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

LANL FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2021 Budget Request – VIEW

Pantex Plant FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

KCP FY 2021 Budget Chart – VIEW

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

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

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New & Updated

Lawmaker: Expand compensation from nuclear weapons testing

Original Article: apnews.com | BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A compensation program for those exposed to radiation from years of nuclear weapons testing and uranium mining would be expanded under legislation that seeks to address fallout across the western United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan rolled out the measure Tuesday on the 74th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

As part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, government scientists and the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945. Nearly 200 atmospheric tests followed. Uranium mining persisted even after the tests ceased.

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The Pentagon has more money than it can spend. Both Democrats and the GOP are to blame.

“To save taxpayer money and increase U.S. national security, the first step must be to reconceptualize U.S. strategy. That means abandoning the military-first approach that has governed U.S. security policy during this century.”

ARTICLE BY BEN FREEMANWILLIAM D. HARTUNG | newsweek.com 

The bid from the Republican controlled Senate is $750 billion. The just passed bid from the Democratic controlled House is $733 billion. Both have radically overbid on the price of the Pentagon.

The real cost of the prize that is America’s security is significantly lower than what either party is currently bidding. As the Sustainable Defense Task Force—a group of ex-military officers, former White House and Congressional budget experts, and non-governmental analysts convened by the Center for International Policy which we co-chair—has found, America can be made more secure through less, not more, Pentagon spending. This is possible by rethinking U.S. defense strategy, taking a sober and fact-based assessment of the enormous amount of money already flowing to the Pentagon, and rigorously cutting waste and inefficiencies from the Pentagon bureaucracy.

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Listen and subscribe to Press the Button, a weekly podcast from Ploughshares Fund dedicated to nuclear policy and national security.

July 15 — In this episode, Michelle Dover, Abigail Stowe-Thurston and Tom Collina deliver a wonderful, incisive news segment summarizing the major gains and debates in the NDAA (and how the Kardashians are getting involved in nuclear issues!).

Suzanne DiMaggio is featured delving deep into the dynamics of the crises with Iran and North Korea. Suzanne also presents her powerful rationale for the new Quincy Institute, where she is chair of the board.

“Looking at the catastrophic failures in foreign policy over the past decades, it is clearly time for something new,” Suzanne says, “The times demand it…We have to change the narrative in this town.”

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · Google Play
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

Zakaria: The cancerous consensus in today’s politicized Washington

The United States’ defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding… “We never expected to pass [a financial audit],” admitted then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

BY FAREED ZAKARAIA | trib.com

You often hear that in these polarized times, Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked on almost everything. But the real scandal is what both sides agree on. The best example of this might be the defense budget. Last week, the Democratic House, which Republicans say is filled with radicals, voted to appropriate $733 billion for 2020 defense spending. The Republicans are outraged because they — along with President Trump — want that number to be $750 billion. In other words, on the largest item of discretionary spending in the federal budget, accounting for more than half of the total, Democrats and Republicans are divided by 2.3 percent. That is the cancerous consensus in Washington today.

America’s defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding.

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Lindsey Graham joins legal fight to restart SC nuclear fuel plant (MOX)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is urging the nation’s highest court to take up what appears to be South Carolina’s final push to resuscitate a shuttered nuclear facility at the Savannah River Site and bolster federal rules tied to plutonium processing and long-term storage.

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in April 2018. High Flyer/Provided
The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in April 2018. High Flyer/Provided

BY COLIN DEMAREST | postandcourier.com 

Graham, a South Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, argues that the federal government walked away from its obligation to address the plutonium stored in the Palmetto State. He addressed these concerns in a brief filed July 11 with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The federal government previously made legally binding commitments to the state of South Carolina in recognition of its sovereign status and its proprietary interests,” Graham argued in the brief. “It has now breached those commitments, causing injury to the state that a court may redress.”

The brief describes Graham as “personally familiar” with the matters at hand and profoundly interested in the federal government’s promises to the state, which he was involved in negotiating.

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Class Action Suit Draws Big Crowd – Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant

“DOE is simply not to be trusted. Period.”

— Carlos Williams speaking about local cancer concerns.
He has lived for thirty years five miles from the Portsmouth, Ohio uranium enrichment plant.

BY TOM CORRIGAN | PORTSMOUTH DAILY TIMES © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Their stories were extremely varied. But many had one unfortunate commonality: cancer.

