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

Trinity: “The most significant hazard of the entire Manhattan Project”

“New Mexico residents were neither warned before the 1945 Trinity blast, informed of health hazards afterward, nor evacuated before, during, or after the test. Exposure rates in public areas from the world’s first nuclear explosion were measured at levels 10,000- times higher than currently allowed.”

BY: KATHLEEN M. TUCKER & ROBERT ALVAREZ | thebulletin.org

Trinity Atomic Test complete takes

For the past several years, the controversy over radioactive fallout from the world’s first atomic bomb explosion in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945—code-named Trinity—has intensified. Evidence collected by the New Mexico health department but ignored for some 70 years shows an unusually high rate of infant mortality in New Mexico counties downwind from the explosion and raises a serious question whether or not the first victims of the first atomic explosion might have been American children. Even though the first scientifically credible warnings about the hazards of radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion had been made by 1940, historical records indicate a fallout team was not established until less than a month before the Trinity test, a hasty effort motivated primarily by concern over legal liability.

In October 1947, a local health care provider raised an alarm about infant deaths downwind of the Trinity test, bringing it to the attention of radiation safety experts working for the US nuclear weapons program. Their response misrepresented New Mexico’s then-unpublished data on health effects. Federal and New Mexico data indicate that between 1940 and 1960, infant death rates in the area downwind of the test site steadily declined—except for 1945, when the rate sharply increased, especially in the three months following the Trinity blast. The 21 kiloton explosion occurred on a tower 100 feet from the ground and has been likened to a “dirty bomb” that cast large amounts of heavily contaminated soil and debris—containing 80 percent of the bomb’s plutonium—over thousands of square-miles. (See Figure 1.)

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‘Now I Am Become Death’: The Legacy of the First Nuclear Bomb Test

“Since the Trinity test 75 years ago, at least eight countries have conducted more than 2,000 nuclear bomb tests, said Jenifer Mackby, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. More than half of those tests have been conducted by the United States, a legacy of the Trinity explosion, as the United States and several other countries have continued to refuse to ratify the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapon test explosions.”

BY: MARIA CRAMER | nytimes.com

An aerial view of the aftermath of the first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site in New Mexico in 1945. The device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. Credit Associated Press

It was 1 a.m. on July 16, 1945, when J. Robert Oppenheimer met with an Army lieutenant general, Leslie Groves, in the parched landscape of Jornada del Muerto — Dead Man’s Journey — a remote desert in New Mexico.

A group of engineers and physicists was about to detonate an atomic device packed with 13 pounds of plutonium, a nuclear weapon that the government hoped would bring an end to World War II.

Some scientists on the project worried that they were about to light the entire world on fire, according to researchers. Others worried that the test would be “a complete dud.”

Mr. Oppenheimer, who was tasked with designing an atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project, had not slept.

At 5:29 a.m. local time, the device exploded with a power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT and set off a flash of light that would have been visible from Mars, researchers said.

It was the first nuclear test in history.

Less than a month later, the United States would drop a nearly identical weapon on the city of Nagasaki in Japan.

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In their own words: Trinity at 75

On July 16, 1945 the first nuclear bomb exploded near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Trinity test marked the culmination of nearly four years of secret research led by an unprecedented collaboration of the world’s top scientists and the US military. It also guaranteed that the uranium gun-type weapon dropped on Hiroshima could be followed by another that used the plutonium implosion design tested at the Trinity Site. In essence, Trinity was a test-of-concept for the bomb that leveled Nagasaki.

thebulletin.org

The history of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the bomb have been examined and reexamined countless times over the past seven decades—as have the threats they posed to humanity.Though nearly all now are dead, many scientists, soldiers, and family members who attended the birth of the bomb documented their first-hand experiences in the pages of the Bulletin in a way that lives on, providing an exceptional and vivid glimpse of their struggles to achieve victory in war and science.

Read together, the eyewitness excerpts below offer a new retelling of the Trinity test, woven entirely from words that more than a dozen of the project’s protagonists first published in the Bulletin.

SUITABLE GROUND: ALAMOGORDO

Lt. Gen. Leslie R. Groves

Groves was the Army administrative officer in charge of the entire wartime Manhattan Project. Scientists at Los Alamos loathed his policy of “compartmentalization,” which aimed to isolate scientists to preserve secrecy.

In the early days, we believed that a gun-type bomb would be entirely satisfactory for both uranium-235 and for plutonium, and we did not feel that any full-scale test would be necessary. Later, when we learned that the gun-type would not be suitable for plutonium, we began to realize that we might find it advisable to test the implosion-type bomb. … As soon as a full-scale test—and it had to be full-scale—became likely, we began the search for a suitable testing ground.

