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!

LANL FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

Pantex Plant FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

KCP FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

Livermore Lab FY 2021 Budget Chart – Courtesy Tri-Valley CAREs – VIEW

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Click the image to view and download this large printable map of DOE sites, commercial reactors, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear transportation routes, surface waters near sites and transport routes, and underlying aquifers. This map was prepared by Deborah Reade for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

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New & Updated

U.S. Plutonium Pit Costs Rise

“In addition, the Government Accountability Office GAO noted in a report published last September that the NNSA has been unable to plan for and complete major construction projects on time and, over the past two decades, Los Alamos has twice had to suspend laboratory-wide operations after the discovery of significant safety issues.”

By: Kingston Reif | armscontrolnow.org

The Energy Department’s cost to build the infrastructure to produce new plutonium cores for U.S. nuclear warheads could be as high as $18 billion, according to a department estimate and yet-to-be-released internal estimates detailed to Arms Control Today by a congressional source.

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico manipulates plutonium as part of the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program in 2005. Current plans call for expanding the production of plutonium pits at both Los Alamos and at the Savannah RIver Site in South Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico manipulates plutonium as part of the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program in 2005. Current plans call for expanding the production of plutonium pits at both Los Alamos and at the Savannah RIver Site in South Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)

The updated price tag is nearly two and half times larger than earlier projections and is likely to raise fresh doubts about the affordability of the department’s aggressive plans to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.

The updated estimates are not reflected in the budget plan for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that the Trump administration bequeathed to the Biden administration. That means future NNSA weapons program budget requests will require significant increases beyond current plans just to accommodate the growth in the projected cost of pit production.

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Plain Talk: On this Memorial Day, consider getting rid of instruments of death

The sad fact is that if the world’s inclination to settle disputes by going to war — whether it be in Iraq or in Israel and Palestine or any of the other dozens of places that teem with hate — results in the use of a nuclear weapon, we won’t have enough people to decorate all the graves.

BY:

Dale-Harriet Rogovich, with husband Paul, places a rose on the grave of an unknown Union soldier after a Memorial Day ceremony at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison last year.
AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Today’s the day we pause to remember the tens of thousands of men and women who paid the ultimate price in service to their country.

When I was a kid this day was known as “Decoration Day.” I remember my grandparents taking us kids to the old cemetery in New Glarus to place flowers and flags, decorations if you please, on the graves of their own departed family members. Two of them had served in the Civil War.

Other folks placed memorials on the gravestones of relatives who had served in World War I, and still others paid their respects to those who gave their lives in the most recent world conflict at the time, World War II.

Today thousands of Americans will also be remembering loved ones killed in Vietnam, then Iraq and Afghanistan and countless other “skirmishes” where our leaders chose to place our young people in harm’s way. Sometimes the cause was good, more often, not so good.

A couple of weeks ago Buzz Davis, a tireless advocate for peace from Stoughton who’s now retired in Arizona, sent along a column he had written that once again calls on all of us to work harder for peace than we consistently do for war.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Davis was a founder of our local Vietnam Veterans for Peace and is still active in the national organization Vets for Peace that spreads the message that we need to find ways to solve our conflicts other than killing each other and filling cemeteries with gravestones to decorate on what we now call Memorial Day.

“Humans have been alive for 200,000 to 300,000 years,” he points out. “Nearly every major discovery has been used to ‘improve’ our ability to kill others.

“From learning how to sharpen sticks, to metal instruments, to explosive power, boats, airplanes, guns, germs and now nuclear reactions — inquisitive men and women ‘discover’ these and, mostly boys, use them to kill others,” he adds.

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Biden Proposes $1 billion for Nuclear Weapons Work

If Savannah River is delayed in reaching its pit-making goal, Los Alamos lab could be pressured to produce more than 30 pits a year.

“All of this may boomerang on Los Alamos lab, which has been incapable of making a pit for the nuclear weapons stockpile since 2011,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Coghlan was referring to a contract in which the lab made 11 pits in one year for Navy missiles a decade ago. That was the lab’s highest pit production, which soon ceased.

BY: Scott Wyland | © Santa Fe New Mexican

Los Alamos National Laboratory would receive about $1 billion for plutonium operations at the heart of its effort to produce 30 nuclear bomb cores by 2026, according to a partial budget the White House released Friday.

The amount would be more than a 20 percent jump from the $837 million being spent this year on the lab’s plutonium work, a clear signal that President Joe Biden will echo his predecessors’ calls to modernize the nuclear stockpile to deter China, Russia, Iran and other adversaries that have growing first-strike abilities.

The lab’s $837 million plutonium budget this year was 2.7 times larger than the prior year’s allocation of $308 million.

