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.

Atomic Histories & Nuclear Testing

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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

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NukeWatch Compilation of the DOE/NNSA FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

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LANL FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

Livermore Lab FY 2020 Budget Chart – Courtesy TriValley 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

LANL Heading Down Slippery Slope With Proposed Biosafety Lab

The DOE Inspector General released Audit Report on “Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories” that calls for a re-evaluation of the proposed needs for Biolabs at nuclear weapons facilities such as Los Alamos.

The report stated that Los Alamos National Laboratory was considering a $9.5 million expansion of bio-laboratory capabilities even though the Lab could not assess current usage or future needs. Apparently the Lab based facility-planning decisions on perceptions about future demand.

From the report –

[DOE] identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity.

Biological containment levels range from BSL-1, which handles only agents not known to cause illness in humans, to BSL-4, which houses agents for which there are no known cures, such as Ebola. A BSL-3 designation permits work with virulent pathogens used in both defensive and offensive biological warfare research.

Although the BSL-3 building has been constructed, the need is very questionable. From the report –

Specifically, we contacted two of the three Federal agencies that LANL told us were prospective [Work For Other] WFO customers and officials representing those potential customers stated that they did not have any specific plans to contract for BSL-3 research at LANL. Further, officials at both agencies indicated that other existing BSL-3 facilities could satisfactorily meet their needs. In fact, one official told us that generally other existing BSL-3 laboratories were less expensive than expected at the new LANL facility and that several had comparable security.

While the BSL-3 building has been constructed, there is no compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) currently being prepared for BSL-3 facility operations pursuant to NEPA has not even been released, much less a final EIS or Record of Decision (ROD).  The current schedule calls for the EIS to be released in August 2014, but if past schedule changes are indications, it is not going to happen.

The draft EIS has been in process for nine years and counting. We at NukeWatch demand that DOE start over and re-scope both the alternatives and need for the BSL-3 at LANL. LANL is working on a Biological Research Capability Assessment to assess bioscience needs, which must be completed before the BSL-3 is re-scoped.

We hope the current Assessment is more empirical than the 2011 Review, which proposed that the BSL-3 facility was essential to LANL’s mission without considering data such as available capacity at other locations and estimates of projected use from outside customers.

The LANL BSL-3 EIS was the result of a lawsuit. During 2001 and 2002 NukeWatch contested the arbitrary and capricious public process DOE was using to justify its decision to build the proposed BSL-3 facilities at LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). DOE failed to adequately address the many concerns raised by the public and proceeded to release final Environmental Assessments (EAs) for both laboratories, along with so-called Findings of No Significant Impact, which gives the Department the green light to begin the first steps leading to operations. Because DOE left so many legitimate questions and concerns unanswered, NukeWatch felt that a legal challenge was necessary.

In August 2003 NukeWatch and Tri-Valley CAREs, a citizens group based in Livermore, CA, jointly filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of northern California claiming that DOE had failed to fully analyze the environmental and health risks associated with the proposed operation of its BSL-3 facilities at LANL and LLNL. In effect, DOE wrote itself a blank check for a wide range of infectious disease research at the two labs. NukeWatch and Tri-Valley CAREs argued that DOE failed to consider the grave risks of introducing pathogens whose behavior may not be known or understood, and for which a cure may not exist.

In January 2004, DOE announced that it had revoked approval for its newly constructed, advanced bio-warfare agent research facility at Los Alamos. DOE went back to square one, and reviewed whether the agency needed to undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement – a key demand in the lawsuit. The BSL-3 at LLNL was built and is operating.

DOE released a notice for the LANL EIS on November 29, 2005. The Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the BSL-3 stated that one reason requiring preparation of an EIS was that “it was necessary to conduct additional seismic analysis of the location of the building on fill material on the sloping side of a canyon.” This calls into question not just whether BSL-3 activities can be safely conducted before these issues are resolved through the EIS, but whether any operations can be safely conducted at all.

The drawing below shows the LANL BSL-3 built in a seismic zone, on fill, and on a steep slope.

