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

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Follow the Money!

Map of “Nuclear New Mexico”

Nuclear Watch Interactive Map – U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan and and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands after signing the arms control agreement banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missles, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty.

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

The Wall St. Journal has compiled a searchable database of contaminated sites across the US. (view)
Related WSJ report: https://www.wsj.com

New Nuclear Media: Art, Films, Books & More

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New & Updated

Al Jazeera Infographic: The World Nuclear Club

While 32 countries generate atomic energy, nine have nuclear weapons and seven countries have both.

aljazeera.com

Nuclear warheads per country

Nine countries possessed roughly 13,150 warheads as of August 2021, according to the Federation of American Scientists. More than 90 percent are owned by Russia and the US.

At the peak in 1986, the two rivals had nearly 65,000 nuclear warheads between them, making the nuclear arms race one of the most threatening events of the Cold War. While Russia and the US have dismantled thousands of warheads, several countries are thought to be increasing their stockpiles, most notably China.

According to the Pentagon’s 2021 annual report (pdf), China’s nuclear warhead stockpile is expected to more than triple and reach at least 1,000 by 2030.

The only country to voluntarily relinquish nuclear weapons is South Africa. In 1989, the government halted its nuclear weapons programme and in 1990 began dismantling its six nuclear weapons. Two years later, South Africa joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear country.

With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference over, nations are making plans to move to green energy in a bid to tackle global warming.

But nuclear energy is a particular sticking point. While it is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in OECD countries, some nations have spoken out against the categorisation of nuclear energy as climate-friendly.

Across the globe, 34 countries harness the power of splitting atoms for generating electricity or for nuclear weapons. (Al Jazeera)

Global nuclear energy

Nuclear energy provides roughly 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Of the 32 countries with nuclear power reactors, more than half (18) are in Europe. France has the world’s highest proportion of its electricity – at 71 percent – coming from atomic power.

Up until 2011, Japan was generating some 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors; however, following the Fukushima disaster, all nuclear power plants were suspended for safety inspections. As of 2020, just 5 percent of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Nuclear power constitutes some 20 percent of the United States’ electricity. About 60 percent of the country’s energy comes from fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas and petroleum, with the remaining 20 percent coming from renewable sources – wind, hydro and solar.

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Flooding and Nuclear Waste Eat Away at a Tribe’s Ancestral Home

The federal government allowed a stockpile of spent fuel on a Minnesota reservation to balloon even as a dam project whittled down the amount of livable land.

Interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times show how the state of Minnesota and the federal government ignored warnings about potential dangers posed to the tribe as they kept allowing the amount of waste stored on the reservation to expand and did little to address annual flooding that harms the tribe’s economy.

“I mean, this is a classic environmental justice fact pattern,” said Heather Sibbison, chair of Dentons Native American law and policy practice at Dentons Law Firm. “We have a minority community, a disadvantaged community, bearing the brunt of two huge infrastructure projects that serve other people.”

By Mark Walker nytimes.com

Xcel Energy runs the Prairie Island nuclear plant near the reservation and has stored 47 canisters of nuclear waste close to the homes of tribe members.Credit…Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

For decades, chronic flooding and nuclear waste have encroached on the ancestral lands in southeastern Minnesota that the Prairie Island Indian Community calls home, whittling them to about a third of their original size.

Two years after the tribe received federal recognition in 1936, the Army Corps of Engineers installed a lock-and-dam system just to the south along the Mississippi River. It repeatedly flooded the tribe’s land, including burial mounds, leaving members with only 300 livable acres.

Decades later, a stockpile of nuclear waste from a power plant next to the reservation, which the federal government reneged on a promise to remove in the 1990s, has tripled in size. It comes within 600 yards of some residents’ homes.

With no room to develop more housing on the reservation, more than 150 tribal members who are eager to live in their ancestral home are on a waiting list.

Cody Whitebear, 33, who serves as the tribe’s federal government relations specialist, is among those waiting. He hopes he can inherit his grandmother’s house, which is on the road closest to the power plant.

