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
On the heels of a GAO report made public Monday, which stated that accounting procedures used by various branches of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex are preventing NNSA from pinpointing the exact total cost of maintaining its nuclear deterrent, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) has released a weekly report also showing LANL’s inability to accurately estimate even the tiniest of specific costs.
In the June 4th weekly report for Los Alamos Lab, the DNFSB stated that the Lab underestimated the cost of seismically upgrading gloveboxes at its plutonium pit production complex by an order of magnitude. The DNFSB stated, “…the expected cost of seismic upgrades to individual gloveboxes has risen from an original estimate of about $80,000 per glovebox to a current estimate of approximately $850,000.” In addition, the Lab also ended up doubling the number of gloveboxes that need the upgrades as a priority up to 157.
So, in effect, the Labs original estimate for this glovebox work was $6.4 million (80 gloveboxes at $80,000 each), but the revised estimate is now $133.4 million (157 gloveboxes at $850,000 each). It’s hard to understand how new bracing and bolts to upgrade the legs of these gloveboxes could cost $80,000 each, much less $850,000. It’s not rocket science. Maybe the private corporation running the Lab underestimated the profits that they wanted to make for this much-needed work. Make no mistake, there will be performance- based incentive award fees for the work, as well as for the design and even the estimates.
In safety documents, the Lab originally stated that these upgrades would be done by 2011 to mitigate the possible off-site dose of plutonium to the public in the event of a large earthquake and subsequent facility fire. Guess what? The Lab will be behind schedule as well as way over budget. But LANL is already using its commitment for future glovebox seismic upgrades to reduce the mitigated dose consequence for a seismically-induced event in its dose calculations. So the public will be safe, only on paper, until the Lab finds the time and the money to upgrade those glovebox legs.
The Lab should focus on upgrading existing facilities and equipment and prove its ability and desire to protect the public before embarking on unneeded new construction, such as the CMRR – Nuclear Facility.
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a new report today. Actions Needed to Identify Total Costs of Weapons Complex Infrastructure and Research and Production Capabilities, GAO-10-582, June 2010
I’ll start with the conclusion –
Within the global community, the Administration, and Congress, a bargain is being struck on nuclear weapons policy. Internationally, if the [START] treaty is ratified, significant stockpile reductions [will] have been negotiated between the United States and Russia. Domestically, a new Nuclear Posture Review has provided an updated policy framework for the nation’s nuclear deterrent. To enable this arms reduction agenda, the Administration is requesting from Congress billions of dollars in increased investment in the nuclear security enterprise to ensure that base scientific, technical, and engineering capabilities are sufficiently supported … For its part, NNSA must accurately identify these base capabilities and determine their costs in order to adequately justify future presidential budget requests and show the effects on its programs of potential budget increases. As it now stands, NNSA may not be accurately identifying the costs of base capabilities because … NNSA cannot identify the total costs to operate and maintain essential weapons activities facilities and infrastructure, … Without taking action to identify these costs, NNSA risks being unable to identify the return on investment of planned budget increases on the health of its base capabilities or to identify opportunities for cost saving…NNSA has the opportunity to mitigate these risks by addressing them through the ongoing revision of work breakdown structures and through identifying means of collecting the total costs … Without taking these actions, NNSA will not have the management information it needs to better justify future budget requests by making its justifications more transparent. Additionally, the availability of this information will assist Congress with its oversight function. (Pg. 25)
It looks like NNSA does not know exactly the total costs of its infrastructure budget, but it does know that it wants more. The report tells us that without identifying the total costs of products and capabilities, NNSA will be challenged to explain the effects of funding changes or justify the necessity for increased investment to support or enhance base capabilities. (Pg. 25)
The reduction in nuclear warhead numbers will mean an increase spending. “In such an environment, NNSA is likely to face increased scrutiny of its planning, programming, and budget execution to determine the effect of funding increases on the overall health of base capabilities.” (Pg. 24)
I only now happened to run across the article below from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Nuclear Weapons Journal about how the remanufacturing of Fogbank was reestablished. As dated as it is, I think its implication is very important that existing programs are more than sufficient to keep the nuclear weapons stockpile safe and reliable, until eventual disarmament.
You may recall that the loss of Fogbank was a bit of a crisis that seriously delayed the W76 Life Extension Program. It had at various times been used as rationale for why existing LEPs would not work in the long run because of necessary changes to materials, loss of knowledgeable workforce, etc. By extension this was used to argue why Reliable Replacement Warheads should be designed and built.
But this article demonstrates that all that was needed was to simply give some emphasis to reestablishing fogbank production. Plus as an added bonus, it has some pleasing wonky detail. “It’s the impurity, stupid!” [see link below]
LANL Nuclear Weapons Journal, Issue 2 • 2009, pp. 21-22
Fogbank: Lost Knowledge Regained
I was in Washington, DC last week and heard a number of congressional offices express support for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility, indicating what we already know, that it will be very difficult to defeat directly. However, the issue of costs is another matter, and I have some hope that the Nuclear Facility can die a death of 1,000 cuts.
For example, while in DC I met with a staff person knowledgeable about DOE project cost accounting requirements introduced by the Senate Armed Services Committee. I expressed my concern that LANL could implement its first segment of CMRR-Nuclear Facility construction without having come up with total costs, thus steamrolling the project. [Reminder: we are now $4.5 billion for estimated total project costs and climbing.] That staffer said that sort of thing will not be allowed to happen. Further, while being in favor of some advance site prep, that staffer said LANL would not be allowed to construct the concrete batch plant and replace 225,000 cubic yards of weak volcanic ash strata with “lean concrete” until total project costs are in.
The requirements were introduced as SEC. 4713. NOTIFICATION OF COST OVERRUNS FOR CERTAIN DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY PROJECTS.
I realize this is not a showstopper, but it is something. It should slow the CMRR-NF down some, which hopefully we can capitalize on. Further, it may provide us with ammo over the project’s tremendous and escalating costs.
Nick Roth of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability was instrumental in suggesting this cost accounting requirement to Congress.
Modern nuclear weapons are comprised of three general types of components: plutonium pit primaries, uranium/lithium secondaries that are triggered by the primaries, and the 1,000’s of non-nuclear components that create deliverable weapons of mass destruction (fuzes, radar, bomb cases, etc.). The U.S. is aggressively pursuing major new production facilities for all three types. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico, the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project” will be the keystone to a revived plutonium manufacturing complex. The proposed “Uranium Processing Facility” (UPF) at the Y-12 Site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will be the future production plant for warhead secondaries. A new “Kansas City Plant” (KCP) in Missouri for nonnuclear components production is slated for groundbreaking in August 2010. Each of these three major new production facilities is expected to operate for the next half-century, in sharp contradiction to the declared national and global security goal of a nuclear weapons-free world.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico is a staunch supporter of arms control treaties, particularly since they can be confidence building steps toward the long term goal of creating the nuclear weapons-free world articulated by President Obama.
