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

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

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New & Updated

Center for International Policy Calls for Realistic Defense Spending — $1.2 Trillion in Savings Over 10 Years — Eliminate Space Force, New ICBM, New Nuclear Warheads

Center for International Policy
Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending – REPORT

Washington, D.C.—Today, during a briefing on Capitol Hill, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, which was established by the Washington-based Center for International Policy and includes ex-military officers, former Pentagon officials, and former White House and Congressional budget analysts, released a new report on how the Pentagon can save taxpayer dollars while at the same time improving security for our nation.  The report, A Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending, details how the U.S. can cut over $1.2 trillion in projected Pentagon spending over the next decade while at the same time improving national security. (A link to the full report is above, and a summary can be found here and a two-page fact sheet is here).

“There needs to be a fresh approach to defense strategy that makes America more secure while consuming fewer resources,” stated William Hartung, co-editor of the report.  He continued, “A new strategy must be more restrained than the military-led approach adopted in this century, replacing a policy of perpetual war with one that uses military force only as a last resort when vital security interests are at stake.”

The Sustainable Defense Task Force produced the report to counter the January 2018 National Defense Strategy and the 2019 National Defense Strategy Commission.  “The National Defense Strategy Commission report is an exercise in threat inflation that exaggerates the military threats posed by Russia and China while ignoring urgent, non-military challenges to our security,” said report co-editor Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy.

Continue reading

THE U.S. RAISES RED FLAGS ON RUSSIA’S PLUTONIUM EXPERIMENTS — WHILE RAMPING UP ITS OWN

NNSS Subcritical Experiment Preparation
Workers at the Nevada National Security Site prepare for an experiment to assess how plutonium responds to chemical high explosives.

Read the June 18, 2019 Center for Public Integrity article by Patrick Malone

Experiments at Russian and US underground sites are used by both nations to help ensure their nuclear arsenals remain viable but are conducted under a blanket of secrecy. And so they’ve given rise to suspicions, and accusations, that they violate a 1996 global treaty designed to stymie nuclear weapons innovations by barring any nuclear explosions.

Continue reading

Nuclear Weapons Explosives Program Lacks Adequate Future Planning to Address Dwindling Supply

Key Explosive-Containing Components in a Generic Nuclear Weapon

Five National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) contractor-operated sites conduct activities to design and produce explosive materials. NNSA officials and contractor representatives identified several challenges related to explosives activities, such as the agency’s dwindling supply of explosive materials, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and difficulty recruiting and training qualified staff. NNSA issued a plan to address these challenges. But it didn’t follow strategic planning practices that ensure accountability over progress. For example, it generally didn’t include measurable performance goals that identify timeframes and responsible parties.

Continue reading

Critics blast plutonium pit production pitch at Aiken forum

A coalition of nuclear watchers and environmental groups on Friday night hosted a public forum in Aiken, during which speakers unloaded on the proposed plutonium pit production expansion at both the Savannah River Site and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

JUNE 16, 2019 | BY COLIN DEMAREST | aikenstandard.com

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements speaks earlier this month at the plutonium pit production forum, flanked by a large photo of the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility/Staff photo by Colin Demarest

The get-together, held at the Aiken Municipal Building, was largely led by Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements. He was backed by Marylia Kelley, the executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, and Jay Coghlan, who leads Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Together, the three called into question the actual need for more pits, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s ability to successfully produce them, and discussed at length the environmental and health repercussions that could come with such a significant weapons-oriented mission.

The public “can be effective against bad Department of Energy ideas, like the pit production one,” Clements said early in his remarks.

At least 80 pits per year are needed by 2030, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a leading nuclear policy document. Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores.

“They keep coming up with this number, 80, and I don’t know where they get this from,” Clements said. “They haven’t justified it.”

Continue reading

Forum addresses plutonium pit expansion at SRS

BY SARAH LEBLANC | augustachronicle.com

AIKEN — A forum regarding the Department of Energy’s proposed expanded production of plutonium pits at Savannah River Site was held Friday evening.

