balance of panel discussions.

Together, they are demonstrating that we can create change within our own institutions and networks to create better outcomes through diversity.

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YOUR VOICE will help determine the future of arms control.
Please be sure to #VOTE!

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TA-16 Gadget Building

Feds Test Aquifer for Contamination of RDX

THE LOS ALAMOS MONITOR ONLINE
Feds Test Regional Aquifer for More LANL Contamination of High Explosives
Monday, October 22, 2018

Chemicals used to make high explosives have reached the regional water supply, the Los Alamos federal environmental manager discovered two years ago.

The contractor for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management field office is drilling a second well to find out just how much contamination has occurred.

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WIPP Bulging Barrel

Critics: WIPP proposal would allow more nuclear waste storage

Critics: WIPP proposal would allow more nuclear waste storage
By Rebecca Moss | sfnewmexican.com
Sep 19, 2018 Updated Sep 19, 2018

As the public comment period closes Thursday on modifications to a state permit allowing the federal government to store nuclear waste at a southeastern New Mexico repository, critics are decrying the changes as an effort to increase storage capacity at the site and are accusing the state Environment Department of rushing the approval process.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, a private contractor that manages the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, submitted a request early this year to change the way radioactive waste at the site is measured.

They want to measure the waste by the volume inside each waste drum rather than by the total number of containers at the site. WIPP can store a maximum of 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic waste — discarded tools, soil and equipment contaminated by plutonium and other radioactive materials — in its underground salt-bed caverns. But its capacity has been measured so far by the total volume of the waste drums, not the materials held inside them.

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Mini-nuke blast off - Bulletin

Mini-nukes: Still a horrible and dangerous idea

Mini-nukes: Still a horrible and dangerous idea
By John Mecklin, September 19, 2018

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Perhaps the most dangerous weapons program the US government has recently pursued involves a low-yield nuclear warhead for submarine-launched nuclear missiles. The arguments against development of such “small nukes” are legion and overwhelmingly compelling. In fact, almost exactly one year ago, I laid out some of those arguments in an article headlined, “Mini-nukes: The attempted resurrection of a terrible idea.” And, I said then, don’t just take my word for it; read the analysis of Jim Doyle, a former longtime technical staffer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Simply put, the availability of “small” nuclear warheads increases the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used, and any use of nuclear weapons easily could (some experts might say “inevitably would”) lead to general nuclear war and the end of civilization.

In the last year, however, the Trump administration released a Nuclear Posture Review calling for development of a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Congress subsequently passed a defense authorization act that includes money for the program, and another bill allocates millions in the Energy Department budget specifically for pursuit of the new warhead.

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NM Sens. Tom Udall, left, and Martin Heinrich

New Mexico Senators Speak Out Over Order They Say Would Hamper Nuclear Safety Board

New Mexico Senators Speak Out Over Order They Say Would Hamper Nuclear Safety Board
They want Congress to suspend a move that would limit access to information about facilities and could hinder the panel’s ability to oversee worker health and safety.

by Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican,

Aug. 31, 5 a.m. EDT

This article was produced in partnership with The Santa Fe New Mexican, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

New Mexico’s senators are asking Congress to block a Department of Energy order that would limit a federal board’s access to information about nuclear facilities and could hinder its ability to oversee worker health and safety.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the leaders of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall also asked their colleagues to block impending staff cuts and a broad reorganization at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. New Mexico is home to three of the 14 nuclear facilities under the board’s jurisdiction: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

“We feel strongly that these two matters facing the [safety board] and its future must be suspended while Congress and the public have time to review and offer constructive feedback” on how to maintain and improve the board, the senators wrote to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman and ranking member of the energy and water development subcommittee.