The lab’s plutonium funding was part of the draft budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The budget also requests $603 million — a 37 percent increase — to move the Savannah River Site in South Carolina toward producing 50 pits a year.

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Regional Coalition Of LANL Communities Board Unanimously Passes Resolution To Dissolve

THANK YOU to everyone who contacted city officials opposing the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities!

BY MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.comlosalamosreporter.com  

Members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board voted Friday afternoon to approve a resolution authorizing the direction of the winding down of the RCLC at the point of its termination. The resolution also directs legal counsel Nancy Long, treasurer Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz and Los Alamos County as the fiscal agent to take all actions necessary and warranted to see that the termination and all matters that need to be attended to upon that termination, are taken care of in an orderly way and ratifies actions that have been taken to this point to accomplish that.

Long said the resolution is the beginning of the process and that the resolution expresses the will of the board that the RCLC be wound down and terminated officially with the actions that are necessary to accomplish that.

“We foresee that there will be matters relating to payment of invoices and completing the audit for the fiscal year and we’re hoping to accomplish all those in short order if the board decides this is the direction it wants to take with the organization,” she said.

Ironically, the motion to proceed with the resolution for the disbandment and dissolution of the Coalition was made by Rio Arriba County Commissioner Christine Bustos who later said it was her first and last meeting. Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia seconded the motion. Garcia had abstained during voting with his own government in decisions regarding the Coalition.

Only five member entities were represented at the meeting and all five voted in favor of the resolution. Absent were Santa Fe County, Taos County, Jemez Pueblo and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

Garcia thanked the community members for their constant engagement in the RCLC process.

“I think its critical that in the RCLC or any other entity community engagement is critical and I believe that as we move forward through this process we still need to continue to keep our community members engaged and make sure we are working towards our best interests,” he said.

Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez said he learned a lot in terms of what Espanola needs to do in terms of advocacy and what need to be done to champion issues improve the lives of constituents.

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NM Archbishop Can’t Stay Silent on LANL’s Arms Work

“I believe strongly that Pope Francis is right. For peace to flourish, we have to lay down weapons,” [Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester] said, referring to Pope Francis’ statement that even the possession of atomic weapons of war was immoral.

“And any continuing development of nuclear weapons, and refining them, is going in the wrong direction.”

BY: T.S. Last / Journal North
Published: Wednesday, May 26th, 2021
Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester praises much of the work being done at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The lab’s expertise greatly contributes to developments in bioscience, computer science, engineering, medicine and modeling that helped the nation navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it also builds bombs – the kind capable of killing massive numbers of people. And that’s not an easy thing for him – and some Catholics working for the lab – to reconcile.

Wester says that as the archdiocese within which the lab operates, the Santa Fe Archdiocese has a “moral responsibility” to facilitate discussion about the lab’s national security mission, most of which is dedicated to weapons production.

“I believe strongly that Pope Francis is right. For peace to flourish, we have to lay down weapons,” he said, referring to Pope Francis’ statement that even the possession of atomic weapons of war was immoral. “And any continuing development of nuclear weapons, and refining them, is going in the wrong direction.”

Wester’s remarks come just as Los Alamos National Laboratory is expanding its national security mission through production of plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear warheads that detonate the bombs. As a direct result of the project, the lab has begun expanding into Santa Fe, the city named for St. Francis of Assisi.

The pope’s 2019 statement was the harshest condemnation of weapons of mass destruction to date from the church. He could have been speaking about LANL and its new mission to manufacture plutonium pits when he said, “In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered, and the fortunes made in the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.”

Meet the Senate nuke caucus, busting the budget and making the world less safe

These lawmakers represent states with a direct interest in pouring billions into modernizing and building new weapons.

By:  and  | responsiblestatecraft.org

Democrats might control the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government right now, but a small Republican-dominated Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Coalition exercises outsized influence in a frightening campaign for nuclear rearmament.

The coalition, comprising six senators from states that house, develop, or test underground land-based nuclear weapons, is pushing a wasteful and dangerous $1.7 trillion, decades-long plan to produce new nuclear weapons, some with warheads 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

While the 1980s witnessed the nuclear freeze and a mass movement to demand nuclear disarmament between the U.S. and Soviet Union, the 1990s gave birth to the missile caucus, the Congressional engine careening the U.S. into a renewed nuclear arms race.

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Santa Fe to exit Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

THANK YOU to everyone who contacted city officials in support of overturning the RCLC for good!

By: Sean P. Thomas sthomas@sfnewmexican.comSanta Fe New Mexican  

The Santa Fe City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday to pull the city from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, a consortium of local and tribal governments with economic ties to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Santa Fe’s resolution requests that the coalition return dues paid by the city and instructs city officials to begin exploring other ways to lobby the laboratory for economic opportunities and environmental cleanup.

The coalition’s board voted Friday to begin winding down the entity and close out debts, before paying back members their 2021 dues.

