Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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

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

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

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

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Pantex Plant FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

KCP FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

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

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

LANL Looks to Reduce Risks of Volatile Waste

“Many of the drums probably have sat around for years, even decades, posing a hazard,” said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“It’s an example of nuclear weapons work getting the priority while cleanup and waste management is on the back burner,”

Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking steps to address the hazards posed by dozens of barrels of radioactive waste mixed with incompatible chemicals, which have the potential to explode.

The lab is responding to a report in October by the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which found the lab had failed to analyze chemicals present in hundreds of containers of transuranic nuclear waste.

Incompatible chemicals could blend together and cause a container to burst, releasing a high level of radiation that would threaten workers and the public, the report said.

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Nuke groups pressing Biden administration for more pit production environmental review

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CAREs, represented by the the S.C. Environmental Law Project, in early February sent a letter and supporting documents to the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration outlining grave concerns and allegations of cut corners.

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements holds a large photo of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a never-completed nuclear fuel plant at the Savannah River Site.
Staff photo by Colin Demarest

A coalition of nuclear watchers and nonprofits is again lobbying the federal government to conduct a more rigorous environmental review of plans to produce nuclear weapon cores in South Carolina and New Mexico, this time hoping the new administration is more amenable.

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CAREs, represented by the the S.C. Environmental Law Project, in early February sent a letter and supporting documents to the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration outlining grave concerns and allegations of cut corners.
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Editorial: LANL’s lack of wildfire plan, action irresponsible

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One would think an entity with 13 nuclear facilities that experienced two catastrophic wildfires in recent years would be taking fire prevention seriously.

After all, the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire burned about 7,500 acres of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, resulting in $331 million in damages. And that figure doesn’t include an estimated $15 million in lost productivity per week during a 15-day shutdown and recovery period.

And then there was the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. While it ultimately burned only about 1 acre of LANL land, it forced roughly 10,000 LANL employees out of their offices and out of Los Alamos for more than a week.

But according to a recent report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, managers at LANL have not fully implemented measures designed to reduce the impact from wildland fires, including tree thinning in buffer zones below overhead power lines.

The report is so disappointing because the Las Conchas Fire, which burned about 156,293 total acres, started when a tree fell on a power line in the Santa Fe National Forest, resulting in a fast-burning “crown fire” that burned through tree canopy.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Biden Administration Asked to Review Plutonium Pit Expansion Plans

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico: “It’s important to note that no future pit production is to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, it is for speculative new nuclear weapons designs that can’t be tested because of the international testing moratorium, or perhaps worse yet may prompt the U.S. back into testing, after which surely other nations would follow.”

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Public interest organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requesting that it address calls for a rigorous environmental review of plans to expand production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina.

The non-profit groups—Nuclear Watch New MexicoSRS Watch and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment—have previously submitted a number of formal comments and information related to the environmental and public health risks associated with a significant expansion of plutonium “pit” production at the two DOE sites.
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Consequences of Uranium Mining in the Southwest

Addressing the consequences of uranium mining in the Southwest, Anna Benally said, “When uranium mining came to Navajo Land, we were never told it was unsafe to be around it. We were never told to keep our children from playing near it or keep our livestock from coming around it. We were just happy to have jobs.”

By: Kristin Scheer | Peace Works Kansas City

Uranium mining is still causing problems in the US. This was the topic of Radio Active Magazine on KKFI, 90.1 FM Community Radio, on Feb. 9. Activists from the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), based in Albuquerque, NM, joined PeaceWorks-KC leaders for the program.

The MASE activists on the program were Anna Benally, a former uranium mine employee turned activist who is working to heal the land and protect the health of people and livestock, and Susan Gordon, coordinator of MASE. PeaceWorks Board members Ann Suellentrop and myself introduced the MASE leaders and interviewed them. The podcast is online at https://kkfi.org/program-episodes/fighting-uranium-contamination-in-the-southwest/.

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Atomic weapons plan risky for SC, lawyers say. Noted legal service joins fray

Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CARES recently retained the Environmental Law Project. They say pit factories are expensive, unnecessary, needlessly threaten the environment, and could leave unused plutonium stranded permanently in places like SRS.

The government never finished this mixed oxide fuel plant at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This site would be converted to a pit plutonium factory, according to plans. COURTESY HIGH FLYER

A South Carolina legal service has joined the fight against an atomic weapons components factory at the Savannah River Site, raising the possibility that environmental groups will sue the federal government to stop the effort.

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a non-profit service with an extensive record of arguing cases in court, outlined concerns about the factory in a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Energy. The letter called the proposed factory risky and in need of further study.

