Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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

Quote of the Week

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

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

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

Follow the Money!

Nuclear Watch Analysis of NNSA FY 2022 Budget Request

LANL FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

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 Blog Posts

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New & Updated

Will the Trump administration’s accusations doom the nuclear test ban treaty?

“Although US accusations are unlikely to be true, they could give a convenient pretext to officials who want to withdraw the US signature from the treaty, allowing the United States to resume its own nuclear testing. In fact, that may be the entire point.”

ANDREAS PERSBO | thebulletin.org

In April, while most of the world was focused on defeating a devastating viral pandemic, the US State Department quietly released its annual compliance report, describing whether and how the United States and other countries have been abiding by various arms control agreements. The report is sober reading for those hoping that the coronavirus would usher in a new era of international collaboration.

The report made waves for raising “concerns” about China’s adherence to a “zero-yield” nuclear testing standard, as called for by the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although neither the United States or China has ratified the treaty, both have signed it, and both claim to abide by a nuclear testing moratorium.

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Released From Silence

One year anniversary of the release of the documentary short film “The Atomic Soldiers”

“The Atomic Soldiers” lets the veterans who witnessed the Hood test in Nevada tell their own stories. But the painful memories sometimes choke their recollections, leaving long and moving silences in place of words. “You don’t send 14,000 troops through ground zero and not call it anything but genocide,” says one.

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Ground U.S.-North Korean Diplomacy in International Law

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical.

| nationalinterest.org

In the years since the summits between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi, U.S.-North Korean diplomacy has fizzled to a halt. This is a grave mistake. Both North Korea and the United States need to get serious about reviving diplomatic efforts to eliminate their nuclear weapons.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it is clear that cooperative measures to tackle modern-day global security threats are critical. North Korean and U.S. nuclear weapons put the rest of the world at risk—and drain valuable resources from needed economic recovery efforts and social services. ICAN estimated that together North Korea and the United States spent $36 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. The United States spent $35.4 billion and North Korea spent about $0.6 billion.

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Trump Admin Sprints to Weaken Environmental Protections During Pandemic

‘There’s a lot they want to get done before the election, just in case.’

The Trump administration is diligently weakening U.S. environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, U.S. federal agencies have eased fuel-efficiency standards for new cars; frozen rules for soot air pollution; proposed to drop review requirements for liquefied natural gas terminals; continued to lease public property to oil and gas companies; sought to speed up permitting for offshore fish farms; and advanced a proposal on mercury pollution from power plants that could make it easier for the government to conclude regulations are too costly to justify their benefits.

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Pit Production Must ‘Press Forward’ Despite Coronavirus Pandemic, NNSA Chief Says

Preparations and planning for plutonium pit production must continue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a “difficult” and challenging time, National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty wrote in a recent letter.

“The plutonium pit production mission is one of our highest national security priorities and is being done in accordance with congressional direction,” Gordon-Hagerty wrote to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat. “We must press forward with this project in order to meet Department of Defense deliverables.”

Udall and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, another New Mexico Democrat, in late April wrote to the National Nuclear Security Administration, asking the weapons-and-nonproliferation agency to extend a public comment period tied to plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory, near Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Gordon-Hagerty in her April 30 response said she appreciated the “interest in this matter” and that she takes the “concerns very seriously.”

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Moving Forward With the W93 SLBM Warhead Strengthens U.S. and British Security

Bulging Deficits May Threaten Prized Pentagon Arms Projects

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: 2019 GLOBAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING

The nuclear-armed states spent nearly three-quarters of one hundred billion dollars in 2019 on building and maintaining nuclear warheads and delivery systems. The incalculable human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons only add to this shocking figure. From 2018 to 2019, there was an estimated $7.1 billion increase in nuclear weapon spending, and these totals will only continue to rise in the next decade according to documented nuclear weapon programmes and budgets in several nuclear-armed countries.

FULL REPORT

COLLECTIVE COMMENTS: on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Draft Supplement Analysis of the 2008 Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Continued Operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for Plutonium Operations

These comments were signed onto by over 100 individuals and organizations.
THANK YOU to all those who participated!

Help Us Stop Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab! Submit Written Formal Comment.
Click to See Suggested Comments

Due Saturday May 9 but generally the government will accept comments for the following week.