“I think it’s important to state while this process is going on that we approved this resolution withdrawing the city of Santa Fe from the RCLC,” said Councilor Renee Villarreal.

The coalition was formed in 2011 to advocate for sitewide cleanup and economic opportunities at the laboratory, but critics have said the coalition no longer achieves its original purpose.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S FY 2022  NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND CLEANUP BUDGET REQUEST

For use with DOE’s scheduled budget release on Friday May 28, 2021
For more information, key contacts are listed below.

The White House is releasing its detailed Fiscal Year 2022 budget on Friday, May 28. A so-called “skinny budget” was released on April 9 that increased Department of Energy (DOE) funding to $46.1 billion, which reportedly includes major new investments in clean energy and climate change abatement. That said, historically roughly 60% of DOE’s funding has been earmarked for nuclear weapons production and cleanup of Cold War wastes and contamination. The pending budget release will finally provide details on those programs.

Because the budget release is so late Congress has already announced that it can’t consider the annual Defense Authorization Act until September. Related appropriations bills will no doubt be delayed too. This means that the government will probably have to run on a Continuing Resolution(s) for much of FY 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021).

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability strongly opposed the massive 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration gave to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) nuclear weapons programs and proposed cuts to Department of Energy cleanup. In addition, DOE’s nuclear weapons and environmental management programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars for 28 consecutive years. Related, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released a report that projects a 28% increase in costs for so-called “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces that between the Defense Department and DOE is expected to cost around $1.7 trillion over 30 years.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a 34-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, will be analyzing the following critical issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

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Virtual Advocacy for “Safety, Security, and Savings” at ANA DC Days:

May 26, 2021

Nuclear Watch New Mexico virtually visited Washington, DC this month to participate in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s “DC Days,” an annual event where organizations from across the nation, whose members are directly affected by nuclear weapons production and the incidental health and environmental consequences, make their voice heard to federal policy makers.

Nuclear Watch NM was focused on opposing new plutonium pit production at Savannah River Site and Los Alamos, pushing for safe and secure toxic cleanup and prioritizing public health while saving billions by terminating ill-conceived new nuclear weapons programs. View more information on these issues in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s new report, “Safety, Security, and Savings,” which describes in detail the foundation of our 2021 advocacy. The report includes a series of fact sheets and recommendations covering new warheads, bomb plants, nuclear waste, cleanup, and more.

Surprise! Upgrading America’s Nuclear Arsenal Will Be Stupefyingly Expensive

The cost jumped $140 billion in just 2 years. Here’s why.

BY: | popularmechanics.com

  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now says the cost of updating the U.S.’s nuclear weapons is $140 billion more than it estimated just 2 years ago.
  • The increase is largely due to inflation and the inclusion of new, expensive projects the CBO didn’t cover 2 years ago.
  • The new estimate comes as a proposal in Congress seeks to trim the nuclear budget.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate of nuclear weapon expenditures over the next decade has jumped a staggering $140 billion in just 2 years.

The estimate, which the agency provided to Congress to give an idea of how much it will take to build new missiles, ships, and planes, as well as revamp America’s vast nuclear infrastructure, comes as key members of the legislature are pushing to cut nuclear weapons spending over the next 10 years.

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Estimated Cost of US Nuclear Modernization Jumps 28 Percent

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate puts the price tag at $634 billion as some lawmakers try to bring it back down.

BY PATRICK TUCKER | defenseone.com May 24, 2021

The estimated cost of replacing America’s nuclear bombers, missile submarines, and ICBMs just jumped again—from $315 billion in 2015 to $494 billion in 2019 and now to $634 billion, a 28 percent increase, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday.

The report identifies a $140 billion increase in the cost of nuclear delivery systems and weapons, such as ICBMs, as the largest contributor to the jump. “Projected costs for command, control, communications, and early-warning systems have also increased substantially,” it says, adding that if full costs of B-52 and B-21 bombers were included, “the total costs of nuclear forces, with cost growth, would be $711 billion.”

It’s the second time CBO has raised their projections for the costs of modernizing U.S. nuclear forces.

Some lawmakers have balked at what they perceive as the steep price tag for modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has called for a debate specifically on the high cost of replacing the intercontinental leg of the triad. On Monday, he unveiled a new bill, dubbed the SANE act, to cut $73 billion from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.

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Department of Energy seeks to modify N.M. plant’s nuclear waste permit

Dragging out WIPP’s operations decades past the original 20-year agreement violates the social contract made with New Mexicans, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

WIPP is being equipped to take the waste that will be generated from production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads, Kovac said.

“It [WIPP] was never really suppose to do that,” Kovac said.