At issue is a proposal to build a nuclear weapons pit plant that would use plutonium, a deadly long-lived radioactive material, at the Savannah River Site.

The pit factory would produce potentially thousands of jobs, but is drawing opposition from environmental groups in South Carolina, New Mexico and California.

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Los Alamos lab, birthplace of the atomic bomb, STILL under threat from wildfires despite repeated major incidents

“The threat and risks of wildfire to the lab and northern New Mexico will continue to increase because of climate warming, drought and expanded nuclear weapons production,” said Jay Coghlan, director of the group Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb and critical US nuclear weapons production facility, remains under threat from wildfires despite several high profile, expensive blazes in recent decades.

A recent audit by the US Energy Department’s inspector general found that threat-reduction measures such as the maintenance of the lab’s network of fire roads, strategic clearing of vegetation in the surrounding area as well as the production of a coherent preparedness and mitigation plan had not been carried out

Photographic evidence included in the report indicated a tree density of 400 to 500 per acre, 10 times the recommended safe level of 40 to 50 trees per acre.

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Audit Raises Concerns About Wildfire Risks at US Nuclear Lab

“The threat and risks of wildfire to the lab and northern New Mexico will continue to increase because of climate warming, drought and expanded nuclear weapons production,” said Jay Coghlan, director of the group Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory as seen from across the Omega Bridge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — (AP) — One of the nation’s premier nuclear laboratories isn’t taking the necessary precautions to guard against wildfires, according to an audit by the U.S. Energy Department’s inspector general.

The report comes as wildfire risks intensify across the drought-stricken U.S. West. Climatologists and environmentalists have been warning about worsening conditions across the region, particularly in New Mexico, which is home to Los Alamos National Laboratory and where summer rains failed to materialize last year and winter precipitation has been spotty at best.

The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos has experienced hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and damage from major wildfires over the last two decades. That includes a blaze in 2000 that forced the lab to close for about two weeks, ruined scientific projects, destroyed a portion of the town and threatened tens of thousands of barrels of radioactive waste stored on lab property.

Watchdog groups say the federal government needs to take note of the latest findings and conduct a comprehensive review before the lab ramps up production of key plutonium parts used in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

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Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab Opens Office in the City of the Santa Fe (“Holy Faith”) of Peace and Environmental Protection

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – A Lab press release has announced that “[c]onnections between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the City of Santa Fe will be strengthened with the Laboratory’s opening of a new downtown office” after signing a 10-year lease on a 28,000-square-foot building. The Lab’s press release ignores LANL’s $2.9 billion nuclear weapons production budget (up 33% in one year), its proposed 46% cut to cleanup to $120 million, serious groundwater contamination and recent reports how it has neglected wildfire protection. Two catastrophic wildfires in the last 21 years on or near the Lab blanketed a large portion of northern New Mexico with possibly contaminated smoke.

The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and while in Japan paid homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

New & Updated

New Mexico alleges in court filing Los Alamos National Lab failed to clean up nuclear waste

“I’m glad that NMED went to court. If LANL is serious, they should not be spending lots of federal time and resources and lawyers to fight this…They should be trying to see what they can do to come to an agreement with NMED.” — Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the Southwest Research and Information Center

By: Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus / March 2nd, 2021 currentargus.com

Los Alamos County/Santa Fe New Mexican Courtesy photo

An alleged failure to clean up hazardous and radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) led the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to take the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to court in hopes of seeing the DOE address its concerns.

In a complaint filed in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe County, NMED alleged the DOE displayed a “pattern” of failing to meet deadlines and benchmarks for hazardous waste clean-up at the federal nuclear facility in northern New Mexico.

NMED sought to terminate a 2016 consent order, enacted during the past administration, citing a lack of adequate targets and progress in cleaning up waste at the facility.

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Gorbachev’s Greatest Hits

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev did more for global nuclear disarmament than any other person in history

Gorbachev made history, then freed history by opening his documents

Briefing Book #746 | Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya & Thomas Blanton / March 2nd, 2021 nsarchive.gwu.edu

Mikhail Sergeyevich Turns 90; Archive marks milestone with new publication of Gorbachev memcons with Castro, Mitterrand, and Shamir; compilation of dozens of Gorbachev primary sources.

Washington, D.C., March 2, 2021 – The first and only president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, is turning 90 years old today in Moscow.   On the occasion of his anniversary, the National Security Archive has compiled a collection of postings called “Gorbachev’s Greatest Hits.”  These documents help illuminate the story of the end of the Cold War, political reform of the Soviet system, and the vision of a world built on universal human values.