A small portion of the crowd which lined up and waited hours Tuesday in the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon.
A small portion of the crowd which lined up and waited hours Tuesday in the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon.

Larry and Janie Williams describe themselves as being fence line neighbors of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant since 1972. When she began to fall ill somewhat over four years ago, Larry said his wife’s doctor asked how she had come to be exposed to radiation. Janie never worked at the Portsmouth plant but spoke of daily hearing the ongoing construction of the decommissioned plant’s controversial on-site waste disposal facility. Janie said she developed a type of cancer that attacked her blood. Treatment included extremely expensive stem cell transplants. The transplants did buy her some time, though she added doctors gave her three to five years of life.

“I’m in year four,” said Janie, who clearly is accepting of her situation and spoke of her story unabashedly. She is 63.

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Why SC is likely stuck with a stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear materials

POST & COURIER SPECIAL REPORT: LETHAL LEGACY

BY THAD MOORE & COLIN DEMAREST | postandcourier.com

South Carolina could be stuck with a massive stockpile of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear material for decades, despite a federal mandate and years of promises that the state wouldn’t become America’s plutonium dumping ground.

A restricted internal report obtained by the Aiken Standard and The Post and Courier suggests that the state is likely to become a long-term repository for enough plutonium to build the bomb dropped on Nagasaki nearly 2,000 times over.

South Carolina faces this prospect despite a federal law that gives the U.S. Department of Energy just 2½ more years to remove its plutonium from the Savannah River Site, a huge swath of federal land along the Georgia border.

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Hundreds gather in Piketon for town hall on alleged radioactive contamination

“[I] wanted to see what information is available,” Brandon Moore said. “What are we doing to help all these folks that are impacted or that may be impacted in the future?”

BY BRYANT SOMERVILLE. | 10tv.com

PIKETON, Ohio – People stood in line for hours, Tuesday, wanting to make sure they and their families were safe.

“I just want to make sure what’s going on if there was any contamination there or where we’re at,” Steve Copper said. “I want to make sure we got everything taken care of.”

“These materials are ounce-for-ounce the most dangerous materials known to man,” Stuart Smith said.

Smith is with Cooper Law Firm out of New Orleans. It was his firm that filed the lawsuit in May alleging Ohio residents near a former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon were exposed to radioactive contaminants that spread to other properties but were never informed.
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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.”

Final Report of the Los Alamos Historical Document and Retrieval and Assessment Project, Prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 2010, pp. ES-34-35. VIEW HERE

Victims of the Trinity Test remain uncompensated, yet the Los Alamos Lab continues to expand plutonium pit production.

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

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.

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Wyoming lawmakers quietly explore storing spent nuclear fuel

Management Council votes by email to study housing spent nuclear fuel at Gas Hills, Shirley Basin to bring what a state senator says could be $1 billion a year.

Massive containers hold spent nuclear fuel at a dry storage facility. This photo shows, at right, a dry cask recently loaded with spent fuel being lifted from a horizontal transporter to be placed verticlaly on a specially designed storage pad. (Flickr Creative Commons/Sandia National Laboratories)

ANGUS M. THEURMER JR. | wyofile.com

A legislative committee has appointed six of its members to investigate the idea with the U.S. Department of Energy, Sen. Jim Anderson (R-Casper) told WyoFile on Friday. Anderson is co-chairman of the Joint Minerals Business and Economic Development Committee which received approval and funding from the Legislative Management Council in an unannounced vote to study the issue before the next legislative session begins in early 2020.

Wyoming’s dependence on an ailing coal industry spurred talk about pursuing the temporary storage idea, Anderson said. Fuel rods would be housed in casks with two-foot-thick walls, he said.

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US suspends low-level radioactive waste shipments to Nevada

BY SCOTT SONNER | time.com

(RENO, Nev.) — A Nevada congressman called for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s resignation Wednesday after the department acknowledged multiple shipments of low-level radioactive waste to a site north of Las Vegas may have been mislabeled and out of compliance with safety regulations for years.

The department had announced earlier that shipments of the waste from Tennessee to Nevada have been suspended while it investigates whether the materials were “potentially mischaracterized” as the wrong category of low-level waste. Low-level waste can include equipment or worker’s clothing contaminated by exposure to radiation, while mixed low-level waste can include toxic metals.