Scott Wyland swyland@sfnewmexican.com | Santa Fe New Mexican May 17, 2021

Federal officials say a new air shaft is needed at the nuclear waste disposal site in Southern New Mexico to keep workers safe and run more efficiently.

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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

DOE Publishes Reactor Impact Statement

“Given that no clear mission need has been established for the VTR and with an estimated price tag of $3 billion to $6 billion, with completion ranging from 2026 to 2030, it is doubtful if the project will go forward..Just as for other costly, complex DOE projects, the price tag is certain to grow and the schedule certain to slip if the project is pursued.” — Savannah River Site Watch

By: NATHAN BROWN nbrown@postregister.com

Idaho National Laboratory photo

The U.S. Department of Energy has released the draft environmental impact statement for a test reactor it would like to build at Idaho National Laboratory.

The statement on the Versatile Test Reactor was released Monday and is available online through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s website, energy.gov/ne/office-nuclear-energy. Public comment will conclude 45 days after the federal Environmental Protection Agency publishes notice in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on Dec. 31. DOE will then hold two virtual public hearings, dates to be announced.
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DOE Awards Savannah River National Laboratory Management and Operating Contract

Cincinnati – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) awarded the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) Management and Operating (M&O) contract to Battelle Savannah River Alliance, LLC (BSRA) of Columbus, OH.

The Cost-Plus-Award-Fee contract will include a 5-year base period (inclusive of 120 day transition period) and potential award terms of up to 5 more years, for a total period of up to 10 years. The anticipated contract value is approximately $3.8 billion over the potential 10-year period of performance.

The procurement was competed as a full-and-open competition, and EM received three proposals. The Department determined the BSRA proposal provided the best value to the Government considering Laboratory Vision, Key Personnel, Management and Operations, Past Performance, Transition Plan, and Cost and Fee.

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Critics say Turkey’s unfinished nuclear plant already redundant

Turkey’s power plant building spree has resulted in an enormous idle capacity but the construction of new plants continues at the expense of taxpayers despite the country’s bruising economic woes.

BY: Thomas H. Goebel The Conversation 

A view of the construction site of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu, is pictured during the opening ceremony in the Mediterranean Mersin region on April 3, 2018. Photo by IBRAHIM MESE/AFP via Getty Images.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power for 18 years, is under increasing fire for poorly planned, prodigal investments whose long-term financial fallout is coming into sharper relief as the country grapples with severe economic woes. Standing out among the most dubious investments is a series of power plants, including a nuclear energy plant still under construction, that have created an idle capacity threatening to haunt public finances for years.

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John Pilger: The Most Lethal Virus is Not Covid-19. It is War.

Covid-19 has provided cover for a pandemic of propaganda, says John Pilger.

BY:  John Pilger

Armed Services Memorial. (Geograph/David Dixon)

Britain’s Armed Services Memorial is a silent, haunting place. Set in the rural beauty of Staffordshire, in an arboretum of some 30,000 trees and sweeping lawns, its Homeric figures celebrate determination and sacrifice.

The names of more than 16,000 British servicemen and women are listed. The literature says they “died in operational theatre or were targeted by terrorists”.

On the day I was there, a stonemason was adding new names to those who have died in some 50 operations across the world during what is known as “peacetime”. Malaya, Ireland, Kenya, Hong Kong, Libya, Iraq, Palestine and many more, including secret operations, such as Indochina.

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Fracking Likely Triggered Earthquakes in California a Few Miles From the San Andreas Fault

Industry-induced earthquakes have been an increasing concern in the central and eastern United States for more than a decade.

BY: Thomas H. Goebel The Conversation 

Activity in the San Ardo oil field near Salinas, California, has been linked to earthquakes. Eugene Zelenko / Wikimedia / CC BY 4.0

The way companies drill for oil and gas and dispose of wastewater can trigger earthquakes, at times in unexpected places.

In West Texas, earthquake rates are now 30 times higher than they were in 2013. Studies have also linked earthquakes to oil field operations in OklahomaKansasColorado and Ohio.

California was thought to be an exception, a place where oil field operations and tectonic faults apparently coexisted without much problem. Now, new research shows that the state’s natural earthquake activity may be hiding industry-induced quakes.

As a seismologist, I have been investigating induced earthquakes in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Our latest study, released on Nov. 10, shows how California oil field operations are putting stress on tectonic faults in an area just a few miles from the San Andreas Fault.

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Washington State Picks New Hanford Cleanup Watchdog

BY: TRI-CITY HERALD STAFF 

Washington state has picked an environmental manager from its Yakima Department of Ecology office to oversee state regulations at the Hanford nuclear reservation.

David Bowen will replace Alex Smith as Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program manager based in Richland starting Dec. 16. Smith took another state job at the end of October.

“I know Hanford is challenging and complex,” Bowen said, “But I’m excited for the opportunities it presents.”