Review of the Stability Analysis for the LANL BSL-3 Building Foundation, UCRL-TR-226737, November 2, 2006


The DOE-IG report stated that LANL would need to spend about $437,000 in upgrades to attempt to mitigate this seismic concern.  DOE also is spending about $478,000 to complete the now required Environmental Impact Statement

Another $595,000 is needed to open the facility, which includes $368,000 of operating costs for maintenance, utilities, etc.

Can the Laboratory be the best place for bioscience? If the Lab is looking for more funding streams, shouldn’t it be directing its attention to non-proliferation programs and cleanup?

 

DOE Retroactively Classifies Suspect WIPP Drums As Ignitable

DOE Retroactively Classifies Suspect WIPP Drums As Ignitable

In two letters posted to the NMED website, Los Alamos contractor and DOE Field Office officials informed NMED that 86 drums currently stored at LANL and 368 drums underground in Panel 6 at WIPP are now considered to contain ignitable wastes. These drums are part of the same waste stream as the drum in Panel 7 that is suspected to have caused the Feb. 14 radiation release and the subsequent closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

The letters state that DOE applied EPA Hazardous Waste Number D001 for the characteristic of ignitability.

The WIPP Permit specifically prohibits D001 Wastes at WIPP –

2.3.3.7. Ignitable, Corrosive, and Reactive Wastes

Wastes exhibiting the characteristic of ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity (EPA Hazardous Waste Numbers of D001, D002, or D003) are not acceptable at WIPP.

DOE stated that it had “reason to believe that the nitrate salt bearing waste in the containers described above is an oxidizer and therefore the D001 code should be applied to the respective containers”, but did not explain exactly what that reason was. What did LANL or the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) discover that lead them to apply the D001 classification? The AIB report investigating the Feb. 14 release is not due until September.

Now there are 368 illegal drums buried at WIPP. DOE can’t seal up Panel 6 until the exact cause of the Feb 14 release is known, even though there is a plan to expedite closure of Panel 6.  NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn has stated on several occasions that that we must know the exact cause before sealing up Panel 6. We agree. Otherwise we might be burying drums that should be retrieved and repackaged, as onerous of a task that that would be.

DOE stated, “Because the investigations are ongoing, the application of the D001 is considered provisional and may change to include and/or remove containers/waste streams in the future.”  But the WIPP permit has no provision for allowance for “provisional” classification wastes.

Either they are or they are not.

LANL Fires Nonproliferation Specialist; Lab Abuses Classification Procedures to Restrict Nuclear Weapons Abolition Message

Santa Fe, NM

Today, the Center for Public Integrity broke a story on how Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) fired its nonproliferation specialist James Doyle. That firing followed an inquiry by the Center to senior Lab management about a study Doyle completed in his personal capacity arguing for the abolition of nuclear weapons. LANL retroactively classified his report, which Nuclear Watch believes is a clear abuse of proper classification procedures.

Doyle’s study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? has long been available at our website www.nukewatch.org and an independent online publisher. Any quick reading shows it has no information whatsoever about nuclear weapons designs and materials that would merit classification. The study is instead a 28-page narrative argument by a nationally recognized nonproliferation expert for eliminating the stockpile, while citing the aspirations of both Presidents Reagan and Obama to abolish nuclear weapons. But Los Alamos Lab didn’t like Doyle’s message and sought to kill it through classification. Not coincidentally, LANL’s 2.2 billion dollar annual budget is just under two-thirds nuclear weapons research, testing, and production.

Read More…

Relevant to NNSA biolabs – – C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents

Today’s New York Times has a very relevant article for those concerned about biolabs at National Nuclear Security Administration  sites (i.e., Los Alamos and Livermore Labs).

The money quote: “Dr. Frieden [Director of the CDC] himself suggested that the accidents had implications for labs beyond his agency, arguing that the world needs to reduce to absolute minimums the number of labs handling dangerous agents, the number of staff members involved and the number of [bio]agents circulating.”

As Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs can attest to, Livermore is conducting aerosolized experiments with anthrax and other “select agents.” In its inadequate environmental assessment (a lesser cousin of an “environmental impact statement”) LLNL disingenuously declared a certain amount of pathogens to be at risk during a major event. We discovered only through litigation discovery that ~10 times the amount of pathogens would be permanently kept at the biolab in freezers, which NNSA did not disclose in the EA. This, of course, is near the  densely populated, highly seismic Bay Area, which  could have its electrical grid destroyed during a major earthquake.

See:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/12/science/cdc-closes-anthrax-and-flu-labs-after-accidents.html?emc=edit_th_20140712&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=60715476&_r=0

C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents

By JULY 11, 2014

Los Alamos Rated Easiest County to Live in

Los Alamos Rated Easiest County to Live in

The team at The Upshot, a NYTimes news and data-analysis venture, compiled six basic metrics to give a picture of the quality and longevity of life in each county of the nation. They were attempting to answer the question, Where are the hardest places to live in the U.S.? To create an overall ranking, they averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories: educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate.

The #1 ranking, and hence easiest place to live, went to Los Alamos County, home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, which spends 65% of its annual budget on nuclear weapons production and design. “The Lab directly employs one out of every five county residents and has a budget of $2.1 billion, which an enormous economic engine for a county of just 18,000 people,” the article states. A look at surrounding counties shows that this engine does not power the surrounding counties equally.

Rio Arriba is ranked #1966 out of 3,135 counties

Taos County = #1234

Sandoval County = #420

Santa Fe County =  #148

 

Some specific comparisons:

63.2 percent residents have at least a bachelor’s degree in Los Alamos.

Rio Arriba County = 15.9%

Taos County = 28.8%

Sandoval County = 28.1%

Santa Fe County = 39.3%

 

The median household income in Los Alamos County is $106,426.

Rio Arriba County = $40,791

Taos County = $33,835

Sandoval County = $58,116

Santa Fe County =  $53,642

 

In Rio Arriba County, 8 percent of residents are unemployed, and 1.9 percent are on disability.

The corresponding figures in Los Alamos County are 3.5 percent and 0.3 percent.

Taos County = 9.1%, and 1.2%

Sandoval County = 8%, and 1%

Santa Fe County = 5.5% are unemployed, 1% are on disability

 

Los Alamos County residents live on average 82.4 years

Rio Arriba County = 75 years

Taos County = 79.3 years

Sandoval County = 79.4 years

Santa Fe County = 80.1 years

 

And Los Alamos County’s obesity rate is 22.8 percent,

Rio Arriba County = 34%

Taos County = 29%

Sandoval County = 32%

Santa Fe County = 22%

 

Making nukes and the livin’s easy.

Missed WIPP Deadline May Put Real Cleanup at LANL Back On Track

Missed WIPP Deadline May Put Real Cleanup at LANL Back On Track

Santa Fe, NM – Today the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) denied extension requests by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to delay cleanup milestones under a legally enforceable 2005 Consent Order. These denials by NMED counter a trend since January 2012 when NMED and LANL entered into a nonbinding “Framework Agreement” to ship 3706 cubic meters of above-ground transuranic waste from the Lab to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal. LANL radioactive wastes are now the main suspect in the February 14 contamination and subsequent shutdown of the multi-billion dollar WIPP.

NMED denied 14 extensions, now available in LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room. These denials include construction of monitoring wells, and investigation reports for cleanup of contaminated areas. All of them included language that LANL requested an extension based on the Lab’s need to divert resources to remove transuranic waste in accordance with the Framework Agreement. The denials repeatedly state, “Based on the Permittees’ [LANL’s] statement that they will not be able to meet the deadlines that they committed to in the Framework Agreement [to ship TRU wastes to WIPP], the request is hereby denied.”

NMED had previously agreed to over 100 of these extension requests in favor of the so-called 3706 Campaign. The campaign was part of a non-binding agreement with the NM Environment Department so there are no penalties associated with lack of performance. The problem is that much other cleanup at the Lab was delayed while the 3706 Campaign was prioritized.

The Lab will miss the June 30 deadline of shipping 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste while the cleanup of over 1,000,000 cubic meters of all types of radioactive waste, hazardous waste, and contaminated backfill buried across the Lab were put on the back burner. These vast amounts of buried wastes, dating back to the Lab’s early days, are covered under the 2005 Consent Order for the “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy wastes. The Consent Order is enforceable with financial penalties for missed deliverables.