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America’s Indefensible Defense Budget

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images President Trump after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant, Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images President Trump after touring the Lima Army Tank Plant, Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019

BY JESSICA T. MATTHEWS | nybooks.com

The sheer size of the military establishment and the habit of equating spending on it with patriotism make both sound management and serious oversight of defense expenditures rare.

As a democracy, we are on an unusual and risky path.

For several decades, we have maintained an extraordinarily high level of defense spending with the support of both political parties and virtually all of the public. The annual debate about the next year’s military spending, underway now on Capitol Hill, no longer probes where real cuts might be made (as opposed to cuts in previously planned growth) but only asks how big the increase should be.

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What public engagement?

This article was originally published July 6, 2019 in the Santa Fe New Mexican

Article Written by NukeWatch NM Volunteer: ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

The Department of Energy’s new attempt at “enhanced public engagement” on legacy nuclear waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory failed both its stated objectives to consider public input and provide public education. To turn things around, officials should actually listen to public attendees and provide complete information at future meetings.

In the two-hour June 26 forum in Los Alamos, officials from the department’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, alongside N3B, the contractor tasked with implementing the cleanup, repeatedly proclaimed their interest in hearing from the public and pledged total transparency, but they didn’t give anyone in the packed room a chance to speak.

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Renewables Catching Nuclear Power In Global Energy Race

Renewables Catching Nuclear Power In Global Energy RaceROBERT RAPIER | forbes.com

Coal is still the dominant source of electricity around the world, although natural gas has taken over the top spot in the U.S. But, renewables have grown rapidly over the past decade, and are on the cusp of overtaking nuclear globally.

From 2007 to 2017, the Renewables category grew at an average annual rate of 16.4%. But within that category, power from geothermal and biomass grew at an annual average of 7.1%. Wind and solar power, by contrast, grew at an annual average of 20.8% and 50.2%, respectively, over the past decade.

In 2018, nuclear power was responsible for 2,701 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity generation, compared to 4,193 TWh for hydropower and 2,480 for renewables.

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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

Nuclear News

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?

 

Government Accountability Office

GAO: Accounting Problems at DoD so Significant that a Federal Audit Cannot be Done.

WASHINGTON (January 17, 2013) – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2012 consolidated financial statements of the federal government because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations.

As was the case in 2011, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements were:

• Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable.

• The federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies.

• The federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.

See More From the GAO

Nuclear Media

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LANL Cleanup: What you can do

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

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

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

Critical Events

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New & Updated

Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.

“There are approximately 50 US nuclear weapons, stored on Turkish soil. The United States had never openly acknowledged its existence, until Wednesday, when Trump did exactly that. When asked about the safety of these weapons, stored in a bunker controlled by the Americans at Incirlik Air Base, Mr. Trump said, “We have confidence and we have a large air base there, a very powerful air base.” But not everyone is so confident, because the air base belongs to the Turkish government. If relations with Turkey deteriorate, US access to that base is not guaranteed.”

ARTICLE BY DAVID E. SANGER | nytimes.com

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey addressing legislators from his party this month in Ankara, Turkey. Credit: Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press

Erdogan is playing before an anti-American domestic audience with his nuclear rhetoric, but he is very unlikely to look for nuclear weapons,,quot; said Jessica C. Varnum, an expert in Turkey at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Middlebury in Monterey, California, “There would be huge economic and reputational costs for Turkey, which would damage the pockets of Erdogan voters.”

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A Cheaper Nuclear Sponge

“With today’s technology, land-based [ballistic] missiles are an embarrassment,” the late, great strategist Thomas Schelling wrote in 1987. The weapons, he added, “seem to give the entire deterrent a bad name.”

ARTICLE BY | warontherocks.com

Schelling was right: Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are by far the least valuable leg of the so-called nuclear triad, which also consists of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-delivered cruise missiles and gravity bombs.

So long as U.S. adversaries possess nuclear weapons, we believe the United States should maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter nuclear attacks against itself and its allies. But the Trump administration’s approach to sustaining and upgrading the arsenal is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe. Nowhere is this more evident than with respect to its plan to build a new ICBM.

Instead of proceeding with current plans to build an entirely new ICBM system at a cost that is likely to exceed $100 billion, the Pentagon could save scores of billions — without sacrificing U.S. security — by continuing to rely on a smaller number of existing Minuteman III missiles.