“I never had the opportunity to live on the reservation, be part of the community,” said Mr. Whitebear, who began connecting with his heritage after the birth of his son, Cayden. “In my mid-20s I had the desire to learn about my people and who I am and who we are.”

Proposed plutonium shipments concern New Mexico lawmakers

“The agency has said little overall about its plans, despite the potential hazards, said Cindy Weehler, who co-chairs the watchdog group 285 ALL.

santafenewmexican.com

Proposed plutonium shipments concern New Mexico lawmakers

A panel of state lawmakers expressed concerns Friday about plans to truck plutonium shipments through New Mexico, including Santa Fe’s southern edge, and will send letters to state and federal officials asking for more information on the transports.

Two opponents of the shipments — a Santa Fe County commissioner and a local activist — presented the Department of Energy’s basic plan to the Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee, provoking a mixture of surprise and curiosity from members.

Several lawmakers agreed transporting plutonium is more hazardous because it is far more radioactive than the transuranic waste — contaminated gloves, equipment, clothing, soil and other materials — that Los Alamos National Laboratory now ships to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground disposal site near Carlsbad.

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Nuclear Power Is COP26’s Quiet Controversy

“We have to get everything done in the next 25 years…The idea that you’re going to scale up a technology you don’t even have yet, and it’s going to be commercially viable [in that time], just seems to me like la la land.” — Tom Burke, co-founder of climate think tank E3G.

BY ALEJANDRO DE LA GARZA time.com

In the midst of the COP26 climate talks yesterday, U.S. and Romanian officials stepped aside for a session in the conference’s Blue Zone, establishing an agreement for U.S. company NuScale to build a new kind of modular nuclear power plant in the southeastern European country. The company’s plants—designed to be quickly scaled up or down based on need—are intended to be quicker and cheaper to build than the traditional kind, with some considering them to be a promising alternative for countries seeking to wean themselves off fossil fuels.

NuScale CEO John Hopkins sees the agreement as part of a broader recognition that nuclear power has a big role to play as the world decarbonizes. “I’ve seen a significant shift here,” Hopkins said, speaking to TIME from Glasgow yesterday. “It used to be the only thing really discussed was renewables, but I think people are starting to be a little more pragmatic and understand that nuclear needs to be in the mix.”

But others at COP26 aren’t convinced that NuScale’s small reactors can help avoid climate catastrophe. Some point to the fact that NuScale has yet to build a single commercial plant as evidence that the company is already too late to the party.

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US Government Works to ‘Cocoon’ Old Nuclear Reactors

Costs to clean up a massive nuclear weapons complex in Washington state are usually expressed in the hundreds of billions of dollars and involve decades of work.

Hanford watchdogs generally agree with this process, said Tom Carpenter, director of the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge.

“Nobody is raising any concerns about cocooning,” Carpenter said. “We’re all worried about the tank waste that needs immediate and urgent attention.” The bigger question is whether future generations will be willing to pay the massive costs of Hanford cleanup, he said.

By November 4, 2021 abcnews.go.com

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

SPOKANE, Wash. — Costs to clean up a massive nuclear weapons complex in Washington state are usually expressed in the hundreds of billions of dollars and involve decades of work.

But one project on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is progressing at a much lower price.

The federal government is moving forward with the “cocooning” of eight plutonium production reactors at Hanford that will place them in a state of long-term storage to allow radiation inside to dissipate over a period of decades, until they can be dismantled and buried.

“It’s relatively non-expensive,” Mark French, a manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, said of cocooning. “The cost of trying to dismantle the reactor and demolish the reactor core would be extremely expensive and put workers at risk.”

The federal government built nine nuclear reactors at Hanford to make plutonium for atomic bombs during World War II and the Cold War. The site along the Columbia River contains America’s largest quantity of radioactive waste.

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Is it green, or forever toxic? Nuclear rift at climate talks

“Whether we decide to go on with the nuclear energy or not…We will need to find a solution for the management of that nuclear waste” that humankind has already produced.” — Audrey Guillemenet, geologist and spokesperson for one of France’s underground waste repositories.