The Lab has claimed that there is not enough money to address all the Consent Order deliverables, but the original intent behind the Consent Order was that fines or the threat of fines would shake federal cleanup funding from DOE headquarters in Washington, DC. Cleanup without the big stick of possible fines just takes us back to the time when the small budget received annually just gets sprinkled around to where the cleanup “priorities” are perceived to be.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, commented, “After granting more than one hundred extension requests to delay cleanup, we salute the New Mexico Environment Department for denying further requests. We encourage NMED to enforce what it already has, and make LANL comply with its legally mandated cleanup order. This in turn will drive increased federal funding for genuine cleanup at the Lab, creating hundreds of jobs while permanently protecting our precious water and environment.”

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Program Director, commented, “We look forward to continuing enforcement of the 2005 Consent Order and the necessary removal of Cold War legacy waste buried in unlined trenches above our aquifer.”

January 2012 Framework Agreement

LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room

Sample of denial

 

 

Missed WIPP Deadline May Put Real Cleanup at LANL Back On Track

Santa Fe, NM

Today the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) denied extension requests by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to delay cleanup milestones under a legally enforceable 2005 Consent Order. These denials by NMED counter a trend since January 2012 when NMED and LANL entered into a nonbinding “Framework Agreement” to ship 3706 cubic meters of above-ground transuranic waste from the Lab to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal. LANL radioactive wastes are now the main suspect in the February 14 contamination and subsequent shutdown of the multi-billion dollar WIPP.

NMED denied 14 extensions, now available in LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room. These denials include construction of monitoring wells and investigation reports for cleanup of contaminated areas. All of them included language that LANL requested an extension based on the Lab’s need to divert resources to remove transuranic waste in accordance with the Framework Agreement. The denials repeatedly state, “Based on the Permittees’ [LANL’s] statement that they will not be able to meet the deadlines that they committed to in the Framework Agreement [to ship TRU wastes to WIPP], the request is hereby denied.”

Read More…

DOE Headquarters Launches an Investigation Into the WIPP Release

DOE Headquarters Launches an Investigation Into the WIPP Release

On June 16, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) DC Office of Independent Enterprise Assessments notified Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, the operating contractor for DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, of its intent to conduct an investigation.  The investigation will look into potential nuclear safety, worker safety, and health programmatic deficiencies associated with the two events in February.

WIPP has been shut down since February 5, 2014, when a salt-hauling truck caught fire, forcing evacuation of 86 workers from underground, 13 of whom were treated for smoke inhalation. Nine days later, an air monitor detected radiation underground where waste had recently been emplaced. The emergency filtration started, but radioactive particles were released to the environment. That resulted in contamination of all 13 people working above ground.

The DOE headquarters’ investigation may be a good start (hopefully), but Nuclear Watch NM, and many other groups, wants a truly independent, public investigation. This investigation should determine the cause of the WIPP radiation release, the extent of underground and surface contamination, the medical and compensation requirements for contaminated workers, and options for cleaning up underground and surface contamination.

In the meantime, TRU must be stored safely and securely at other DOE sites, regardless of how long WIPP is closed.  Unnecessary waste shipments should not occur while WIPP is closed. Additional newly-generated TRU waste from nuclear weapons production, which exacerbates existing problems, should not be produced.

Los Alamos Budget is 65% Nuclear Weapons

Los Alamos Budget is 65% Nuclear Weapons

LANL Lab Table Chart FY 2015
Percentages of the Los Alamos annual budget for 2015

There are people who don’t realize that there still are nuclear weapons in the world. There are those who don’t realize that Los Alamos is still in the nuclear weapons business. I’ve created a chart that illustrates that nuclear weapons activities are 65% of the Lab’s annual $2.1 billion dollar budget. The actual Laboratory table from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) budget is included.

First, please remember to add three zeroes to all the numbers in the table because all “Dollars in Thousands”.  And remember that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Request numbers are just the President’s request, which Congress then slices and dices to arrive at the final appropriation during the congressional budget process.

Notice the largest FY 2015 Request budget by far is “Total Weapons Activities” at $1,417,502,(000). That’s $1.4 billion. “Total Defense Environmental Cleanup”, which is the remediation of radioactive and hazardous waste, is $222,262,(000). That’s $222 million.