This compendium, accompanied by a collection of Russian-language documents on the Archive’s Russia Page, is intended to encourage scholars and others to revisit and study those miraculous years in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the global confrontation stopped, walls fell, peoples found freedom, and Europe was seen as a common home.  Though not for long.

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Modeling Software Once Led Us to the Precipice of Nuclear War. What Will AI Do?

The Pentagon must heed the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer amid its artificial-intelligence aspirations.

By: Steve Blank Defense One / March 1st, 2021 defenseone.com

TECH. SGT. BOYD BELCHER/US ARMY

In 1983, the world’s superpowers drew near to accidental nuclear war, largely because the Soviet Union relied on software to make predictions that were based on false assumptions. Today, as the Pentagon moves to infuse artificial-intelligence tools into just about every aspect of its workings, it’s worth remembering the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer.

Two years earlier, the Soviet Union had deployed a software program dubbed RYAN, for Raketno Yadernoye Napadenie, or sudden nuclear missile attack. Massive for its time, RYAN sought to compute the relative power of the two superpowers by modeling 40,000 military, political, and economic factors, including 292 “indicators” reported from agents (spies) abroad. It was run by the KGB, which employed more than 200 people just to input the data.

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New Mexico Environment Department Takes Legal Action To Terminate Defective LANL Cleanup “Consent Order”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 25, 2021

The New Mexico Environment Department has announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate a “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Nuclear Watch New Mexico, which has fought against that Consent Order ever since it went into effect nearly five years ago, strongly supports and applauds NMED’s decision.

Much to its credit, in 2005 the State of New Mexico successfully compelled DOE to enter into a strong, enforceable Consent Order after years of tough negotiations and lawsuits brought against it by DOE and the University of California (then LANL’s manager). However, at the Lab’s request the anti-regulation Susanna Martinez Administration eviscerated that Consent Order with more than 150 milestone extensions. Further, in a process riddled with conflicts of interest, the Martinez Administration negotiated a revised 2016 Consent Order that subordinated cleanup to the budget that DOE wants instead of having cleanup drive the budget. As a direct result, DOE added $900 million to LANL’s nuclear weapons programs in FY 2021 alone (to a total of $2.9 billion) while proposing to cut cleanup by nearly half to $120 million (fortunately Congress blocked that cut).

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State sues DOE over LANL cleanup

The lawsuit notes that Nuclear Watch New Mexico previously filed a lawsuit against the DOE over its non-compliance with the 2016 Consent Order.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement that “What New Mexicans really deserve (is) to have needed cleanup drive funding instead of the budget that DOE wants driving cleanup. We strongly salute the Environment Department for taking legal action against DOE’s scheme of expanding dirty nuclear weapons production over cleanup.”

By: T.S. LAST / JOURNAL NORTH / February 25th, 2021 at 11:45pm Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The state Environment Department has lost patience with the U.S. Department of Energy over what it says is a “continuing pattern of delay and noncompliance” with the cleanup of hazardous legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posing a health risk to people in surrounding communities.

After a dispute resolution process broke down, the New Mexico Environment Department late Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against the DOE in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. It claims that DOE has failed to meet objectives identified in compliance orders in 2005 and 2016 and has dragged its feet in cleaning up contamination left behind from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

It asks that a court-supervised process be conducted to resolve the issues.

“We’re a state agency, and our patience is long,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a phone interview. “But our patience runs out quickly when there’s an inability to meet promises.”

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New Mexico sues feds over LANL cleanup, plans tougher oversight

Jay Coghlan, executive director of nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico, agreed that hard deadlines are crucial in making real headway on cleanup.

“The main thing we would want is to have cleanup drive funding instead of a budget that [the Energy Department] wants driving cleanup,” Coghlan said.

By: Scott Wyland santafenewmexican.com | Feb 25, 2021

Worker moves drums of transuranic (TRU) waste at a staging area curtesy
Worker moves drums of transuranic (TRU) waste at a staging area. By filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy, state regulators now hope to dissolve the existing consent order regulating waste cleanup at the lab and impose tougher rules for disposing of transuranic waste. Credit: Richard Robinson

State regulators are suing the U.S. Department of Energy for what they say is a failure to adequately clean up legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and they will impose tougher rules for disposing of waste generated at the lab during the Cold War and Manhattan Project.

Critics have bashed the 2016 agreement for waste cleanup — known as a consent order — that was crafted under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, saying it weakened the original 2005 order by eliminating real deadlines and imposing few penalties for slow or deficient work.