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Church Rock Uranium Spill July 16, 1979

In 1968, the United Nuclear Corporation initiated mining operations in the largest underground uranium mine in the United States. Located in Church Rock, New Mexico, in the Navajo Native American Reservation, the Church Rock Mill produced more than two million pounds of uranium oxide per year. Waste from the mining process was disposed of in three lined lagoons fortified by a man-made dam built on geologically unsound land—of which both the United Nuclear Corporation and state and federal agencies were aware. On 16 July, 1979, the dam breached and 1100 tons of uranium waste and 94 million gallons of radioactive water seeped into the Puerco River. Scientists estimate that the amount of radiation released in the Church Rock uranium mill spill was larger than the amount released at Three Mile Island, just four months prior. Surrounding residents of the mill, almost entirely Navajos, relied on the Puerco River as a watering source for livestock. They have since suffered severe health problems due to substantial increases in radioactivity found in the water, soil, and air. Despite several selective investigations and cleanup efforts by the US Environmental Protection Agency, ramifications of the spill remain evident in the Navajo Nation today.

From environmentandsociety.org

Larry King 3min H264

Interview with Larry King, who worked on-site at the United Nuclear Corporation mine the day of the tailings pond spill, and still lives in the area.

Nuclear Hotseat Podcast episode on the Church Rock Spill

Atomic Anniversary Brings U.S. Nuclear Official to New Mexico

“Los Alamos is facing of a 2026 deadline to begin producing at least 30 of the plutonium cores a year — a mission that has the support of the most senior Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation as the work is expected to bring jobs and billions of federal dollars to update buildings or construct new factories. The effort has drawn much criticism from watchdog groups that long have been concerned about the lab’s safety record, missed deadlines, repeated cost overruns and the pace of cleaning up contamination resulting from decades of bomb making and nuclear research.”

BY: SUSAN MONTOYA BRIAN | apnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE — The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration is in New Mexico this week as part of a nationwide tour of the federal government’s nuclear security operations.

The visit by Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test in Southern New Mexico, which marked the world’s first atomic blast on July 16, 1945. She’s scheduled to lead a commemoration Thursday at the historic V-Site at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where early testing and some assembly of the atomic bomb took place.

Gordon-Hagerty has been spearheading the federal government’s recent efforts to resume and ramp up production of the plutonium cores that are used to trigger nuclear weapons. The work will be split between Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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Trinity Downwinders:  75 Years and Waiting

Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC)

REMEMBERING THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRINITY TEST

***  I M M E D I A T E    P R E S S    R E L E A S E  ***

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Virtual Event at 9:00 a.m. MDT

Access at www.trinitydownwinders.com

Trinity Downwinders are commemorating the 75th Anniversary since the first nuclear test was conducted anywhere in the world and bringing attention to the fact that New Mexicans still have not received Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) benefits.

RECA was passed in 1990 by the US Government to provide health care coverage and compensation to downwinders from other parts of the country but has never included the people of New Mexico.  The fund has paid out over 2.3 Billion Dollars in reparations to downwinders of the Nevada Test site but never to New Mexico downwinders.  It also provides the best health care coverage available.

Trinity Downwinders will commemorate the New Mexicans who have died from cancer and other radiation exposure related diseases during this event and read firsthand accounts of the bomb blast.

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Funding Nuclear Weapons at a Time of National Crisis

Nuclear weapons represent the greatest imminent existential threat to our very existence and to every social, racial, environmental and economic justice movement that we are working for, since ultimately it is all connected.

BY: ROBERT DODGE | cpmmondreams.com

This time of awakening has drawn attention to the connection and challenges we face as a nation and world. (Photo: Ralf Schlesener/ICAN)

Today, July 15, we fund our nation’s priorities. This year, the nation is awakening to the problems of systemic and institutionalized racism while simultaneously grappling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has no end in sight. The Black Lives Matter movement is receiving its due attention and communities are demanding demilitarization of police forces and tactics and reprioritization of funding to address the needs of communities to bring forth a socially just, environmentally sustainable and peaceful community. City councils are taking a close look at police budgets and many citizens are calling for participatory budgeting with input in the budgets of their cities as they move to determine their own priorities. Nationally, with our massively bloated defense budget, it is also the time we fund the nuclear arms race even as nations around the world work to pass a nuclear ban treaty, the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, similar to those banning all other weapons of mass destruction.

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15 LANL Workers Tested for Radiation Exposure After Mishap

“Mishandled glove boxes are a long-standing problem at the lab, but having 15 workers possibly exposed to radiation because of one breach is a high number and could become more common as the plutonium plant ramps up production of nuclear cores.” — Scott Kovac, research and operations director for nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“The 15 workers is just an example of things to come,” Kovac said.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

A view inside a conveyer alley where contained handling takes place. The gloveboxes are designed for preparing uranium and plutonium carbide compounds.
publicintegrity.org

Fifteen employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium plant were tested for radiation exposure after a “glove box” breach in June contaminated the work area.

Air monitors sounded an alarm at the facility when an operator accidentally ripped off the protective gloves attached to a sealed compartment for handling plutonium after the worker weighed and packaged plutonium-238 oxide powder.

The breach contaminated the worker’s protective clothing, hair and skin, and caused enough potential airborne exposure that other workers had to be tested for radiation, according to a report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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Trump Plan to Build Nuclear Bombs Divides a Scarred Factory Town

“To me, they haven’t proven that this is going to be safe,” said Pete LaBerge, a 70-year-old retiree who lives about three miles away from the Savannah River Site in nearby Windsor, which has 150 residents. He worries about a release of radiation. “Part of my theory is it’s sort of a make-work program for the Energy Department.”