However, we fear that arms control treaties will be turned on their heads to become in effect armament treaties for the American nuclear weapons complex. We think our fears are now concretely realized by the Obama Administration’s “modernization plan” attached to yesterday’s submittal of New START to the Senate for ratification.
As you probably know, the Obama plan is to increase funding for the NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs from $6.4 billion in FY10 to $9 billion by FY 2018, which is a 76% increase above the Cold War annual average of $5.1 billion. We think that is obviously a serious step backwards on the road to a nuclear weapons-free world, especially when the labs seem intent on introducing new military capabilities to existing types of U.S. nuclear weapons.
There have been calls for unconditional public support of New START. Yet current political realities are that New START will be heavily conditioned by both the Obama Administration and the Senate to include the revitalization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.
In concrete terms, this means dramatically increased funding for huge new production plants for plutonium, uranium and nonnuclear components, respectively the Los Alamos CMRR-Nuclear Facility, the Y-12 Uranium Processing Facility and the new Kansas City Plant.
It also means future aggressive Life Extension Programs that will substantially modify the nuclear explosives package, a serious threshold that we have not yet crossed (and which could effectively recreate the Reliable Replacement Warheads that NNSA sought but Congress rejected, but by another name). We also need to remain aware of the failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999, but which nevertheless profited the nuclear weapons labs and complex by some $100 billion to date under the Stockpile Stewardship Program to compensate for the loss of underground full-scale testing.
We don’t question that appeals for public support of New START should go forward. But as NGOs we are also entrusted with public responsibility to provide a fuller picture.
We argue that certain conditions for New START ratification, such as increased funding for new production facilities, LEPs and stockpile work, should be publicly explained, and lead to qualified instead of unconditional support of New START ratification.
Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday President Obama submitted the new bilateral Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia to the Senate for ratification. At the same time he submitted a modernization plan required by Congress that “includes investments of $80 billion to sustain and modernize the [U.S.] nuclear weapons complex over the next decade.” Given that two-thirds of the Senate is required for treaty ratifications a large political fight was always expected over a second attempt at ratifying the previously rejected Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, last December all 40 Republican senators plus one independent wrote to President Obama demanding modernization of both the stockpile and complex as a condition for New START ratification. Meanwhile, the prospects for ratification of the CTBT (first proposed by Prime Minister Nehru of India in 1954) look increasingly dim.
In response to Republican demands, the Obama Administration plans to increase funding for the nuclear weapons research and production programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by more than 40% from $6.4 billion in FY 2010 to $9 billion by 2018. In turn, $9 billion is 43% above the average annual cost of $5.1 billion during the Cold War for analogous Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs.
The one-page unclassified summary of the modernization plan declares
U.S. nuclear weapons will undergo extensive life extension programs in the coming years to ensure their safety, security and effectiveness. Maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent requires that the United States operates a modern physical infrastructure and sustain a highly capable workforce.
That may seem intuitively logical on the face of it, but NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs are subtly changing the frame of debate to favor their own interests. Independent scientists have repeatedly found that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe and reliable and can be so maintained by existing life extension programs. Past NNSA budget requests repeatedly invoke a “reliable” stockpile, but its FY 2011 request is full of references to an “effective” stockpile.
NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino claimed at a recent presentation to international delegations at the United Nations for the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference that the U.S. is meeting its disarmament obligations in good faith. At the same time, he repeatedly stated the U.S.’s need to maintain an “effective” stockpile. When asked what effective meant he replied it meant having confidence in the nuclear weapons stockpile underpinned by the right mix of infrastructure and people.
In order to extract increased funding, NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs are trying to shift the debate over maintaining the stockpile from technical arguments over warhead safety and reliability to subjective arguments over maintaining an exorbitant research and production complex and workforce. This will not only cost enormous sums of money, which is what the labs seek, but will also perversely undermine confidence in the stockpile because of planned changes, including new military capabilities, that will be made to existing, previously tested weapons. Giving the nuclear weapons labs a blank check contradicts Obama’s declared national security goal of a future nuclear weapons-free world. Instead, he should be redirecting the labs into dramatically increased nonproliferation programs, cleanup, and meeting today’s national security threats of nuclear terrorism, energy dependence and climate change.
The one-page unclassified summary of the Obama modernization plan for the stockpile and nuclear weapons complex.
The average annual cost of $5.1 billion during the Cold War for DOE defense programs is derived from Atomic Audit, The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, Steven Schwartz, et.al., Brooking Institution Press, DC, 1998, Table A-2, p. 561 (adjusted for inflation).
For more background, please see “Labs Seek “Stockpile Modernization” Through Test Ban Ratification – “Updating” of Treaty “Safeguards” to Protect Nuclear Weapons Budgets”
Of particular interest are cited Los Alamos Lab viewgraphs that state “Technically: there is little difference between a ratified CTBT, and the current testing moratorium” and “There are several ways to sustain capabilities… Get more money.” The point is that the nuclear weapons labs are fully aware that treaty ratifications are an opportunity for them to secure more funding, as they did in the build up to the 1999 ratification process that rejected the CTBT.
At the recent LANL Hazardous Waste Permit Hearings, the public was presented with two cross-sections of the current understanding of the geology under the Lab’s largest nuclear waste disposal area, Tech Area 54. These cross sections are important because the NM Environment Department, with public input, will soon have to decide the final disposition of the over 800,000 cubic yards of radioactive and hazardous waste buried there. The options range from leaving the waste in place with some sort of cover to exhuming the waste.
The geology under the site is very complicated and includes layers of lava flows, ash falls, and old stream beds. The waste is buried in unlined pits, shafts and trenches and is perched 800 – 1000 feet above our sole-source aquifer. Some of the more soluble contaminants, such as tritium, perchlorate, explosives, and chromium have already made their way to the aquifer from other parts of the Lab. The cross-sections are needed to understand the contaminant pathways from the dumps to the aquifer.
First, the Lab’s version – (click on image for larger picture)
The MDAs, or Material Disposal Areas or dumps, are across the top. MDA G is the largest by far. The PM-#s are wells where drinking water is drawn. The R-#s are characterization and contaminant sampling wells. The elevation is on each side. The top of the regional aquifer is the horizontal blue line near 5800′. There are some perched aquifers shown, too. The one question is a new structure that the Lab is calling a “dike” discovered by well R-22.
The NM Environment Department’s Version – (click on image for larger picture)
The Environment Department’s version gives a different interpretation of the fractures that could be pathways to the aquifer. It has many question marks, including the “vent” and the perched aquifers.
We appreciate the two versions. With so many unknowns, with so much waste, and with such a potential negative impact to our aquifer, the most protective course would be to remove the waste.
I’m in New York City for the first week of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that opened today (Monday May 3). Yesterday global citizens marched from Times Square to the United Nations demanding nuclear weapons abolition. I was very moved to see ~10,000 people from ~25 countries pour into this little park across from the UN, where NukeWatch and some 40 other organizations had information waiting for them.