Read the article here

SF Opera Dr Atomic Downwinders

The West’s atomic past, in opera halls

The West’s atomic past, in opera halls
On stage and in Congress, Trinity test downwinders fight for recognition.
Elena Saavedra Buckley, High Country News, Aug. 30, 2018

Outside the Santa Fe Opera, a 62-year-old venue nestled in juniper-covered hills, retirees reclined by cloth-covered tables in the parking lot. As the August heat reflected off the asphalt, they tailgated with flutes of champagne. Soon, they would file in to see Doctor Atomic, an opera about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the 24 hours before the first atomic bomb, which he helped create, detonated over New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin in the Trinity test.

Doctor Atomic has been performed in New York and San Francisco, but never before in New Mexico, where Manhattan Project scientists from Los Alamos Laboratory created the bomb. John Adams composed the opera in 2005, and Peter Sellars’s libretto uses declassified Los Alamos documents, focusing on the scientists’ perspective. This was the first time that downwinders — people whose families lived in the Tularosa Basin, in the path of the bomb’s radiation — appeared on stage during a performance. This summer, 73 years after Trinity, New Mexico’s downwinders are finally receiving some attention — onstage and in Congress.

The Trinity test occurred at 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1945, about 150 miles south of Santa Fe and the laboratory and only weeks before the bombings in Japan. It bathed the basin in light, creating a half-mile-wide crater. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders believe that blast’s radiation gave their families cancer, either from the air or through milk and produce, and that the diseases are being passed down genetically.

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Defense Nuclear Facilities Board at August 28, 2018 Pubic Hearing

Trump Administration Muzzles Nuclear Weapons Safety Watchdog

Trump Administration Muzzles Nuclear Weapons Safety Watchdog
The administration, working in open alliance with profit-making contractors, is scaling back the safety group’s authority and slashing its staff.

Center For Public Integrity
08.30.18 6:00 AM ET

By Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity

A small government safety organization tasked with protecting the workers who construct America’s nuclear arsenal and with preventing radioactive disasters in the communities where they live is under new siege in Washington.

The Trump administration, acting in an open partnership with the profit-making contractors that control the industrial sites where U.S. nuclear bombs are made and stored, has enacted new rules that limit the authority and reach of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, created by Congress in 1988 amid broad public concerns over civil and military nuclear safety lapses.

The administration’s new rules eliminate the board’s authority to oversee workplace protections for roughly 39,000 nuclear workers and also block its unfettered access to nearly three-quarters of the nuclear weapons-related sites that it can now inspect.

In a separate move, the board’s new acting Republican chairman has proposed to put more inspectors in the field but to cut its overall staff by nearly a third, including letting some of its supporting technical experts in Washington go. The board already has one of the smallest oversight staffs of any federal agency.

The twin assaults on the operations and authority of the safety board come just as the Energy Department, acting at President Trump’s direction, is embarking on the most aggressive era of nuclear weapons production since the Cold War. Trump has called for one new nuclear bomb to be produced immediately and for the production of another new bomb to be studied.

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SUMMER NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION

A Nuclear Energy Meltdown Scrambles Southern Politics

A Nuclear Energy Meltdown Scrambles Southern Politics
South Carolinians have some of the highest electricity bills in the country, thanks in part to nuclear energy

BY ANDREA COOPER | AUG 30 2018
REVEREND LEO WOODBERRY CLUTCHED the pulpit, his voice rumbling toward the people gathered in the basement theater at Little Rock AME Zion church. Around 75 men and women wearing everything from stylish dresses to blue jeans and T-shirts sat in rapt attention.

“Talk to your friends,” Woodberry implored, wearing a “Justice First” T-shirt and a baseball hat. “Your neighbors, your commissioners, your mayors. Tell them we are ready right now to move away from fossil fuels. We’re ready to make our cities 100 percent renewable!”

People clapped, whistled, and cheered “Yes!” and “Amen!”

Woodberry was on his Justice First Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, 100 miles from his home in Florence, South Carolina. The environmental activist had come here to proclaim that the moment had arrived for the climate change, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, and marriage equality movements to unite for a common cause: opposing an extractive economy “based on death and destruction and sickness.”