The lawsuit, filed in state District Court, seeks to cancel the consent order, fine the Energy Department about $330,000 for not meeting its cleanup obligations and have the court oversee mediation between the two parties for a new waste agreement.

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Ex-SCANA CEO pleads guilty to fraud in SC nuclear fiasco: ‘I’m sorry it’s come to this’

Tom Clements, an environmental activist who criticized the nuclear project even before its abandonment, noticed and shouted a question as the former SCANA executive walked past. “Mr. Marsh, are you going to apologize to the people of South Carolina for this nuclear nightmare?”

By Avery G. Wilks & Conor Hughes | postandcourier.com February 24, 2021 – updated March 5, 2021

Kevin Marsh, then-CEO of SCANA, walks past demonstrators outside a 2017 meeting of the S.C. Public Service Commission shortly after the company abandoned the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project. Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed decade-long expansion. Sean Rayford/Special to The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Former SCANA Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh will spend at least two years in prison and pay back at least $5 million for defrauding electric ratepayers in South Carolina’s $9 billion nuclear power fiasco, according to a plea deal that was presented to a federal judge Feb. 24.

The 65-year-old Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed, decade-long expansion of SCANA’s V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in Fairfield County. Marsh had to surrender his passport at the courthouse but was released without having to post money for bond.

Once one of South Carolina’s top businessmen, Marsh has spent the past six months as a criminal informant and will continue to be a key witness for state and federal prosecutors who continue to probe the V.C. Summer project’s failure. He faces up to 10 years in prison if he does not fully cooperate with that investigation, according to the new terms of his plea deal.

“Justice has been served,” U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Peter McCoy said after the hearing. “For years, institutions and individuals have abused the public trust with little to no accountability. This includes corporations that have increased profits at the expense of their customers. Oftentimes, it’s assumed that these executives will avoid any oversight because of who they are and where they’ve worked.”

Marsh’s first day in court was a long one, a product of a three-year investigation by the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina, State Law Enforcement Division and S.C. Attorney General’s Office that brought both state and federal fraud charges against him.

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That Time an Airman Accidentally Prevented a Nuclear Apocalypse

Perroots wrote, “it is not certain that we looked hard enough or broadly enough for information…For Western collectors the context was peacetime without even the most basic ripples of crisis. For the Soviets, however, the view may have looked quite different.”

In a 1989 memo, CIA officials admitted that Perroots’ letter surfaced “a long standing warning problem, i.e. the need for the intelligence community in Washington to provide more timely, discriminating and accurate warning in support of the theater commander.”

B | taskandpurpose.com FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Lt. Gen Leonard H. Perroots

Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots was on the intelligence desk for U.S. Air Forces Europe on Nov. 5, 1983, when he heard that Soviet Air Forces in East Germany were on high alert and being loaded with munitions. The Air Force officer called his boss, Gen. Billy Minter, who asked Perroots if they should load up for war in response.

“I said that we would carefully watch the situation,” Perroots later wrote in a letter to senior U.S. intelligence officials, “but there was insufficient evidence to justify increasing our real alert posture.”

Little did Perroots know, he had just played a crucial role in averting what could have resulted in armageddon, had the nuclear-capable war machines of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union continued to spin up. Experts later compared the incident, now known as Able Archer 83, to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in terms of how close both sides came to declaring war.

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No Growth, No Big Cuts Likely For First Biden Defense Budget

The full budget, set to be released on May 3, should spark heated debate in Congress between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must increase to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

“You can’t obtain serious and durable cuts in Pentagon spending without an equally serious rethinking of our strategic objectives…Resources constraints should cause us to rethink our strategic objectives, but the Biden team seems unwilling to do that.” – Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the Pentagon, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley

WASHINGTON: Early planning indicates that the Biden administration’s first defense budget might only match last year’s request, marking the second year in a row that the budget request will not keep up with inflation according to several sources familiar with the guidance.

If that planning holds up, the top line for the Pentagon’s 2022 budget will likely come in around the $696 billion the department received in it’s base funding 2021, which was itself just $2.6 billion more than the enacted 2020 budget.

The full budget is now scheduled to be released on May 3. The Biden administration’s first DoD funding request will be delivered to a Congress already split between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must rise significantly in order to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

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Progressives Face Tough Road in Bid to Cut Biden Defense Budget

⋅ ‘Legacy’ weapons programs to come under review, Reed says
⋅ Critics eye Northrop’s intercontinental ballistic missile

By: / bloomberg.com

The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.

“Arbitrary reductions would not be the right way to go,” Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said in an interview Monday. Congress will weigh President Joe Biden’s first budget request and review the military services’ proposals to see if they cut unnecessary, so-called “legacy” weapons programs and facilities, Reed said.