The full budget categories are described in Volume 1 of the DOE budget here.

This page also has the Laboratory Tables on it. In addition, there is a “FY 2015 State Table” that shows all of New Mexico receives a total of $4.6 billion from DOE annually including $3.4 billion for nuclear weapons. Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque has a $1.5 billion request for nuclear weapons for FY 2015.

What is not on the Laboratory Tables is “Work For Others”, which is work that Los Alamos performs for government agencies other than DOE. This number is estimated at $250 million for FY 2015.

Let me know if you have any questions.

GAO report on NNSA’s dismantlement program

There are lots of interesting nuggets in the Government Accountability Office’s  recent dismantlement report. “Nuclear Weapons: Actions Needed by NNSA to Clarify Dismantlement Performance Goal,” April 2014, GAO-14-449, www.gao.gov/assets/670/662840.pdf

Selected highlights below. Verbatim excerpts follow page numbers (add 5 for PDF page number). General points in italics are mine.

Republican presidents, not Dems, make significant stockpile cuts, and do so unilaterally.

1: …in September 1991, the President announced several unilateral initiatives to reduce the U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons arsenal. The following month, the Soviet President responded that the Soviet Union would reduce its nonstrategic nuclear weapons. In addition, as part of the annual presidential stockpile review process, in 2004, the President directed that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile be reduced by more than 40 percent by 2012 and, in 2007, he directed an additional reduction of the stockpile, making it roughly one-quarter the size of cold war-era levels.

Dismantlements resulting from New START are being held hostage to construction of the Uranium Processing Facility and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at LANL.

29: DOD officials told us that the retirement of additional weapons from the stockpile stemming from New START will be predicated on the successful restoration of the NNSA weapons production infrastructure, including the construction and operation of new NNSA facilities supporting nuclear weapons production—the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at LANL, and the Uranium Production Facility at Y-12—which they did not believe could be achieved until the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Pantex dismantlement workforce could be lost.

29: …this gap in dismantlement workload in the mid-2020s could result in the loss of certified dismantlement personnel because dismantlement technicians at Pantex lose their certifications if they have not worked on a weapon type within the past year. As a result, Pantex may need to retrain and recertify sufficient numbers of new dismantlement personnel in the late 2020s to resume dismantlement efforts to address retired weapons stemming from New START.

NNSA dismantlement rates have plummeted.

21: According to our analysis of dismantlement data, since the early 1990s, NNSA’s dismantlement rates have generally decreased, with NNSA dismantling about 1,000 fewer weapons annually in recent years than it was dismantling in the mid-1990s. In addition, in some years, only one or two types of retired war reserve weapons were dismantled.

NNSA dismantlement reporting is misleading.

23: How NNSA measures progress toward its performance goal of dismantling all weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009 by the end of fiscal year 2022 is unclear and may make its reported progress misleading, including its practice of not tracking the actual date of retirement of individual dismantled weapons and its plans to reinstate to the stockpile—rather than dismantle—certain weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009.

 Nine percent of “retired” nuclear weapons may go back to the active stockpile.

25: …how NNSA measures progress toward its dismantlement performance goal is also unclear and may be misleading because some weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009 are reinstated to the stockpile rather than dismantled. Specifically, in our analysis of NNSA’s dismantlement schedule as of March 2013 for weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009, we found that approximately 9 percent of the weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009 are scheduled to be reinstated during fiscal year 2013 through fiscal year 2022 or later.

Long retired weapons may come back to active stockpile.

27: The W84-0s and W80-1s currently in managed retirement may not be available to NNSA for dismantlement prior to fiscal year 2022 because both of these systems are being held in managed retirement as candidates for potential reuse as the warhead on a future long-range standoff missile to replace the Air Force’s current ALCM.

Contrary to NNSA claims Life Extension Programs will not decrease total stockpile size, especially when coupled with slower dismantlement rates.

28: As a hedge against technical problems in the life extension program process and in the refurbished warheads, however, the W76-0s are to remain in managed retirement and be unavailable for dismantlement until the life extension program processes and W76-1 unit reliability are “satisfactorily established,” …creating uncertainty as to whether the W76-0s in managed retirement will be released to NNSA in time for dismantlement by the end of fiscal year 2022.