See Updated Plutonium Pit Production Fact Sheet Here

DOE Repeatedly Asks Safety Board for Time Extensions, Los Alamos Lab Asked for >150 Cleanup Milestone Extensions, But During Pandemic NNSA Rejects NM Senators’ Request for Extension of Public Comment on Plutonium Bomb Core Production

DOE Repeatedly Asks Safety Board for Time Extensions
Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), has rejected a request by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to extend the public comment period on expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, even in normal times NNSA and its parent Department of Energy routinely ask other government agencies for major time extensions when it comes to cleanup and independent oversight.

The two Senators requested a 45 day comment period extension on behalf of more than 120 organizations and individuals. Before that, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich were among 24 Senators who asked the Office of Management and Budget to extend all federal public comment periods during the coronavirus national emergency.

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Cleanup of US Nuclear Waste Takes Back Seat as Virus Spreads

FILE – In this April 2019 file photo provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory, barrels of radioactive waste are loaded for transport to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) at the Radioactive Assay Nondestructive Testing (RANT) facility in Los Alamos, N.M. The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up decades worth of Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has chugged along, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment. Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as WIPP, the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste, finished ramping down operations Wednesday, April 1, 2020, to keep workers safe. (Nestor Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)

Over more than 20 years, tons of waste have been stashed deep in the salt caverns that make up the southern New Mexico site. Until recently, several shipments a week of special boxes and barrels packed with lab coats, rubber gloves, tools and debris contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements were being trucked to the remote facility from South Carolina, Idaho and other spots.

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OREPA Accuses NNSA of Mendacity on Nuclear Criticality Safety

OREPA Accuses NNSA of Mendacity on Nuclear Criticality Safety

OREPA | orepa.org

A letter dated April 6, 2020 from Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, to Consolidated Nuclear Services, operating contractor of the Pantex and Y-12 nuclear weapons facilities, highlights ongoing criticality safety deficiencies at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The letter, a Preliminary Notice of Violation, characterizes the nuclear criticality safety deficiencies as “of high safety significance.” In the letter, NNSA reveals that CNS has failed to implement the criticality safety plan that was in place when it took over operations at the facility in 2014.

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Russia Says Using New U.S. Warheads Would Provoke Nuclear Retaliation

Fires are still blazing near the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited firefighters trying to extinguish the flames, marking the 34th anniversary of the accident.

ARTICLE BY: CLYDE HUGHES | upi.com

The Pentagon said the W76-2 nuclear warhead was first deployed with the USS Tennessee, pictured, late last year. File Photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Bryan Tomforde/U.S. Navy/UPI

Wednesday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova cautioned the U.S. military that using those weapons against Russia would warrant a nuclear retaliatory strike.

“Any attack involving a U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile, regardless of its weapon specifications, would be perceived as a nuclear aggression,” Zakharova said. “Those who like to theorize about the flexibility of American nuclear potential must understand that in line with the Russian military doctrine such actions are seen as warranting retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia.”

The U.S. State Department suggested last week that equipping Navy submarines with the low-yield nukes — which have explosive power similar to the atomic bombs dropped in Japan during World War II — would only serve to deter military provocation from Russia and China.

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Defense Budget Brawl Looms After Pandemic

Defense budget cuts are looming as the coronavirus pandemic places pressure on the federal budget across various agencies.

ARTICLE BY: REBECCA KHEEL | thehill.com

© Greg Nash

The Pentagon had already been expecting relatively flat budgets for the next few years due to economic constraints caused by the widening deficits in the country.

But with the pandemic, the deficit is projected to explode after Congress passed trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief packages, with more aid bills expected. Defense budget analysts are predicting that will mean cuts to defense spending down the line.

Meanwhile, Democrats say the crisis should result in a rethinking of national security that gives less money to the Pentagon and more to areas like public health.

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Action Alerts

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

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

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

Nuclear Media

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More Nuclear News

A sign informs visitors of prohibited items on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington in July 2014. from Ted S. Warren/AP

Another nuclear weapons contractor pays millions to settle charges of illegally diverting federal funds

Allegations of illegally spending federal funds to lobby for new funds now encompass contractors working at six of the eight U.S. nuclear weapons sites. 

By Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity

This time it’s Bechtel and URS Corp

The latest settlement involves work by Bechtel National Inc. and its parent Bechtel Corp., and URS Corp. and its subsidiary URS Energy and Construction Inc., which together have been trying to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in Washington state, the most toxic site in the country. The settlement is part of an emerging pattern.

Lockheed Martin Corp., which operates one of three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories – Sandia, agreed in August 2015 to pay $4.7 million to settle a complaint by the Justice Department that it used federal funds to lobby for a no-bid contract extension. In December of 2016, Department of Energy selected a different contractor team, led by Honeywell International, to run Sandia for up to a decade, beginning next year.)
Meanwhile, Fluor Corp. paid $1.1 million in April 2013 to settle accusations that it used federal funds to lobby government agencies for more business at its Hanford training facility.

(Read more at PublicIntegrity.org)

Caution Radiation Area

Area G – Brief Backgrounder

For more than 70 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory dug thousands of deep and shallow graves across mesas and filled them with the radioactive waste, chemicals, and solvents used to make nuclear weapons.
Workers disposed of the waste in these unlined pits before the widespread contamination that would follow was fully understood or governed by environmental laws. Radioactive particles that live longer than some civilizations mixed freely with the red soil.

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WIPP plans will go on even if Russia quits plutonium deal

The Albuquerque Journal reports:

“At Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, the breakdown in the bilateral agreement may deal a decisive blow to already deteriorated relationships between scientists at New Mexico’s national laboratories and their Russian counterparts, who had been working together to iron out the technical aspects of plutonium disposition under the deal, according to Don Hancock with the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque.”

Ed Lyman of Union of Concerned Scientists said “Even until last week, the U.S. was optimistic that this was one area that Russia and the U.S. could cooperate.”

Read More…

UN council urges all to ratify security ban

Security Council Urges All to Ratify Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

“Reaffirming that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery, threatens international peace and security, the United Nations Security Council today adopted a resolution urging all States who haven’t done so to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty”

-From UN News

“A world free of nuclear of weapons goes by stopping testing too, and then taking steps that will reinforce the agreements that are already here, and then leading us towards what we all want: a world free of nuclear weapons; a world free of any attempt of modernization that some are talking about today.”

-Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of CTBTO:

NTI Launches the William J. Perry Project

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has just published a new book, a memoir titled “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink”. At the same time, NTI has launched the online William J. Perry Project, to “educate and engage the public on the dangers of nuclear weapons in the 21st century”.

“I hope to encourage young people to take the baton I am trying to pass to them. My generation created this existential problem- their generation must find a way to solve it.”

– William Perry.

70th Anniversary of the Trinity Test

The first atomic detonation. Oppenheimer recalls his impressions of the moment for an interview on NBC in 1965.

The first nuclear weapon test was carried out by the United States at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945, with a yield approximately equivalent to 20 kilotons. The first hydrogen bomb, codenamed “Ivy Mike”, was tested at the Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands in November 1952, also by the United States. The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the “Tsar Bomba” of the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya on October 30, 1961, with an estimated yield of around 50 megatons.

In 1963, many (but not all) nuclear and many non-nuclear states signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, pledging to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The treaty permitted underground nuclear testing. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, China continued up until 1980. Neither has ever signed the treaty.[1]

The United States conducted its last underground test in 1992, the Soviet Union in 1990, the U.K. in 1991, and both China and France in 1996. After signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 (which has as of 2012 not yet entered into force), all these states have pledged to discontinue all nuclear testing. Non-signatories India and Pakistan last tested nuclear weapons in 1998. The most recent nuclear test was by North Korea on Feb. 12, 2013.

For a more detailed resource on the history of Nuclear testing, see this United Nations guide,released August 29, 2012, the official ‘International Day Against Nuclear Tests’.

Cooperation of US and Russian scientists helped avoid nuclear catastrophe at Cold War’s end

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried Hecker recounts the epic story of how American and Russian scientists joined forces to avert some of the greatest post-Cold War nuclear dangers.

Hecker is currently a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and a research professor of Management Science and Engineering.