Reed’s position is significant because Biden’s election elevated a narrative within the Democratic Party that the president will be under enormous pressure from progressives to slash defense spending. National security makes up about half of the federal government’s discretionary budget.

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Nuclear Weapons — They’re Illegal

“Remember that when your congressional members pitch expanding nuclear weapons production as jobs programs; you can respond that they are illegal. Tell them they should show visionary leadership and moral courage by helping to create cleanup and green energy jobs instead.”

By:  / Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 22 will go down in history as the day when the tide turned against nuclear weapons. That was the day when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into effect, signed by 122 countries.

It specifically prohibits nations from developing, testing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and assisting others in doing so. It reinforces existing international law obligating all states not to test, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

What immediate impact will it have here, given that the Los Alamos National Laboratory is the birthplace of nuclear weapons and now sole producer of plutonium pit triggers for the expanding U.S. stockpile? The brutally honest answer is no impact, not immediately.

But think about it. Nuclear weapons are now internationally illegal, just as horrendous chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction have long been. But nuclear weapons are the worst WMDs, potentially killing millions more while causing radioactive fallout and famine-inducing nuclear winter. Ask your New Mexican congressional members to explain why nuclear weapons shouldn’t be internationally banned just like chemical and biological WMDs, all of which cause agonizing, indiscriminate suffering and death.

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Semis Hauling Millions of Radioactive Loads Across the Country

“…Charles is concerned, not only with the radiation he and other drivers may have been exposed to, but with the fallout from the radioactive rigs that continue to travel our nation’s highways.”

By: Duane Pohlman, WKRC

Semis hauling millions of radioactive loads across the country (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – Each year, millions of radioactive loads are shipped across the country, many on trucks that travel right beside you on our highways.

The federal government says the shipments are safe, but some of those who handle and haul the toxic material disagree.

In this exclusive Local 12 Investigation, Chief Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman interviews two of those workers.

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PLOUGHSHARES FUND: JAY COGHLAN – MY FIRST GRANT: NUCLEAR WATCH NEW MEXICO

Jay Coghlan looks back at NukeWatch NM’s first grant from Ploughshares Fund

Jay Coghlan is the executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a nonprofit organization founded by veteran anti-nuclear activists that seeks to promote environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities, mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs, greater accountability and cleanup in the nationwide nuclear weapons complex, and consistent US leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Jay recently spoke with us on the initial reaction to Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s first grant from Ploughshares Fund, what has been accomplished since their founding in 1999, and what you can do to continue supporting their work.

What was your reaction when you found out that you received a grant?

My initial reaction was one of surprise. I was new to the work and didn’t really feel worthy of the trust that the Ploughshares Fund had put into me. Second came elation and the realization that I could become professional and devote myself to the work full time, which I view as a necessity. Third came a strong feeling of gratitude, which I still feel 28 years later because of Ploughshares’ incredible steadfast and consistent support.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in this field?

What I am most proud of is having played a central role in beating back four attempts by the US government to expand plutonium pit bomb core production, which has been the chokepoint of resumed US industrial-scale nuclear weapons production ever since a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. This work included convincing a New Mexico senator to require an independent plutonium pit lifetime study which in 2006 concluded that pits last at least a century. Shortly thereafter, in conjunction with a restrained budget environment, Congress deleted funding for a new-design nuclear weapon called the Reliable Replacement Warhead and related expanded plutonium pit production.

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Newly Released Documents Shed Light on 1983 Nuclear War Scare with Soviets

“On a hair trigger”: The Soviet Union put warplanes loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert during a 1983 war scare that was one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War.

By: Nate Jones & David E. Hoffman / Washington Post

The Soviet Union put fighter-bombers loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert in East Germany during a NATO nuclear weapons command exercise in November 1983, and the alert included “preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons,” according to newly released U.S. intelligence records that confirm a “war scare” during some of the most tense months of the Cold War.

It was disclosed previously that the NATO exercise, named Able Archer 83, triggered worries in the Kremlin. But the new documents provide precise details for the first time of the Soviet military response to the NATO exercise, an annual event that practiced a simulated nuclear attack on the forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

According to the documents, the heightened Soviet alert was raised in the fighter-bomber divisions of Soviet forces stationed in East Germany. All command posts were ordered to be manned around-the-clock by augmented teams. In tandem, the chief of the Soviet air forces, Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, ordered all units of the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland to be covered by the alert.
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EPA awards 3 companies $220M for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation

“We are very pleased that Native American-owned firms are being considered and selected for the remediation of uranium mine sites,” Valinda Shirley, executive director of the Navajo EPA Shirley said in a statement. “The award of these contracts propels the cleanup of our priority mine sites across the Navajo Nation.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, worth up to $220 million over the next five years.