That same economy is responsible for an unprecedented energy and financial disaster in Woodberry’s home state: A $9 billion nuclear project—once heralded as part of a U.S. nuclear revival—has been abandoned after years of delays and mismanagement. One of the South Carolina utilities responsible for the colossal failure has billed its customers $37 million each month to recoup costs.

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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.

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New & Updated

Feinstein, Colleagues to DOD: ‘Low-Yield’ Nuclear Weapons Not a Deterrent

PRESS RELEASE | feinstein.senate.gov

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper questioning the decision to begin fielding W76-2 “low-yield” nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads.

            “We write to express our concern about the recent decision to begin fielding the W76-2 low-yield nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, a decision we do not support,” wrote the senators.

            “It is inconsistent for the United States to begin fielding new nuclear weapons while we urge other countries not to do so. We should be focusing on diplomatic solutions, and we ask that you urge President Trump to extend New START before it expires next year in order to begin negotiating a successor treaty that addresses U.S. security needs.”

            Full text of the letter is available here and below.

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Senators Introduce Legislation to Counteract Trump Exit from Iran Deal

Iran Diplomacy Act calls for a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear program

PRESS RELEASE | markey.senate.gov

Washington (February 19, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have introduced S.3314, the Iran Diplomacy Act, which calls upon the United States and Iran to return to no less than their commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. On January 14, 2020, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom triggered the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism in an attempt to address Iran’s breaches of the agreement, all of which followed the Trump administration’s unilateral exit from the deal on May 8, 2018.

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Nuclear waste site near Carlsbad opposed by New Mexico House committee vote

“These wastes are going to last for millions and millions of years. They are extremely toxic. The idea is to dispose of these in an area where there are gas and mineral resources. This is really not what New Mexico needs.” – Dave McCoy with Citizen Action New Mexico

ARTICLE BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | currentargus.com

Legislation to oppose the transportation and storage of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico cleared a State House committee as Holtec International continues to develop a plan to store such waste at a proposed facility near the Eddy-Lea county line.

House Memorial 21 was introduced by New Mexico Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-50) intended to prevent the controversial proposal that could see up to 100,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods stored on a temporary basis at the site in southeast New Mexico for at least 40 years.

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The Trump Administration’s FY 2021 Request for the National Nuclear Security Administration

The Trump Administration is proposing a massive funding increase for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). At $19.8 billion, the request increases current NNSA funding by $3.1 billion, or 18.4 percent.

Article originally from taxpayer.net

NNSA funds all the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons-related activities, including weapons design, production, safeguarding the nation’s nuclear stockpile and clean-up of the government’s nuclear weapons sites. The NNSA budget does not fund the aircraft, submarines and missiles that make up the military’s nuclear “triad,” which are funded within the Pentagon’s annual budget.

In the FY 2021 request, the Department of Energy states that the additional NNSA funding is necessary to support the modernization efforts of U.S. nuclear forces called for in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

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Trump Proposes 25 Percent Bump in Nuke Spending

“Taxpayers in 2020 should not be forced to pay for a ticket back to nuclear weapons policies of the 1980s,” John Tierney, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said in a statement. Pit production funding wasn’t included in the overview. Energy Department officials said a full budget proposal would become available in the coming weeks.

“Globally, Trump’s nuclear weapons budget is fueling a new nuclear arms weapons race, particularly with a new plan for a new nuclear warhead,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of New Mexico Nuclear Watch. “It solidifies Los Alamos lab’s future as a nuclear bomb plant, especially while nonproliferation, renewable energy and cleanup programs are held flat or cut.”

BY: SCOTT WYLAND |santafenewmexican.com

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. / Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump is proposing a 25 percent increase in nuclear weapons spending that will include developing a new warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to a preliminary 2021 budget overview released Monday.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous branch of the U.S. Energy Department, would see its budget increase by 18.4 percent to $19.8 billion next fiscal year, partly to ramp up production of plutonium pits at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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President’s Budget Calls for More Spending on Nuclear Production

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, says that the budget request would allocate more taxpayer dollars to the country’s nuclear weapons programs since the Cold War ended 30 years ago.

