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
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
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New & Updated
Santa Fe, NM.
Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico notified the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that it will file a lawsuit over their failure to meet cleanup milestones under a “Consent Order” governed by the New Mexico Environment Department. Formal notice is required before a lawsuit can actually be filed, which NukeWatch intends to do within 60 days or less. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce cleanup at LANL.
Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Executive Director, commented,
“The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. We are putting the weaponeers on notice that they have to cleanup their radioactive and toxic mess first before making another one for a nuclear weapons stockpile that is already bloated far beyond what we need. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”
See also: Notice of Intent Letter
For immediate release January 15, 2016
Contacts: Jay Coghlan, NWNM, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay[at]nukewatch.org
National Nuclear Security Administration Gives Green Light
For Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at Los Alamos
Santa Fe, NM – Today the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent agency commissioned by Congress, posted a weekly report that makes explicit a decision by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Plutonium pits are the fissile cores or “triggers” of modern two-stage thermonuclear weapons, but they are also atomic weapons in their own right (a plutonium bomb incinerated Nagasaki in August 1945). Plutonium pit production has always been the chokepoint preventing industrial-scale U.S. nuclear weapons production ever since a FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the notorious Rocky Flats Plant near Denver in 1989.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab is really all about future new-design nuclear weapons with new military capabilities produced through so-called Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons.” The relevant case-in-point is that LANL is now tooling up to produce pits for one type of warhead (the W87) to use in an “Interoperable Warhead” that will combine two other warheads (the W78, a land-based ICBM warhead, and the W88, a sub-launched warhead), clearly a radically new design even if as claimed only existing nuclear weapons components are used.
Coghlan further commented, “The real irony is that this Interoperable Warhead has been delayed for at least five years, if not forever, because of its enormous estimated expense and Navy skepticism. Yet this doesn’t keep LANL and the NNSA from spending billions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade existing and build new production facilities for unnecessary and provocative expanded plutonium pit production.”
Specifically, NNSA and LANL seek to raise the administrative limit on plutonium in the existing Radiological Lab (“RLUOB” in the Safety Board report below) from an original 8.4 grams to 400 grams, and proceed with the “Plutonium Modular Approach project.” In 2012, in the face of exploding costs and rising citizen opposition, NNSA dropped its proposal to build a $6.5 billion Walmart-sized “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project-Nuclear Facility” for expanded plutonium pit production of up to 80 pits per year. There was no technical justification for this expanded production, other than unspecified “Department of Defense requirements.”
These new moves by NNSA and LANL, which will cost around $4 billion before the usual cost overruns, are just another way to achieve their goal of raising plutonium pit production to up to 80 plutonium pits per year. Raising the amount of plutonium in the Radiological Lab will enable LANL to conduct all needed analytical chemistry quality control samples of new pits, as the Safety Board memo says to “primarily support the increased capacity required for larger pit manufacturing rates.” The Plutonium Modular Approach project will be newly constructed underground facilities for hot operations such as a plutonium foundry, likely beginning with two modules at a billion dollars each. It should be noted that proposed major federal actions require the opportunity for public review and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act, which has not been done for what NNSA calls this alternative plutonium strategy. Nevertheless, increased funding for LANL’s plutonium infrastructure will be likely included in the pending federal budget for FY 2017, scheduled to be released Monday February 9.
There is no need for expanded plutonium pit production to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, but it is vital for future new-designs that the nuclear weaponeers want. In fact, the U.S. government is planning to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” and completely rebuild its nuclear forces, despite its pledge in the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty to enter into serious negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.
In 1996 the plutonium pit production mission was formally relocated to LANL, with an approved upper limit of 20 pits per year. NNSA has tried four times since then to expand plutonium pit production. This started with a proposed “Modern Pit Facility” capable of producing up to 450 pits per year, with no justification of why that Cold War-like level of production was needed. In all four cases, in response to successful citizen activism, Congress either rejected or NNSA dropped efforts to expand production, in large part because of a pit life study that New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman required at Nuclear Watch’s request. That 2006 study by independent experts found that plutonium pits last at least 100 years (with no proscribed end date), more than double NNSA’s previous estimates of 45 years.
Nevertheless, NNSA now seeks for the fifth time to expand plutonium pit production beyond the currently approved level of 20 pits per year at LANL. After having produced 30 pits for the W88 sub-launched warhead (which was in production when the Rocky Flats Plant was shut down), there are no current requirements for plutonium pit production to maintain stockpile safety and reliability.
In the meanwhile, funding for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab is being cut, while nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with are thriving. As a final irony, these plans to expand plutonium pit production are now being implemented, despite the fact that 1) major operations at LANL’s main plutonium facility have been suspended since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns; and 2) the Los Alamos Lab has no place to send its radioactive plutonium pit production wastes ever since it sent a drum that ruptured and closed down the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico is confident that this latest attempt to expand plutonium pit production will fall apart as well, but only as a result of continuing strong citizen activism.
# # #
• Relevant excerpt from Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Weekly LANL Report:
Los Alamos Report for Week Ending December 18, 2015
MEMORANDUM FOR: S.A. Stokes, Technical Director FROM: R.K. Verhaagen and J.W. Plaue
DNFSB Staff Activity: R. L. Jackson was onsite to plan oversight activities associated with Plutonium Infrastructure Strategy. Accordingly, he met with key project staff and walked down the Plutonium Facility, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building, and the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB).
Plutonium Infrastructure Strategy: Late last month, the Deputy Secretary of Energy approved a restructuring of the subprojects covered under the CMR Replacement project. There are now four subprojects: (1) RLUOB Equipment Installation, Phase 2; (2) Plutonium Facility Equipment Installation, Phase 1; (3) Plutonium Facility Equipment Installation, Phase 2; and (4) Re- categorizing the RLUOB to Hazard Category 3 with a material-at-risk limit of 400 g plutonium- 239 equivalent. The first two subprojects enable LANL to cease programmatic activities in the CMR by 2019, while the latter two subprojects primarily support the increased capacity required for larger pit manufacturing rates. The memo requests an updated project execution plan within 90 days and indicates approval authority will remain with the DOE Deputy Secretary for subprojects 2–4 and with the NNSA Administrator for subproject 1.
In a separate action, the DOE Deputy Secretary also approved the mission need Critical Decision (CD)-0 for the Plutonium Modular Approach project. This project addresses life extension needs for the existing Plutonium Facility in support of Department of Defense requirements and Congressional Direction. The CD-0 schedule range for project completion is December 2025 to December 2027.
• For an extensive history of successful citizen activism against plutonium pit production see http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Pit-Production-History.pdf
Santa Fe, NM.
Today the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent agency commissioned by Congress, posted a weekly report that makes explicit a decision by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Plutonium pits are the fissile cores or “triggers” of modern two-stage thermonuclear weapons, but they are also atomic weapons in their own right (a plutonium bomb incinerated Nagasaki in August 1945). Plutonium pit production has always been the choke point preventing industrial-scale U.S. nuclear weapons production ever since a FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the notorious Rocky Flats Plant near Denver in 1989.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented,
“Expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab is really all about future new-design nuclear weapons with new military capabilities produced through so-called Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons.” The relevant case-in-point is that LANL is now tooling up to produce pits for one type of warhead (the W87) to use in an “Interoperable Warhead” that will combine two other warheads (the W78, a land-based ICBM warhead, and the W88, a sub-launched warhead), clearly a radically new design even if as claimed only existing nuclear weapons components are used.
LANL In No Hurry With Emergency Response Plans
In the recent letter, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board told DOE that they were concerned with the pace and completeness of the emergency preparedness and response efforts at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Board is an independent organization that provides recommendations and advice regarding public health and safety issues at Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities.