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New Mexico’s oil fields have a sinkhole problem

The hunt for industrial brine has opened massive and unexpected sinkholes, which is taking delicate work, and more than $54 million, to fill.
“Carlsbad sits on the edge of the Permian Basin, an underground geological formation that stretches from southeastern New Mexico to West Texas and accounted for more than 35% of the U.S.’s domestic oil production in 2019. The surrounding desert is lined with rows of pumpjacks and the occasional white tower of a drilling rig.”

By: Elizabeth Miller | hcn.org

On a July morning in 2008, the ground below southeastern New Mexico began to shift and crack, shooting a huge plume of dust into the air. Within minutes, a massive sinkhole emerged, which eventually grew to roughly 120 feet deep and 400 feet in diameter.

“At the time, it was an unfortunate situation, but most people considered it to be a one-off,” says Jim Griswold, a special project manager with New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department. But a few months later, in November, dust once again streamed toward the sky as another similarly sized sinkhole opened, cracking a nearby roadway.

Both holes — and later, a third in Texas — emerged at the site of brine wells, industrial wells through which freshwater is pumped into a subterranean layer of salt. The freshwater mixes with the salt, creating brine, which is brought to the surface for industrial purposes; in this case, oil drilling. After the second sinkhole emerged, Griswold’s department head gave him a new task: Characterize the stability of the state’s 30 other brine wells and report back on where the next crisis might arise.

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Carlsbad Company Sues WIPP for $32 Million After Air System Subcontract Terminated

“The Program specifically states that ‘construction should not be allowed to proceed until the design is sufficiently mature to minimize change orders,’” the lawsuit read. “No one in NWP’s upper management in Carlsbad had ever borne responsibility for seeing a construction project of this magnitude to completion.”

By: Adrian Hedden | Carlsbad Current-Argus

WIPP

A $32 million lawsuit brought by a subcontractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant alleged the company that runs the facility breached its contract to rebuild the nuclear waste repository’s air system.

Critical Applications Alliance (CAA), a Carlsbad-based joint venture between Texas-based Christensen Building Group and Kilgore Industries was hired by Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) in 2018 to construct the ventilation system at WIPP for $135 million, but its contract was terminated on August 31, about two years into the project.

Known as the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS), the system was intended to increase airflow in WIPP’s underground waste disposal area to allow for waste emplacement and mining operations to occur simultaneously.

Available air at WIPP was reduced in 2014 due to an accidental radiological release that led to contamination in parts of the underground.

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Donald Trump fires defense secretary Mark Esper

In a pair of tweets Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he terminated his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
Esper’s tenure as top Pentagon official followed the resignations of Trump’s first Secretary of Defense James Mattis and then-acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

By: Amanda Macias | cnbc.com

WASHINGTON — In a pair of tweets Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he terminated his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” Trump wrote.

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‘Our industry knows Joe Biden really well’: Defense contractors unconcerned as Biden clinches victory

“I think the industry will have, when it comes to national security, a very positive view” of a Biden presidency, Punaro said.

By: Aaron Gregg | washingtonpost.com

The defense industry is taking a largely positive view of its prospects under an administration led by Joe Biden, who clinched the presidency on Saturday.

Although defense manufacturers have benefited from increased spending, tax cuts and deregulation under President Trump, their executives have told investors that they expect the former vice president and longtime senator will largely maintain the status quo with respect to defense spending.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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

Cleanup Funding Request at Los Alamos Would Be Needed Increase

DOE Environmental Management released the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Congressional Budget Request and asked for a $107.5 million increase over last year for legacy cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The FY22 EM funding request for cleanup at LANL totaled $333.5 million, which was a record request for cleanup at the Lab.

The Budget Request gives lifecycle costs. LANL has spent $3.8 billion on cleanup from 1997 to 2020. The high estimate is $4.6 billion for FY21 to FY90. This gives a total lifecycle cost of $8.4 billion from 1997 through 2090. The assumption included with these estimates is that most of the waste will remain buried at LANL. This is the first time DOE has mentioned legacy cleanup lasting until 2090. Last year the completion date was given as 2036.

Is legacy cleanup completion being pushed back to prioritize pit production? If DOE starts spending more on cleanup like this year in the future, shouldn’t cleanup take less time? The numbers work out to DOE only spending an average of $50 million between now and 2090, so DOE must not have plans to spend $330 million annually through 2090.