My main gig here is about the 3 proposed huge nuclear weapons production plants the U.S. is planning to spend some $10 billion on over the next decade. They are the “Nuclear Facility” that will keystone an expanded plutonium complex at Los Alamos; the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Site near Oak Ridge, TN; and the new Kansas City Plant (KCP). These facilities will expand production capability up to 80 new warheads per year. For more, see New US Production Facilities.
When I talked to folks (half from other countries) here for the Conference about these new facilities, most invariably say, “But, but, buuuuuuuut… what about Obama?” Their eyes get big when I tell them Obama doubled FY 2011 funding for the Nuclear Facility and UPF (KCP is privately financed, hence outside the federal budget). I guess they heard the part loud and clear from Obama in Prague about a nuclear weapons-free world, but not so much when he said probably not in my lifetime.
If left just up to him, I suppose that would be the case, given that these production facilities are expected to operate until 2065. But at least there are ~10,000 global citizens here in NYC pushing for sooner than that. We’ll see what concrete results the NPT Review Conference brings.
In response to a question by Senator Jeff Bingaman at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 14, 2010, NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino stated “We will not make pits in the CMR replacement facility. We’ll make them in the existing older facility.”
That is narrowly true, but highly misleading. In fact, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project is all about expanding plutonium pit production capabilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from the presently sanctioned level of 20 per year to up to 80. [Plutonium pits are the fissile “triggers” that initiate fusion in today’s modern thermonuclear weapons.] Yes, PF-4, LANL’s existing plutonium facility, performs the actual physical manufacturing of pits. However, that production cannot take place without “analytical chemistry” (AC) and “materials characterization” (MC) before production to make sure that the plutonium is weapons-grade, and extensive AC and MC sampling during production for stringent “war reserve” quality control.
It’s a mistake to get hung up on different facilities, when an integrated plutonium complex for expanded pit production capability is being created through proposed construction of the CMRR’s “Nuclear Facility” and upgrades to PF-4. It’s silly to think of them as separate facilities just because they’ll be under two different roofs. PF-4 and the Nuclear Facility will be next door to each other, linked by underground tunnel, with highly integrated operations and much exchange of special nuclear materials between them (especially given the Nuclear Facility’s planned vault for up to six metric tons of “special nuclear materials”).
The CMRR Nuclear Facility is being specifically sized to support pit production capability of 50 – 80 pits per year. An internal NNSA study of planned alternatives advocated for a “baseline version (22,500 ft2 of Pu lab space) of the CMRR-NF…, resulting in a production capacity of 50-80 ppy” [pits per year]. Independent Business Case Analysis of Consolidation Options for the Defense Programs SNM and Weapons Programs, TechSource, Inc, December 2007, p. 5-3, parentheses in the original. This “Business Case” is one of NNSA’s hundreds of reference documents for its 2008 Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. [To conveniently find it, use “TechSource 2007a.”]
That 22,500 ft2 of Pu lab space is exactly what is being designed for the Nuclear Facility now. “CMRR Project Nuclear Facility… Baseline under development …. 22,500 Net Square Feet Lab Space.” CMRR Project Update, LANL, Public Meeting, Los Alamos, New Mexico March 3, 2010, 7th viewgraph.
Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the for-profit corporation that runs Los Alamos, has already been paid for installing additional equipment in PF-4 that in conjunction with the future CMRR-Nuclear Facility will expand plutonium pit production capability to up to 80 pits per year. “Build Six New W88 Pits & Install Equipment in FY 2008 to Increase Pit Capacity to 80 Pits Per Year by the Operational Date of a CMRR-Nuclear Facility – Available Fee $1,079,915 – Awarded Fee $1,079,915.” FY 2008 Performance Evaluation Report for the Los Alamos National Security, LLC’s Management and Operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, NNSA, p. 9.
NNSA echoes this in its FY 2010 Supplemental Stockpile Stewardship Plan. Under Key Recent Accomplishments the agency boasts of “New equipment installed as scheduled for gradual capacity increases to 80 pits per year potential by scheduled operational date for Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility.” Table 1-1, NNSA/Office of Defense Programs, FY 2010 – 2014 Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship Plan, p. 14.
In sum, suggestions or representations by NNSA and LANL that the $4.5 billion CMRR Project is not about pit production are at best half-truths. Its massive proposed “Nuclear Facility” is, in fact, all about expanded pit production capability.
On March 16 I met with a senior congressional staff members. I raised the issue of what is “new.” I specifically pointed to an earth-penetrating variant of the B61 gravity bomb (the B61-11) that was rushed to the stockpile in 1997, likely because of a perceived threat of an alleged Libyan hardened underground bioweapons facility. B61’s are believed to have selectable yields, ranging from .3 kilotons to 300 kilotons.
The destructive effects of earth-penetrating weapons (even if they penetrate 10 meters or less) rise exponentially due to shock “coupling” with geologic strata. The B61-11, with a yield of up to 300kt, was designed to and did replace the monster 9-megaton surface-burst B53. Earth-penetration is indisputably a new military capability for the B61 bomb. But because the B61-11 has the same military mission as the B53 to destroy hardened deeply buried targets (never mind the extreme differences in yields, while arguably lower yield weapons are more “usable”), this senior HASC staffer asserted that the B61-11 was not a “new” nuclear weapon.
This is not an isolated case. I then went on to raise the current example of the sub-launched W76 that is now being refurbished in an ongoing Life Extension Program (LEP). It is being endowed with a new fuze that gives it selectable heights of burst and a more accurately targetable reentry vehicle. So it not only can hit a smaller target, but the lower the altitude of the burst, the more it can hold hardened bunkers or underground facilities at risk. Pete Nanos, then head of Naval Strategic Systems (and later controversial LANL Director), wrote in 1997 that the refurbished 100kt W76-1Mk4 would be transformed into a hard target killer, one that is a “counterforce” weapon against military assets rather a “countervalue” (“city-buster”) weapon of deterrence.
But because refurbished W76s could replace the hard target killer mission of 450kt. sub-launched W88s, this HASC staffer again maintained that it was not a “new” weapon. Never mind that there are less than an estimated 400 W88s, while the Bush Administration planned to run some 2,000 W76’s through LEP’s, which would radically alter the strategic equation (we don’t yet know how many Obama will refurbish).
To add to my case, now Under Secretary for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Ellen Tauscher (former congresswoman for the CA district that sites Livermore Lab) has also indicated that if a modified existing U.S. nuclear weapon, no matter how profoundly changed, assumes the mission of another existing nuclear weapon, then it is not a “new” nuclear weapon.
Needless to say the specific missions of U.S. nuclear weapons are highly classified. But the bottom line is that our stockpile is enough to kill this planet many times over. The U.S. Government appears poised to run many existing nuclear weapons through extreme makeovers (including plutonium pit triggers) that clearly give them new military capabilities. But because there is little theoretical end to what nuclear weapons can blow up (on this planet anyway) our government will continue to deny that these heavily modified existing nuclear weapons are “new” nuclear weapons as long as they assume the missions of other existing nuclear weapons.