After LANL recently confessed “[a] sustainable, comprehensive, and coordinated training and drills program has not been fully implemented as required” per DOE requirement Comprehensive Emergency Management System, the Board staff made some preliminary observations indicating weaknesses in emergency preparedness and response at LANL. And the Safety Board plans to perform a comprehensive review of emergency preparedness and response programs at LANL in early 2016.
Some of the preliminary observations were –
- The emergency response plans that involve the inappropriately remediated nitrate salt drums, like the one that exploded and shut down WIPP, have not been updated to reflect the current understanding of the release hazards. Consequently, pre-planned evacuation zones may be not be large enough for members of the public in the event of an accident.
- Planning and conduct of emergency drills and exercises do not ensure that scenarios are sufficiently challenging and minimize artificiality and simulation and do not represent the full spectrum of credible accident types.
- Exercises show the inability to effectively shelter laboratory workers in place during a release of hazardous materials.
- Radios don’t work much of the time.
These types of problems should not consistently be showing up where safety is a priority. It will be interesting to see how much of a factor these emergency preparedness issues played in LANS, the current Lab for-profit management contractor, losing its job.
We hope the new LANL contractor can keep safety first.
Federal Nuclear Safety Oversight at LANL Remains Drastically Understaffed
A recently released report, Office of Enterprise Assessments Targeted Review of Work Planning and Control and Biological Safety at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), December 2015, explains nuclear safety oversight staffing shortages.
The Office of Enterprise Assessments (EA) is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) organization responsible for assessments of nuclear and industrial safety, and cyber and physical security. DOE has regulatory authority over the radiologic facilities, operations, and wastes of the nuclear weapons complex. (Whereas the State of New Mexico has regulatory authority over non-radiological, hazardous operations and wastes.)
LANL is managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC with oversight by DOE’s Los Alamos Field Office (NA-LA). On a good day, NA-LA, with around 100 total on staff, would have their hands full providing oversight for LANS’ 13,000 employees and contractors scattered over nearly 40 square miles.
Lack of Safety Oversight Staff, with No Help in Sight
But the recent report (which was investigated in June and July, 2015) explains that NA-LA has funding for only 6 out of the 12 (at the least) required Facility Representative (FR) positions. An FR is defined as an individual assigned responsibility by the local field office for monitoring the safe and efficient performance of a facility and its operations. This individual is the primary point of contact with the contractor for operational and safety oversight.
DOE has a process to determine adequate Facility Representative staffing. The NA-LA FR staffing analysis for 2015 indicated that 17 FRs are needed to cover 13 Hazard Category 2 nuclear facilities, 4 Hazard Category 3 nuclear facilities, 11 High Hazard facilities, 12 moderate hazard facilities, and 7 low hazard facilities. NA-LA figured that only 12 FRs were needed and that 10 were on board. However the current NA-LA organization chart shows 7 FRs, one of whom has been on detail as the acting chief of staff for over a year and has not maintained his FR qualifications. There are no current plans to fill the vacancies. Due to staffing shortages, FR oversight is limited to the nuclear facilities. The bottom line is that the current NA-LA staffing level is 6 FRs fewer than the requirement of 12 stated in the Work Force Analysis and Staffing Plan Report. (Pg. 25)
This staff shortage is exacerbated by the fact that NA-LA has not approved LANS’ contractor assurance system (CAS), which is required by DOE orders. DOE’s version of Contractor Assurance is a contractor-designed and utilized system to manage performance consistent with contract requirements. The system provides transparency between the contractor and DOE to accomplish mission needs, and for DOE to determine the necessary level of Federal oversight.
A rigorous and credible assessment program is the cornerstone of effective, efficient management of programs such as environment, safety, and health; safeguards and security; cyber security; and emergency management.
The NA-LA oversight processes include an evaluation of the CAS primarily through staff assessments. Also, NA-LA annually approves the annual performance evaluation plan, which is an element of the CAS system.
It is NA-LA’s oversight of the 2015 Performance Evaluation Report (which has not yet been publically released) that lead to DOE ending LANS’ contract at LANL in 2017. We give a tip of the hat to NA-LA for being so diligent about poor LANL performance while being so short-handed. It makes me wonder what other problems may be as yet undiscovered. Would the LANL waste drum packing mistake, which shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), have been caught if NA-LA was fully staffed? The estimated cost of reopening WIPP is $.5 billion and climbing.
It is irresponsible for DOE not to provide its Los Alamos Field Office with its required staffing and resources. The lack of oversight is not only dangerous. It can be expensive.
NukeWatch insists that Federal safety oversight of DOE nuclear and hazardous activities be the first priority. Fully staffed oversight is essential for worker and public safety. This will be especially important as the new contractor takes over operations of LANL in 2017.
Taxpayers con not afford to have any less in place.
Michael Coleman had an interesting article for the Albuquerque Journal – Does New Mexico’s future lie in D.C.?
Coleman relates a conversation with NM Senator Tom Udall that made it clear the Senator isn’t ruling a gubernatorial run out.
It’s not surprising to think that Udall – who has been in Washington as a congressman and U.S. senator since 1998 – might want to come home to beautiful Santa Fe and take up residence in the governor’s mansion as a coda to his long political career.
Just two years into his second six-year term in the Senate, Udall could run for governor without giving up his Senate seat, which doesn’t expire until 2020. If he won the 2018 governor’s race, he would appoint his Senate replacement. That kind of power is alluring to any politician.
But as Coleman says, “it’s all just a parlor game at this point.”
Despite Uncertainty of When/If WIPP Will Reopen,
DOE Hatches Plan to Send More Waste
In a recent Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board Editorial: Another WIPP delay spells more tax dollars wasted, we are reminded of the delays affecting the reopening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which has not been disposing radioactive waste since February 2014 when an improperly packed drum from Los Alamos exploded.
Almost two years later, the WIPP contractor struggles to figure out how to clean and reopen the underground repository. Serious concerns revolve around the ventilation system, which not cannot supply the required amount of air now because it must be operated in filter mode ever since WIPP was contaminated.
As the Journal editorial explains,
So while the delays pile up, so do cleanup and reopening costs, which may exceed $500 million.
With bumbling progress like this, it remains to be seen if WIPP will ever reopen.
Yet surprisingly, DOE just released a plan to send MORE waste to WIPP.
A Federal Register notice announces the DOE selection of a Preferred Alternative to prepare 6 metric tons (MT) of surplus non-pit plutonium for eventual disposal at WIPP.
In the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), issued to the public in May 2015, DOE describes the potential environmental impact from alternatives for safe and timely disposition of 13.1 metric tons (14.4 tons) of surplus plutonium for which a disposition pathway is not yet assigned. When the Final EIS was issued, DOE had no Preferred Alternative for the disposition of the 6 metric tons (6.6 tons) of surplus non-pit plutonium.
The Federal Register Notice for DOE/NNSA’s Preferred Alternative for Disposition of Surplus Non-pit Plutonium for the Final Surplus Plutonium Supplemental EIS is expected to be published in the Federal Register by Thursday, December 24, 2015. The Final SPD Supplemental EIS and related information, including the Federal Register notice will also be available on the SPD Supplemental EIS website, and the DOE National Environmental Policy Act website.
Since WIPP doesn’t have capacity (even if it re-opens) for this additional waste, putting it into WIPP would, among other things, displace waste from other site(s) – Idaho, Hanford, Los Alamos, or Oak Ridge.
The Record of Decision will not be released for at least 30 days. Comments are not requested, but can be made, regarding the notice.
Our friends at Southwest Research and Information Center will be making additional comments about this proposed expansion of WIPP.