Flawed Pentagon Nuclear Cruise Missile Advocacy

Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists, writes:

“The Pentagon’s arguments for why the LRSO is needed and why the amendments [to strip funding] are unacceptable are amazingly shallow – some of them even plain wrong.”

Here is a particularly disturbing argument:

“The Kendall letter from March also defends the LRSO because it gives the Pentagon the ability to rapidly increase the number of deployed warheads significantly on its strategic launchers. He does so by bluntly describing it as a means to exploit the fake bomber weapon counting rule (one bomber one bomb no matter what they can actually carry) of the New START Treaty to essentially break out from the treaty limit without formally violating it:

Additionally, cruise missiles provide added leverage to the U.S. nuclear deterrent under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The accounting rules for nuclear weapons carried on aircraft are such that the aircraft only counts as one weapon, even if the aircraft carries multiple cruise missiles.

It is disappointing to see a DOD official justifying the LRSO as a means to take advantage of a loophole in the treaty to increase the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons above 1,550 warheads. Not least because the 2013 Nuclear Employment Strategy determined that the Pentagon, even when the New START Treaty is implemented in 2018, will still have up to one-third more nuclear weapons deployed than are needed to meet US national and international security commitments. (more at FAS)

See the DOD letter circulated to Congress in May.

LANL Cleanup: What you can do

Please consider attending and giving public comments at local public meetings concerning cleanup at Los Alamos. Public comments do make a difference!

Follow NukeWatch and submit public written comments. We frequently comment on environmental impact statements and provide sample comments. Support Us: https://nukewatch.org/get-involved/donate/

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

Critical Events

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New & Updated

White House held talks over resuming US nuclear tests, John Bolton says

Ex-Trump adviser and testing advocate tells Guardian ‘certainly it was discussed’ but no decision was made by the time he left

BY: JULIAN BORGER | theguardian.com

John Bolton acknowledged that there was resistance to testing from other officials in the Trump administration. ‘I think different people have different views,’ he said.

White House officials held a series of discussions over the past two years on the possibility of resuming US nuclear testing, according to the former national security adviser John Bolton.

“Certainly the subject was discussed,” Bolton, a fierce advocate of testing, told the Guardian. However, there was opposition from some in the administration who felt current computer-based testing of US warheads was sufficient, and no decision was made by the time Bolton left the White House last September.

When the prospect of the first US underground nuclear test in nearly three decades came up at a White House meeting in May, it triggered an outcry from arms control advocates and a Democratic amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, blocking funding for preparations for a test.

Bolton, who has published a memoir on his time in the Trump White House titled The Room Where It Happened, said the issue was discussed in general terms on a number of occasions while he was national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019. However, the discussions did not become “operational” as his priority had been to take the US out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

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Ohio Nuclear Power Scandal

As [David] DeVillers described it at a press conference: it was the “largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of Ohio.”

BY: KARL GROSSMAN | counterpunch.org

 

Photograph Source: David_Besse_NPP.jpg: Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Original uploader was Theanphibian at en.wikipedia – Public Domain

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI this week charged the speaker of the Ohio House of Representative and four others in a $61 million scheme to use $1 billion in ratepayers money to keep two decrepit nuclear power plants operating.

And, said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers, at a press conference after the arrests Tuesday: “This is by no means over. We are going to continue with this investigation.”

Those charged were involved in a “Conspiracy to Participate, Directly or Indirectly” in the scheme “through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity,” declared the “Offense Description” that headed an 81-page federal “Criminal Complaint.”

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A Dirty Battle for a Nuclear Bailout in Ohio

“It has been known since the late 1970s that the cost of constructing nuclear plants in the United States is very high, but the cost gap between nuclear electricity and other alternatives has increased dramatically in the last decade. In its most recent estimate, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimated that a new nuclear plant will generate electricity at an average cost of $155 per megawatt hour, nearly four times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per megawatt hour each for new wind and solar energy plants. The average cost for natural gas plants is $56 per megawatt hour.
The gap will only grow larger. While the costs of nuclear power have been increasing, the costs of wind and solar power have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last decade.”