The majority of the funding comes from the $1 billion Tronox settlement in 2015. According to the EPA, work is scheduled to begin later this year following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. A news release stated that the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950s.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to:

  • Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture,
  • Environmental Quality Management Inc.,
  • Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

In addition, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation have secured funding agreements, through enforcement agreements and other legal settlements, for the assessment and clean-up of approximately 200 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation, the news release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a prepared statement:

The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children. We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups. We strongly encourage these companies to create more opportunities for Navajo businesses to receive sub-contracts for the work related to assessments and clean-up efforts. We have many Navajo-owned entrepreneurs and businesses that have the expertise and experience to help clean-up our communities.

Each of the companies will develop training programs for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth in areas related to the AMRCS contract. Workforce training that could be offered by the contractors may cover radiological contamination, health and safety, construction and road building.

READ THE ENTIRE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Critical Events

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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

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Nuclear News

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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Nuclear Media

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LANL Cleanup: What you can do

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

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

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

Critical Events

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New & Updated

This Is How the Biggest Arms Manufacturers Steer Millions to Influence US Policy

Five of the nation’s biggest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies and General Dynamics — spent a combined $60 million in 2020 to influence policy, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics.

By: Stephen Losey

The paper, “Capitalizing on conflict: How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arms sales,” details how a network of lobbyists and donors steered $285 million in campaign contributions and $2.5 billion in lobbying spending over the last two decades, as well as hiring more than 200 lobbyists who previously worked in government.

The amount of money at stake is immense, both at home and abroad, the center states on its website, OpenSecrets.org. Not only is a significant portion of the Pentagon’s $740 billion annual budget spent on weapons, the report explains, but American defense firms agreed to sell $175 billion in weapons to other countries over the last year. That includes deals to sell $23 billion in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and drones to the United Arab Emirates, and billions more in sales to Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, it adds.

The practice appears unlikely to change significantly under the Biden administration.

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A Decade Later: Human Suffering and Failures of Fukushima

Fukushima Daiichi 2011-2021

By:

The decontamination myth and a decade of human rights violations

The following is the Executive Summary from the new Greenpeace report. Download the full report.

As a result of a catastrophic triple reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 11 March 2011, several tens of thousands of square kilometres in Fukushima Prefecture and wider Japan were contaminated with significant amounts of radioactive caesium and other radionuclides. The first Greenpeace radiation expert team arrived in Fukushima on 26 March 2011, and Greenpeace experts have since conducted 32 investigations into the radiological consequences of the disaster, the most recent in November 2020.

This report, the latest in a series, chronicles some of our principal findings over recent years, and shows how the government of Japan, largely under prime minister Shinzo Abe, has attempted to deceive the Japanese people by misrepresenting the effectiveness of the decontamination programme as well as the overall radiological risks in Fukushima Prefecture. As the latest Greenpeace surveys demonstrate, the contamination remains and is widespread, and is still a very real threat to long term human health and the environment.

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Santa Fe councilors question LANL coalition membership

BY: Kyle Land /

What’s the actual benefit to the city?

That was the question Santa Fe city councilors debated Monday as they considered the city’s membership in the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

At the center of it all was a revised Joint Powers Agreement for the coalition, which officials hope will solve some of the group’s long-standing organizational issues.

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Panel weighs benefits to LANL communities coalition

BY: Sean P. Thomas sthomas@sfnewmexican.com /  Updated 

Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villarreal renewed her concerns Monday about the city’s involvement in a joint powers agreement with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

During a Finance Committee meeting Monday, Villarreal said she has yet to understand how the city benefits from the agreement, which calls for a $10,000 contribution.

“Why is it important we are part of this coalition?” she asked. “It’s never been clear to me about the benefits and how it holds up the values that we care about in Santa Fe.”

The city is one of nine cities, counties, towns and tribal governments that make up the regional coalition, which was established in 2011 to give communities in Northern New Mexico a more official say in decision-making pertaining to job development and cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

But controversy emerged in recent years over the organization’s spending practices.

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How Green Berets prepared to carry ‘backpack nukes’ on top-secret one-way missions during the Cold War

“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light Team told Insider.