About 70 people gathered in the auditorium of the Aiken Municipal Building to hear speakers present information against the proposal and encourage the public to write to their representatives in opposition to the plan.

The Department of Energy has proposed to use the former Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility as the location to produce about 50 plutonium pits per year. The pits make up the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.

Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch, said the department should not rush into a new project at the MOX plant, which was shut down in October.

Continue reading

Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

Anti-nuclear activists fired away Friday at what they said is a dangerous and little known plan to produce deadly atomic weapons components at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

BY SAMMY FRETWELLthestate.com

The federal government has proposed a multibillion dollar plutonium pit factory that could create as many as 1,700 jobs as part of an effort to make fresh plutonium, a major ingredient in atomic bombs.

But the proposed factory is raising concerns about its risk to the environment and the public, in addition to how it would be viewed by world leaders. Critics say the government may use the pits in a new type of nuclear weapon, instead of only replenishing the existing stockpile with fresh plutonium.

Savannah River Site Watch, a nuclear watchdog organization that tracks SRS, held a public meeting Friday night in Aiken County to brief people on the government’s plan at SRS, a 310-square-mile complex in western South Carolina.

“We don’t think people are really aware of what is going on: that this new mission is fraught with risk that could come to SRS,’’ Savannah River Site Watch director Tom Clements told The State.

Nuclear watchdog groups from New Mexico and California joined SRS Watch for the forum in Aiken County, where many SRS workers live. Before the Friday meeting, the groups held a news conference to voice concerns. The U.S. Department of Energy plans its own forum on the proposal June 27 in North Augusta.

Continue reading

Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

Anti-nuclear activists fired away Friday at what they said is a dangerous and little known plan to produce deadly atomic weapons components at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

JUNE 14, 2019 | BY SAMMY FRETWELL | thestate.com

A mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years. But the project has been scrapped and the federal government is looking to convert the site into a plutonium pit factory COURTESY HIGH FLYER

The federal government has proposed a multibillion dollar plutonium pit factory that could create as many as 1,700 jobs as part of an effort to make fresh plutonium, a major ingredient in atomic bombs.

Pro-nuclear groups say the pit plant is a good replacement for the mixed oxide fuel facility, commonly known as MOX. Not only will it provide jobs, but it will help keep the United States safe, they say.

Clements and Jay Coghlan, who directs Nuclear Watch New Mexico, don’t see it that way.

“It will be a great waste of taxpayer’s money,’’ Coghlan said. “There also is a long history of chronic safety problems and environmental or waste problems associated with pit production.’’

The proposed factory is raising concerns about its risk to the environment and the public, in addition to how it would be viewed by world leaders. Critics say the government may use the pits in a new type of nuclear weapon, instead of only replenishing the existing stockpile with fresh plutonium.

Continue reading

Brave Political Leadership on Disarmament?

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Foreign ministers and high-level representatives from 15 non-nuclear-armed countries gathered in Stockholm on Tuesday to discuss advancing disarmament, amidst an ever-deteriorating arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation landscape. The resulting joint statement falls far short of the creative thinking and urgency required to rebut current nuclear threats, including an impetuous U.S. President with the launch codes and an effort to dramatically increase the production of radioactive nuclear bomb cores at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Continue reading

LETTER: New Mexico governor says no to high-level nuclear waste


FILE – In this Jan 7, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Lujan Grisham is opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States. Gov. Grisham sent a letter Friday, June 7, 2019, to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, saying the interim storage of high-level waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

mynorthwest.com June 7, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor said Friday she’s opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S.

In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy.

She cited the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, as well as million-dollar agricultural interests that help drive the state’s economy.

Any disruption of agricultural or oil and gas activities as a result of a perceived or actual incident would be catastrophic, she said, adding that such a project could discourage future investment in the area.

“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” she wrote.