BY: Shakiba FadaieM. V. Ramana | thebulletin.org

mailer sent to thousands of Ohio residents falsely linked the Chinese government to anti-bailout activists. Image credit: WTOL Toledo, via Twitter.

Last July, Ohio’s governor signed House Bill 6 (HB6) to provide FirstEnergy (now Energy Harbor), a large electric utility, with subsidies of nearly $150 million per year to keep its Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants operating. Ohio is only the fifth US state to offer such subsidies; other states include New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Although the subsidies are justified by some as necessary for climate mitigation, in the latter four states, electricity generation from natural gas, which results in greenhouse gas emissions, has increased since 2017, when these subsidy programs started kicking in. Moreover, in Ohio, subsidies are also being extended to coal power plants, providing the clearest illustration that what underlies the push for subsidies to nuclear plants is not a result of a real commitment to climate mitigation but a way to use climate concerns to bolster the profits of some energy corporations.

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Bribed Ohio’s $60 Million Radioactive Uproar Rocks the 2020 Vote

“Ohio is in election-year turmoil over a Trump-supported nuke bailout bought with bribery. Whether public fury will kill the handout and affect the fall presidential election remains to be seen…But Bribed Ohio 2020 has clearly gone radioactive.”

BY: Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman | readersupportednews.com

Ohio’s biggest-ever bribery case is rocking America’s reactor industry … and the fall election.

Full details of the shocking arrest of Ohio’s powerful Speaker of the House are still unfolding.

But on Monday, the FBI charged Larry Householder and four associates with taking $60 million (that’s NOT a typo) in bribes from “Company A,” suspected to be the Akron-based nuke utility FirstEnergy. The company has not been formally named as the source of the bribe, but FE’s stock has since plummetted.

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Former SCANA Executive Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges Tied to Failed SC Nuclear Project

“I’m glad there is going to be a little bit of justice and that Mr. Byrne is now pleading guilty to his crime, so it’s a matter of holding others accountable who were former executives of SCANA,” Tom Clements said. “I would anticipate that Kevin Marsh and Jimmy Addison are probably next in the queue to be charged, and hopefully others.”

BY: Andrew Brown & Avery G. Wilks | postandcourier.com

COLUMBIA — Federal prosecutors locked in a valuable witness on Thursday that will give them insights and advantages as they continue to bring charges against the leaders of a failed $9 billion nuclear expansion project in South Carolina.
Steve Byrne, the former vice president of Cayce-based SCANA Corp., pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding electric customers and lying about construction progress as the company tried to build two new nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.
The guilty plea requires Byrne, 60, to cooperate with federal prosecutors, who have spent three years investigating the project’s sudden abandonment in July 2017. That project’s failure cost South Carolina electric ratepayers billions of dollars in higher power bills. SCANA’s shareholders also suffered huge losses when the company’s stock value tanked.

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Covid-19 Stopped Water Pollution Monitoring At A Major Radioactive Site For Months

“Given LANL’s history it’s imperative that monitoring be robustly resumed,” Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in an email. “This is after all the Lab that use to claim that groundwater contamination was impossible… Now we know of heavy chromium and high explosives groundwater contamination which are a harbinger for more contaminants to come.”

BY: ERIC MACK | forbes.com

Town of Los Alamos, New Mexico on the left and center, the Omega Bridge in the middle and the Los Alamos National Laboratories on the right. GETTY

When the coronavirus and resulting Covid-19 pandemic closed everything in mid-March, TA-54 was one of the many places where all activity came to a virtual standstill.

Technical Area 54 is a part of Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) in New Mexico – the same Los Alamos that was home to the Manhattan Project, which ushered in the atomic era and today continues to produce radioactive triggers for nuclear weapons.

Within TA-54 is what’s called Area G. The federal government refers to as LANL’s “legacy waste management area.” For over 60 years, it has been a storage, processing and disposal area for different kinds of radioactive and otherwise toxic waste from LANL.

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Nuclear Tests Have Changed, but They Never Really Stopped

75 years after the first explosive nuclear tests, now outlawed, sophisticated virtual testing allows American physicists to understand these weapons better than ever.