The WIPP contractor has much to do before the repository can safely reopen. The task may be unachievable. But in the meantime, expanding WIPP’s mission can only make reopening WIPP more schedule driven instead of safety driven.
If DOE wants to make useful plans, how about plans for WIPP’s replacement?
Four Strikes and You’re Out
In stunning news on December 18, Justin Horwath of the SF New Mexican reported that the management and operating contractor of Los Alamos National Laboratory will not have its contract renewed after it ends Sept. 30, 2017. This is stunning because LANS LLC, the M&O contractor, could have potentially run the Lab until for 20 years until 2026, had it not had so many problems.
The annual contract for FY 2016 was over $2.2 billion. This means that Los Alamos National Security (LANS) left upwards of $20 billion (9 years of lost contract) on the table. It’s not often that a company gets the opportunity to make mistakes that costs them $20 billion worth of contracts.
The management of the Lab was privatized when LANS was awarded the contract in 2005. LANS is a partnership between the University of California, Bechtel Corp., Babcock & Wilcox Co., and AECOM (formerly URS). Before 2005 the University of California exclusively managed LANL as a non-profit. The for-profit experiment for managing the Lab will hopefully be reconsidered.
As a reminder, Nuclear Watch NM, along with our friends at Tri-Valley CARES, submitted a bid to manage the Lab back in 2005. We thought the management should be non-profit and that nuclear weapons research should be phased out.
The overall direction of future missions at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) – We propose to downgrade the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs and subordinate them under a new Associate Directorship of Nuclear Nonproliferation so that it can be better assured that national and international obligations under the NonProliferation Treaty are met.
LANS lost the M&O contract because they failed to earn the “award term” 4 times. The award term is simply another year added to the contract. Section H-13(f) of the current contract states, ‘If the Contractor fails 4 times to earn award term, the operation of this Award Term clause will cease.”
Then, LANS lost award term in 2014 AND had one extra award term that was previously earned taken away because of improperly packing the radioactive waste drum that shut down WIPP.
And LANS lost this award term for 2015. LANL may be negotiating this, but they got a waiver in 2012 that granted them an award term when they didn’t actually earn it. They were told that was their last waiver.
These award terms are based on the Lab’s Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs), which thanks to a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by NukeWatch, are available online. We wonder if having these available to the public could have helped the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in any way to not give the award terms.
We do thank NNSA and the DOE LA Field Office for sticking to their guns by providing genuine oversight of the Lab this go-around. But the past few years serve as a reminder of the dangerous and difficult side of nuclear weapons work, the continuing health impacts to workers, and the impossibility of isolating the radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years. When will the US decide that it’s just not worth it?
The SF New Mexican also tells that NM Congressional delegation has weighed in. We agree with the joint statement issued by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján that, “DOE must hold all of its contractors accountable and be responsible stewards of federal funds.”
But we have some questions about this statement:
“Los Alamos National Laboratory employs some of the best and brightest minds in the country whose contributions are indispensable to our national security. The lab also strengthens our economy by providing quality jobs, and we will always fight to protect its mission. As DOE prepares a new contract proposal, assuring continuity for the employees at LANL and the high-quality scientific, energy, and security contributions they make to our nation will be paramount. We are confident that Los Alamos will continue to have a critical role in national and international security, research and science. We expect to receive further details and regular briefings from NNSA as the process moves forward in the new year.”
The delegation’s joint letter seems to demonstrate how overly concerned they are with LANL’s “mission” of nuclear weapons production and with the institutional benefit of profit-making national security contractors. The Lab’s actual contributions to energy research and basic science are also a small proportion to the taxpayer dollars expended there.
A major rewrite of the Lab’s missions is needed where true national security is not based on nuclear weapons.
As the trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces moves forward, note how hollow the Department of Energy infrastructure is because of contractor greed, incompetence and waste. While that alone won’t win the day for us, I do expect it to limit the scale and timing of “modernizing” the DOE nuclear weapons complex (“modernization” means the indefinite preservation of the nuclear weapons stockpile and its supporting research and production infrastructure, contrary to official U.S. policy that endorses a future world free of nuclear weapons). This includes Life Extension Programs that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities despite denials at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and new production facilities such as the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, TN and plutonium facilities at Los Alamos which face constant cost overruns.
There could also possibly be developments in the first quarter of next year related to its illegal lobbying activities that would shake up Lockheed Martin’s grip on the Sandia Labs (the Sandia contract is also scheduled to be put up for bid). In short, 2016 could be a very fluid and unstable year for the DOE nuclear weapons complex, even as it seeks to put the B61-12 smart nuclear bomb into production and move forward aggressively on a nuclear warhead for a new first-strike air-launched cruise missile.
Jay Coghlan, Executive Director
LANL contract up for bid after 2017
By Mark Oswald / Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Friday, December 18th, 2015 at 11:40pm
SANTA FE – The National Nuclear Safety Administration has informed
Congress that the Los Alamos National Laboratory contract will be put
out for competitive bidding sometime after 2017, the Journal has learned.
It would be only the second time the contact has been put out to bid
since the lab was created to develop the atomic bomb during World War II.
LANL’s most recent federal government performance evaluation is better
than last year’s, but not good enough for the lab’s private-sector
operator to earn the award of an extra year on its contract, the lab’s
director informed LANL workers this week.
And continuation of Los Alamos National Security LLC holding the
contract was contingent on it being granted the “award term.”
LANL director Charles McMillan said in his Thursday email to lab
employees that he was “deeply disappointed that we did not meet NNSA’s
expectations in a manner sufficient to net another year of award term”
on the contract that runs through fiscal year 2017.
“Nevertheless, the federal government has offered Los Alamos National
Security, LLC (LANS) an extension to the contract to manage the
Laboratory beyond FY17; I will provide additional details about that at
a later date after there has been more discussion between the federal
government and LANS,” McMillan said in a copy of his message obtained by
An extension as described by McMillan is not the same thing as the
merit-based award of an additional contract year that LANS missed out on
this year. It’s unclear from McMillan’s statement whether the extension
he mentioned is intended as merely a holding pattern but, under its
contract, LANS needed to earn an award year this time around to keep the
The contract with LANS provides for vacating the contract, awarded in
2006, if the consortium doesn’t earn a series of one-year term awards.
Last year, the Department of Energy – NNSA’s parent organization –
warned that LANS was under the gun to earn an award term for its work in
“Having failed to earn contract term extensions for fiscal years 2013
and 2014,” and with the revocation of a previous extension, “LANS must
earn (an) award term in every future performance period to keep the
contract in force beyond fiscal year 2017,” said a statement provided by
the DOE last December.
On Friday, an NNSA spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on ongoing
Contract over $2 billion
LANS – a consortium that includes the Bechtel corporation, the
University of California, Babcock and Wilcox, and URS Energy and
Construction – won the LANL contract in 2006. The contract now amounts
to about $2.2 billion a year, plus a fee based on performance.
The University of California, on its own, had previously held the Los
Alamos contract since the lab’s beginnings developing the atomic bomb
during World War II. The contract was put out for competition about a
decade ago after a series of security and property management problems
at the lab.
Last year, LANS also didn’t earn an “award term” and even lost a year it
had previously been granted as NNSA hit the lab hard for failures that
led to a radioactive leak at the nation’s nuclear waste repository near
Carlsbad from a drum packaged at Los Alamos. The Waste Isolation Pilot
Plant has been shut down since the leak in February 2014.
The federal government cut the performance-based management fee for LANS
by nearly 90 percent, down to $6.25 million, for fiscal 2014. That
compared with $59 million-plus paid to the LANS consortium the previous
two years. No information on the 2015 fee award has been released.
McMillan’s Thursday message to employees said that, in order to earn an
award year, the lab had to score better than “satisfactory”in all of
six evaluation categories. “We did not accomplish this,” McMillan said,
despite getting high scores in four of the six areas.