In other words, they think they can do whatever they damn well please, and still not call it a new nuclear weapon.
The question arose at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability meeting this week over the potential level of future pit production at LANL and the role that the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project – Nuclear Facility will play in it.
See the below from the
FY10-14 Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship Plan, p. 14, under “Recent Key Accomplishments”: (emphasis added)
“More than six new W88 plutonium pits
manufactured. New equipment installed as
scheduled for gradual capacity increases to
80 pits per year potential by scheduled
operational date for Chemistry and Metallurgy
Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility.”
This whole document is worthwhile reading (3.7MB).
In the January/February issue of Mother Jones magazine Mariah Blake writes that New Mexico’s Senator Bingaman aided by Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska) has introduced legislation likely to be included in the coming climate bill that would create a Clean Energy Development Agency (CEDA) within DOE with authority to extend a ‘virtually unlimited number of loan guarantees—without congressional review—to utilities to build nuclear plants.’ Blake goes on to say that both Bingaman and Mirkowski are ‘top recipients of the nuclear industry’s campaign largesse.’ Interested utilities would have to pay an unspecified fee to get a loan guarantee but, if the historical default rate from the 1st generation of US nuclear power folly is a guide, these fees will not come close to covering defaults. Blake continues: “According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if 100 new plants are built, as key Republican lawmakers have called for, the price of bad loans could total at least $360 billion—and that’s assuming zero cost overruns.”
So if fellow New Mexicans do not want MORE federal subsidies wasted in nuclear power plant construction they should send a ‘boo and hiss’ email to Senator Bingaman. I had not realized how completely Jeff had donned the pro-nuke mantle of Pete Domenici—and I deplore it!
When Jeff Bingaman replaced Pete Domenici as New Mexico’s senior Senator, environmentalists were pleased. But is Bingaman the new Domenici? Is he stepping into Pete’s radioactive shoes as chief procurer of pork for nuclear contractors, the environment be damned?
Consider this: Bingaman’s so-called “Clean Energy” legislation sticks taxpayers with a huge financial burden to cover unlimited loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants– yet another bailout for fat-cats who’ve already bankrupted us, just like the banks, insurance execs and military contractors. No nuclear plant has ever been built on schedule or within budget. And with no remotely viable solution to the nasty spent-fuel-rod problem, all eyes will be on NM’s sadly flawed WIPP repository as a place to stick the waste out of sight and out of mind. New Mexicans were promised that power-plant waste would never come to WIPP, but with Yucca Mountain in Nevada getting the red light, how long can we trust in that long-ago promise?
Now how about the weapons side of the nuclear equation? Talking out of both sides of his mouth like a true US Senator, Bingaman has weakly endorsed mission diversification at the national weapons Labs, then backed the fat increases for bomb facilities and new designs in Obama’s ghastly proposed federal budget for 2011. Bingaman lamely says this tragic misuse of tax dollars is “good for our state.” Hey, Jeff! If something is bad for the nation and bad for the world, it is not good for our state. And those new radioactive and chemical wastes from cranking out H-bombs will all become a permanent feature here in New Mexico. Thanks for drowning us in nuclear waste from all sides, Senator!!! You’re dooming us to an abusive relationship with a couple of dead-end industries whose profits end up elsewhere, when we could be creating a much brighter and cleaner future for our lovely state. Nuclear waste is permanent. The handful of jobs we get out of it are temporary–the way a Senate seat should be.
Friends, if this makes you as mad as it makes me, give Bingaman a trip to the woodshed. His toll-free NM # is 800-443-8658 and his DC office is 202-224-5521.
Buried in Volume 1 of the Department of Energy’s FY 2011 Congressional Budget Request are the Details of Project Cost Estimate for LANL’s proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement (CMRR) Project. (Pg.226 & 227)
The Details –
$164 million – The cost of the Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building (RLUOB) recently finished with construction
$199 million – The estimated cost of equipment for the RLUOB scheduled to be installed by 2013.
$3.4 billion – The current estimate of the Proposed Nuclear Facility due to be completed in 2018.
$782 million – “Contingency”
$4.5 Billion – Total
This does not D&D of the existing CMR (estimated at $500 million).
Last I looked, the Cold War ended 18 years ago. We won. OK, I used to think we won, but there is still a big debt that needs to be paid off before any victory party.
The Department of Energy’s Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2009 (Pg.52) gives some sobering figures. Even with extra Recovery funding ($5.1 billion) and all the usual appropriations (about $6 billion) the Department’s “total unfunded environmental cleanup and disposal liabilities” still increased by over $1 billion in 2009. The current estimate for the cleanup of environmental contamination resulting from past operations of the nuclear weapons complex is $262.7 billion. Given that this estimate will surely increase yearly, at this rate, DOE will pay off its existing Cold War environmental liability, well…never.
Yet the Department continues on a shopping spree and rings up new $4 billion facilities that will generate new wastes. DOE must stop creating new waste when the legacy waste is still posing a threat, and should greatly increase the annual cleanup funding at least until it starts to make a dent in the amount owed. Until then, somebody please, cut up the credit card.
More from the Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2009 –
“At all sites where these activities took place, some environmental contamination occurred. This contamination was caused by the production, storage, and use of radioactive materials and hazardous chemicals, which resulted in contamination of soil, surface water, and groundwater. The environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production also includes thousands of contaminated buildings and large volumes of waste and special nuclear materials requiring treatment, stabilization, and disposal. Approximately one-half million cubic meters of radioactive high-level, mixed, and low-level wastes must be stabilized, safeguarded, and dispositioned, including a quantity of plutonium sufficient to fabricate thousands of nuclear weapons. “ (Pg.52)
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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
Nuclear Watch NM Press Release
For immediate release: January 17, 2017
Contact: Jay Coghlan, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay[at]nukewatch.org
Watchdogs Assail Revolving Door
Between New Mexico Environment Department and Polluters;
Gov. Martinez Fails to Protect State Budget and Environment
Santa Fe, NM – As the annual state legislative session begins, New Mexico is faced with a ~$70 million budget deficit, which must be balanced as per the state’s constitution, while revenues are projected to continue falling. To remedy this, Gov. Martinez plans to divert $120 million from public school reserves, take ~$12.5 million out of state employee retirement accounts, make teachers and state workers pay more into their retirement accounts (they are already among the lowest paid in the country), and extend 5.5% cuts for most state agencies while cutting yet more from the legislature and higher education. Instead, the state’s budget deficit could have been prevented had the New Mexico Environment Department aggressively fined polluters. But unfortunately there is a strong revolving door between NMED and the polluters it is suppose to regulate.
