Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

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

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

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

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Follow the Money!

Nuclear Watch Analysis of NNSA FY 2022 Budget Request

LANL FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2022 Budget Request – VIEW

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

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

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Blog Posts

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New & Updated

DOE Activities Raise Safety Concerns about Plutonium at Three Facilities

“The DOE proposal to dispose of the useless MOX fuel pellets is unprecedented, but has been subjected to only a brief mention in an environmental analysis on pit production. Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, says, “The analysis conducted on the disposal of the plutonium fuel is totally inadequate and a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be conducted before any repackaging and shipment to WIPP. ”

September 30, 2020 | nuclearactive.org

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), plans are under way to remove unused plutonium fuel from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The uranium-plutonium fuel, containing around 26.4 kilograms (58.2 pounds) of weapon-grade plutonium, is called “mixed-oxide,” or MOX.  In a late-August document, DOE stated that the MOX fuel, produced in France for a program at the Savannah River Site (SRS), would be disposed of as transuranic waste and therefore go to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

At present the MOX fuel, in the form of pellets, is stored at LANL’s PF-4 plutonium facility.  DOE needs to empty PF-4 to have space for its planned annual production of up to eighty plutonium “pits”, or triggers, for nuclear weapons.

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Four powerful players want a nuclear waste solution. What’s stopping them?

“The nuclear industry’s position in support of spent fuel legislation is tempered by a combination of reality and priorities. While the industry regularly testifies in favor of finding a long-term solution to the spent fuel problem, the reality is that state legislative prohibitions on the construction of new nuclear reactors are meaningless, given that no new reactors are planned in the foreseeable future. It is uneconomic and/or not politically viable to build a new reactor in the United States—even one of the small modular reactors under development.”

BY: JDAVID KLAUS | thebulletin.org

The 92-page platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention does not include a single sentence on the issue of how to manage the more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel sitting at 70 sites in communities across the country. The Republicans adjourned without adopting any new platform for 2020, leaving their 2016 platform in place—but it also did not address the nuclear waste issue.

Ironically, political interest in addressing the spent fuel issue is decreasing at a time when the number of closed nuclear plants in the United States is increasing—and it is common practice to level the plant and leave the spent fuel behind. If the issue had been as significant a political priority today as it was in the past, it would have been included in one or both of the platforms.

In its 2004 and 2008 platforms, the Democratic Party committed to “protect Nevada and its communities from the high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, which has not been proven to be safe by sound science.” Republicans,  in their 2012 platform, focused on how “[t]he federal government’s failure to address the storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel has left huge bills for States and taxpayers.”

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Trump Administration Orders Assessment on Bolstering Nuclear Warheads as Talks With Russia Stall

“U.S. diplomats are trying to play hardball with Russia in negotiations over whether to extend New START.

“It’s very stupid,” added a former GOP arms control official who declined to be identified because he still advises the government. “It makes absolutely no sense to threaten to upload. It becomes a valid leveraging point only if the other side can’t do it. The Russians can do it, too.” ”

BY: DANIEL LIPPMAN, BRYAN BENDERLARA SELIGMAN | politico.com

The Trump administration has asked the military to assess how quickly it could pull nuclear weapons out of storage and load them onto bombers and submarines if an arms control treaty with Russia is allowed to expire in February, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

The request to U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska is part of a strategy to pressure Moscow into renegotiating the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before the U.S. presidential election, the people said.

In making the request, the Trump administration wants to underscore that it is serious about letting the treaty lapse if Russia fails to meet U.S. demands. The negotiating team is leery that Russia is dragging out the talks in the hope that Joe Biden — who has pledged to extend New START under what Moscow believes will be more favorable terms than what this White House is offering — wins the election.

“It’s a clear signal that the costs for not negotiating before the election are going to go up,” said one of the people, who requested anonymity to relay sensitive discussions. The Trump administration is “trying to create an incentive, and it’s a real incentive, for the Russians to sit down and actually negotiate.”

