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

New Mexico demands more of US when addressing nuclear waste

“Some elected officials and watchdog groups say the list is another indication that New Mexico is on the back burner when it comes to cleaning up legacy waste. They’re also raising concerns that new waste generated by Los Alamos when it ramps up production of key nuclear warhead components will need to be cleaned up and could further sideline decontamination efforts.”

krqe.com March 15th, 2021

FILE – In this April 2019, file photo, provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory, barrels of radioactive waste are loaded for transport to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) at the Radioactive Assay Nondestructive Testing (RANT) facility in Los Alamos, N.M. New Mexico is going after the federal government for failing to make progress on cleaning up contamination left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research at one of the nation’s premier nuclear labs. In a civil complaint filed in federal court, the state says the plan by the U.S. Energy Department lacks substantive and appropriate targets for dealing with waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Nestor Trujillo/Los Alamos National Laboratory via AP, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – The U.S. Energy Department has rolled out its 2021 priorities for cleaning up tons of toxic waste left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research at scientific installations and defense sites around the country.

The list includes a goal of sending 30 shipments from the birthplace of the atomic bomb — Los Alamos National Laboratory — to the federal government’s underground waste repository in southern New Mexico.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

For the NPT to work, plutonium has to go

Dealing with uranium enrichment is complicated because nuclear power plants use enriched uranium fuel, but that should not hold us back from eliminating the danger we can eliminate—plutonium.

Plutonium pellet. US Energy Department public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), whose tenth review conference is coming up in August, is in trouble, and not only because of the crescendo of complaints about the failure of the nuclear-armed states to implement nuclear disarmament. The treaty is threatened with irrelevancy because its controls have not kept up with the times. It was drafted over 50 years ago, when it was widely believed that nuclear energy represented the future and would soon take over the generation of electricity. Not surprisingly, countries put few treaty restrictions on access to technology or materials other than to impose international inspection, and even that was circumscribed. We now have a more realistic view of the dangers of access to fuels that are also nuclear explosives (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) and also of the limited economic utility of these fuels for powering reactors. If we want an effective NPT, we have to eliminate these dangerous materials from civilian nuclear power programs. 

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Checking in: WIPP maintenance work ‘on schedule’ during 2-month operations pause

At WIPP, the waste is delivered from facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Energy around the country and buried in an underground salt deposit which gradually collapses and encases the waste permanently.

By:  | currentargus.com March 15, 2021

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant halted waste emplacement and handling operations for the last month at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad while an array of maintenance projects was completed.

The facility, which permanently disposes of low-level transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste about 2,000 feet underground, planned the outage for about two months until April 14 to allow workers to complete routine upgrades to its infrastructure and other needed work.

During the two-month pause, WIPP planned on 97 activities from six departments including mine operations, waste handling, hoisting, work control, safety and engineering.

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Japan Hasn’t Recovered 10 Years After Fukushima Meltdown

“There is an old laboratory adage that says, “The best way to clean up a spill is not to have a spill,” and this applies on a much larger scale to the entirety of northern Japan, where cleanup will remain economically unfeasible.”

Truthout March 11th, 2021

Weeds grow in the parking lot of an abandoned restaurant along Route 6, just outside the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a multiple-reactor meltdown following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Shiho Fukada for The Washington Post)

On March 11, 2011, a devastating offshore earthquake and ensuing tsunami rocked Japan and resulted in nuclear meltdowns in three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. Until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were placed on a one-year hiatus because of concerns over COVID-19, the Japanese government had portrayed these events as the “Recovery Olympics.” It had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase a claimed restoration of Japan since it was devastated in 2011. But has Japan really “recovered?”

Recently, corresponding author Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), co-author Maggie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education) and I published our second peer-reviewed journal article analyzing hundreds of radioactive samples from northern Japan that we collected with assistance from Japanese citizens and scientists. Our sampling on five occasions over almost a decade totaled 70 days on the ground.