BY: Stavros Atlamazoglou / March 1st, 2021 businessinsider.com

A Green Light operator conducting a high-altitude, low-opening jump with the MK54 SADM. Courtesy photo
  • In the Cold War, strategists wanted nuclear weapons they could use without sparking a nuclear war.
  • That led to the development of tactical nuclear weapons for use against targets.
  • Teams of Green Berets trained to carry those nukes to their targets and saw it as a one-way mission.

Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.

With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.

But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.

As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.
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New Mexico alleges in court filing Los Alamos National Lab failed to clean up nuclear waste

“I’m glad that NMED went to court. If LANL is serious, they should not be spending lots of federal time and resources and lawyers to fight this…They should be trying to see what they can do to come to an agreement with NMED.” — Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the Southwest Research and Information Center

By: Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus / March 2nd, 2021 currentargus.com

Los Alamos County/Santa Fe New Mexican Courtesy photo

An alleged failure to clean up hazardous and radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) led the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to take the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to court in hopes of seeing the DOE address its concerns.

In a complaint filed in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe County, NMED alleged the DOE displayed a “pattern” of failing to meet deadlines and benchmarks for hazardous waste clean-up at the federal nuclear facility in northern New Mexico.

NMED sought to terminate a 2016 consent order, enacted during the past administration, citing a lack of adequate targets and progress in cleaning up waste at the facility.

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Gorbachev’s Greatest Hits

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev did more for global nuclear disarmament than any other person in history

Gorbachev made history, then freed history by opening his documents

Briefing Book #746 | Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya & Thomas Blanton / March 2nd, 2021 nsarchive.gwu.edu

Mikhail Sergeyevich Turns 90; Archive marks milestone with new publication of Gorbachev memcons with Castro, Mitterrand, and Shamir; compilation of dozens of Gorbachev primary sources.

Washington, D.C., March 2, 2021 – The first and only president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, is turning 90 years old today in Moscow.   On the occasion of his anniversary, the National Security Archive has compiled a collection of postings called “Gorbachev’s Greatest Hits.”  These documents help illuminate the story of the end of the Cold War, political reform of the Soviet system, and the vision of a world built on universal human values.

This compendium, accompanied by a collection of Russian-language documents on the Archive’s Russia Page, is intended to encourage scholars and others to revisit and study those miraculous years in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the global confrontation stopped, walls fell, peoples found freedom, and Europe was seen as a common home.  Though not for long.

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Modeling Software Once Led Us to the Precipice of Nuclear War. What Will AI Do?

The Pentagon must heed the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer amid its artificial-intelligence aspirations.

By: Steve Blank Defense One / March 1st, 2021 defenseone.com

TECH. SGT. BOYD BELCHER/US ARMY

In 1983, the world’s superpowers drew near to accidental nuclear war, largely because the Soviet Union relied on software to make predictions that were based on false assumptions. Today, as the Pentagon moves to infuse artificial-intelligence tools into just about every aspect of its workings, it’s worth remembering the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer.

Two years earlier, the Soviet Union had deployed a software program dubbed RYAN, for Raketno Yadernoye Napadenie, or sudden nuclear missile attack. Massive for its time, RYAN sought to compute the relative power of the two superpowers by modeling 40,000 military, political, and economic factors, including 292 “indicators” reported from agents (spies) abroad. It was run by the KGB, which employed more than 200 people just to input the data.

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New Mexico Environment Department Takes Legal Action To Terminate Defective LANL Cleanup “Consent Order”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 25, 2021

The New Mexico Environment Department has announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate a “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Nuclear Watch New Mexico, which has fought against that Consent Order ever since it went into effect nearly five years ago, strongly supports and applauds NMED’s decision.

Much to its credit, in 2005 the State of New Mexico successfully compelled DOE to enter into a strong, enforceable Consent Order after years of tough negotiations and lawsuits brought against it by DOE and the University of California (then LANL’s manager). However, at the Lab’s request the anti-regulation Susanna Martinez Administration eviscerated that Consent Order with more than 150 milestone extensions. Further, in a process riddled with conflicts of interest, the Martinez Administration negotiated a revised 2016 Consent Order that subordinated cleanup to the budget that DOE wants instead of having cleanup drive the budget. As a direct result, DOE added $900 million to LANL’s nuclear weapons programs in FY 2021 alone (to a total of $2.9 billion) while proposing to cut cleanup by nearly half to $120 million (fortunately Congress blocked that cut).

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State sues DOE over LANL cleanup

The lawsuit notes that Nuclear Watch New Mexico previously filed a lawsuit against the DOE over its non-compliance with the 2016 Consent Order.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said in a statement that “What New Mexicans really deserve (is) to have needed cleanup drive funding instead of the budget that DOE wants driving cleanup. We strongly salute the Environment Department for taking legal action against DOE’s scheme of expanding dirty nuclear weapons production over cleanup.”