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Rep. Chris Chandler and NMED Sec. James Kenney Unhappy With Progress Of Waste Shipment From LANL

“The poor performance at LANL I think is exactly why we sued the Department of Energy because we believe the DOE and contractor are in violation of the Consent Order, we need to correct that and from a policy perspective, the Department of Energy has prioritized over New Mexico, cleanup at Savannah River, cleanup at Idaho National Labs, cleanup at all these other places and that is unacceptable to the state of New Mexico since we are the only state that holds the geologic repository known as WIPP,” – New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney

BY MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.com | The Los Alamos Reporter June 8, 2021

District 43 Rep. Christine Chandler and New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney on Monday both criticized the Department of Energy’s lack of progress in shipping waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad. Their comments were made during the Legislative Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee meeting. Chandler is the vice chair of that committee.

Eletha Trujillo, Bureau Chief of the Hazardous Waste Planning Division at the state Energy, Minerals and National Resources Department, earlier in the meeting noted that there are two groups from LANL that ship waste – the DOE Environmental Management group and the DOE National Security Administration group.

“The DOE NNSA group had some safety violations back in February – the spark incident that occurred with a barrel at Los Alamos and so they have not been able to do any shipments. They do have material, but they’re not able to ship anything because they’re under a safety hold by the NRC. When they complete their plan and they get approval again from the NRC then the NNSA will be able to ship again. We don’t know when that’s going to happen. Typically the NNSA tends to have more safety violations than Environmental Management,” Trujillo said.

She added that EM has shipped their material and does not have enough material for a full load.

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$72.6 billion. That’s how much the nine nuclear-armed states spent on their nuclear weapons in 2020…

during the worst pandemic in a century and when the treaty banning nuclear weapons became law, according to a new ICAN report. It’s an inflation-adjusted increase of $1.4 billion from last year.

ICAN (@nuclearban) |

But that’s not all. The report, “Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” dug through thousands of pages of contracts and annual reports to bring you the full picture of nuclear weapons spending. Because it’s not just countries’ governments that are responsible for wasting resources on weapons of mass destruction. Companies, lobbyists and think tanks are all complicit in 2020 spending on nuclear weapons.

In 2020, the report finds that less than a dozen companies got $27.7 billion contracts to work on nuclear weapons. Those companies then turned around and spent $117 million lobbying decision makers to spend more money on defense. And they also spent upwards of $10 million funding most of the major think tanks that research and write about policy solutions about nuclear weapons.

This spending is immoral and contrary to international law. Every actor in the circle is complicit. It’s time to speak up. Tell your country to stop spending money on nuclear weapons and join the TPNW. Protest a company that’s building these weapons near you. Ask think tanks to stop accepting money from the companies building nuclear weapons.

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New company sought to operate Waste Isolation Pilot Plant under $3 billion contract

Little change to workforce, operations expected

Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus |

A new primary contractor could be coming to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant as the U.S. Department of Energy sought bids from prospective contractors for the management and operations of the nuclear waste site near Carlsbad.

The current holder of the contract Nuclear Waste Partnership began its work at WIPP in 2012 and its contract will expire in September 2021, with an extension carrying the contract through September 2022.

At that point, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Amentum – NWP’s parent company – Keith Wood said the contractor’s lifetime would end.

“NWP was established to perform the current mission for the current contract,” Wood said. “That company will not be bidding on the next contract. Their sole mission was to perform the work under the current contract.”

Wood declined to comment on if any Amentum-led subsidiaries would bid on the new contract to operate WIPP.

The four-year contract will include six, one-year extension options and was valued at $3 billion over a 10-year performance period.

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Modernization: The Mainspring of NNSA FY 2022 Budget Request in the Form of Ballooning SRS Pit Costs

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s detailed fiscal year 2022 budget request was (partially) unveiled last week on Friday, May 28, in the evening before a long holiday weekend. The Biden Administration’s total NNSA FY22 budget request is just under $20 billion, requesting of $15.48 billion for NNSA “Total Weapons Activities” and following suit with Trump’s excessive nuclear weapons budget of $15.35 billion that Congress appropriated for FY 2021.

Of particular note in the budget request is that it will cost more than double what the National Nuclear Security Administration had previously estimated for the total of DOE’s Plutonium Bomb Plant construction at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The facility would be a converted production plant for the fabrication of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear warheads. The cost for the plant has ballooned from the previous estimate of $4.6 billion to a now staggering $11.1 billion. What’s more, the schedule for the facility’s initial operation has slipped up to five years. The plans for the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant have already run far over budget and fallen behind schedule, and “these troubling and potentially debilitating developments foreshadow problems to come to the challenging pit-production project,” according to the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch.

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Biden Continues Trump’s Bloated Nuclear Weapons Budget

Will That Change in Future Years?

Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move that discouraged media coverage, the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its long delayed FY 2022 Congressional Budget Request around 7:30 pm EST Friday, May 28, at the very beginning of the long Memorial Day weekend.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly opposed the 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration bequeathed to NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs. That massive increase was originally sold in testimony to Congress as essential to maintaining the nuclear deterrence but later revealed as necessary to cover NNSA cost overruns and blown schedules.[i]

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U.S. Plutonium Pit Costs Rise

“In addition, the Government Accountability Office GAO noted in a report published last September that the NNSA has been unable to plan for and complete major construction projects on time and, over the past two decades, Los Alamos has twice had to suspend laboratory-wide operations after the discovery of significant safety issues.”

By: Kingston Reif | armscontrolnow.org

The Energy Department’s cost to build the infrastructure to produce new plutonium cores for U.S. nuclear warheads could be as high as $18 billion, according to a department estimate and yet-to-be-released internal estimates detailed to Arms Control Today by a congressional source.

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico manipulates plutonium as part of the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program in 2005. Current plans call for expanding the production of plutonium pits at both Los Alamos and at the Savannah RIver Site in South Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico manipulates plutonium as part of the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program in 2005. Current plans call for expanding the production of plutonium pits at both Los Alamos and at the Savannah RIver Site in South Carolina. (Photo: U.S. Energy Department)

The updated price tag is nearly two and half times larger than earlier projections and is likely to raise fresh doubts about the affordability of the department’s aggressive plans to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.

The updated estimates are not reflected in the budget plan for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that the Trump administration bequeathed to the Biden administration. That means future NNSA weapons program budget requests will require significant increases beyond current plans just to accommodate the growth in the projected cost of pit production.

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Plain Talk: On this Memorial Day, consider getting rid of instruments of death

The sad fact is that if the world’s inclination to settle disputes by going to war — whether it be in Iraq or in Israel and Palestine or any of the other dozens of places that teem with hate — results in the use of a nuclear weapon, we won’t have enough people to decorate all the graves.

BY:

Dale-Harriet Rogovich, with husband Paul, places a rose on the grave of an unknown Union soldier after a Memorial Day ceremony at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison last year.
AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Today’s the day we pause to remember the tens of thousands of men and women who paid the ultimate price in service to their country.

When I was a kid this day was known as “Decoration Day.” I remember my grandparents taking us kids to the old cemetery in New Glarus to place flowers and flags, decorations if you please, on the graves of their own departed family members. Two of them had served in the Civil War.

Other folks placed memorials on the gravestones of relatives who had served in World War I, and still others paid their respects to those who gave their lives in the most recent world conflict at the time, World War II.

Today thousands of Americans will also be remembering loved ones killed in Vietnam, then Iraq and Afghanistan and countless other “skirmishes” where our leaders chose to place our young people in harm’s way. Sometimes the cause was good, more often, not so good.

A couple of weeks ago Buzz Davis, a tireless advocate for peace from Stoughton who’s now retired in Arizona, sent along a column he had written that once again calls on all of us to work harder for peace than we consistently do for war.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Davis was a founder of our local Vietnam Veterans for Peace and is still active in the national organization Vets for Peace that spreads the message that we need to find ways to solve our conflicts other than killing each other and filling cemeteries with gravestones to decorate on what we now call Memorial Day.

“Humans have been alive for 200,000 to 300,000 years,” he points out. “Nearly every major discovery has been used to ‘improve’ our ability to kill others.

“From learning how to sharpen sticks, to metal instruments, to explosive power, boats, airplanes, guns, germs and now nuclear reactions — inquisitive men and women ‘discover’ these and, mostly boys, use them to kill others,” he adds.

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Biden Proposes $1 billion for Nuclear Weapons Work

If Savannah River is delayed in reaching its pit-making goal, Los Alamos lab could be pressured to produce more than 30 pits a year.

“All of this may boomerang on Los Alamos lab, which has been incapable of making a pit for the nuclear weapons stockpile since 2011,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Coghlan was referring to a contract in which the lab made 11 pits in one year for Navy missiles a decade ago. That was the lab’s highest pit production, which soon ceased.

BY: Scott Wyland | © Santa Fe New Mexican

Los Alamos National Laboratory would receive about $1 billion for plutonium operations at the heart of its effort to produce 30 nuclear bomb cores by 2026, according to a partial budget the White House released Friday.

The amount would be more than a 20 percent jump from the $837 million being spent this year on the lab’s plutonium work, a clear signal that President Joe Biden will echo his predecessors’ calls to modernize the nuclear stockpile to deter China, Russia, Iran and other adversaries that have growing first-strike abilities.

The lab’s $837 million plutonium budget this year was 2.7 times larger than the prior year’s allocation of $308 million.

The lab’s plutonium funding was part of the draft budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The budget also requests $603 million — a 37 percent increase — to move the Savannah River Site in South Carolina toward producing 50 pits a year.

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Regional Coalition Of LANL Communities Board Unanimously Passes Resolution To Dissolve

THANK YOU to everyone who contacted city officials opposing the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities!