Holtec International has defended its plans, citing unmet obligations by the federal government to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of waste building up at nuclear power plants.

Continue reading

The latest episode of Ploughshares Fund’s new podcast, Press the Button, features Donté Stallworth — former NFL wide receiver and now national security wonk.

Hear his remarkable analysis of rising tensions with Iran, Trump’s flaws, and his ideas for a saner nuclear policy: https://www.ploughshares.org/pressthebutton
Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

Halting Holtec – A Challenge for Nuclear Safety Advocates

The loading of 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel has been indefinitely halted at the San Onofre independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), operated by Southern California Edison and designed by Holtec International.

BY JAMES HEDDLEcounterpunch.org

Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fined Southern California Edison an unprecedented $116,000 for failing to report the near drop of an 54 ton canister of radioactive waste, and is delaying giving the go-ahead to further loading operations until serious questions raised by the incident have been resolved.

Critics have long been pointing out that locating a dump for tons of waste, lethal for millions of years, in a densely populated area, adjacent to I-5 and the LA-to-San Diego rail corridor, just above a popular surfing beach, in an earthquake and tsunami zone, inches above the water table, and yards from the rising sea doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense from a public safety standpoint.

The near drop incident last August, revealed by a whistleblower, has drawn further attention to the many defects in the Holtec-designed and manufactured facility.  It has been discovered that the stainless steel canisters, only five-eights inches thick, are being damaged as they are lowered into the site’s concrete silos.  Experts have warned that the scratching or gouging that is occurring makes the thin-walled canisters even more susceptible to corrosion-induced cracking in the salty sea air, risking release of their deadly contents into the environment and even of hydrogen explosions.

Furthermore, critics point out, these thin-walled canisters are welded shut and cannot be inspected, maintained, monitored or repaired.

Continue reading

How Trump Could Restart the Nuclear Arms Race

Some key arms control agreements could be on the chopping block.

BY FRED KAPLANslate.com

Donald Trump Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by CUTWORLD/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Jack Hill—WPA Pool/Getty Images.

If President Donald Trump doesn’t act quickly, the nuclear arms race, which has been fairly dormant for decades, might break into a gallop.

Trump is famously hostile toward international treaties, especially those that constrain America’s actions, even if they’re actions that no one is particularly keen to take. The Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are all commitments that Trump has ripped up for no good reason.

The scuttling of that last accord, often abbreviated as the INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev (and eliminated all U.S. and Soviet missiles having a range between 500 and 5,000 kilometers), marked the first time Trump abrogated a nuclear arms agreement between the United States and Russia, the two major nuclear powers.

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Action Alerts

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Nuclear News

The Sandia National Laboratory campus.

Busted: Lockheed’s Sandia Corp Illegally Lobbied Key Congress Members With Federal Funds to Block Competition For Lucrative Contract

The complete DOE IG November 2014 investigation report has now been released to The Center for Public Integrity following their FOIA request.

CPI has come out with a hard-hitting article about illegal lobbying by the world’s biggest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, to extend its management contract of the Sandia Labs.
This report peels back part of the veil surrounding a defense corporation’s “capture strategy” for the Obama administration.

Last November Inspector General Gregory Friedman issued his report on the Special Inquiry into “Alleged Attempts by Sandia National Laboratories to Influence Congress and Federal Officials on a Contract Extension”. The full report was designated “For Official Use Only” and given exclusively to the contractor; but a summary was released which outlined the case against Lockheed and Sandia Corp, including the payments made from public funds to then just-retired Congresswoman Heather Wilson for ‘consulting services’.

Now, The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the full report through a FOIA request. In it, Inspector General Friedman writes:

“We recognize that Lockheed Martin Corporation, as a for-profit entity, has a corporate interest in the future of the Sandia Corporation contract. However, the use of Federal funds to advance that interest through actions designed to result in a noncompetitive contract extension was, in our view, prohibited by Sandia Corporation’s contract and Federal law and regulations.”
“Given the specific prohibitions against such activity, we could not comprehend the logic of using Federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition.”