In her 2012 State of the State speech Gov. Martinez said, “My appointees are barred from lobbying state government for 2 years after serving in my administration.” Yet in August 2016 the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Mr. Ryan Flynn, resigned to become the Executive Director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, whose main purpose is to lobby on behalf of the oil and gas industry against environmental regulations. Before joining NMED, Mr. Flynn worked for a law firm that advertises that “Our representation of oil and gas producers, mid-stream entities, and natural gas pipelines has been a mainstay of Modrall Sperling’s natural resources practice since the early days of the firm.” Modrall Sperling lawyers were very active in the NM Oil and Gas Association’s opposition to the so-called “pit rule” that sought to prevent oil and gas drilling mud waste from leaching into and contaminating groundwater. In June 2013 the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission, appointed by Gov. Martinez, eviscerated the pit rule.
Similarly, Martinez and Flynn promulgated new groundwater protection rules that for the first time in the country actually allows groundwater contamination if it doesn’t migrate past the footprint of the operating site. This is the so-called Copper Rule, drafted by the copper mining giant Freeport-McMoRan (which is also a Modrell Sperling law firm client).
On January 13, 2017 Kathryn Roberts, the head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division, announced that she was leaving the Environment Department to accept an unnamed job in Alamogordo. Before NMED she worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for four years as Group Leader for Regulatory Support and Performance (of “cleanup”). Upon information and belief, she will work as a public communications specialist for Longenecker and Associates, a Department of Energy (DOE) contractor that proposes to drill deep boreholes to test the disposal of high-level nuclear waste near Alamogordo.
This is part of the continuing targeting of New Mexico as the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Longenecker and Associates have participated in Sandia Labs studies of deep borehole high-level waste disposal. Of interest are some relatively recent new hires by Longenecker, including Don Cook, a longtime Sandia Labs scientist, past manager of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in the United Kingdom, and most recently the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (i.e., nuclear weapons) at the National Nuclear Security Administration. As such, he was essentially the head of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs.
Also new to Longenecker and Associates as Corporate Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer is Christine Gelles, former interim manager of the new DOE Environmental Management field office at Los Alamos. A Longenecker resume´ notes that Gelles “Led planning and initial regulatory interactions with New Mexico Environment Department negotiation of Los Alamos Consent Order.” Ms. Roberts would have been one of Gelles’ counterparts on the other side of the table as head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division.
An original 2005 Consent Order negotiated between NMED and DOE was meant to compel comprehensive cleanup at LANL and force the Energy Department to increase cleanup funding. The new Consent Order, likely negotiated at least in part between Gelles and Roberts, contains giant loopholes whereby DOE can get out of cleanup by simply claiming that is too difficult or too costly. In fact, since the new Consent Order went into effect in June 2016, DOE has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at LANL will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year, which is ridiculously low. That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump, posing a permanent threat to groundwater. DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” This is a distinct and very unfortunate break from the 2005 Consent Order.
Particularly galling is the fact that under Gov. Martinez and ex-Secretary Ryan Flynn the New Mexico Environment Department granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order, and then turned around and said that the Consent Order wasn’t working. From a budget perspective, New Mexico could have collected more than $300 million in stipulated penalties, more than four times the state’s projected budget deficit, had NMED vigorously enforced the 2005 Consent Order.
[For more, see here]
All of this is part of a pattern where the Martinez Administration has coddled the nuclear weapons industry even as that industry is cutting cleanup funding and ramping up nuclear weapons production that caused the mess to begin with. Gov. Martinez and ex-NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn have touted what they call an historic $74 million settlement that New Mexico and DOE reached after a radioactive waste barrel that LANL improperly treated ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), contaminating 21 workers and closing down that multi-billion dollar facility for nearly three years. What was left unsaid is that DOE was already responsible for the supermajority of “Special Environmental Projects” that were agreed to in lieu of penalties and fines that could helped solved New Mexico’s budgets woes, even though state and federal policy on those projects both require that the regulatory agency collect a significant monetary penalty.
Not one penny went to New Mexico, while DOE was “obliged” to, for example, repave roads at WIPP and LANL that it uses to transport the radioactive bomb waste that it produces. To add insult to injury, NMED agreed to waive penalties for all future, unknown violations – no matter the severity or length – as long as there is corrective action of any sort at some undefined time. Also included in this give-away was an obligation by NMED to negotiate modifications to the 2005 Consent Order (now completed to New Mexico’s disadvantage), and to forego penalties that could have been assessed against DOE under it.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “It seems that the Environment Department under Gov. Martinez is in the business of protecting business against environmentalists. The legislature should hold their feet to the fire so that New Mexicans have a real environment department that protects our precious water resources and creates jobs doing so.”
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Santa Fe, NM
As the annual state legislative session begins, New Mexico is faced with a ~$70 million budget deficit, which must be balanced as per the state’s constitution, while revenues are projected to continue falling. To remedy this, Gov. Martinez plans to divert $120 million from public school reserves, take ~$12.5 million out of state employee retirement accounts, make teachers and state workers pay more into their retirement accounts (they are already among the lowest paid in the country), and extend 5.5% cuts for most state agencies while cutting yet more from the legislature and higher education. Instead, the state’s budget deficit could have been prevented had the New Mexico Environment Department aggressively fined polluters. But unfortunately there is a strong revolving door between NMED and the polluters it is suppose to regulate.
Santa Fe, NM
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has publicly released its fiscal year 2016 Performance Evaluation Report (PER) for Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), the for-profit contractor that runs the Los Alamos Lab. The Performance Evaluation Report is NNSA’s annual report card on contractor performance, and overall the agency awarded LANS $59 million in profit out of a possible $65 million. The grade was 85% for the incentive part of the award. In 2012 Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued NNSA to ensure that the Performance Evaluation Reports detailing taxpayers funds paid to nuclear weapons contractors are publicly available. In 2016 the NNSA decided to put the LANL management contract out for competitive bid, but granted LANS a contract extension until the end of September 2018.
Despite the passing grade that NNSA gave LANS, there is still ample reason for public concern. First, it bears repeating that in February 2014 a radioactive waste drum improperly prepared by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) burst underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), contaminating 21 workers and closing that multi-billion dollar facility (a limited restart of operations at WIPP may occur this month).
Less widely known is the fact that LANL’s main plutonium facility that produces WIPP wastes has only recently restarted operations after being shut down since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns…
Cite Worker And Public Risks, New Seismic Information
“The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and Nuclear Watch New Mexico today released a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz calling for a new Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Y-12 is a manufacturing plant that produces the thermonuclear cores (secondaries) for US nuclear warheads and bombs.
“The letter rejects the analysis prepared by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the subsequent Amended Record of Decision released in August 2016 in which the NNSA gave itself the green light to proceed with construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, a bomb plant originally intended to replace aging facilities.”
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented:
“The Uranium Processing Facility is the tip-of-the-spear for the trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces that will fleece the American taxpayer. It will enrich the usual fat cat defense contractors by keeping nuclear weapons forever while rebuilding them to give them new military capabilities. The public has the legal right to review planned changes to the deeply troubled Uranium Processing facility, which we seek to enforce.”