BY:  | wired.com

Nuclear Tests Have Changed but Never Really Stopped
PHOTOGRAPH: GALERIE BILDERWELT/GETTY IMAGES

JUST BEFORE SUNRISE on July 16, 1945—75 years ago today—a patch of New Mexican desert was incinerated during the first trial of the most destructive weapon ever created. The plutonium bomb used for the Trinity test left a 5-foot crater in the ground and turned the surrounding desert floor into a radioactive green glass. The blast bathed the peaks of the nearby Oscura Mountains in a blinding white light, and dozens of scientific observers watching from 20 miles away reported feeling an immense heat wash over them. As the light from the explosion faded, one of the architects of the bomb, Kenneth Bainbridge, gave a pithy appraisal of the event to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the project’s lead scientist: “Now we are all sons of bitches.”

And he was right. Less than a month later, the United States dropped the same type of bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, just three days after detonating a smaller nuclear warhead over Hiroshima. It effectively ended World War II, but it came at the price of well over 100,000 civilian lives and the enduring suffering of those who survived.

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DOE Responds To NMED Concerns About Lack Of Plan For Contaminated Materials Unearthed At Middle DP Road Since February

BY: MAIRE O’NEILL | losalamosreporter.com

The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Los Alamos and the National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office have responded to New Mexico Environment Department concerns about the DOE’s failure to address their plans for mitigation of contamination at Middle DP Road. Since February, there have been at least three discoveries of radioactive material in the vicinity of two housing projects underway on property that was turned over to Los Alamos County by NNSA for public use.

NMED has complained that DOE has failed to provide a schedule of preliminary screening plan (PSP) activities that indicates that DOE “understands the seriousness of this matter” and has not provided a timeframe for implementation of the plan.  NMED has asked DOE for the basis of the delay in implementing the PSP “to ensure full transparency and understanding of why this important risk to public health is not being addressed in a more timely manner”.

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Trinity’s Atomic Blast Changed the World

As the first atomic blast lit up the morning sky and scorched a vast desert landscape in south-central New Mexico, the scientists and engineers who had worked on this top-secret weapon felt a mixture of relief, awe and trepidation.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

No one knew exactly what to expect July 16, 1945 — not even renowned physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was put in charge of designing the nuclear device for the Manhattan Project with the aim of ending World War II. Some researchers feared it might wreak widespread, fiery destruction. More than a few scientists worried it might be a total failure.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trinity: “The most significant hazard of the entire Manhattan Project”

“New Mexico residents were neither warned before the 1945 Trinity blast, informed of health hazards afterward, nor evacuated before, during, or after the test. Exposure rates in public areas from the world’s first nuclear explosion were measured at levels 10,000- times higher than currently allowed.”

BY: KATHLEEN M. TUCKER & ROBERT ALVAREZ | thebulletin.org

For the past several years, the controversy over radioactive fallout from the world’s first atomic bomb explosion in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945—code-named Trinity—has intensified. Evidence collected by the New Mexico health department but ignored for some 70 years shows an unusually high rate of infant mortality in New Mexico counties downwind from the explosion and raises a serious question whether or not the first victims of the first atomic explosion might have been American children. Even though the first scientifically credible warnings about the hazards of radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion had been made by 1940, historical records indicate a fallout team was not established until less than a month before the Trinity test, a hasty effort motivated primarily by concern over legal liability.

In October 1947, a local health care provider raised an alarm about infant deaths downwind of the Trinity test, bringing it to the attention of radiation safety experts working for the US nuclear weapons program. Their response misrepresented New Mexico’s then-unpublished data on health effects. Federal and New Mexico data indicate that between 1940 and 1960, infant death rates in the area downwind of the test site steadily declined—except for 1945, when the rate sharply increased, especially in the three months following the Trinity blast. The 21 kiloton explosion occurred on a tower 100 feet from the ground and has been likened to a “dirty bomb” that cast large amounts of heavily contaminated soil and debris—containing 80 percent of the bomb’s plutonium—over thousands of square-miles. (See Figure 1.)

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‘Now I Am Become Death’: The Legacy of the First Nuclear Bomb Test

“Since the Trinity test 75 years ago, at least eight countries have conducted more than 2,000 nuclear bomb tests, said Jenifer Mackby, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. More than half of those tests have been conducted by the United States, a legacy of the Trinity explosion, as the United States and several other countries have continued to refuse to ratify the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapon test explosions.”