NNSA rated LANS only satisfactory for operations and infrastructure, the
same category in which the lab got a crucial “unsatisfactory” grade last
year. LANS this year was rated “very good” in two categories – its
missions to manage nuclear weapons and reduce global nuclear security
threats – and excellent in two others, missions for science technology
and engineering, and for a “DOE and Strategic Partnership Project.” The
NNSA rated LANS’s leadership as “good.”
Despite his disappointment over failing to net an award term, McMillan
wrote, “I am pleased to note that our federal partners once again
acknowledged our strong performance in the areas of mission and science.
We continue to provide strong value to the national security missions
and Los Alamos continues to be regarded highly for the quality of its
“Our federal partners made it clear that shortcomings in our work
planning and work controls related to safety events, project
performance, cybersecurity, the earned value management system (EVMS)
and continued weaknesses in criticality safety all weighed heavily in
the evaluation of our performance. These are areas we must – and will –
improve going forward,” said McMillan.
He also wrote, “I remain committed to the long-term sustainability of
the Laboratory and to each of you. I am scheduling an all-employee
meeting shortly after the New Year to hear and address your thoughts,
concerns, and questions. Los Alamos will continue to have a valued role
in protecting the nation and the world. It is incumbent upon us during
the remainder of the contract period to deliver mission success through
operational effectiveness and scientific excellence.”
Jay Coghlan of the Nuclear Watch New Mexico watchdog group said the
situation as described by McMillan, with LANS getting an extension
despite failing to earn an award term, was “deja vu all over again,”
similar to a later-rescinded waiver that granted LANS an award year for
fiscal 2012, although it hadn’t met all the performance criteria. “It
seems awfully premature for director McMillan to indicate there’s going
to be a contract extension before it’s actually finalized by the U.S.
government,” Coghlan said. “He’s putting the cart before the horse,
maybe putting on a happy face for his employees before they leave for
Feds won’t renew contract for private LANL operator
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015 9:30 pm | Updated: 10:24 pm, Fri Dec 18, 2015.
By Justin Horwath
The New Mexican | 0 comments
The private consortium that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory will not have its contract renewed after it ends Sept. 30, 2017, The New Mexican has learned. The consortium is currently in negotiations with the federal government that could extend the $2.2 billion annual contract beyond 2017, even as the contract is put back up for bid, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
The decision not to renew the contract follows a blistering series of federal investigations and performance evaluations involving the lab’s safety record after a drum from the lab burst and leaked radiation at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 near Carlsbad, shutting down the nation’s only underground nuclear repository indefinitely.
The Department of Energy notified staffers with the New Mexico congressional delegation about the decision to put the contract up for bid on Friday, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. Members of the delegation were not available for comment Friday evening.
Lab officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday evening.
The lab has been run since 2006 by Los Alamos National Security, which took over operations after years of accounting scandals, security lapses and other management issues. The company is made up of a partnership between the University of California, Bechtel Corp., Babcock & Wilcox Co., URS Corp. and AECOM.
But the consortium repeatedly has run into its own problems over the past several years. In 2013, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, the arm of the Department of Energy that oversees the lab’s contract, denied LANS a one-year extension of its contract to operate the lab because it fell short of its goals for repairing and reopening some weapons facilities. Still, the NNSA awarded LANS about $52 million in performance fees, or 87 percent of the full amount possible in 2013.
Then, last December, the NNSA issued a stinging performance evaluation in the wake of the WIPP leak. In that evaluation, the lab received grades of “unsatisfactory” in key areas that cost the consortium a year on its contract and about $57 million in incentives.
The lab has received the results of its latest performance evaluation for 2015, according to an internal memo obtained byThe New Mexican. The results, though better, were not good enough to earn a “unilateral” addition of another year in what is known in the contract as an “award term.”
“While I am deeply disappointed that we did not meet NNSA’s expectations in a manner sufficient to net another year of award term, I am extremely proud of our accomplishments,” lab Director Charles F. McMillan wrote in the Thursday, Dec. 17, memo to lab employees.
In the memo, McMillan focuses on the positives and does not mention that the contract will be up for renewal, but the language underscores the gravity of the situation.
“Understandably, this news is sure to generate questions for each of you,” McMillan wrote. “Nevertheless, I once again express my deeply held belief that the Laboratory’s greatest asset continues to be its people.”
A few paragraphs later, he writes, “I am scheduling an all-employee meeting shortly after the New Year to hear and address your thoughts, concerns, and questions.”
The new evaluation is not expected to be released publicly for a few weeks. But the memo purports to show substantially better results than in 2014. The memo says the lab received high scores in four of six categories, including management of the nuclear weapons mission and its mission of reducing global nuclear security threats. But it received only a “satisfactory” in the category of “operations and infrastructure.”
The lab needed to receive better than “satisfactory” in all six categories to qualify for an additional year in its contract.
“We did not accomplish this,” McMillan wrote. He added, however, that the NNSA has offered the consortium an extension. “I will provide additional details about that at a later date after there has been more discussion between the federal government and LANS,” he wrote.
“Our federal partners,” he added, “made it clear that shortcomings in our work planning and work controls related to safety events, project performance, cybersecurity, the earned value management system (EVMS), and continued weaknesses in criticality safety all weighed heavily in the evaluation of our performance,” McMillan wrote. “These are areas we must — and will — improve going forward.”
Justin Horwath can be reached at 986-3017 firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a couple of minor inaccuracies in this story, for instance – “which blazed through waste dump site “Area R.” Nor sure what this refers to.
And – “ the lab has missed several milestones, including a June 2014 deadline to remove above-ground radioactive waste — delayed due to last February’s leak at WIPP.” Technically, removing the TRU is not part of the Consent Order.
LANL misses cleanup deadline set in 2005 for largest waste site
Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 6:45 pm | Updated: 10:41 pm, Mon Dec 7, 2015.
By Rebecca Moss
The New Mexican
A significant deadline to remove all major waste from a key Los Alamos National Laboratory site by Dec. 6 went unmet this weekend.
The deadline Sunday was set in 2005 as part of an agreement between the lab, the state Environment Department and the U.S. Department of Energy. However, officials have said the initial guidelines for cleaning up waste from decades of nuclear weapons production are no longer realistic within the time frame, following the burst of a LANL drum at a waste repository in Southern New Mexico in 2014. That caused a radiation leak that shut down a significant portion of the repository.
The shutdown of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad has pushed back the completion of the cleanup project — estimated to cost more than $1 billion.
A revised cleanup agreement is anticipated for 2016, although a release date has not been scheduled.
Allison Majure, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Environment Department, said despite delays, the intent of the consent order for the LANL cleanup has not changed. “Just because the milestone passed does not mean the consent order is not in effect,” she said Monday.
She said public opinion has been solicited on the revised order.
Representatives for Los Alamos National Laboratory said they were unable to provide comment on the status of the order Monday.
Sunday’s deadline focused on “Area G,” LANL’s largest waste deposit site. A local watchdog group, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said comprehensive cleanup for the site “is still decades away.”
In a statement released Monday, Nuclear Watch stressed the need for public participation in the revised cleanup order, including a public hearing, and condemned a plan proposed by LANL to “cap and cover” waste in Area G.
“Cleanup just keeps being delayed. If not corrected, cleanup simply won’t happen,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch.
“Nobody ever thought cleanup would be fully completed by the end of 2015; nobody is under any illusions about that,” he added.
The 2005 consent order came in response to a lawsuit between the Energy Department and the state Environment Department following several events that triggered federal pressure, including the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos in 2000, which blazed through waste dump site “Area R.” Officials at the time feared the fire could spark an explosion.