BY MAIRE O’NEILL maire@losalamosreporter.comlosalamosreporter.com  

Members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board voted Friday afternoon to approve a resolution authorizing the direction of the winding down of the RCLC at the point of its termination. The resolution also directs legal counsel Nancy Long, treasurer Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz and Los Alamos County as the fiscal agent to take all actions necessary and warranted to see that the termination and all matters that need to be attended to upon that termination, are taken care of in an orderly way and ratifies actions that have been taken to this point to accomplish that.

Long said the resolution is the beginning of the process and that the resolution expresses the will of the board that the RCLC be wound down and terminated officially with the actions that are necessary to accomplish that.

“We foresee that there will be matters relating to payment of invoices and completing the audit for the fiscal year and we’re hoping to accomplish all those in short order if the board decides this is the direction it wants to take with the organization,” she said.

Ironically, the motion to proceed with the resolution for the disbandment and dissolution of the Coalition was made by Rio Arriba County Commissioner Christine Bustos who later said it was her first and last meeting. Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia seconded the motion. Garcia had abstained during voting with his own government in decisions regarding the Coalition.

Only five member entities were represented at the meeting and all five voted in favor of the resolution. Absent were Santa Fe County, Taos County, Jemez Pueblo and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

Garcia thanked the community members for their constant engagement in the RCLC process.

“I think its critical that in the RCLC or any other entity community engagement is critical and I believe that as we move forward through this process we still need to continue to keep our community members engaged and make sure we are working towards our best interests,” he said.

Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez said he learned a lot in terms of what Espanola needs to do in terms of advocacy and what need to be done to champion issues improve the lives of constituents.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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Must Reads

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink

My Journey at the Nuclear Brink by William J. PerryWilliam J. Perry [Former Secretary of Defense]

Published by Stanford Security Studies, Nov. 2015

Perry argues that nuclear weapons now “endanger our society rather than securing it.” He is one of the founders, along with Sam Nunn, George Schultz, and Henry Kissinger, of the Nuclear Security Project.

In his own words:

“This book is a selective memoir of my experiences with nuclear weapons and nuclear crises, and its purpose is to alert the public to the real and growing dangers of a nuclear catastrophe. I hope you will read this book and learn from it. But I realize that this book, even if effective, will reach only a small audience. In particular, it will reach very few of our young people. The problems I have described are going to be with us for decades, so our young people must play a key role in dealing with them.

Therefore I have undertaken to put these concepts into a form more widely accessible and available to young people. I am doing this through the William J. Perry Project, whose goal is mass education on nuclear dangers… For some years I have taught a course at Stanford about nuclear dangers, and I am now developing that course into an online course that has the potential to reach not just hundreds of students, but hundreds of thousands… The broader series of educational materials under development is called “Nuclear Weapons: 20th-Century History, 21st-Century Decisions,” or 20-21 for short. We not only want people to understand the history, but to engage in current-day issues facing the United States, such as the impending nuclear arms race and the danger of a resumption of nuclear testing.

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.”

 

Los Alamos: A Whistleblower’s Diary

Los Alamos: A Whistleblower’s Diary, by Chuck Montaño, released April 28, 2015. Order your copy from Amazon, or better yet, from the author directly.

“A shocking account of foul play, theft and abuse at our nation’s premier nuclear R&D installation, uncovering a retaliatory culture where those who dare to question pay with their careers and, potentially, their lives.
Tommy was unrecognizable. His face was swollen, bruised, and stained with blood, his eyes barely visible through ballooning eyelids and a broken jaw. On his cheek was a ghostly imprint- the tread mark of someone’s shoe. Suddenly, with a slight movement of his hand, Tommy waved me in closer to hear him. Speaking softly through lips that barely moved, he said, ‘Be careful . . . They kept telling me to keep my fucking mouth shut; they kept telling me to keep my fucking mouth shut,’ he repeated.”

read more excerpts at the book’s website

Radio interview with Chuck Montaño on the book: KSFR Santa Fe.

Chuck Montaño was given the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s Whistleblower Award in Washington DC on April 19, 2016.

 

Quotes

“President Ronald Reagan believed that nuclear weapons are immoral, and so he sought their complete elimination, and I agreed – and still do with deep conviction. In the end, this is a matter of profound morality.” – George P. Schultz, US Secretary of State 1982-89

“The reality is that United States can deter and, if necessary, respond to nuclear attack without the 400 nuclear warheads atop its 400 ICBMs. Today, the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal is at least one-third larger than necessary to deter a nuclear attack.”

Illustrated by Lawrence Freedman (Author): Nuclear Deterrence: A Ladybird Expert Book (31)

armscontrolnow.org

“I am pleased to recognize today’s entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades. The treaty is an important step towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and a strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament,”

January 22nd 2021 – UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.

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