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LANL W-87-1 Nuclear Warhead and Proposed Expansion into Santa Fe

“CCNS asks that we look more closely at LANL’s claim to boost the local economy – an extra cup of coffee in the morning, a bagel for lunch, a tank of gasoline, a trip to the bank to deposit the salaries of some of the highest paid employees in New Mexico? LANL’s taxes are already contributing to Santa Fe’s economy. Such claims depend on redefining what is meant by “economic support” because there is no commercial product, nothing that is a benefit to the community.”

nucleractive.org March 11th, 2021

The W-87-1, a new plutonium pit for a proposed nuclear warhead for fighting a full-scale nuclear war, would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  A plutonium pit is a grapefruit sized radioactive core of a nuclear warhead.  The plutonium pit would fit on a proposed Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile.  Many people question the need for a new estimated one billion dollar weapon, which they say is “outdated and unnecessary.”  https://fas.org/issues/icbm-information-project/ (Federation of American Scientists); https://www.internationalpolicy.org/program/Arms-%26-Security-Program (Issue Brief:  Inside the ICBM Lobby:  Special Interests or The National Interest, Center for International Policy’s Arms & Security Program); and https://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/capitalizing-on-conflict (Capitalizing on conflict:  How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arm sales, Center for Responsive Politics).

The total congressional budget request for LANL in Fiscal Year 2021 is approximately $3.7 billion.  Approximately 80 percent is for nuclear weapons activities, or $3 billion.

Recently LANL signed two 10-year leases for nearly 96,000 square feet of space in three vacant office buildings in Santa Fe.  LANL plans for 75 employees to be based in one building on the corner of West Alameda and Guadalupe, and 500 more in two buildings on the hill above the intersection of St. Michael’s and Pacheco.  It is calculated that of those employees, 460 will work on nuclear weapons.

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10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

11 March 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the triple catastrophe which marked the life of many residents of Eastern Japan: a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left almost 18,500 people killed or missing. Much has been achieved in disaster-hit areas but they are still seriously recovering, and the staggering loss of life and community is still being felt by the nation today. The impacts on communities from the ongoing dispersal of radioactive contamination released from the explosions at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima have been disastrous. Tokyo will probably face a massive earthquake in the next 30 years, and Japan must prepare for this next big quake while the Fukushima nuclear meltdown on Japan’s north-eastern coast remains firmly in the minds of everyone there.

Since the disaster, tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral lands. The harm extends far beyond the immediate threat to health – as well as destroying livelihoods, it has destroyed an entire way of life.

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Staffing, scheduling problems imperil projects at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, report says

Within the report, the GAO pointed to “significant” staffing shortages at WIPP that could prevent WIPP from completing construction projects needed to increase the facility’s space for waste disposal and allow for more workers in the underground to mine and emplace waste simultaneously.

By:  | currentargus.com March 11, 2021

Staffing and other problems at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant continued to be voiced by the federal government’s watchdog agency in a two-year report seeking to identify struggling areas in the government and ways to improve operations.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified the U.S. Department of Energy’s contract and project management at both the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) as one of six areas in its 2021 “High Risk List” that had showed some improvement since the last such report in 2019.

The EM manages WIPP on a federal level as low-level nuclear waste is permanently disposed of in an underground salt bed at the facility near Carlsbad.

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63 Years Ago – March 11, 1958: The Atomic Bomb that Faded into South Carolina History

Two women recall the bizarre day in 1958 when an atomic bomb fell out of the sky and landed on a Mars Bluff farm outside Florence.

Thankfully, the nuclear warhead, which at 30 kilotons was twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, didn’t go off. But its TNT trigger did, leveling the farmhouse and leaving a massive crater. Such “broken arrow”incidents took place an extremely troubling number of times during the Cold War.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

House nears vote to repeal nuclear plant bailout

“We need to hit the reset button and start from scratch here,” state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D., Parma) said. “We can’t continue this nonsense of pretending that the corruption didn’t happen.”

By: JIM PROVANCE | The Blade, Toledo (TNS)  

COLUMBUS — A House committee Tuesday set the stage for a full chamber vote to partly repeal provisions of a state law at the heart of a $61 million Ohio Statehouse bribery scandal.

The full Ohio House of Representatives was expected to vote Wednesday.

This would mark the House’s first action to undo a $1 billion, consumer-financed bailout of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor and the Perry plant east of Cleveland. That law has come to epitomize shady, backroom dealing hidden even to those lawmakers ultimately manipulated to get it passed.

Two players and a nonprofit, dark-money corporation have already pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges carrying up 20 years in prison for the individuals. Three others — including former House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) — face similar charges.