Since the consent order was issued, however, the lab has missed several milestones, including a June 2014 deadline to remove above-ground radioactive waste — delayed due to last February’s leak at WIPP.
During a meeting in November, state Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said remaining cleanup costs under the 2005 order have been estimated at $1.2 billion by the federal government, but that these projections are too low; he said additional funds would be needed to meet cleanup targets, as well as the reappraisal of “unrealistic” milestones.
Below are the underground units at Area G –
More from the SF New Mexican at:
For immediate release December 7, 2015
Contacts: Jay Coghlan, jay[at]nukewatch.org
Deadline for Last Cleanup Milestone of LANL Consent Order Passes
NukeWatch Calls for Public Seats at the Table in Negotiations
Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, December 6, was the deadline for the last compliance milestone in the Consent Order between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the Department of Energy (DOE) that governs cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Ironically, that last milestone required the submittal of a report by the Lab on how it successfully completed cleanup of Area G, its largest waste dump. Real comprehensive cleanup is decades away at current funding levels. One of the purposes of the 2005 Consent Order was to prod Congress to increase funding for cleanup of 70 years of neglected Cold War contamination at the Lab.
NMED has the final decision on what form cleanup of hazardous wastes takes at LANL. But any revised Consent Order is still off in the future, and the degree of public participation in its formulation yet to be determined by NMED. Meanwhile, LANL plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, 4 miles uphill from the Rio Grande.
Following protracted negotiations and threatened litigation by DOE against NMED, the Environment Department succeeded in getting DOE and the LANL contractor to sign the original Consent Order in March 2005. However, beginning in 2012, NMED signed a “Framework Agreement” with DOE that prioritized the transfer of 3,706 cubic meters of aboveground, monitored “transuranic” (TRU) wastes from nuclear bomb production at Area G to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico.
The stated rationale of this so-called 3706 Campaign was to minimize the risk from wildfire following the 2010 Las Conchas Fire that burned within 3.5 miles of Area G. However, if those TRU wastes were really at risk from wildfire, they would have burned during the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire that came within a half-mile of Area G. The Framework Agreement allowed LANL to discontinue most legacy cleanup to concentrate on TRU shipments that should have already been completed.
Moreover, the 3706 Campaign itself ended in disaster in February 2014 when an improperly treated radioactive waste drum from LANL ruptured at WIPP, contaminating 21 workers and indefinitely closing down that multi-billion dollar facility. Dealing with the 59 similarly treated “suspect” drums still at LANL will use a substantial amount of scarce cleanup funding for at least the next two years. Combined with the need to address a large chromium groundwater plume discovered after the original Consent Order went into effect, cleanup of buried mixed radioactive wastes will remain on the back burner, if ever addressed.
Further, since 2011 LANL has requested and NMED perfunctorily granted more than 150 milestone extensions, thus effectively eviscerating the Consent Order without public comment and consent. Which brings us to today, after the last compliance milestone deadline has expired, with little cleanup actually accomplished since 2012. A new schedule of cleanup is on hold until a revised Consent Order is negotiated.
Previously NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn has said that a draft revised Consent Order would be released for a 60-day public comment period before the end of 2015. But as of mid-November negotiations had not started. More recently Secretary Flynn has said that a draft renewed Consent Order would be released only after the schedule of payments is finalized for a $73 million settlement over WIPP violations. WhileNuclear Watch New Mexico appreciates NMED’s firmness on the WIPP settlements, we would like to see the same amount of zeal applied to enforcing cleanup at LANL through the Consent Order.
NukeWatch strongly believes that much more vigorous public participation steps, including the opportunity for a public hearing, are legally required by the existing Consent Order. Specifically, the March 2005 Consent Order incorporated the full public participation requirements applicable to hazardous waste permits. Federal environmental regulations, which are incorporated into New Mexico state regulations, establish the public participation procedures for various types of permit modifications, including extending final compliance dates. These are deeper levels of public participation than the 60-day public comment period that NMED is currently contemplating. In our view, a 60-day public comment period on a draft Consent Order is tantamount to commenting on a done deal already negotiated between DOE and NMED.
Scott Kovac, Research and Operations Director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico, stated, “The requirements are clear for deep and meaningful public participation in LANL cleanup decisions, including the opportunity for the interested public to have a seat at the negotiating table and the possibility for a public hearing. NMED must make Cold War legacy cleanup a priority at LANL and should start by prioritizing full public participation while negotiating the revised Consent Order.”
Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Executive Director, added, “Ultimately this is all about the future of cleanup at LANL, which is receiving less federal funding while the nuclear weapons programs that created the mess to begin with are getting more money. We want nothing short of comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and the environment while creating hundreds of high-paying jobs.
# # #
Santa Fe, NM.
Yesterday, December 6, was the deadline for the last compliance milestone in the Consent Order between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the Department of Energy (DOE) that governs cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Ironically, that last milestone required the submittal of a report by the Lab on how it successfully completed cleanup of Area G, its largest waste dump. But real comprehensive cleanup is decades away at current funding levels…”
Important Public Meeting On the Future of Cleanup At Los Alamos – Join Us on November 12
The future of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes is being evaluated now. Will Northern New Mexico be turned into a permanent nuclear waste dump?
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been revising the 2005 Consent Order (CO), which is the agreement between the State and the Feds for fence-to-fence cleanup of legacy Cold War wastes. The work in the CO, was supposed to be completed by December 2015. It was designed as a plan-to-make-a-plan with investigations of contaminated sites followed by cleanup decisions and remediation. Milestones and penalties were included to keep funding and cleanup on track.
What have LANL and NMED come up with to replace the 2005 Consent Order? Looks like we’ll have to wait until Thursday November 12th to find out. NMED and LANL have announced a public meeting to explain their ideas for the revised CO. There is an opportunity for public comments at the special meeting and we need you there. But it is unclear what NMED will do with any comments made. The public has been left out so far. Nuclear Watch New Mexico is pressing for meaningful responses to all comments and for actual inclusion of the public’s wishes into the revised CO.
In particular NukeWatch will be pushing for concrete milestones that are set from the beginning for all actions, for penalties when deadlines are not met, and for a new final end date. The revised Consent Order cannot be open-ended.
Northern New Mexico has been waiting long enough for cleanup at Los Alamos. Much of the waste buried in unlined dumps perched above our aquifer has been slowly releasing into the ground and heading towards our aquifer since the 1950s and 1960s. The Cold War ended in the early 1990s. Enough is enough.
Revised NMED/ LANL Consent Order Special Meeting
Thursday, November 12, 2015
1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cities of Gold Conference Center
10-A Cities of Gold Road
Pojoaque, New Mexico 87506
1:00 p.m. Call to Order – Lee Bishop, DDFO
Welcome and Introductions – Doug Sayre, Chair
Approval of Agenda
1:15 p.m. New Mexico Environment Department Perspective on Revised Consent Order – Secretary Flynn
1:30 p.m. Department of Energy Perspective on Revised Consent Order – Doug Hintze
1:45 p.m. History of Work Already Completed – Doug Hintze
2:00 p.m. Campaign Approach – Doug Hintze
2:30 p.m. Break
2:45 p.m. Campaign Approach (continued) – Doug Hintze
3:30 p.m. Schedule of Actions – NMED
3:45 p.m. Public Comment Period
4:30 p.m. Adjourn – Lee Bishop
Op-ed: B61 bomb is fuel for new arms race
By Jay Coghlan / Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Sunday, October 25th, 2015 at 12:02am
The article “‘New’ U.S. nukes are anything but” should be judged more by
its omissions than its contents.