See Also: Letter To Senator Moniz
New Mexican Politicians Should Not Be Misled
Energy Dept Misrepresents Cost and Scope of Los Alamos Cleanup
Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has released a 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary of proposed future cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). At the beginning of that document DOE declares that “An estimated 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste remains, of which approximately 2,400 cm [cubic meters] is retrievably stored below ground”, a claim which was widely reported in New Mexican media. From there DOE estimates that it will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion to complete so-called cleanup around 2040.
The public was notified of the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate in a September 15 Santa Fe City press release, with the subtitle “Study Lays Out Timeline, Costs, and More, Answers Critical Questions with Honest Assessment.” Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is quoted, “This report represents the first and most comprehensive release of specific plans to complete the cleanup of legacy waste at LANL, and is a big step forward for the people in these communities who want to see a concrete commitment to making progress.” Mayor Gonzales went on to thank Senators Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for their help in obtaining the report.
However, the DOE report is far from honest. It intentionally omits any mention of approximately 150,000 cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes just at Area G (LANL’s largest waste dump) alone, an amount of wastes 30 times larger than DOE acknowledges in the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate. In reality, DOE and LANL plan to not clean up Area G, instead installing an “engineered cover” and leaving the wastes permanently buried. This will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above the regional groundwater aquifer, three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Radioactive and toxic wastes are buried directly in the ground without liners, and migration of plutonium has been detected 200 feet below Area G’s surface.
Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales is the Vice-Chair of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. The Coalition is comprised of elected official from eight cities, counties and pueblos surrounding LANL, and is overwhelmingly funded by DOE and Los Alamos County. The same Santa Fe City press release quotes the RCLC Executive Director, “The Lifecycle Baseline documentation provides our communities the necessary foundation to properly advocate on behalf of the best possible scenarios for cleaning up legacy nuclear waste at the Laboratory in the most time and cost-efficient manner. After years of requests for this document, we now have the tool that can get us to additional cleanup dollars to get the job done.”
However, the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary itself states that it is “based on realistic expectations of annual funding for the remaining work” (last page, unnumbered) and “annual funding is expected to remain constant throughout the duration of the cleanup mission” (p. 5). While annual funding for the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs has climbed to $1.5 billion, cleanup has fallen from a high of $225 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017. Moreover, this trend of declining cleanup funding may be exacerbated by the planned trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces, including research and production sites like LANL (which is slated to quadruple production of the plutonium pit triggers for nuclear weapons). Instead of being a tool for additional dollars for genuine, comprehensive cleanup, the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary is a DOE ploy to avoid cleaning up more than 90% of all wastes at LANL.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, commented, “Mayor Gonzales and the Regional Coalition are to be commended for getting any Lab cleanup plan at all out of the Department of Energy. But now they should take the next step and get the Department of Energy to quit being so chintzy with cleanup. Our elected officials should demand that DOE retract its false claim that there is only 5,000 cubic meters of waste left at LANL to clean up. Then our politicians should push hard for a genuine, comprehensive cleanup plan that permanently protects the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”
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The Department of Energy’s 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/LBC-Summary-Aug-2016.pdf
Estimated quantities of waste at Area G (in cubic yards) are from Table G3.41, MDA G Corrective Measures Evaluation, 2011, LANS, p. G-13. See excerpts at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Area_G_Pit_Totals_from_CME_rev3_Sept-2011.pdf
The full MDA G Corrective Measures Evaluation (159 MB) is available at http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/eprr/ERID-206324
Documentation of the plutonium detection 200 feet below the surface of Area G is at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/AGCME Plate_B-3_radionuclides_subsurface.pdf
Santa Fe, NM
“…The DOE report is far from honest. It intentionally omits any mention of approximately 150,000 cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes just at Area G (LANL’s largest waste dump) alone, an amount of wastes 30 times larger than DOE acknowledges in the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate. In reality, DOE and LANL plan to not clean up Area G, instead installing an “engineered cover” and leaving the wastes permanently buried. This will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above the regional groundwater aquifer, three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Radioactive and toxic wastes are buried directly in the ground without liners, and migration of plutonium has been detected 200 feet below Area G’s surface…”
Santa Fe, NM
The Department of Energy (DOE) has released a 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary of proposed future cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). At the beginning of that document, DOE declares that “An estimated 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste remains, of which approximately 2,400 cm [cubic meters] is retrievably stored below ground”, a claim which was widely reported in New Mexican media. From there DOE estimates that it will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion to complete so-called cleanup around 2040.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2016
Contact: Denise Duffield, 213-689-9170 <tel:213-689-9170> office
Cindi Gortner 818-489-1226
Bonnie Klea 818-854-4825
Marie Mason 805-279-0356
U.S. Department of Energy Secretly Funding Front Group to Help it Evade Nuclear Cleanup at Santa Susana Field Laboratory
Controversial grant made at the same time department reneged on financial commitment to national independently administered community fund
Community members living near the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory were outraged to learn that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has secretly been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that the agency’s request for secrecy may have been made to avoid attention from Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime supporter of full cleanup.
SSFL is heavily contaminated with nuclear and chemical contamination resulting from decades of nuclear activities and rocket engine testing, In 2010, agreements (Administrative Orders on Consent or AOCs) were signed between the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and DOE and NASA to cleanup all detectable contamination at their respective portions of the property. The AOC was first proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM) Dr. Inez Triay. Boeing, which owns most of the site, refused to sign the agreement and is pushing for a much weaker cleanup.
In 2011, under the Brown Administration, the DTSC’s commitment to full cleanup began to erode, and along with it, those of NASA and DOE. Over objections from community members and elected officials , the DTSC replaced the longstanding public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, with the SSFL Community Advisory Group (SSFL CAG). The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL, and the group actively lobbies against the AOCs. One CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here .) and states that the AOC will harm the environment and Native American artifacts, which are in fact protected by the AOC. The CAG also denies SSFL’s health impacts. One CAG member, a former SSFL official and current DOE contractor, maligned previous health studies so badly that their authors felt compelled to write an op-ed in the Ventura County Star in defense.
The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded, and neither the CAG nor DTSC have disclosed that information. In December 2015 and in May 2016 , cleanup advocates complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct. No action was taken on the matter.
The complaints were instigated by the CAG’s announcement, at it’s August 19, 2015 meeting, that it would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. A video from the meeting shows CAG member Alec Uzemeck claiming the donation had “no strings,” and that it was anonymous “Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that. We wanna have the money in hand when we announce who the donors are.” (See video here .) The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here ) make it clear that the anonymity was at the donor’s request, and so secret that the CAG leadership would not reveal the donor to the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign.
At it’s August 17, 2016 meeting, a full year after having announced its anonymous gift, the CAG revealed that the donor was the Department of Energy. Uzemeck said, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here. The CAG’s tax returns show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.
The DOE refuses to answer questions about the arrangement, what the grant funds are expended on, explain why the funding was kept secret for a full year, or provide a copy of the grant application and contract. “For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibiiity-Los Angeles in an August 30 email to Dr. Monica Regalbuto, Assistant Secretary for the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.
Community members are also deeply troubled that DOE funded the CAG during the same month that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. Reneging on its contract and failing to disperse a final $300,000 payment to NMCF caused over a dozen community groups to lose key funding.
“DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.” said Duffield in the email to Regalbuto.
Community members are dismayed and angered by the revelations. Simi Valley resident Marie Mason, who has led community cleanup efforts for 28 years, said, “I find it more than shocking that the DOE would fund this group and ask to conceal they are the funding source and especially to not have Senator Boxer find out. I am more than disgusted and filled with sadness. DOE and DTSC are part of the problem with too many close ties to the polluters and total disregard for the communities they are supposed to protect.”
Bonnie Klea, a former worker at SSFL and cancer survivor, said, “I am appalled that DOE funded the CAG so that members can go out and lobby against the AOC and deny the cancer risks from the past, present and future exposure from the site. This is disgusting. ” Klea and others note that the CAG does not represent the views of the community, which overwhelming supports the AOCs. All but 14 of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement, and over 1,600 signed a petition last year urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here .)
Duffield’s email to DOE, sent also to local and state officials, implored the agency for answers and noted that no local elected officials had been consulted with or informed of the funding. “The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements.”
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The Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, or RCC, is a community-based alliance dedicated to the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), commonly known as Rocketdyne.
From: Denise Duffield <dduffield(at)psr-la.org>
Date: Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 12:57 PM
Subject: Time-Sensitive Request re: DOE CAG funding and the SSFL AOC cleanup agreement
Dear Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management Regalbuto:
I was shocked to learn recently that DOE has been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that DOE had apparently requested that the funding be kept secret so that Senator Barbara Boxer wouldn’t learn of it. I write today to both apprise you of this troubling situation and to request further information and documents related to DOE’s decision to fund the SSFL CAG.
The SSFL CAG is a small but highly controversial group that is lobbying against the cleanup agreement (Administrative Order on Consent, or AOC) for SSFL signed by both DOE and the state regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). For example, one CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here.) “The AOC Cleanup: More Harm Than Good?” reads another (here.) The CAG routinely propagates false information about SSFL’s contamination, health impacts, and cleanup. A CAG – Community Advisory Group – should represent the community. However, the SSFL CAG does not even remotely represent the community, which understands that SSFL is contaminated with dangerous radionuclides and chemicals and needs to be fully remediated per the current DOE cleanup agreement. The CAG is a classic “astroturf” (i.e., fake grassroots) group dominated by people with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL.
The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded and how it spends those funds. The CAG has refused to disclose that information, which is troubling for an entity that claims to be public. The community has suspected that the money comes from one or more of the entities that polluted the site and that is trying to get out of its cleanup obligations, and that that is why the CAG wouldn’t disclose the funding source or sources. Now it appears that that is indeed the case. For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.
The DOE SSFL cleanup agreement (AOC) was proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM), Dr. Inez Triay. It was signed by DOE and DTSC in December 2010. The AOC stipulates that Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone at SSFL are to be cleaned up to background. In February 2014, at a meeting of the SSFL Work Group, DOE SSFL Project Director John Jones told the audience of community members, elected officials, and media that the DOE was committed to upholding the AOC agreement (see video here.)
Since then, the community has seen an erosion of DOE’s stated commitment, including a Public Scoping plan which included numerous options that would violate the AOC (such as keeping waste on site), accompanied by a report grossly exaggerating soil removal estimates (see statement by the Southern California Federation of Scientists here.) In addition, the AOC explicitly defines soils as including structures (see page five of AOC here), which are to be cleaned up to background and all wastes to go to licensed low level radioactive waste disposal sites, yet DOE is now taking the position that it can demolish nuclear structures at SSFL at will, using far less protective standards, and dispose of their radioactive wastes anywhere. The DOE has also apparently told the CAG that it is contemplating trying to modify the AOC to be required to perform much less cleanup than it had promised in order to save money (see CAG July 20, 2016 minutes here.)
And now, we have learned that the DOE has been funding the CAG. The DOE is abundantly aware that the CAG openly, actively, and vigorously works to break the AOC cleanup agreement that DOE signed. DOE’s funding of the SSFL CAG is therefore an alarming and direct assault on the AOC itself. It also makes clear that the CAG is an agent of one of the parties responsible for the pollution at the site and which is trying desperately to get out of its obligation to clean up all the radioactive and toxic mess that it made. The CAG regularly lobbies elected officials to try to persuade them to push to weaken the cleanup —an activity outside the scope of a regular community advisory group. It is very troubling for DOE, responsible for the contamination and sworn to uphold a cleanup agreement to clean it all up, to be secretly funding a group that lobbies elected officials to support DOE breaking its agreement.
We are also deeply disturbed by the secrecy surrounding DOE’s grant to the SSFL CAG. The CAG first announced that it was to receive $32,000 in funding at an August 2015 meeting, in which it stated that the donor wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime SSFL cleanup supporter, learning of the funding and taking action thereon. (See video of CAG meeting here.) Only now, a year later, near the end of Senator Boxer’s esteemed Senate career, has the CAG apparently been given permission to reveal that the identity of its funder is the DOE. It is outrageous and unconscionable for a government agency to make a financial contribution to any organization and request that the funding be kept secret, for any reason, let alone for the purpose of evading the attention of a United States Senator who would likely object to what it was doing. The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here) make it clear that the anonymity, which lasted a full year, was at the donor’s request.
Further, the DOE funded the CAG during the same year that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. The DOE’s agreement with NMCF states, “By utilizing a cooperative agreement with an independent entity to distribute grant funds to qualified organizations representing the interests of the public, DOE-EM will ensure that the program is not viewed as a surrogate for DOE’s own preferences, and that long-term DOE-EM decisions are based on input from individuals and/or groups who are most likely to be affected by those decisions.”
In other words, DOE was supposed to stay out of the grant selection process to assure that groups funded were independent of DOE. However, the DOE weighed in heavily against a re-application submitted by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) for the SSFL Work Group, the longstanding advisory group established a quarter of a century ago by the electeds and which represents the main mechanism for the community to learn about and provide feedback on the cleanup and hold the agencies accountable. In August 2013 we applied for and received a $23,000 CIF grant. We re-applied in August 2014, but learned that DOE was pressuring CIF to deny the grant, which violated its commitment to keep hands-off the selection process. To its credit, in November 2014, the NMCF awarded the second grant of $20,000 (and did not fund the SSFL CAG, which had also applied for the funding.)
Very shortly thereafter, the DOE reneged on the final $300,000 it had pledged to NMCF, impacting not just PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group but over a dozen communities nationwide. NMCF sent a message to its grantees on March 16, 2015 stating, “Earlier this year, representatives of the Department of Energy (DOE) advised New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) that the foundation would receive only partial funding for the CIF grant program in 2015. Last month, we were informed that NMCF would only be funded a small portion of the overall budget request solely for administrative oversight of the current 2014-15 grant cycle, and no funding would be allocated to go towards new grant-making. Adding to our confusion and concern, the decision-making process associated with the 2015 CIF appropriation has not been clearly communicated, nor have we been given a clear indication of the reasons for the reduction in funding.”