“Globally Trump’s nuclear weapons budget is fueling a new nuclear arms race,” he said in a statement. “It solidifies Los Alamos Lab’s future as a nuclear bomb plant, while nonproliferation, renewable energy and cleanup programs are held flat or cut.”

BY: T.S. LAST |abqjournal.com

President Trump’s budget request aims to increase pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Source: Los Alamos Laboratory)
President Trump’s budget request aims to increase pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Source: Los Alamos Laboratory)

SANTA FE, N.M. — The National Nuclear Security Administration would get $19.8 billion under President Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 — a 20% increase from this year’s budget — about half of which would go toward supporting the U.S.’s nuclear weapons programs.

According to a Department of Energy fact sheet distributed on Monday, $9.5 billion of NNSA’s budget would be put toward efforts to “sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile.” Of that, $4.3 billion is earmarked for stockpile management and $2.5 billion is for production modernization to support production capabilities for nuclear weapons. That includes funds for equipment, facilities and personnel “to reestablish the Nation’s ability to produce (plutonium) pits.”

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Trump Budget Calls for New Nuclear Warheads and 2 Types of Missiles

The president’s spending proposal requests money for a new arms race with Russia and China, and restores nuclear weapons as central to military policy.

DAVID E. SANGER |nytimes.com

ARABIAN SEA (Nov. 13, 2007) The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) steams through the Arabian Sea along with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kiona M. Mckissack
ARABIAN SEA (Nov. 13, 2007) The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) steams through the Arabian Sea along with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kiona M. Mckissack

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has begun to put a price tag on its growing arms race with Russia and China, and the early numbers indicate that restoring nuclear weapons to a central role in American military strategy will cost tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

In the 2021 budget released on Monday, the administration revealed for the first time that it intended to create a new submarine-launched nuclear warhead, named the W93. Its development is part of a proposed 19 percent increase this year, to $19.8 billion, for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department agency that maintains the nuclear stockpile and develops new nuclear warheads. More tellingly, that is a jump of more than 50 percent since 2017, President Trump’s first year in office.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Report: Triad had serious deficiencies in first year running Los Alamos lab

This article from the Santa Fe New Mexican is based on NNSA’s annual Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) on contractor performance at its 8 nuclear weapons sites. NukeWatch New Mexico successfully sued in 2012 to get these reports publicly released. However, NNSA is now releasing only 3-page summaries, citing security concerns to at least one reporter. This is a baseless excuse given there has never been anything classified in the PERs.

“The federal evaluation points to Triad’s repeated breakdowns in oversight and safety issues while declaring that the contractor’s so-called accomplishments only slightly outweighed these chronic issues,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement. “A rating of ‘good’ is simply not good enough as the lab aggressively expands the production of radioactive plutonium bomb cores for the new nuclear arms race,”

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

The consortium of nonprofits that operates Los Alamos National Laboratory struggled with safety, security and waste-management problems during the first year of its contract, including the accidental release of highly flammable cesium that required a multimillion-dollar cleanup, said an annual federal report card.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Putin wants to extend arms control. What’s Trump waiting for?

“Arms control takes political willpower. Binding and verifiable treaties are worth the effort. The weapons themselves are as cataclysmic in their power as ever. Have we lost the willpower to keep them in check?”

EDITORIAL BOARD | washingtonpost.com

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet at the 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet at the 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit

The clock is ticking toward expiration of the last major nuclear arms control treaty, New Start, which will end a year from now if not extended by the United States and Russia. Should it lapse, the path will be open to another dangerous arms race, hardly what the world needs. Right now, all signs are pointing in the wrong direction.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

WIPP Notes Need for Infrastructure Upgrades

DOE hopes to ramp up shipments of nuclear waste to NM repository

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | abqjournal.com

CARLSBAD CURRENT-ARGUS

Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy are hoping to ramp up shipments of nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad to about 17 per week by 2023. The facility is currently accepting about 10 per week. To meet the goal of increasing shipments, Acting Manager of the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office Greg Sosson said numerous ongoing infrastructure upgrades at the facility were needed.