While arguing that the soon-to-be rebuilt B61 bomb won’t be a “new”
nuclear weapon, the Heritage Foundation omits mentioning that it is
being retrofitted with a tail fin kit that will give it precision
guidance. In effect, once completed, the B61 bomb will be the world’s
first nuclear “smart” bomb, to be delivered by the new super-stealthy
(but problem-plagued) $1 trillion F-35.
If that’s not a new military capability – which the U.S. government
denies – then I don’t know what is.
The Heritage Foundation also bemoans Russia’s 2-to-1 advantage in
tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. It omits mentioning that the new B61
bomb modification will meld three tactical variants and one strategic
version of the same bomb, in effect wiping out the distinction between
tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.
The new B61 will be a precision-guided, selectable yield, multi-purpose
nuclear weapon with relatively less fallout and collateral damage. It
will lower the threshold for potential use of nuclear weapons because it
will be arguably more usable.
I am no Putin apologist – I personally know Russian activists persecuted
by his regime. But don’t be fooled by the Heritage Foundation’s
one-sided narrative that helps propel the new Cold War.
The Russians are paranoid, perhaps deservedly so, starting with Genghis
Khan and on through Napoleon and Hitler. Relentless expansion of NATO
fuels that paranoia.
While offering a laundry list of alleged treaty violations by Russia,
the Heritage Foundation fails to mention how George W. Bush unilaterally
tore up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty for “Star Wars” defenses that
still don’t work after hundreds of billions of dollars, and if they did
would create enhanced nuclear war-fighting capabilities.
The Heritage Foundation warns of Moscow’s “time-honored technique of
denial and deception,” but we as Americans must guard against our own
government’s use of the same that got us into disastrous wars like
Vietnam and Iraq.
Cool heads are needed to avoid a new nuclear arms race, not the
cherry-picked narrative of the Heritage Foundation.
That narrative will profit the war contractors who in turn support the
Heritage Foundation. Among them is Lockheed Martin, who illegally
lobbied to extend its for-profit Sandia Laboratories management contract
and is profiting on both ends with the B61 bomb.
Lockheed runs the program through Sandia to transform the B61 into the
world’s first nuclear smart bomb, and is building the way-over-budget
F-35 to deliver them.
As Pope Francis recently warned us, “Many powerful people don’t want
peace, because they feed off war. It is the industry of death!”
Concerning the B61 smart nuclear bomb, Lockheed Martin and the Sandia
Labs are in the business of megadeath, which the Heritage Foundation
seeks to aid and abet.
NukeWatch Pushes Environment Department for More Public Input in Los Alamos Cleanup
An in-depth article, Consent order facing changes, by Mark Oswald in the Albuquerque Journal (October 9, 2015) lays out how legacy waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is being negotiated between DOE and the NM Environment Department (NMED) without the fully required public participation. The 2005 Consent Order (CO), which addresses the fence-to-fence cleanup of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of Cold War legacy radioactive and hazardous waste in the ground at the Lab, was due to reach it’s final milestone this December. For many reasons, including the closure of WIPP due to improper radioactive waste drum packing practices at LANL, the December 2015 deadline will not be meet.
Please don’t think that, just because deadlines were not reached that it was a failure. Much progress on cleanup at LANL was made under the 2005 Consent Order. About 2,100 cleanup sites were originally identified, ranging from small spills to large landfills. Cleanup of about half of the sites has been completed. Initial investigation of about 90 percent of the remaining sites has been completed. Many cleanup alternatives were also investigated at the remaining sites and options have been presented. A groundwater monitoring well infrastructure was installed, with more monitoring wells on the way.
In Oswald’s article, NMED’s Kathryn Roberts stated that, “The 2005 deal was focused on investigative work and characterization of LANL’s legacy waste.” We at NukeWatch, feel that the goal of the 2005 Consent Order was always the cleanup of LANL and that the investigations and characterization of the many waste sites were just the first steps. There are milestones in the CO, with dates, for the actual cleanup of all the legacy waste sites at Los Alamos. The lab’s final “milestone” from the 2005 Consent Order was supposed to be a “remedy completion report,” due on Dec. 6, on how Area G, the Lab’s largest waste site, had been cleaned up.
NMED and DOE/LANL are negotiating the new CO now and have publically stated plans to rollout the draft for the new CO this November for a 60-day public comment period. Nuclear Watch NM believes that these negotiations must have public input.
This gets us to one of our main reasons why we feel the need for more public input. We are concerned that the new CO will not have enforceable milestones for all cleanup projects from the beginning. Deciding every 1 to 3 years which sites will be addressed for a cleanup ‘campaign’ and then what that schedule should be will insure that Los Alamos never addresses all the sites. This would revert cleanup back to the way it was done before the 2005 Consent Order with budget driving cleanup. But the purpose of the CO is to have cleanup drive the budget. A schedule for all cleanups must be set from the beginning and the Lab must be held accountable every step along the way by getting the money and doing the work on time.
We will insist on a new final compliance date for the last milestone of the last legacy cleanup project. Cleanup at Los Alamos cannot be open-ended.
NukeWatch’s September 21 letter to NMED that explains our position that a “Class 3 Permit Modification” is required is here.
The 2005 Consent Order, as modified, is here.
Public Meeting to Discuss Chromium From Los Alamos That Has Reached Our Aquifer
DOE/LANL sponsored Public open house and poster session
Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Time: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Cities of Gold Conference Center
10-A Cities of Gold Rd. Pojoaque, NM 87506
Sampling from monitoring wells at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) indicate the presence of chromium contamination in our regional aquifer resulting from historical use of a corrosion inhibitor that was discharged to an outfall as part of operational activities. Concentrations of chromium within the groundwater plume beneath Mortandad Canyon exceed the New Mexico groundwater standard of 50 parts per billion (ppb) near the property boundary between LANL and the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and are as high as 1,000 ppb in the plume center. Recent groundwater monitoring well sampling data show increasing chromium concentrations on the plume edges, which is indicative of plume migration. The LANL management and operating contractor is required to assess, identify, clean up, and otherwise address contamination at LANL.
Chronic human exposure to high levels of chromium (VI) by inhalation or oral exposure may produce effects on the liver, kidney, gastrointestinal and immune systems, and possibly the blood.
DOE’s proposed action is to control plume migration and maintain the 50 ppb and greater chromium contamination level within the LANL boundary while long-term corrective action remedies are evaluated and implemented. In other words, LANL will first focus on trying to keep the chromium from reaching our aquifer under San Ildefonso Pueblo.
Groundwater extraction would occur at up to three extraction wells, in addition to small volumes periodically extracted at monitoring wells. The total groundwater extraction volume would be up to 230 million gallons (707 acre-feet) annually over the approximately 8-year duration of the project. That’s a proposed total of 1.8 billion gallons.
DOE also proposes to conduct field-scale studies to further characterize the plume center to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing a final remedy for the chromium plume.
Public Comment Opportunities
The 30-day public comment period for the Draft EA begins September 23, 2015, and ends on October 23, 2015. Comments on the Draft EA can be submitted via the following methods:
By mail: Department of Energy, Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, 3747 West Jemez Road MS-A316, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544
By fax: (505) 606-2132
By phone: (800) 342-5363
The DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office, in conjunction with the Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board, is hosting a public meeting for comment on the Chromium Project. Join us to learn more about the Chromium Project and to comment on the Laboratory’s proposed actions.
All interested parties are encouraged to attend
EA-2005: DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
September 25, 2015
Pope Francis Calls for the Complete Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Santa Fe, NM – In his speech today at the United Nations Pope Francis stated:
The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust.” There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.
Separately, the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement in advance of tomorrow’s (September 26) International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons tomorrow. He said:
The norm against the use of nuclear weapons – the most destructive weapons ever created, with potentially unparalleled human costs – has stood strong for seven decades. But the only absolute guarantee that they are never used again is through their total elimination.