By November 4, 2021 apnews.com

FILE – A group of activists clash with riot police officers early Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, in Lieusaint, Normandy, France, as they try to block the train tracks in an effort to stop a train loaded with nuclear waste and heading to Gorleben in Germany. Nuclear power is a central sticking point as negotiators plot out the world’s future energy strategy at the climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. Critics decry its mammoth price tag, the disproportionate damage caused by nuclear accidents and radioactive waste. But a growing pro-nuclear camp argues that it’s safer on average than nearly any other energy source. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)

SOULAINES-DHUYS, France (AP) — Deep in a French forest of oaks, birches and pines, a steady stream of trucks carries a silent reminder of nuclear energy’s often invisible cost: canisters of radioactive waste, heading into storage for the next 300 years.

As negotiators plot out how to fuel the world while also reducing carbon emissions at climate talks in Scotland, nuclear power is a central sticking point. Critics decry its mammoth price tag, the disproportionate damage caused by nuclear accidents, and radioactive leftovers that remain deadly for thousands of years.

But increasingly vocal and powerful proponents — some climate scientists and environmental experts among them — argue that nuclear power is the world’s best hope of keeping climate change under control, noting that it emits so few planet-damaging emissions and is safer on average than nearly any other energy source. Nuclear accidents are scary but exceedingly rare — while pollution from coal and other fossil fuels causes death and illness every day, scientists say.

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U.S. Discloses Nuclear Stockpile Numbers

The Biden administration has publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile, a sharp reversal of the previous administration’s refusal to do so for the past three years.

By: Shannon Bugos ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION armscontrol.org

“Today, as an act of good faith and a tangible, public demonstration of the U.S. commitment to transparency, we will present data which documents our own record of continued progress toward the achievement of the goals” of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), said Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, on Oct. 5.

The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads was at 3,750 as of September 2020, according to the administration document. This number captures active and inactive warheads, but not the roughly 2,000 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement. The document lists stockpile numbers going back to 1962, including the warhead numbers from the years when the Trump administration refused to declassify the information.

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Art and “un-forgetting”: How to honor the atomic dead

“The hibakusha narrative has expanded over time to include victims beyond the city limits of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and as far away as the Navajo Nation, which still suffers the radiation effects of uranium mining; the Marshall Islands, where the United States conducted so many nuclear tests that, on average, the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima-size bombs was detonated every day for 12 years; Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union tested its nuclear weapons for four decades; and other places around the world adversely affected by the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons.”

Noguchi himself considered the term hibakusha to include the victims of nuclear weapons worldwide; he changed the name of his proposed “Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima” to the more inclusive “Memorial to the Atomic Dead.”

By Molly Hurley | November 26, 2021 thebulletin.org

As I eagerly await Spotify’s year-end report on my most-played songs of 2021, I wonder which ones will remind me of my summer in New York City—of off-pitch Karaoke Television with friends, or the distinct “popping” sound of a pigeon being run over by a taxi not more than two feet in front of me. Though I thrived amid the frenzied surprises of the city, I also found sudden moments of quiet solemnity while sketching inside the many art museums of the Big Apple. One of those museums was the Noguchi Museum, established in 1985 by its namesake Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American sculptor who is also well known for his landscape architecture and modern furniture designs such as the iconic Noguchi table.Continue reading

HIDDEN AGENDA: The unspoken argument for more nuclear power

Nuclear power is so slow and expensive that it doesn’t even matter whether or not it is ‘low-carbon’ (let alone ‘zero-carbon’). As the scientist, Amory Lovins, says, “Being carbon-free does not establish climate-effectiveness.” If an energy source is too slow and too costly, it will “reduce and retard achievable climate protection,” no matter how ‘low-carbon’ it is.

By Linda Pentz Gunter beyondnuclearinternational.org

So here we are again at another COP (Conference of the Parties). Well, some of us are in Glasgow, Scotland at the COP itself, and some of us, this writer included, are sitting at a distance, trying to feel hopeful.