BY: ARI NATTER & CHARLIE MCGEE | bloomberg.com

A factory along South Carolina’s Savannah River produced tritium and plutonium for U.S. nuclear weapons during the Cold War, employing thousands of workers but leaving behind a toxic legacy of radioactive waste.

Now the Trump administration has proposed spending $9 billion over 10 years to restart production of bomb parts there and at another site. The plan has raised the welcome prospect of new jobs though also rekindled environmental fears. And it’s set off alarms about a new nuclear arms race just as key treaties with Russia lapse.

“It’s a waste of money and dangerous,” said Stephen Young, an expert on arms control and international security issues for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

ABC NEWS FILE PHOTO Nov., 20, 2013, file photo, radioactive waste, sealed in large stainless steel canisters, are stored under a five-feet of concrete in a storage building at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.

President Donald Trump’s plan, announced by the departments of Energy and Defense in 2018, calls for restarting production of nuclear bomb ‘pits’ at the South Carolina site and another one in New Mexico. The bowling-ball sized spheres of plutonium act as the trigger in a nuclear warhead, setting off the explosive chain reaction.

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WIPP: Nuclear Watchdog Group Again Challenges Utility Shaft in New Mexico Supreme Court

The Southwest Research and Information Center previously filed a motion to the court in April, seeking to block the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) temporary approval (TA) of plans for the shaft that saw no public hearing or comment process.

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | carlsbadcurrentargus.com

The $100 million project to build the shaft was intended to increase airflow to the WIPP underground, where transuranic (TRU) waste is permanently disposed of, to allow emplacement of waste and mining of panels where it is emplaced to occur simultaneously.

A nuclear watchdog group in Albuquerque filed two appeals in New Mexico Supreme Court last week, seeking to block the construction of a utility shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

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‘Will to fight together’: Fiji’s has taken another bold step in the battle against nuclear weapons

“For many in the Pacific, memories of the impact of nuclear weapons testing still exist, its legacies continue, and the Pacific-wide solidarity that started in Fiji carries lessons for the world.”
Ratification of United Nations treaty banning atomic weapons honours a half-century of anti-nuclear activism

By: Vanessa Griffen & Talei Luscia Mangioni | theguardian.com

The Against Testing on Mururoa (ATOM) committee protests on the streets of Suva, Fiji, in the 1970s Photograph: The Guardian

In the streets of Suva in the 1970s it was the young who carried the cause. In afros, headbands and bell-bottom jeans they handed out pamphlets and printed newsletters, performed skits and variety shows, gave lectures, and led rallies on the streets of Fiji’s capital.

Crowds heard firebrand speeches from church leaders, trade unionists, university staff and student leaders.

The Atom (Against Testing on Mururoa) committee, formed in Fiji in 1970, was dedicated to educating, creatively but powerfully, the Fijian public of the dangers of radioactive fallout from French testing and colonialism in the Pacific.

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China Challenges the U.S. to Reduce Its Nuclear Arsenal to Same Level

BEIJING — If the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, China would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiation with the U.S and Russia, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday.

REUTERS/NEW YORK TIMES | nytimes.com

The U.S. has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.

Fu Cong, head of arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the trilateral negotiation.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Senate Undoes Proposed Power Shift in Nuclear Arms Budgeting

Moves comes at the behest of the Energy secretary

BY: JOHN M. DONNELLY | rollcall.com

UNITED STATES – MAY 13: Sen. Maria Cantwell , D-Wash., sanitizes her hands as she arrives for the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted quietly Thursday to undo a proposal in its fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill that would have given the Pentagon extraordinary new power to shape the Energy Department’s future nuclear weapons budgets.

CQ Roll Call reported this week on behind-the-scenes opposition to provisions in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA that would have given certain Defense Department officials new clout to set the amount and the content of the budget the Energy Department prepares for its National Nuclear Security Administration every year.

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Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2021 Energy and Water Development Funding Bill

“Policy Provision: The bill prohibits funding for nuclear weapons testing.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2020
Contact:
Evan Hollander (Appropriations), 202-225-2771
Griffin Anderson (Kaptur), 202-225-4146

Legislation invests $49.6 billion in Energy and Water Development programs, an increase of $1.26 billion above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level, addressing climate change, improving infrastructure, and upholding our commitment to strengthening national security

In response to the economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, legislation provides an additional $43.5 billion in emergency spending to repair water infrastructure and modernize energy infrastructure

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2021 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior programs, the Department of Energy, and other related agencies.

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Action Alerts

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Environment Department files complaint against U.S. Department of Energy to speed clean-up of legacy waste, terminate 2016 Consent Order at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Non-compliance with 2016 Consent Order causing unacceptable delays, threatening public health and the environment

Click above for more information on the entry into force of the Nuclear Ban Treaty

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

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More Nuclear News

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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.