Inconsistent W76-1 production.

28: These officials stated that it would be difficult to predict the completion of the W76-1 life extension program given inconsistent production, and that it was impossible to say whether the W76-0s in managed retirement could be released for dismantlement prior to fiscal year 2019 without additional confidence in NNSA’s production capability.

New START does not change total stockpile numbers, and as previously stated retired weapons can be pulled back to the active stockpile.

29: DOD officials said that the United States will meet the New START ceiling—1,550 operationally deployed nuclear weapons—to be in force by 2018 by transitioning currently deployed nuclear weapons to nondeployed “hedge” status without any significant change in the total stockpile size.

Interesting allusion to the Navy’s lack of support for the interoperable warhead, which could doom it for good.

32: …potential loss of military interest in a future planned common, or interoperable, warhead to replace the W78 and W88

GAO quotes NNSA estimated amounts for accelerated dismantlements, which might be handy for advocacy purposes. However, perhaps as a matter of its timing, the report fails to note the Obama Administration’s proposed 45% cut for dismantlement funding in FY 2015. Separately, the FY 2015 NNSA Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan states that dismantlements are only 1% of funding for Direct Stockpile Work.

33: NNSA estimated at the time that approximately $212 million in additional funding on top of the projected baseline budgets… would be needed to achieve the fiscal year 2018 dismantlement scenario. Alternatively, NNSA estimated that $265 million in additional funding on top of the projected baseline budgets… would be needed to achieve the fiscal year 2020 scenario.

 Dismantlements save money!

35: According to Navy officials we interviewed, accelerating dismantlement of retired W76-0 warheads allowed the Navy to avoid constructing new weapon storage facilities, saving the Navy approximately $190 million in estimated construction costs.

41: NNSA is retaining two types of CSAs [Canned Subassemblies, AKA secondaries] as options for reuse in a potential future W78 warhead refurbishment… In addition, NNSA is also retaining four types of CSAs as options for reuse in a warhead on the Air Force’s planned long-range standoff missile… NNSA officials told us that CSAs associated with a certain warhead indicated as excess in the 2012 Production and Planning Directive are being retained in an indeterminate state pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids… the national labs’ retention letter has also characterized the CSA associated with this warhead as an “irreplaceable national asset.”

42: Y-12 is projected to disassemble far fewer CSAs than in NNSA’s 2009 Production and Planning Directive.

45: As of May 2013, Pantex was storing 3 million mark quality nonnuclear components as a contingency inventory for potential reuse in maintaining active stockpile or refurbished weapons.

49: Pantex site contractors told us that some of these boxes may contain parts that are up to 60 years old and that may be radiologically contaminated, which makes them difficult to handle and identify.

After a Failed Campaign, the State Must Return to Enforceable Cleanup At LANL

After a Failed Campaign, the State Must Return to Enforceable Cleanup At LANL

The June 30 deadline of the “3706 Campaign” to remove 3706 cubic meters of transuranic waste stored on the surface on Los Alamos Lab will be missed due to the radiation release and shutdown of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The campaign was part of a non-binding agreement with the NM Environment Department so there are no penalties associated with lack of performance. The problem is that much other cleanup at the Lab was delayed while the 3706 Campaign was prioritized.

The Lab missed the low bar of shipping 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste while the cleanup of over 1,000,000 cubic meters of all types of radioactive waste, hazardous waste, and contaminated backfill buried across the Lab were put on the back burner. These vast amounts of buried wastes, dating back to the Lab’s early days, are covered under a 2005 Consent Order for the “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy waste. The Consent Order is enforceable with stipulated penalties of up to $3000/day for missed deliverables. But NMED has been hesitant to impose fines, because of DOE claims that the fines come out of the cleanup budget. The deadline for the last cleanup under the Consent Order is currently December 2015, which everyone agrees is impossible. But that end date could be extended, and should be extended, especially if the Lab was actually working on the legacy cleanup

NMED, to date, has granted over 95 extensions for Consent Order deliverables in favor of the 3706 Campaign. These extensions allow the Lab to not drill monitoring wells and to not perform cleanup investigations and work plans for sites across the Lab. The Lab claims that there is not enough money to address all the Consent Order deliverables, but the idea behind the Consent Order was that fines and the threat of fines would shake cleanup funding from DOE headquarters in DC. Cleanup without the big stick of possible fines just takes us back to the time when the small budget received annually just gets sprinkled around to where the cleanup “priorities” are perceived to be. Urgency and comprehensiveness go out the window.