The request for the assessment came in the last two weeks from a group of officials at the National Security Council and State, Defense and Energy departments that’s supporting Ambassador Marshall Billingslea in negotiations with Moscow to try to replace New START before it runs out in February.
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The State of New Mexico Objects to Nuclear Fuel Storage Plan

“New Mexico is strongly objecting to federal nuclear regulators’ preliminary recommendation that a license be granted to build a multibillion-dollar storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the U.S.”

BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS abqjournal.com

State officials, in a letter submitted Tuesday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that the site is geologically unsuitable and that technical analysis has been inadequate. They also say regulators have failed to consider environmental justice concerns and have therefore fallen short of requirements spelled out by federal environmental laws.

The letter also reiterates the state’s concerns that the storage facility would become a permanent dumping ground for the spent fuel, as the federal government has no permanent plan for dealing with the waste that has been piling up at nuclear power plants.

The officials pointed to a legacy of contamination in New Mexico that includes uranium mining and milling and decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at national laboratories, saying minority and low-income populations already have suffered disproportionate health and environmental effects as a result.

Given the concerns, state officials wrote that a draft environmental review of the project “fails to demonstrate that residents of New Mexico, including vulnerable populations, will be adequately protected from exposure to the radioactive and toxic contaminants that could be released to air and water by the proposed action.”

A group of Democratic state lawmakers also raised concerns.

Elected leaders in southeastern New Mexico support the project, saying it would bring jobs and revenue to the region and provide a temporary option for dealing with the spent fuel.

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The WNISR2020 Assesses Challenges Nuclear Power is Facing in the Age of COVID‑19

“New renewable resources like wind and solar power increased by 184 gigawatts last year, while nuclear power grew by only 2.4 gigawatts. As a result — for the first time in history — renewable sources (excluding hydropower) generated more power than nuclear plants in 2019.”

“Nuclear energy has become irrelevant in the electricity generating technology market,” said Mycle Schneider, the coordinator of the report. “At the same time, COVID-19 puts additional stress on the sector.”

September 24, 2020 | worldnuclearreport.com

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR2020), released on 24 September 2020, assesses in 361 pages the status and trends of the international nuclear industry and analyzes the additional challenges nuclear power is facing in the age of COVID-19. For the first time we report includes as specific chapter analyzing nuclear programs in the Middle East as the first reactor started up in the Arab world.

Seven interdisciplinary experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Lebanon/U.S. and the U.K., from top think tanks like Chatham House in London and prestigious universities like Harvard in Cambridge, Meiji in Tokyo and Technical University in Berlin, have contributed to the report, along with a data engineer, numerous proofreaders and two artistic designers. The foreword was provided by Frank von Hippel, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, and Jungmin Kang, former head of the safety authority in South Korea.

The number of operating reactors in the world has dropped by nine over the past year to 408 as of mid-2020, that is below the level already reached in 1988, and 30 units below the historic peak of 438 in 2002.

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Ohio EPA: Plan for A-plant landfill to be issued

Piketon’s Chandler rips Ohio delegation; Pike Commissioner vows legal action

BY: RICK GREENE | southernohiotoday.com

COURTESY OF VILLAGE OF PIKETON
Piketon Councilwoman Jennifer Chandler criticized Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, along with U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, for what she calls a lack of engagement on the controversial issue of an On-Site Waste Disposal Facility at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon. “Now they can have the largest nuclear waste dump east of the Mississippi River,” Chandler said.

In a virtual meeting Tuesday, the Ohio EPA announced it plans to issue the Waste Acceptance Criteria Implementation Plan, which outlines the disposition process for materials allowed to be placed into the controversial On-Site Waste Disposal Facility at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon.

The announcement comes despite calls from officials with the Village of Piketon and the Pike County Board of Commissioners for more engagement from the public on the contaminants that will be permitted inside the radiological landfill.

During the meeting, the Ohio EPA explained the Waste Acceptance Criteria had been established in 2015 during the process that led to the Waste Disposition Record of Decision. Ohio EPA says the Implementation Plan deals primarily with the execution of the disposition of wastes previously determined by the 2015 Waste Acceptance Criteria.