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Trump administration talking tough about another government shutdown for border wall funding

On Thursday, the Senate failed a veto override on Donald Trump’s emergency declaration, which is being used to purloin funds appropriated for other programs and use them for his border wall. That sets up yet another budget fight that will simmer along between the House, Senate, and White House for the next month. It also sets up another fight over a Trump government shutdown.

ARTICLE BY JOAN MCCARTER | dailykos.com

Before the August recess, all parties agreed to a continuing resolution to fund the government until the week before Thanksgiving, in anticipation that all the individual spending bills for all the departments would be passed and signed by then. What it really set up was another fight with Trump. “Trump is not interested in signing other domestic spending bills until there is agreement on the border wall,” a senior administration official told The Washington Post.

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Feds give Navajo uranium contract to firm with sketchy past

A High Country News investigation finds the EPA awarded Tetra Tech a contract despite knowing its subsidiary had likely engaged in data manipulation, false reporting and profiteering.

ARTICLE BY SUSIE NIELSEN | hcn.org

United Nuclear's uranium mine and mill within the Navajo Nation in Church Rock, New Mexico | Wikimedia Commons
United Nuclear’s uranium mine and mill within the Navajo Nation in Church Rock, New Mexico | Wikimedia Commons

In September 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency received a troubling message from the Navy: Tetra Tech EC, the firm tasked with cleaning up the radioactive former naval shipyard Hunters Point in San Francisco, might have manipulated its data.

The past performance of Tetra Tech, even beyond its subsidiary at Hunters Point, has been marked by controversy. The parent company has been at the center of other lawsuits, including a consolidated case regarding its involvement in cleaning up after the North Bay Fires, a series of wildfires that devastated regions north of San Francisco in the fall of 2017.

“The Navajo Nation project is a bull’s-eye radioactive project with dangerous radioactivity. For Tetra Tech to get that project at all — to be even allowed to bid on it — is shocking.” – David Anton, attorney for the Tetra Tech EC whistleblowers

In 2008, the EPA and five other federal agencies, in consultation with Navajo Nation, developed the first comprehensive plan to address the legacy of uranium contamination in and around the Navajo Nation. As of 2014, of the 43 highest-priority Navajo Nation mines as designated by the EPA, only one of them — the Skyline Mine — had been mostly cleaned up.

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry To Resign

NPR ALL THINGS CONSIDERED JEFF BRADYnpr.org Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry plans to leave his position at the end of the year, President Trump confirmed to reporters Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. Trump praised Perry and said he already has a replacement in mind.

“Rick has done a fantastic job,” Trump said. ” But it was time.”

Trump said that Perry’s resignation didn’t come as a surprise and that he has considered leaving for six months because “he’s got some very big plans.”

Perry, 69, is one of Trump’s original Cabinet members and recently has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry of Trump.

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Urgent: Move US Nuclear Weapons Out Of Turkey

BLOG BY HANS M. KRISTENSENfas.org

A US Navy aircraft flies over Incirlik airbase in Turkey.

Should the U.S. Air Force withdraw the roughly 50 B61 nuclear bombs it stores at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey? The question has come to a head after Turkey’s invasion of Syria, Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian leadership and deepening discord with NATO, Trump’s inability to manage U.S. security interests in Europe and the Middle East, and war-torn Syria only a few hundred miles from the largest U.S. nuclear weapons storage site in Europe.

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Turkey Troubles

October 15 Heather Hurlburt, director of the New Models of Policy Change project at New America’s Political Reform program, joins Michelle Dover for a discussion on US national security and foreign policy under President Donald Trump. She is the co-author of The Consensual Straitjacket: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security.

News analysis with Michelle Dover, John Carl Baker and Geoff Wilson of Council for a Livable World focuses on the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw US troops from the Turkey-Syria border. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Johnny from Massachusetts.

Listen, Subscribe and Share on iTunes · Spotify · SoundCloud · YouTube · Google Play · Sticher
Also available on ploughshares.org/pressthebutton

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What if We Nuke a City?

“The world has changed in the past few years with world leaders again explicitly and publicly threatening each other with nuclear weapons. Many experts think the danger of a nuclear strike is higher than it has been in decades.