BY: MARIA CRAMER | nytimes.com

An aerial view of the aftermath of the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site in New Mexico in 1945. The device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. Credit Associated Press

It was 1 a.m. on July 16, 1945, when J. Robert Oppenheimer met with an Army lieutenant general, Leslie Groves, in the parched landscape of Jornada del Muerto — Dead Man’s Journey — a remote desert in New Mexico.

A group of engineers and physicists was about to detonate an atomic device packed with 13 pounds of plutonium, a nuclear weapon that the government hoped would bring an end to World War II.

Some scientists on the project worried that they were about to light the entire world on fire, according to researchers. Others worried that the test would be “a complete dud.”

Mr. Oppenheimer, who was tasked with designing an atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project, had not slept.

At 5:29 a.m. local time, the device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT and set off a flash of light that would have been visible from Mars, researchers said.

It was the first nuclear test in history.

Less than a month later, the United States would drop a nearly identical weapon on the city of Nagasaki in Japan.

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In their own words: Trinity at 75

On July 16, 1945 the first nuclear bomb exploded near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Trinity test marked the culmination of nearly four years of secret research led by an unprecedented collaboration of the world’s top scientists and the US military. It also guaranteed that the uranium gun-type weapon dropped on Hiroshima could be followed by another that used the plutonium implosion design tested at the Trinity Site. In essence, Trinity was a test-of-concept for the bomb that leveled Nagasaki.

thebulletin.org

The history of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the bomb have been examined and reexamined countless times over the past seven decades—as have the threats they posed to humanity.Though nearly all now are dead, many scientists, soldiers, and family members who attended the birth of the bomb documented their first-hand experiences in the pages of the Bulletin in a way that lives on, providing an exceptional and vivid glimpse of their struggles to achieve victory in war and science.

Read together, the eyewitness excerpts below offer a new retelling of the Trinity test, woven entirely from words that more than a dozen of the project’s protagonists first published in the Bulletin.

SUITABLE GROUND: ALAMOGORDO

Lt. Gen. Leslie R. Groves

Groves was the Army administrative officer in charge of the entire wartime Manhattan Project. Scientists at Los Alamos loathed his policy of “compartmentalization,” which aimed to isolate scientists to preserve secrecy.

In the early days, we believed that a gun-type bomb would be entirely satisfactory for both uranium-235 and for plutonium, and we did not feel that any full-scale test would be necessary. Later, when we learned that the gun-type would not be suitable for plutonium, we began to realize that we might find it advisable to test the implosion-type bomb. … As soon as a full-scale test—and it had to be full-scale—became likely, we began the search for a suitable testing ground.

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Church Rock Uranium Spill July 16, 1979

In 1968, the United Nuclear Corporation initiated mining operations in the largest underground uranium mine in the United States. Located in Church Rock, New Mexico, in the Navajo Native American Reservation, the Church Rock Mill produced more than two million pounds of uranium oxide per year. Waste from the mining process was disposed of in three lined lagoons fortified by a man-made dam built on geologically unsound land—of which both the United Nuclear Corporation and state and federal agencies were aware. On 16 July, 1979, the dam breached and 1100 tons of uranium waste and 94 million gallons of radioactive water seeped into the Puerco River. Scientists estimate that the amount of radiation released in the Church Rock uranium mill spill was larger than the amount released at Three Mile Island, just four months prior. Surrounding residents of the mill, almost entirely Navajos, relied on the Puerco River as a watering source for livestock. They have since suffered severe health problems due to substantial increases in radioactivity found in the water, soil, and air. Despite several selective investigations and cleanup efforts by the US Environmental Protection Agency, ramifications of the spill remain evident in the Navajo Nation today.

From environmentandsociety.org

Interview with Larry King, who worked on-site at the United Nuclear Corporation mine the day of the tailings pond spill, and still lives in the area.

Nuclear Hotseat Podcast episode on the Church Rock Spill

What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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James Doyle

“Many citizens, scientists and laymen alike, view nuclear-weapons abolition as an essential milestone in the development of human civilization, a moral, ideological and practical campaign that could catalyze the transformation of international relations and improve the outlook for civilization at a critical time.”