“Infrastructure ages. We understand we have a lot more waste stream we’re going to tackle,” Sosson said. “These are really good projects to make sure WIPP is sustainable in the future so we can perform our important mission.”

Sosson, at Monday’s annual WIPP Legislative Breakfast in Santa Fe, said officials plan on WIPP accepting up to 350 shipments of transuranic nuclear waste in the next year from numerous DOE facilities, including 80 from Los Alamos National Laboratory and 195 from Idaho National Laboratory.

But to continue to accept waste at an increasing pace, Sosson said the facility must solve its airflow problem.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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Quotes

Richard Sokolsky

This White House has Caved to the Nuclear Priesthood

“The United States can deter any country from using nuclear weapons against America and its treaty allies with a nuclear force that is far smaller, less destabilizing, and less expensive than the one the Pentagon is planning to build.

This White House has caved to the nuclear priesthood in the bureaucracy. Instead of staying on nuclear autopilot, the next administration needs to fundamentally rethink the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy, the costs of implementing the current strategic force modernization program, and the alternatives that could provide greater stability and less risk of nuclear conflict at a much lower cost.”

-Richard Sokolsky, Gordon Adams, Carnegie Endowment, January 18, 2016

For more click here.

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Bad Idea. Don’t Do It.

“Let me be crystal clear: There is no such thing as ‘limited use’ nuclear weapons, and for a Pentagon advisory board to promote their development is absolutely unacceptable. This is even more problematic given President Trump’s comments in support of a nuclear arms race.

As Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work testified in 2015, ‘Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire. Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation.’

Nuclear weapons present us with a paradox: We spend billions of dollars building and maintaining them in the hope that we never have to use them. The sole purpose of nuclear weapons must be to deter their use by others. Designing new low-yield nuclear weapons for limited strikes dangerously lowers the threshold for their use. Such a recommendation undermines the stability created by deterrence, thereby increasing the likelihood of sparking an unwinnable nuclear war.”

-Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D.CA) Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chair

See full statement 

William J. Perry

No To a New Generation of ICBMs

“As long as we have ICBMs, there will be the possibility of the President launching them in response to a false alarm. Since the ICBMs are known in fixed locations, they can be attacked and we presume that any nuclear attack on the United States would include attacks against those ICBMs. And therefore, we have a policy called launch-on-warning which means if we have a warning of an attack, then the President would be notified and he has the option of launching those ICBMs before the attack actually reaches its targets.
Now the danger with that, of course, is that if the warning of attack is wrong, if it’s a false alarm, and the President actually launches the ICBMs, he will have no way of calling them back or destroying them in-flight if, in fact, the alarm is a false alarm.

So the problem with the ICBMs fundamentally is that if we get a false alarm and the President launches the ICBMs, we will have started a nuclear war capable of ending civilization based on a mistake, based on an accident, based on a false reading. That is not very likely to happen- it’s a low probability- but a low probability with a very, very high consequence. So that’s my concern with the ICBM program and it’s a fundamental concern; as long as we have ICBMs, there will be the possibility of the President launching them in response to a false alarm.”

Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

There’s one role- and only one role- for nuclear weapons, and that’s deterrence. We cannot, must not, will not ever countenance their actual use. There’s no such thing as limited nuclear war, and for the Pentagon’s advisory board to even suggest such a thing is deeply troubling.

– Senator Diana Feinstein

 

Arjun Makhijani

Arjun Makhijani, President for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

Nuclear weapons production and testing have involved extensive health and environmental damage. A remarkable feature of this has been the readiness of governments to harm the very people they claimed to be protecting in building these weapons. Secrecy, fabrication of data, cover-ups in the face of attempted public inquiry… have all occurred in nuclear weapons production and testing programs

-Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

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