The Pope’s words builds upon a December 2014 paper entitled “Nuclear Weapons: Time for Abolition” that the Vatican presented at an international conference on the “Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons” held by the Austrian government in Vienna. In it, the Catholic Church declared that the provisional justification it once gave for possession of nuclear weapons for the sake of “deterrence” during the Cold War is no longer valid. The Vatican further stated in no uncertain terms, “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.”
Contrary to the Catholic Church’s growing push to ban nuclear weapons, the recent May 2015 NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ended in failure. The immediate reason was that the United States, United Kingdom and Canada blocked the adoption of a “Final Document” seeking to implement a previously agreed-to conference on a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone, at the behest of Israel, a non-signatory to the NPT and a non-declared nuclear weapons power. A broader, deeper reason is that the majority of non-weapons states are growing increasingly frustrated by the nuclear weapons powers’ failure to honor their NPT Article VI obligation “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…”, first promised in 1970. This is now exacerbated by accelerating nuclear weapons “modernization” programs, led by the United States which plans to spend a trillion dollars over thirty years completely rebuilding its nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure.
New Mexico plays a key role in these modernization programs, with two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, Sandia and Los Alamos. Currently the labs’ main focus is “Life Extension Programs” that prolong the service lives of existing U.S. nuclear weapons for up to 60 years and give them new military capabilities despite U.S. government denials. These programs are clearly contrary to the Vatican’s push for nuclear weapons abolition.
New Mexico also has one of the highest percentages of Catholic citizens, at around 40% of the total population. The full name of its capitol Santa Fe (English: “Holy Faith”) is “The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi,” the saint from whom Pope Francis took his papal name. St. Francis and the Pope are both known for their focus on the poor. Ironically, Los Alamos County, next to Santa Fe, is the second richest county in the USA because of nuclear weapons programs, while some of the poorest communities in the country (the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblos) are contiguous to it.
One of New Mexico’s two Catholic Archbishops, Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, is chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, and is playing a leading role in the Catholic Church’s accelerating push for nuclear weapons abolition. He delivered a homily at the Nagasaki Cathedral in Japan on August 9, 2015 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the city’s destruction by a plutonium bomb designed and produced in New Mexico. He described it as a life-changing experience, and declared:
The bishops of the United States join in solidarity with the Church in Japan in advocating for global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in the face of the tragedies that occurred here when atomic bombs struck… the U.S. bishops committed themselves to shaping “the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945. Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons….”
New Mexico’s other archbishop, Santa Fe’s newly installed John Wester, has not yet stated his position on nuclear weapons. His diocese includes the Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs.
Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Northern New Mexico has been a Catholic stronghold for centuries, and the birthplace of nuclear weapons seventy years ago. Catholics and non-Catholics alike must examine their consciences and the Pope’s calling for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, and how that squares with the nuclear weapons industry that is so deeply embedded in our culture and economy. The choice is not easy, but clearly we must follow faith and good will toward elimination of these worst of weapons of mass destruction. I hope that Santa Fe’s new Archbishop John Wester will help guide us in following Pope Francis’ call for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.”
# # #
Pope Francis’ quote is from http://time.com/4049905/pope-francis-us-visit-united-nations-speech-transcript/ Note: the original transcript erroneously said “weapons of mass distraction” instead of “weapons of mass destruction.”
The Vatican’s December 2014 paper “Nuclear Weapons: Time for Abolition” is available at http://www.paxchristi.net/sites/default/files/nuclearweaponstimeforabolitionfinal.pdf
See Archbishop Oscar Cantú’s essays on the need to abolish nuclear weapons at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/
In particular, see Homily on Peace and a World without Nuclear Weapons for a Mass at Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan Bishop Oscar Cantú, August 9, 2015
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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
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More Nuclear News
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LANL Cleanup: What you can do
Please consider attending and giving public comments at local public meetings concerning cleanup at Los Alamos. Public comments do make a difference!
Follow NukeWatch and submit public written comments. We frequently comment on environmental impact statements and provide sample comments. 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.
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New & Updated
|Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione)|
|2/7/19, 7:50 PM
This is an incredible interview. If you doubted that Bolton was behind the killing of the #INFTreaty , or that Trump has no plan for what to do next, or that we are in a new arms race, just watch @UnderSecT struggle under @nickschifrin honest questioning.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) February 7, 2019
The bill for a half century of nuclear weapons production is growing fast.
“The GAO [Government Accountability Office] estimates the EM’s “environmental liability grew by almost $105 billion, from $163 billion to $268 billion.”That’s the equivalent of taking one step forward and then being pushed seven steps back.”
BY | popularmechanics.com February 5, 2019
The United States developed and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. A new report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred by developing and producing these weapons at a staggering $377 billion, a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.
Most people think of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and think of oil rigs, coal mines, solar energy panels, and wind farms. While the DoE does handle energy production—including nuclear power—it also handles the destructive side of nuclear energy. A large part of the DoE’s portfolio over the past several decades has been the handling of nuclear weapons research, development, and production. The DoE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities.
In 1967 at the height of the U.S.–Soviet nuclear arms race, the U.S. nuclear stockpile totaled 31,255 weapons of all types. Today, that number stands at just 6,550. Although the U.S. has deactivated and destroyed 25,000 nuclear weapons, their legacy is still very much alive. Nuclear weapons were developed and produced at more than one hundred sites during the Cold War. Cleanup began in 1989, and the Office of Environmental Management has completed cleanup at 91 of 107 nuclear sites, Still, according to the GAO, “but 16 remain, some of which are the most challenging to address.” Those sites include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the Hanford site in Washington, and the Nevada National Security Site.
NAMIE, Japan — Noboru Honda lost 12 members of his extended family when a tsunami struck the Fukushima prefecture in northern Japan nearly eight years ago. Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer and initially given a few months to live.
Today, he is facing a third sorrow: watching what may be the last gasps of his hometown.
For six years, Namie was deemed unsafe after a multiple-reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie. But hardly anyone has ventured back. Its people are scattered and divided. Families are split. The sense of community is coming apart.
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a decision that was widely expected, suspended his country’s observance of a key nuclear arms control pact on Saturday in response to a similar move by the United States a day before.
But adding to a sense that the broader architecture of nuclear disarmament has started to unravel, Mr. Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.
The Trump administration withdrew from the treaty, a keystone of the late Cold War disarmament pacts known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying that Russia had been violating it for years. The decision holds the potential to initiate a new arms race, not only with Russia, but also China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 treaty.
On January 29, 2019, DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments notified Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC (NWP), the managing and operating contractor for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plan (WIPP), of its intent to investigate heat stress-related events and chemical exposures at WIPP. The events, occurring from July through October 2018, include multiple overexposures to hazardous chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, as well as a series of heat-stress incidents.
The study in question came about because Marylia Kelley, of Tri-Valley CARES, and NukeWatch’s Director, Jay Coghlan, suggested to congressional staff that it be done. But they wanted to ask independent scientists (the JASONs) to do it – instead just NNSA did it. And NNSA dodged the central congressional requirement to compare the benefits and costs of the Interoperable Warhead vs a “conventional” life extension program for the Air Force’s W78 ICBM warhead. NNSA simply said a conventional life extension program would not meet military requirements and therefore summarily dismissed it (no further explanation). Marylia and Jay had the opportunity to discuss this with the relevant congressional staffer who said this ain’t over.
The world’s two greatest nuclear powers are set to pull out of a crucial nuclear weapons treaty beginning this weekend. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Trump says the U.S. will withdraw from the INF Treaty on Saturday.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States is ready to withdraw from a crucial nuclear weapons treaty with Russia on Saturday, a move that has sparked concerns of a budding arms race between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
The announcement comes a day after Russia and the United States said that discussions to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had failed.
“Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing … which will be completed in six months unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment,” Trump said in a statement.
merkley.senate.gov Thursday, January 31, 2019 WASHINGTON, D.C.
“There’s a reason that kids today don’t do duck-and-cover drills in schools and that nobody has bomb shelters in their backyards anymore. That reason is because of key agreements like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” said Merkley. “This era of stability is put at great risk by President Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty. This decision ignores all the lessons from the Cold War. There is no doubt that Russia is violating the INF Treaty, but the right path forward is to work to bring them back into compliance, not free them to produce more nuclear weapons. Blowing up the Treaty risks the proliferation of nuclear-capable systems by Russia, threatening Europe and jeopardizing decades of bipartisan efforts to reduce nuclear dangers with Russia.”
“A nuclear arms race would endanger the entire world and threaten every single person in our country, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that President Trump does not start one. President Trump’s imminent unilateral withdrawal from a bipartisan weapons treaty with Russia, without consulting Congress, would mean the Prevention of Arms Race Act is more important than ever,” said Gillibrand. “A reckless withdrawal would further damage our relationships with our allies, Russia would not be legally constrained from deploying larger numbers of their previously prohibited missiles, and the world would be much less safe. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to prevent a new arms race, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep all Americans safe.”
“Pulling out of the INF Treaty plays squarely into Russia’s hands while undermining America’s security and betraying our NATO allies,” Markey said. “The Trump administration needs to work more closely with our NATO allies to force Russia back into compliance. And as the chance of a confrontation between American and Chinese forces rises the Indo-Pacific, it makes little sense to add further ambiguity over whether U.S. missiles stationed around the region are nuclear-armed. This legislation will help ensure that we don’t match two major adversaries missile-for-missile, trigger a new nuclear arms race, and incur unacceptable amounts of risk in an already tenuous security environment.”
“If Donald Trump walks out of the INF Treaty, he will risk a new destabilizing and costly arms race and antagonize important allies,” said Wyden. “The administration should instead be working with European allies to pressure Russia back into compliance.”
The Senators’ legislation comes in advance of the Trump Administration’s expected action this weekend to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) treaty. The State Department set a February 2, 2019 deadline for Russia to return to compliance with the Treaty after a hasty and un-vetted declaration by President Trump in October that the United States intended to withdraw from the landmark treaty with Russia. The INF was originally signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
“Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the change should not have been approved without an explanation from the DOE about how to address lost space after a contamination incident in 2014 that led to a three-year closure of the facility.”
By Adrian Hedden Carlsbad Current-Argus
Two advocacy groups in New Mexico filed a legal appeal Thursday seeking to undo a New Mexico Environment Department order that allows the Energy Department to change the way it records underground transuranic waste volume at its Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.
The Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) and Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM) filed their notice of appeal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals to block the modification to WIPP’s state hazardous waste permit.
While it technically takes effect this month, as a practical matter the new counting system won’t be instituted right away because DOE has not drafted its policy on implementation, said SRIC Administrator Don Hancock by email.
A Dec. 21 order from then-state Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate authorized DOE to stop recording empty spaces between container drums as waste. The order adopted the findings of state Hearing Officer Max Shepherd, who recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual waste inside containers.
“The modification is contrary to federal law, changes 20 years of practice in the WIPP Permit and operations, ignores the record in the proceeding including testimony in three days of hearings, and violates the New Mexico-DOE Consultation and Cooperation Agreement,” Hancock said in a press release.
He called on New Mexico’s new governor and environment chief not to back the change in court, but rather overturn it. Given the official implementation date is Jan. 20, any administrative delay or rejection would happen soon, he added.
See video of news conference by governor & attorney general of Nevada, angry about DOE’s secret shipment of plutonium from SRS to NV, with SRS Watch comments: https://www.kolotv.com/content/news/505096611.html
Filings by State of Nevada in Nevada district court, in plutonium shipment docket (3:18-cv-00569), January 31, 2019:
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY
(REQUEST FOR RULING BY JANUARY 31, 2019)
PLAINTIFF’S STATUS REPORT
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A STATUS HEARING
energy.gov | WASHINGTON D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) is committed to protecting the health, safety, and security of the public at all of our sites as we conduct our important national security missions. The recent plutonium shipments to the Nevada National Security Site were undertaken to comply with an order issued by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina.
It is inaccurate to state that the Members of the Nevada delegation were not informed of this movement. The Department of Energy was as transparent as operational security would permit. Efforts were made to ensure that Members of Congress representing the states involved were notified of the planned movement ahead of time, as early as August 2018 when NNSA publicly released the plan in a Supplement Analysis. Since then, NNSA confirmed that it was “actively engaged” in removing one metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico.**
It is also inaccurate to characterize this material as “waste”. This material is essential for maintenance of the U.S. weapons stockpile, and is handled with the highest standards for safety and security. NNSA routinely ships this type of material between its sites as part of our national security missions and has done so safely and securely for decades.
**Aiken Standard, “NNSA: Weapons-grade plutonium will be moved out of SC this year, next year” www.aikenstandard.com
Russia and China are boosting bilateral cooperation on nuclear weapons strategies as they accused the United States of disrupting non-proliferation measures during a high-level meeting of the top five nuclear powers.
Representatives of the so-called “Nuclear Five” met Wednesday in Beijing, at a time of heightened tensions between the Eastern and Western permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The grouping included China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a landmark document that sought to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction during a decades-long arms race between Washington and Moscow.
As the White House threatened to scrap another Cold War-era weapons treaty, China and Russia have sought to align their approach in the face of what they considered to be a destabilizing U.S. position.
“Issues of our cooperation and Chinese-Russian and Russian-Chinese coordination will surely be the focus of our attention,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency. “It is very productive work. In 2016, we approved the statement on strategic stability at the level of the leaders. It is just an example of how Russia and China are registering joint common positions more precisely.”
The U.S. has accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which established a mutual ban on ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles within the ranges of around 310 and 3,420 miles. Washington argues that Russia’s new Novator 9M729 missile violates the treaty, while Moscow claims that the extensive U.S. missile shield in Europe could be used offensively as well, effectively breaching the deal.
armedservices.house.gov | WASHINGTON DC January 30th, 2019
Today, Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the bicameral No First Use Act, to establish in law that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first.
Today the United States explicitly retains the option to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, even in response to a non-nuclear attack. The No First Use Act would codify what most Americans already believe—that the United States should never initiate a nuclear war.
“Our current nuclear strategy is not just outdated—it is dangerous,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “By making clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal, this bill would reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation and help us maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world.”
The No First Use Act would strengthen U.S. national security by:
– Reducing the risk of a nuclear miscalculation by an adversary during a crisis
– Strengthening our deterrence and increasing strategic stability by clarifying our declaratory policy
– Preserving the U.S. second-strike capability to retaliate against any nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies
At some point, DOE will have to admit that it has no idea what it will cost to cleanup the Cold War nuclear weapons complex sites. DOE should stop making more wastes until the existing wastes are remediated. The new estimate is more that twice the amount that has been spent in total since cleanup began in 1989, with the most difficult sites still to come.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Clean Up, Don’t Build Up!
The thing is that the new $377 billion estimate includes leaving much of the waste behind.
Program-Wide Strategy and Better Reporting Needed to Address Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability GAO-19-28: Published: Jan 29, 2019. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 2019.
The Department of Energy is tasked with cleaning up waste from Cold War nuclear weapons production, much of which is hazardous or radioactive. The department’s Office of Environmental Management estimates that future work could cost at least $377 billion—$109 billion more than last year’s estimate.
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