And in a phrase that did not appear in the November public summary:

“Perhaps [Sandia National Laboratories] felt empowered because it had improperly directed Federal funds to similar activities in the past.”

See Center for Public Integrity

A flight test body of a B61-12 is a semi-operational copy of the nuclear weapon but without the "physics package" (nuclear bomb) or functional tail fins.

How to Disrupt the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog, July 5, 2015

“Ever since the Supreme Court’s shameful Citizens United decision, big corporations have been funneling large amounts of cash into American politics, often secretly. Bad enough. But when big government contractors do the funneling, American taxpayers foot the bill twice over: We pay their lobbying and campaign expenses. And when those efforts nab another contract, we pay for stuff we often don’t need.”

A case in point is America’s largest contractor- Lockheed Martin. More than 80 percent of Lockheed’s revenues come from the U.S. government, mostly from the Defense Department.

Follow the money behind the money. According to the Center for Responsive Politics,

  • Lockheed’s Political Action Committee spent over $4 million on the 2014 election cycle,
    and has already donated over $1 million to candidates for 2016.
  • The top congressional recipient of Lockheed’s largesse is Mac Thornberry (R-Texas),
    Chairman of the House Armed Services committee.
  • Second-highest is Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-New Jersey),
    Chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Third is Kay Granger, the Subcommittee’s Vice-Chair.
  • Lockheed also maintains a squadron of Washington lawyers and lobbyists dedicated to
    keeping and getting even more federal contracts. The firm spent over $14 million lobbying
    Congress last year.

Remarkably, 73 out of Lockheed’s 109 lobbyists are former Pentagon officials, congressional staffers, White House aides, and former members of Congress. You and I and other taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay Lockheed’s lobbying expenses, but these costs are built into the overhead Lockheed charges the government in its federal contracts.

And we shouldn’t foot the bill for Lockheed’s campaign contributions, but these are also covered in the overhead the firm charges- including the salaries of executives expected to donate to Lockheed’s Political Action Committee.

The ten largest federal contractors are all defense contractors, and we’re indirectly paying all of them to lobby Congress and buy off politicians. To state it another way, we’re paying them to hire former government officials to lobby current government officials, and we’re also paying them to bribe current politicians- all in order to keep or get fat government contracts that often turn out to be lousy deals for us.

Now it’s a military-industrial-congressional complex

President Obama is said to be considering an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. He should sign it immediately. But he should go further and ban all political spending by federal contractors that receive more than half their revenues from government. That includes Lockheed and every other big defense contractor.

Robert Reich: “How to Disrupt the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”

“Pay-to-play is for real.”- POGO’s General Counsel Scott Amey, in a blog post on Monday.
A report released last year by the Sunlight Foundation detailed how 200 corporations spent a total of $5.8 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2007 to 2012. During the same period, the same companies received $4.4 trillion in federal business and support, the report found. Amey: “In other words, for every $1 the companies spent on political influence and access, they got $760 from the federal government.”

References:

Related:

Regarding the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter contract:

In 2001, Lockheed landed the biggest defense contract in history when it was named the main contractor for the Joint Strike Fighter (est. $400 billion). 14 years on, in April of 2015, the GAO reported that:

“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program had to make unexpected changes to its development and test plans over the last year, largely in response to a structural failure on a durability test aircraft, an engine failure, and software challenges. At the same time, engine reliability is poor and has a long way to go to meet program goals. With nearly 2 years and 40 percent of developmental testing to go, more technical problems are likely. Addressing new problems and improving engine reliability may require additional design changes and retrofits.” 

From the GAO

“An army of lobbyists is great. But an army of insiders who know how to navigate the halls of power, can socialize with politicians on weekends and ultimately play the system like a violin is so much better.”

-From Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in “Obama Pledged to Reduce Nuclear Arsenal, Then Came This Weapon”.