But this is COP 26. That means there have already been 25 tries at dealing with the once impending and now upon us climate crisis. Twenty five rounds of “blah, blah, blah” as youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg, so aptly put it.

So if some of us do not feel the blush of optimism on our cheeks, we can be forgiven. I mean, even the Queen of England has had enough of the all-talk-and-no-action of our world leaders, who have been, by and large, thoroughly useless. Even, this time, absent. Some of them have been worse than that.

Not doing anything radical on climate at this stage is fundamentally a crime against humanity. And everything else living on Earth. It should be grounds for an appearance at the International Criminal Court. In the dock.

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‘Ignored for 70 years’: human rights group to investigate uranium contamination on Navajo Nation

Boost for advocates’ group is step further in decades-long fight against mining pollution

By: THE GUARDIAN theguardian.com

A protest sign saying ‘No Mining’ in Navajo is seen next to the entry to Northeast Church Rock abandoned uranium mine in Pinedale, New Mexico. Photograph: Pamela Peters/Reuters

Rita Capitan has been worrying about her water since 1994. It was that autumn she read a local newspaper article about another uranium mine, the Crownpoint Uranium Project, getting under way near her home.

Capitan has spent her entire life in Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the eastern Navajo Nation, and is no stranger to the uranium mining that has persisted in the region for decades. But it was around the time the article was published that she began learning about the many risks associated with uranium mining.

“We as community members couldn’t just sit back and watch another company come in and just take what is very precious to us. And that is water – our water,” Capitan said.

To this effect, Capitan and her husband, Mitchell, founded Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (Endaum). The group’s fight against uranium mining on their homeland has continued for nearly three decades, despite the industry’s disastrous health and environmental impacts being public knowledge for years.

Capitan’s newest concerns are over the Canadian mining company Laramide Resources, which, through its US subsidiary NuFuels, holds a federal mining license for Crownpoint and nearby Church Rock. Due to the snail’s pace at which operations like this can move, Laramide hasn’t begun extraction in these areas, but is getting closer by the day.

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ACTION ALERTS

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Interfaith Panel Discussion on Nuclear Disarmament - August 9

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Posts Related to: NUCLEAR SAFETY

Los Alamos – Plutonium Center of Negligence

An October 27 press release from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Defense Board Catches Los Alamos Trying to Dodge Plutonium Safety Vulnerability” revolves around a new Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) revelation of public safety vulnerability and seismic issues at TA-55 (The Lab’s plutonium Technical Area).

The DNFSB has been very patient on the safety issues at TA-55. In a September 23, 2005 weekly report, they stated that LANL needed to try to justify a passive confinement strategy, continue plans to reduce radioactive materials, and to seismically upgrade the glove-box supports that have not already been upgraded. These issues are still unaddressed as of the latest DNFSB report.

Seismic issues run deep at Los Alamos. NNSA currently has plans to construct and operate the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement–Nuclear Facility (CMRR–NF) to support plutonium operations as a replacement for portions of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) facility, a 1950’s structure that faces significant safety and seismic challenges. In 1999, a fault was discovered under the old CMR building, which has been neglected, contaminated, and has several abandoned wings. This fault was the major reason given to build a new facility 1.2 miles away at TA-55.

The Lab has big plans for plutonium. In December 2008, NNSA released a Record of Decision for its Complex Transformation Environmental Impact Statement that keeps manufacturing and research and development involving plutonium at Los Alamos and blesses the building of the CMRR-NF. This decision was a combination of two alternatives – a Distributed Centers of Excellence and a Capability-Based alternative. But to compensate for the nearby fault lines, the CMRR-NF is now being designed with 10-foot thick concrete floors and there are plans being designed to pump grout into a layer of fragile volcanic ash under the proposed facility. Current construction estimates for this facility are $2 billion.

The Lab has been negligent in taking care of its plutonium flagship, TA-55. It has not been a good steward of plutonium missions. Los Alamos is the wrong location, seismically. Congress must seriously consider ending this unnecessary plutonium work.

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