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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.”

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

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Past Nuclear News

Why nuclear weapons should be a major focus of the 2020 campaign

ARTICLE BY JOHN MECKLIN | thebulletin.org

A Minuteman III missile crew on alert.

The proverbial alien beamed down to Earth would find the situation quizzical indeed: The political debates and campaigns involved in selecting the most powerful person on the planet – the US president – scarcely mention the stark fact that any president could at any time be called to decide, almost instantly, whether to order a nuclear attack that would lead to the end of civilization. There is, at present, no significant check on the president’s ability to make that decision. If he orders a nuclear attack, there will almost certainly be one. For a variety of reasons, the chances of nuclear war are not negligible; they are at least as high as they were at the height of the Cold War, according to leading world experts. And a nuclear exchange of even modest proportions would change the world forever, bringing on nuclear winter, degrading civilization in countless other ways, and affecting every person, everywhere. (At least every live person. The tens or hundreds of millions killed quickly in a nuclear exchange will just be dead.)

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As LANL jobs grow, housing issues worsen

ARTICLE BY MONICA ROMAN GAGNIER | abqjournal.com Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Overheard at the Blake’s Lotaburger at the corner of Guadalupe Street and Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe:

“What brings you back to New Mexico, dude?”

“I just got a great job at LANL, but I can’t find a place to live that I can afford.”

From fast-food joints to the chambers of local government to Realtors’ offices, everyone agrees: There’s a shortage of affordable, desirable housing in northern New Mexico to serve the growing workforces of places such as Los Alamos National Laboratories and Presbyterian Española Hospital.

It’s a vexing problem in an area where families are reluctant to move after generations in the same house, there is a lack of new housing developments in key areas, and New Mexico pueblos have been asserting and winning claims over water rights and roads.

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The Dubious Moral Justification for a Nuclear Second Strike

The aim of presenting the case for the continued possession of these terrifying weapons that hold the potential to destroy all life on earth this way seems to be to convince citizens that nuclear weapons are morally justifiable and thus somehow ‘acceptable.’

ARTICLE BY GERARD BOYCE | commondreams.org

If the reason seems unclear, then it may be worthwhile for the average citizen of goodwill in a nuclear-armed country to resolve this new year to urge their leaders to renew their commitments to arms control and ultimately, the elimination of these genocidal weapons. (Photo:US Department of Defense)
If the reason seems unclear, then it may be worthwhile for the average citizen of goodwill in a nuclear-armed country to resolve this new year to urge their leaders to renew their commitments to arms control and ultimately, the elimination of these genocidal weapons. (Photo:US Department of Defense)

Poised as the nuclear powers appear to be to resume the nuclear arms race, leaders of these countries have been at pains to assure their countrymen and the rest of the world that, though determined to maintain and even expand their nuclear arsenals, they will only use them for the purposes of a second strike i.e. in retaliation to a nuclear first strike by a nuclear-armed belligerent. Their pledges are meant to reassure us that nuclear weapons are for defensive rather than offensive purposes. The aim of presenting the case for the continued possession of these terrifying weapons that hold the potential to destroy all life on earth this way seems to be to convince citizens that nuclear weapons are morally justifiable and thus somehow ‘acceptable’. For a number of reasons, however, a second strike may not be as morally defensible as leaders would have us believe.

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It’s Been 32 Years since the Conclusion of the INF Treaty Yet Arms Control Is Still Vital

ARTICLE BY STEPHAN KIENINGER | historynewsnetwork.org

32 Years Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty
Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty

In August, the United States withdrew from the landmark INF Treaty of 1987 due to the Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the treaty and Vladimir Putin’s reckless deployment of the Russian 9M729 cruise missile. Another crucial arms control treaty, the New START agreement, is set to expire in early 2021. Recently, George Shultz and Mikhail Gorbachev called American and Russian decision makers to preserve the INF Treaty. (1)

More than thirty years ago, Shultz and Gorbachev stepped forward with President Reagan to change history’s direction. Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty on the occasion of their historic Washington Summit on December 8, 1987. The unprecedented agreement eliminated all US and Russian missiles between the ranges of 500 to 5500 kilometers. The two countries destroyed a total of 2,692 ballistic and cruise missiles by the treaty’s deadline of June 1, 1991, with verification measures that were previously unimaginable.

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