Long Range Standoff Bomber

Long Range Standoff Bomber Update

Shrouded In Mystery, New Bomber Makes Waves

“The program is targeting a production line of 80-100 planes. It will replace the fleet of B-52 and B-1 bombers. It will be stealthy, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and optional manning has been discussed. A down-selection will be made this spring or early summer, with initial operating capability planned for the mid-2020s. Nuclear certification will follow two years after that.

The target price, set by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is $550 million a copy. To keep the price down, the Air Force is looking to use mature technologies that are available now, rather than launching new developments… ”

From Defense News 

B-2 Stealth Bomber

Massive Upgrade For B-2 Stealth

Air Force officials have started planning a ten billion dollar modernization of the B-2 stealth bomber fleet to include a new receiver using VLF waveform technology that allows the bomber to receive messages in the event of a high altitude electromagnetic pulse, and outfitting the aircraft for next-generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with the new tail kit, and Long Range Stand-Off weapons- (air-launched nuclear cruise missiles).

From Military.com

U.S. Nuclear Weapon Plans to Cost $355 Billion Over a Decade

“The Obama administration’s plans for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including modernization of bombs, delivery systems, and laboratories, will cost the country about $355 billion over the next decade, nearly $150 billion more than the administration’s $208.5 billion estimates in a report to Congress last year; since the modernization effort is just beginning, costs are expected to greatly increase after 2023.”

-From Reuters 

See also Are New Nuclear Weapons Affordable?

 

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

Center for International Policy Calls for Realistic Defense Spending — $1.2 Trillion in Savings Over 10 Years — Eliminate Space Force, New ICBM, New Nuclear Warheads

Center for International Policy
Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending – REPORT

Washington, D.C.—Today, during a briefing on Capitol Hill, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, which was established by the Washington-based Center for International Policy and includes ex-military officers, former Pentagon officials, and former White House and Congressional budget analysts, released a new report on how the Pentagon can save taxpayer dollars while at the same time improving security for our nation.  The report, A Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending, details how the U.S. can cut over $1.2 trillion in projected Pentagon spending over the next decade while at the same time improving national security. (A link to the full report is above, and a summary can be found here and a two-page fact sheet is here).

“There needs to be a fresh approach to defense strategy that makes America more secure while consuming fewer resources,” stated William Hartung, co-editor of the report.  He continued, “A new strategy must be more restrained than the military-led approach adopted in this century, replacing a policy of perpetual war with one that uses military force only as a last resort when vital security interests are at stake.”

The Sustainable Defense Task Force produced the report to counter the January 2018 National Defense Strategy and the 2019 National Defense Strategy Commission.  “The National Defense Strategy Commission report is an exercise in threat inflation that exaggerates the military threats posed by Russia and China while ignoring urgent, non-military challenges to our security,” said report co-editor Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy.

Continue reading

THE U.S. RAISES RED FLAGS ON RUSSIA’S PLUTONIUM EXPERIMENTS — WHILE RAMPING UP ITS OWN

NNSS Subcritical Experiment Preparation
Workers at the Nevada National Security Site prepare for an experiment to assess how plutonium responds to chemical high explosives.

Read the June 18, 2019 Center for Public Integrity article by Patrick Malone

Experiments at Russian and US underground sites are used by both nations to help ensure their nuclear arsenals remain viable but are conducted under a blanket of secrecy. And so they’ve given rise to suspicions, and accusations, that they violate a 1996 global treaty designed to stymie nuclear weapons innovations by barring any nuclear explosions.

Continue reading

Nuclear Weapons Explosives Program Lacks Adequate Future Planning to Address Dwindling Supply

Key Explosive-Containing Components in a Generic Nuclear Weapon

Five National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) contractor-operated sites conduct activities to design and produce explosive materials. NNSA officials and contractor representatives identified several challenges related to explosives activities, such as the agency’s dwindling supply of explosive materials, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and difficulty recruiting and training qualified staff. NNSA issued a plan to address these challenges. But it didn’t follow strategic planning practices that ensure accountability over progress. For example, it generally didn’t include measurable performance goals that identify timeframes and responsible parties.