Governments tell their citizens that it’s good that we have nuclear weapons, but bad when others have them; that it’s somehow necessary to threaten others with mass destruction to keep us safe. But does this make you feel you feel safe? It only takes a small group of people in power to go crazy or rouge, a small misstep or simple misunderstanding to release a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Video Description: “Until we did the research. It turned out we were a bit oblivious off the real impact of nuclear weapons in the real world, on a real city. And especially, how helpless even the most developed nations on earth would be if an attack occurred today. So hopefully this video demonstrates how extremely non fun a real world nuclear attack would be, without being too gruesome.”

SOURCES

DOE Order 140.1: DNFSB Response, Oct. 11

Chair Hamilton responds, “Pursuant to our enabling legislation, we have directed our staff to attend all phases of the NES study process. Should you wish to prohibit our access to a particular study, we respectfully request written communication to the Board.”
[NES = the nuclear explosive safety (NES) elements of DOE O 452.1E, Nuclear Explosive and Weapon Surety Program]

Oct. 11, 2019DOE Order 140.1 DNFSB Responds Oct. 11
The Honorable James Richard Perry Secretary of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20585-1000

Dear Secretary Perry:

We have received NNSA’s response dated August 9, 2019, concerning Board access to all phases of the nuclear explosive safety study process. We respectfully disagree with the justification offered for continued exclusion of our staff from NES study deliberations. NNSA’s response notes deliberations as collaborative efforts where participants consider all sides of identified issues, requiring free and open communication. Our staff’s observation of this interaction provides them with an understanding of the bases of the safety decisions being taken.

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Today is Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday to honor and celebrate Native American and Indigenous peoples.

Among the many injustices suffered by native communities in the centuries that have passed since Europeans arrived on North America’s shores and claimed it for their own is the dangerous and deadly exposure to the radioactive materials used to create nuclear weapons. The United States’ nuclear arsenal has taken an especially hard toll on the Navajo, who continue to live with the repercussions of nuclear mining even today.

BACKGROUND

EXCERPT FROM POST BY CASSANDRA VARAKA, POLICY DIRECTOR OF WAND |
The process of building nuclear weapons starts with mining. One of the main elements of a nuclear bomb is enriched uranium. Some of the world’s richest uranium deposits span across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah — heavily overlapping with the Navajo Nation. These mines provided the uranium used in the Manhattan Project; the United States’ top-secret endeavor to build the first nuclear bombs. Between 1944 and 1986 mining companies blasted 4 million tons of uranium out of Navajo land. Until 1971, uranium from these mines was sold exclusively to the United States government. Many Navajo were employed in the uranium mines and exposed to unsafe conditions by the companies in employing them. The mining companies knew that mine workers were at heightened risk for developing lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases in 15 or 20 years. Additionally, the mines operated in a way that contaminated the surrounding lands and water by leaving large piles of radioactive materials exposed.

Many Navajo continue to live in close proximity to contaminated uranium mines. Of the 523 abandoned mines, the Environmental Protection Agency has only successfully cleaned up nine. The legacy of these mines and the contamination they leached into the environment on the Navajo Nation has been devastating: the cancer rate on the reservation doubled from the early 1970’s to the late 1990’s, even as the cancer rate declined nationwide. Each and every day, minority populations like the Navajo continue to be unduly affected by the militaristic pursuits of our government. For the Navajo, that means generations of health problems in the name of our nuclear weapons. We owe it to them, and to all the marginalized communities harmed by our pursuit and maintenance of nuclear weapons, to highlight the price they have been forced to pay for our nuclear arsenal.

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Udall pushes to expand Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

When Talking About the Climate Crisis, We Can’t Forget About Nuclear Weapons

Both are existential threats, but only one is getting the attention it deserves.

BY: MATT KORDA | thenation.com

When Talking About the Climate Crisis, We Can’t Forget About Nuclear Weapons, The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)
The first atomic bomb test was conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. (AP / US Army)

“The current attention gap between the climate crisis and nuclear weapons is bizarre, given their common existential stakes and challenges. Climate change and nuclear weapons have a symbiotic relationship: Each threat exacerbates the other. Climate change is setting the stage for conflict between nuclear-armed states, and a recent study suggests that even a regional nuclear war would cool the planet by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius and cause mass starvation for over a decade. Not to mention the fact that even during peacetime, decades of uranium mining, nuclear testing, and nuclear waste dumping have contaminated some of our planet’s ecosystems beyond repair, displacing entire communities—often communities of color—in the process.