The Cold War has been over for twenty years now and we in Northern New Mexico have been patient in removing LANL’s legacy waste.

But now Northern New Mexico has neither a 3706 Campaign that is complete, nor a Consent Order that will be complete by its deadline. NMED officials have stated, upon the successful completion of the 3706 Campaign, that they would consider renegotiating the Consent Order. We are waiting to see how NMED deals with the 3706 failure and we urge NMED to make the Consent Order the priority again. The Campaign approach has now been proven not to work.

In the meantime, we also have contaminated WIPP workers.

We have 707 possibly explosive drums probably created by Los Alamos spread across New Mexico and West Texas.

We have a damaged WIPP, which is shut down for up to three years and missing its deadlines for disposing waste.

We have other impacted DOE sites across the country, which will be missing deadlines for radioactive waste disposal.

We the taxpayers are no doubt going to spend hundreds of millions on this fiasco while the contractors continue to put money in their pockets.

The New Mexico Environment Department is the regulator here. Relying on LANL’s promises and plans to make things better must end. Time to return to the 2005 Consent Order and actually use the enforceable provisions in it.

LANL Management Irregularities Continue

LANL Management Irregularities  Continue

Los Alamos National Security (LANS), the private consortium that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory under contract for the federal government will manage $2.1 billion of our taxpayer dollars this year. LANS should remember that they were hired to represent the nation’s interests, not the interests of the for-profit corporations running the Lab.

 Scott Sandlin, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer, reported a $3.64 million judgment against Los Alamos National Laboratory for “breach of implied contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.” The plaintiffs claimed that Los Alamos conducted the federally funded bidding process, procurement and subsequent protest “using secret policies and procedures inimical to a fair and open bidding procedure.” The Journal disclosed that, according to the lawsuit, the contract was worth roughly $395 million over the first five years  and almost $800 million over the decade.

Despite the judgment, LANS denied that it had departed from procedures and also denied deviating from its customary practices.

 

This follows the March resignation of Los Alamos National Laboratory Deputy Director Beth Sellers, the second-highest ranking administrator at the Lab, for failure to properly report a potential conflict of interest when her husband received a lab consulting contract in 2012. This was also from the ABQ Journal.

The Lab determined that the consultant agreement did not conform to prescribed LANL procedures and processes.” The consultant/husband charged two hours “for a discussion on environmental matters that never took place” and which was actually a visit to the Santa Fe Opera. Los Alamos National Security (LANS), the private consortium that runs the lab under contract with the federal government, reimbursed the government for over $23,000 for the improper contract.

 

This comes after the November 2013 revelation that Ex-Congresswoman Heather Wilson was paid by nuclear weapons labs the day after she left office. An Albuquerque Journal article built upon a Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General investigation, which determined that the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs had made approximately $450,000 in improper payments to Wilson up until March 2011, when she began to campaign for the Senate.

A DOE IG report said that the facts indicate that federal funds were used for prohibited lobbying activities, which that office is still investigating. The Labs were forced to return that money to the government, but not Wilson.

The Albuquerque Journal received the new information concerning the dates of Wilson’s contract with Sandia from Nuclear Watch New Mexico. The watchdog organization obtained the documents by appealing an initially rejected federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

 

Critical Events

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Nuclear News

Watchdogs Denounce Slap on Wrist for Illegal Lobbying Activities By the World’s Biggest Defense Contractor- and Demand Real Accountability by Barring Lockheed Martin From Future Sandia Labs Contract

Nuclear Watch New Mexico denounces the $4.7 million settlement agreement as a slap on the wrist for the world’s biggest defense contractor. Lockheed Martin clearly broke the law by engaging in illegal lobbying activities to extend its Sandia contract without competition, and engaged in deep and systemic corruption, including paying Congresswoman Heather Wilson $10,000 a month starting the day after she left office for so-called consulting services that had no written work requirements. There should be criminal prosecutions for clear violations of federal anti-lobbying laws, and Lockheed Marin should be barred from future competition for the Sandia Labs contract, expected next year.