Continue reading

Critics blast plutonium pit production pitch at Aiken forum

A coalition of nuclear watchers and environmental groups on Friday night hosted a public forum in Aiken, during which speakers unloaded on the proposed plutonium pit production expansion at both the Savannah River Site and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

JUNE 16, 2019 | BY COLIN DEMAREST | aikenstandard.com

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements speaks earlier this month at the plutonium pit production forum, flanked by a large photo of the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility/Staff photo by Colin Demarest

The get-together, held at the Aiken Municipal Building, was largely led by Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements. He was backed by Marylia Kelley, the executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, and Jay Coghlan, who leads Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Together, the three called into question the actual need for more pits, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s ability to successfully produce them, and discussed at length the environmental and health repercussions that could come with such a significant weapons-oriented mission.

The public “can be effective against bad Department of Energy ideas, like the pit production one,” Clements said early in his remarks.

At least 80 pits per year are needed by 2030, according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a leading nuclear policy document. Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores.

“They keep coming up with this number, 80, and I don’t know where they get this from,” Clements said. “They haven’t justified it.”

Continue reading

Forum addresses plutonium pit expansion at SRS

BY SARAH LEBLANC | augustachronicle.com

AIKEN — A forum regarding the Department of Energy’s proposed expanded production of plutonium pits at Savannah River Site was held Friday evening.

About 70 people gathered in the auditorium of the Aiken Municipal Building to hear speakers present information against the proposal and encourage the public to write to their representatives in opposition to the plan.

The Department of Energy has proposed to use the former Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility as the location to produce about 50 plutonium pits per year. The pits make up the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.

Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch, said the department should not rush into a new project at the MOX plant, which was shut down in October.

Continue reading

Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

Anti-nuclear activists fired away Friday at what they said is a dangerous and little known plan to produce deadly atomic weapons components at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

BY SAMMY FRETWELLthestate.com

The federal government has proposed a multibillion dollar plutonium pit factory that could create as many as 1,700 jobs as part of an effort to make fresh plutonium, a major ingredient in atomic bombs.

But the proposed factory is raising concerns about its risk to the environment and the public, in addition to how it would be viewed by world leaders. Critics say the government may use the pits in a new type of nuclear weapon, instead of only replenishing the existing stockpile with fresh plutonium.

Savannah River Site Watch, a nuclear watchdog organization that tracks SRS, held a public meeting Friday night in Aiken County to brief people on the government’s plan at SRS, a 310-square-mile complex in western South Carolina.

“We don’t think people are really aware of what is going on: that this new mission is fraught with risk that could come to SRS,’’ Savannah River Site Watch director Tom Clements told The State.

Nuclear watchdog groups from New Mexico and California joined SRS Watch for the forum in Aiken County, where many SRS workers live. Before the Friday meeting, the groups held a news conference to voice concerns. The U.S. Department of Energy plans its own forum on the proposal June 27 in North Augusta.

Continue reading

Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

Anti-nuclear activists fired away Friday at what they said is a dangerous and little known plan to produce deadly atomic weapons components at the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

JUNE 14, 2019 | BY SAMMY FRETWELL | thestate.com

A mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years. But the project has been scrapped and the federal government is looking to convert the site into a plutonium pit factory COURTESY HIGH FLYER

The federal government has proposed a multibillion dollar plutonium pit factory that could create as many as 1,700 jobs as part of an effort to make fresh plutonium, a major ingredient in atomic bombs.

Pro-nuclear groups say the pit plant is a good replacement for the mixed oxide fuel facility, commonly known as MOX. Not only will it provide jobs, but it will help keep the United States safe, they say.

Clements and Jay Coghlan, who directs Nuclear Watch New Mexico, don’t see it that way.

“It will be a great waste of taxpayer’s money,’’ Coghlan said. “There also is a long history of chronic safety problems and environmental or waste problems associated with pit production.’’