Piketon Councilwoman Jennifer Chandler, a longtime critic of the U.S. Department of Energy and the landfill, asked multiple questions during the virtual forum. Afterwards, she said she remains frustrated by DOE, the Ohio EPA and Ohio’s federal delegation by what she calls a complete disregard for the people of Southern Ohio.

“I’m getting angrier and angrier as Ohio EPA continues to dodge questions and continues to suggest there was public involvement in this process,” Chandler said. “I do appreciate the forum and appreciate it was tough for some (Ohio EPA representatives) to say what they had to say. But it was very clear to all of us who is really in charge of this project, and that’s DOE and it’s going to have its way in Southern Ohio because Ohio EPA can’t do anything about it.”

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Why Does Missile Defense Still Enjoy Bipartisan Support in Congress?

“…Ending the defense contractor honey pot. Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative was a turning point because it provided substantial funding for missile defense research and design. It was as though the defense contractors who were engaged in this research had suddenly found gold in a Wild West landscape. The initiative became an uncontrollable and unaccountable program with lax oversight, resulting in wasted taxpayer money and virtually no advancement in missile defense technologies.”

BY: SUBRATA GHOSHROY | thebulletin.org

The program to develop a missile defense system to protect the United States mainland has existed in one form or another for nearly six decades. Though it was controversial from the beginning and faced nearly unsurmountable technical challenges, it has enjoyed bipartisan support and continued funding in Congress for more than 20 years.

In July, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed their own versions of a defense authorization bill for 2021. By a wide majority, both chambers authorized more than $740 billion for defense spending next year. Tucked away in the Senate bill was $20.3 billion for missile defense, and that funding could make it into the final version that lands on the president’s desk. While $20.3 billion may not seem significant in a $740 billion budget, it is nevertheless a startling figure. What’s more, US taxpayers have invested nearly $200 billion on missile defense in the past two decades and another $100 billion in the decade before, with little to show for it. Even under artificially easy tests conditions, the most modern missile defense system meant to protect the United States mainland has failed more times than it has succeeded often in highly scripted tests.

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‘Midnight Rockets’: Whistleblower lawsuit reveals toxic releases by Ohio nuclear plant

“According to the suit, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant “would regularly and purposefully vent raw UF6 [uranium hexafluoride], transuranics, heavy metals, and o’her toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.’”

BY: SEAMUS BRUNER | justthenews.com

A whistleblower lawsuit filed by former workers at an Ohio nuclear plant has revealed new details about disturbing practices during the plaintiffs’ tenures at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PORTS), including the alarming process — dubbed “midnight rockets” — of releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

According to the suit, “PORTS would regularly and purposefully vent raw UF6 [uranium hexafluoride], transuranics, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals into the atmosphere from the roof of the process buildings.”

Filed against U.S. Department of Energy nuclear fuel contractors on Sept. 3 in the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Walburn, et al, v. Centrus Energy Corp., et al   alleges criminal conduct, gross negligence, poisoning of nuclear workers, and contamination of Ohio communities in Pike, Scioto and neighboring counties with radioactive isotopes, causing cancer clusters, injuries, sickness and death, as well as loss of property values.

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LANL Could Put Weapons-Grade Waste in WIPP

Tom Clements, executive director of the nonprofit Savannah River Site Watch, said the unspent fuel rods at Los Alamos contain weapons-grade plutonium. He also contended the proposed disposal method is improper and potentially dangerous. The material could get in the wrong hands or a waste barrel could burst, he said

BY:  | santafenewmexican.com

The National Nuclear Security Administration plans to move weapons-grade plutonium from Los Alamos National Laboratory to an underground storage site in Southern New Mexico that nuclear watchdogs say is not intended to hold such high-level waste.

The plan could pose a security risk, argued the leader of one watchdog group, who believes officials should conduct more analysis before moving forward.