The flip side of this symbiosis, however, means that climate change and nuclear weapons also share a common solution. A progressive nuclear policy should be based upon four core principles of the Green New Deal—international cooperation, reductions, transparency, and justice. Only by challenging the nuclear-industrial complex in its entirety—in a way akin to how the Green New Deal challenges the carbon economy in its entirety—can a progressive nuclear policy pull us back from the brink of atomic and environmental catastrophe. Progressive climate change policies should include demilitarization and disarmament provisions, and progressive nuclear policies should address the climate and humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Similarly, nuclear activists and climate change activists are natural allies in the fight against existential risk, and both causes would benefit from a more robust partnership.

To that end, the significant attention imbalance between climate change and nuclear weapons must be urgently corrected; keeping them siloed reinforces an incomplete narrative about the nature of these existential threats.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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US, critics split on whether tech made nuke shipments safer

“There’s enough high-level nuclear waste awaiting disposal in the U.S. to fill a football field 65 feet (20 meters) deep. Few states want to house it within their borders.”

“The public defines ‘safe’ as zero risk…the technical community defines ‘safe’ as complying with regulatory standards.” – Robert Halstead, head of the Agency for Nuclear Projects, is currently fighting plutonium shipments to Nevada and spent nuclear fuel transfers to the proposed Yucca Mountain dump.

BY: SCOTT SONNER | phys.org

The era of significant rail transport of weapons, which occurred from roughly 1975 to 1992, was perhaps the most publicly visible period for OST. There were numerous anti-nuclear protests associated with rail transportation during that time. Credit: DOE

The plutonium core for the first atomic weapon detonated in 1945 was taken from Los Alamos National Laboratory to a test site in the New Mexico desert in the backseat of a U.S. Army sedan.

Officials put other bomb parts inside a metal container, packed it into a wooden crate and secured it in the steel bed of a truck under a tarp, the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration says in a historical account.

Grainy black-and-white photos show special agents and armed military police accompanying the shipment nearly 75 years ago.

An Atomic Energy Commission courier in the late 1950s armed with an M3 submachine gun at the cab of a bobtail truck that carried high explosives. Behind the truck is a Ford ranch wagon used as an escort vehicle. Credit: DOE

“Nuclear materials transportation has evolved since then,” the department posted online last year.

Today, radioactive shipments are hauled in double-walled steel containers inside specialized trailers that undergo extensive testing and are tracked by GPS and real-time apps.

But whether shipping technology has evolved enough to be deemed safe depends on whom you ask.

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New research: regional nuclear war will cause catastrophic global consequences, Pakistan, india

New research: Regional nuclear war will cause catastrophic global consequences

Two scientific studies modelling the effects of nuclear war released in the past few weeks have revealed some terrifying figures:

  • 91.5 million deaths in a matter of hours, if nuclear conflict breaks out between the United States and Russia,
  • 125 million deaths in case of a week-long conflict between India and Pakistan using 100 kilotonne nuclear warheads,
  • A 30% reduction in surface sunlight due to the 36 teragrams of black carbon released into the atmosphere after the India-Pakistan conflict,
  • Two billion people at risk of famine.

The two studies, Princeton’s Science and Global Security programme “Plan A” [ 1] and Science Advances’ Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe [ 2], show that there is no such thing as a contained nuclear conflict.

These are not farfetched scenarios. This new research comes out as tensions are increasing between India and Pakistan, and four of the nine nuclear-armed states have tested nuclear missiles in just the past two weeks. [3, 4] You can read more about this new research here.

The science is clear: we need to eliminate nuclear weapons, before they are used again.

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Feds move to demolish 13 structures at toxic Santa Susana site without state oversight

BY: MIKE HARRISvcstar.com

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Sept. 6 toured his department’s portion of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory, which the agency is responsible for cleaning up. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO:/U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY)

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week it has decided to demolish and remove, without state oversight, 13 of 18 remaining structures from its portion of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory as part of the much-delayed cleanup of the site.

However, in a so-called record of decision it issued Monday, the federal agency said it recognizes that the demolition and removal of the other five structures must be “compliant” with state permits and state hazardous waste laws.

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What If We Have A Nuclear War?

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