The proposed factory is raising concerns about its risk to the environment and the public, in addition to how it would be viewed by world leaders. Critics say the government may use the pits in a new type of nuclear weapon, instead of only replenishing the existing stockpile with fresh plutonium.

Continue reading

Brave Political Leadership on Disarmament?

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Foreign ministers and high-level representatives from 15 non-nuclear-armed countries gathered in Stockholm on Tuesday to discuss advancing disarmament, amidst an ever-deteriorating arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation landscape. The resulting joint statement falls far short of the creative thinking and urgency required to rebut current nuclear threats, including an impetuous U.S. President with the launch codes and an effort to dramatically increase the production of radioactive nuclear bomb cores at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Continue reading

LETTER: New Mexico governor says no to high-level nuclear waste


FILE – In this Jan 7, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Lujan Grisham is opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States. Gov. Grisham sent a letter Friday, June 7, 2019, to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, saying the interim storage of high-level waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

mynorthwest.com June 7, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor said Friday she’s opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S.

In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy.

She cited the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, as well as million-dollar agricultural interests that help drive the state’s economy.

Any disruption of agricultural or oil and gas activities as a result of a perceived or actual incident would be catastrophic, she said, adding that such a project could discourage future investment in the area.

“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” she wrote.

Holtec International has defended its plans, citing unmet obligations by the federal government to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of waste building up at nuclear power plants.

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The latest episode of Ploughshares Fund’s new podcast, Press the Button, features Donté Stallworth — former NFL wide receiver and now national security wonk.

Hear his remarkable analysis of rising tensions with Iran, Trump’s flaws, and his ideas for a saner nuclear policy: https://www.ploughshares.org/pressthebutton
Listen and subscribe on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play

Halting Holtec – A Challenge for Nuclear Safety Advocates

The loading of 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel has been indefinitely halted at the San Onofre independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), operated by Southern California Edison and designed by Holtec International.

BY JAMES HEDDLEcounterpunch.org

Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fined Southern California Edison an unprecedented $116,000 for failing to report the near drop of an 54 ton canister of radioactive waste, and is delaying giving the go-ahead to further loading operations until serious questions raised by the incident have been resolved.

Critics have long been pointing out that locating a dump for tons of waste, lethal for millions of years, in a densely populated area, adjacent to I-5 and the LA-to-San Diego rail corridor, just above a popular surfing beach, in an earthquake and tsunami zone, inches above the water table, and yards from the rising sea doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense from a public safety standpoint.

The near drop incident last August, revealed by a whistleblower, has drawn further attention to the many defects in the Holtec-designed and manufactured facility.  It has been discovered that the stainless steel canisters, only five-eights inches thick, are being damaged as they are lowered into the site’s concrete silos.  Experts have warned that the scratching or gouging that is occurring makes the thin-walled canisters even more susceptible to corrosion-induced cracking in the salty sea air, risking release of their deadly contents into the environment and even of hydrogen explosions.

Furthermore, critics point out, these thin-walled canisters are welded shut and cannot be inspected, maintained, monitored or repaired.

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How Trump Could Restart the Nuclear Arms Race

Some key arms control agreements could be on the chopping block.

BY FRED KAPLANslate.com

Donald Trump Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by CUTWORLD/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Jack Hill—WPA Pool/Getty Images.

If President Donald Trump doesn’t act quickly, the nuclear arms race, which has been fairly dormant for decades, might break into a gallop.

Trump is famously hostile toward international treaties, especially those that constrain America’s actions, even if they’re actions that no one is particularly keen to take. The Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are all commitments that Trump has ripped up for no good reason.

The scuttling of that last accord, often abbreviated as the INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev (and eliminated all U.S. and Soviet missiles having a range between 500 and 5,000 kilometers), marked the first time Trump abrogated a nuclear arms agreement between the United States and Russia, the two major nuclear powers.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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