About 26.4 kilograms of unspent nuclear fuel rods, which have been stored at Los Alamos’ plutonium plant since 2005, must be cleared out to make room for the production of new pits, the softball-sized cores that trigger warheads, according to an August report.

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Former World Leaders Urge Ratification of Nuclear Arms Ban Treaty

“In an open letter, the onetime leaders implored their own governments to embrace an arms treaty negotiated at the U.N. three years ago. It is six ratifications short of the 50 needed to go into effect.”

24newsorder.com

Nonetheless, delegates from 122 nations — practically two-thirds of the U.N. membership — participated within the negotiations for the treaty, and 84 have signed it. As of Sunday, 44 of these nations had ratified the treaty, which might come into power 90 days after the 50th ratification. At least one or two extra nations might ratify it in coming days or even weeks.

Under the treaty, all nuclear-weapons use, risk of use, testing, growth, manufacturing, possession, switch and stationing in a special nation can be prohibited. For nuclear-armed nations that be part of, the treaty outlines a course of for destroying stockpiles and imposing the promise to stay free of nuclear weapons.

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Ambassador: Time is right for new arms control agreement

“Arguing that its stockpile is small, China has said it would participate only if the U.S. agrees to nuclear parity among all nations. Russia has suggested that if China were part of the pact, other countries would need to be included as well.”

BY: The Associated Press, SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | apnews.com

Time is right for new arms control agreement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Trump administration has sketched out a framework that it hopes will avoid a three-way arms race as a deadline nears for extending the only remaining nuclear arms control deal with Russia and as China looks to expand its nuclear forces.

Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the special presidential envoy for arms control, spoke with The Associated Press about negotiations with Russia while touring some of the top nuclear research labs and production sites in the United States.

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Arizona’s ‘downwinders,’ exposed to Cold War nuclear testing, fight for compensation

“It’s a travesty, and the government should not be allowed to get away with it,” one Mohave County, Arizona, resident said.

BY: ANITA HASSAN | nbcnews.com

Arizona's 'downwinders' exposed to Cold War nuclear testing fight for compensation
Eddie Pattillo, 81, a retired construction manager pictured at his home in Kingman, Ariz., has had cancer twice since 1997. CREDIT: Joe Buglewicz / for NBC News

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Danielle Stephens ran her fingers down a long list of her relatives’ names and sighed.

All of them had been diagnosed with cancer. Most of them had died, many before they were 55.

Like Stephens, 81, they had all spent their lives in Kingman, Arizona, where during the Cold War they often watched the early morning sky lit up by orange flashes from atomic bombs detonated at a government testing site in the Nevada desert less than 150 miles north of the city.

“Back then, no one thought the tests were dangerous,” said Stephens, who ran a cattle ranch with her husband.

The list of her family members with cancer grew to 32 in July, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. It is the radiation exposure from those nuclear tests that Stephens believes caused her cancer and that of her family members and scores of others who lived in lower Mohave County in the 1950s and ’60s. Her relatives had breast, colon, thyroid and kidney cancer, all of which have been linked to radioactive fallout.

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Action Alerts

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Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

View Recording of the March 9th PDA CNM Community Gathering:

PDA CNM Community Gathering - March 9, 2022 - Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

PDA CNM welcomed Archbishop John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, and our own executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Jay Coghlan, to speak at their March 9, 2022 monthly gathering: “[Archbishop Wester's] courage in speaking out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons inspires us at PDACNM to follow his example and continue the fight against this peril, especially given the threat of a possible imminent war between two nuclear powers.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, has worked successfully against radioactive incineration at the Los Alamos National Lab, and in Clean Air Act, Freedom of Information Act and National Environmental Policy Act lawsuits against the Department of Energy. He prompted a 2006 independent study that concluded plutonium pits last at least a century, refuting the NNSA’s assertion that we “need” new-design nuclear weapons and expanded plutonium pit production.”

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

New Nuclear Media: Recent Books, Art, Film & More

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Past Nuclear News

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.

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