By: T.S. LAST / JOURNAL NORTH / February 25th, 2021 at 11:45pm Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – The state Environment Department has lost patience with the U.S. Department of Energy over what it says is a “continuing pattern of delay and noncompliance” with the cleanup of hazardous legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posing a health risk to people in surrounding communities.

After a dispute resolution process broke down, the New Mexico Environment Department late Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against the DOE in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. It claims that DOE has failed to meet objectives identified in compliance orders in 2005 and 2016 and has dragged its feet in cleaning up contamination left behind from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

It asks that a court-supervised process be conducted to resolve the issues.

“We’re a state agency, and our patience is long,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a phone interview. “But our patience runs out quickly when there’s an inability to meet promises.”

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New Mexico sues feds over LANL cleanup, plans tougher oversight

Jay Coghlan, executive director of nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico, agreed that hard deadlines are crucial in making real headway on cleanup.

“The main thing we would want is to have cleanup drive funding instead of a budget that [the Energy Department] wants driving cleanup,” Coghlan said.

By: Scott Wyland santafenewmexican.com | Feb 25, 2021

Worker moves drums of transuranic (TRU) waste at a staging area curtesy
Worker moves drums of transuranic (TRU) waste at a staging area. By filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy, state regulators now hope to dissolve the existing consent order regulating waste cleanup at the lab and impose tougher rules for disposing of transuranic waste. Credit: Richard Robinson

State regulators are suing the U.S. Department of Energy for what they say is a failure to adequately clean up legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and they will impose tougher rules for disposing of waste generated at the lab during the Cold War and Manhattan Project.

Critics have bashed the 2016 agreement for waste cleanup — known as a consent order — that was crafted under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, saying it weakened the original 2005 order by eliminating real deadlines and imposing few penalties for slow or deficient work.

The lawsuit, filed in state District Court, seeks to cancel the consent order, fine the Energy Department about $330,000 for not meeting its cleanup obligations and have the court oversee mediation between the two parties for a new waste agreement.

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Ex-SCANA CEO pleads guilty to fraud in SC nuclear fiasco: ‘I’m sorry it’s come to this’

Tom Clements, an environmental activist who criticized the nuclear project even before its abandonment, noticed and shouted a question as the former SCANA executive walked past. “Mr. Marsh, are you going to apologize to the people of South Carolina for this nuclear nightmare?”

By Avery G. Wilks & Conor Hughes | postandcourier.com February 24, 2021 – updated March 5, 2021

Kevin Marsh, then-CEO of SCANA, walks past demonstrators outside a 2017 meeting of the S.C. Public Service Commission shortly after the company abandoned the V.C. Summer nuclear construction project. Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed decade-long expansion. Sean Rayford/Special to The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Former SCANA Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh will spend at least two years in prison and pay back at least $5 million for defrauding electric ratepayers in South Carolina’s $9 billion nuclear power fiasco, according to a plea deal that was presented to a federal judge Feb. 24.

The 65-year-old Marsh appeared in court for the first time to plead guilty to fraud charges and formally accept responsibility for his role in the failed, decade-long expansion of SCANA’s V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in Fairfield County. Marsh had to surrender his passport at the courthouse but was released without having to post money for bond.

Once one of South Carolina’s top businessmen, Marsh has spent the past six months as a criminal informant and will continue to be a key witness for state and federal prosecutors who continue to probe the V.C. Summer project’s failure. He faces up to 10 years in prison if he does not fully cooperate with that investigation, according to the new terms of his plea deal.

“Justice has been served,” U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Peter McCoy said after the hearing. “For years, institutions and individuals have abused the public trust with little to no accountability. This includes corporations that have increased profits at the expense of their customers. Oftentimes, it’s assumed that these executives will avoid any oversight because of who they are and where they’ve worked.”

Marsh’s first day in court was a long one, a product of a three-year investigation by the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina, State Law Enforcement Division and S.C. Attorney General’s Office that brought both state and federal fraud charges against him.

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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

“We simply want a healthy livable community where we can safely live a good life. Where we can grow old and raise our grandchildren. I am hoping that soon we will not have to see the piles of uranium waste in our front yards – a constant reminder of what each family has experienced and the after-effects of this tragedy.”

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“It is my belief that our generation has arrived at the threshold of a new era in human history…I commend the United Nations and the concerned member states that have made this treaty possible. It is an act of universal responsibility that recognises the fundamental oneness of humanity.”

— Statement on the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
October 26, 2020

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