View full press release (PDF)
View Department of Justice’s settlement agreement (PDF)
View Rep. Heather Wilson’s contract and invoices pursuant to our FOIA request (PDF)

More on the New Nuclear Cruise Missile

Russia is Proving Why Nuclear-Tipped Cruise Missiles Are a Very Bad Idea

“Those four cruise missiles that crashed in Iran could’ve been carrying nuclear warheads- which is why the US should ban them, not renew them.”

…inherently ambiguous… can add major risks to a crisis… In 2007, six nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly loaded onto a B-52 bomber and flown across the United States. Because nuclear-armed cruise missiles are virtually indistinguishable from conventional ones, the error went undetected for 36 hours..”

-Tom Collina and William Saetren, Ploughshares Fund. 

Jan. 13: Just How New is the New, Nuclear-armed Cruise Missile?

“Deploying the planned new nuclear-armed cruise missile will actually make the United States less secure. Known as the Long-Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO, it will be significantly more capable than the existing nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). And for just that reason, by demonstrating that the United States sees this weapon as a valuable military tool, it will undermine higher priority U.S. security goals. Specifically, pursuing the LRSO ignores the reality that nuclear weapons are no longer a security asset for the United States, but a liability that should be constrained.” Stephen Young, Sr. Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists 

Dec. 15: Eight Senate Democrats, including three members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to terminate the Air Force’s plans for its next-generation air-launched cruise missile. Read More

LRSO: The Nuclear Cruise Missile Mission

“It seems clear from many of these statements that the LRSO is not merely a retaliatory capability but very much seen as an offensive nuclear strike weapon that is intended for use in the early phases of a conflict even before long-range ballistic missiles are used.” – Analysis by FAS/Hans Kristensen

Freeze The Arms Race

New York City, 1982: One Million Rally for Nuclear Freeze

On June 12, 1982, one-million concerned citizens gathered in Central Park in New York in an unprecedented call for “the United States and the Soviet Union . . . to adopt a mutual freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.” A few months later, Freeze referenda were on the ballots in 9 states and dozens of major cities. Across the nation some 18 million Americans voted on the Freeze in the fall of 1982, with some 10.7 million, or 60 percent, voting in favor.

As Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said years later:

“It was the closest our country has ever come to a national plebiscite on nuclear arms control. Within a very brief time the freeze had taken education at the grassroots and translated it into political muscle at the ballot box, delivering to the White House a resounding vote of no confidence in its nuclear buildup.”

The Sandia National Laboratory campus.

Busted: Lockheed’s Sandia Corp Illegally Lobbied Key Congress Members With Federal Funds to Block Competition For Lucrative Contract

The complete DOE IG November 2014 investigation report has now been released to The Center for Public Integrity following their FOIA request.

CPI has come out with a hard-hitting article about illegal lobbying by the world’s biggest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, to extend its management contract of the Sandia Labs.
This report peels back part of the veil surrounding a defense corporation’s “capture strategy” for the Obama administration.

Last November Inspector General Gregory Friedman issued his report on the Special Inquiry into “Alleged Attempts by Sandia National Laboratories to Influence Congress and Federal Officials on a Contract Extension”. The full report was designated “For Official Use Only” and given exclusively to the contractor; but a summary was released which outlined the case against Lockheed and Sandia Corp, including the payments made from public funds to then just-retired Congresswoman Heather Wilson for ‘consulting services’.

Now, The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the full report through a FOIA request. In it, Inspector General Friedman writes:

“We recognize that Lockheed Martin Corporation, as a for-profit entity, has a corporate interest in the future of the Sandia Corporation contract. However, the use of Federal funds to advance that interest through actions designed to result in a noncompetitive contract extension was, in our view, prohibited by Sandia Corporation’s contract and Federal law and regulations.”
“Given the specific prohibitions against such activity, we could not comprehend the logic of using Federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition.”

And in a phrase that did not appear in the November public summary:

“Perhaps [Sandia National Laboratories] felt empowered because it had improperly directed Federal funds to similar activities in the past.”

See Center for Public Integrity

What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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