We cannot say with certainty that DOE revoked funding to the NMCF due to its decision to fund the SSFL Work Group despite the inappropriate pressure by DOE. But, we must point this out as a strong possibility in light of the timing and DOE actions described herein. The CIF grant enabled the return of the trusted public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, which attracted capacity crowds who were able to learn about the contamination that would be left on site if the cleanup agreements were not upheld. DOE had participated in the SSFL Work Group since its inception, but has now stopped attending virtually any public meeting where it could be held to account for its actions. Regardless of DOE’s motivation to abrogate its agreement with NMCF, it is very troubling that the DOE made this decision while simultaneously funding an organization that opposes a cleanup agreement that the DOE has been strongly signaling it wants to break. DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.
It is difficult to overstate just what is at stake for communities near SSFL right now. Decades of nuclear and aerospace activities at SSFL have left a legacy of dangerous nuclear and chemical contamination that continues to migrate from the site to offsite populations. Federal studies have shown an increase in cancers associated with proximity to the site. In 2010, after decades of attempts to achieve full cleanup, the historic AOCs were signed. As a result, $41.5 million dollars were spent for a US EPA survey that identified background radiation and found nearly 500 samples, in just one area of SSFL, that were above background, in some cases dramatically so. The community eagerly anticipated full cleanup, which the AOC stipulated would be complete by 2017.
We are now just months away from 2017, but cleanup has yet to begin. Indeed, DOE’s draft EIS – which a court ordered a decade ago and was due to be published years ago – is not yet released. Community members have feared that DOE’s EIS would be a full-bodied attack on the very cleanup agreement DOE had sworn to carry out, and wondered if the EIS was being delayed so as to not come out until after Senator Boxer leaves office and can no longer take action to insist DOE live up to the promises made. This suspicion has only increased given the timing of the announcement that DOE is the CAG’s secret benefactor, and that the reason for the secrecy was to avoid attention from Boxer. The community is appalled and angry, and deserves to know the full details of DOE’s arrangement with the SSFL CAG.
Below please find background information and documentation on these matters, followed by a series of pressing questions. I request that DOE provide answers to the questions, as well as a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application/proposal to the DOE and its DOE grant/contract, as well as any grant report, immediately. If there has been more than one grant to the CAG, provide information about each. The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements. DOE funding a front group to lobby elected officials to push them to support DOE breaking its cleanup agreements would be an outrage.
Background and Documentation
The SSFL CAG was formed in 2012 over the objections of longtime community members and local elected officials. (See community petition here and letter from elected officials Julia Brownley, Fran Pavley, Shelia Kuehl, Linda Parks, and Greig Smith opposing formation of the CAG and supporting instead the longstanding SSFL Work Group here.) The CAG is widely perceived as a front group for the polluters that does not represent the interests of the community, because it is opposes the cleanup agreements that are overwhelming supported by the community. All but a handful of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement. Last year over 1,600 signed a petition urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here.) Yet every member of the CAG opposes the AOCs, despite the requirements that a CAG represent the range of community perspectives.
The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals who are former employees or contractors of the parties responsible for cleaning up the site (Boeing, DOE, and NASA.). Alec Uzemeck worked for Boeing’s predecessor, North American Aviation, at its then-headquarters in Downey for which the Santa Susana site was the field lab. Brian Sujata was Boeing’s project manager for SSFL cleanup, while Boeing was DOE’s contractor for the cleanup. Ross Berman worked for both Tetra Tech and CH2M Hill, contractors for the responsible parties. And Abe Weizberg was an official at SSFL, in charge of safety for the SNAP reactors, one of which experienced 80% fuel damage in an accident. Weitzberg remains a consultant for the DOE.
Since its founding, the SSFL CAG has undertaken a multi-faceted campaign aimed at undoing the SSFL cleanup agreements. This includes exaggerating cleanup soil volumes and truck traffic and claiming that the cleanup will harm the site’s natural environment and Native American artifacts (which are in fact protected by the AOC.) The CAG also attempts to minimize the contamination at SSFL and health impacts. Last year, CAG member and former SSFL official Weitzberg launched an effort to have the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) refute prior health studies and weigh in against the cleanup. In the process, he maligned the authors of those studies, who expressed their objections in an article published in the Ventura County Star here. The CAG has also made a habit of regularly and publicly disparaging longtime community members and cleanup advocates. Whereas meetings of the longstanding SSFL Work Group are packed with concerned members of the public and representatives of elected officials, very few attend CAG meetings. The last meeting had only half a dozen CAG members and a roughly equal number of the public, most of whom were critics of the CAG’s biases and actions.
On August 19, 2015, CAG member Alec Uzemeck announced at an SSFL CAG meeting that the CAG would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. The minutes from the meeting (which can be viewed here) state that the CAG established a non-profit foundation, “…in response to the gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.” The CAG leadership was so secretive about the donor’s identify that it refused to inform the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign, as reflected in the minutes, ” As a result of the fact that the donor is anonymous, Elizabeth Harris has resigned from the CAG…” At the meeting, Uzemeck repeatedly said that the donation had “no strings,” and of the gift said, “Why is it anonymous at this point? Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that.” (See video here.)
In December 2015 and in May 2016, cleanup advocates and community members complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct (see paragraphs 4 -6 on page 2 of the IRP’s May 12, 2016 minutes here.)
Finally, at an SSFL CAG meeting on August 17, 2016, nearly a year after announcing the funding and the donor’s request that its identity be kept secret so as to keep Senator Boxer in the dark, Uzemeck announced, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” A recording of Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here.
The SSFL CAG’s tax returns, which can be viewed here, show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.
Questions for the Department of Energy
1. Did DOE, as reflected in the CAG’s minutes, suggest to the SSFL CAG to form a non-profit foundation so that it could provide funding to the CAG?
2. When did DOE begin discussing funding the CAG? When did it actually make the contribution, and what was the amount of the gift? Has there been more than one?
3. What is the stated purpose of the grant? What will/have grant funds be expended on?
4. Under what category of funding was this grant made? Was it made from the DOE Office of Environmental Management, the same office that reneged on its commitment to NMCF?
5. CAG member Alec Uzemeck repeatedly stated that the grant had “no strings.” Does the DOE grant have any restrictions? Is lobbying prohibited? Is the CAG required to submit a report on its activities? Will it be invited to reapply for funding again this year?
6. Why did DOE request that its gift to the CAG be anonymous? Did the DOE tell the CAG, as expressed by Alec Uzemeck, verbally or in writing, that it wanted its gift secret, at least for a time, because it wanted to avoid repercussions from Senator Barbara Boxer?
7. How does the DOE reconcile public statements that it will uphold the AOC at the same time that it is funding a group that overtly works to destroy the AOC?
8. Did DOE’s animosity toward the Santa Susana cleanup agreement, and its displeasure at CIF funding PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group, cause it to cancel the last year of its funding to NMCF, and thus cost over a dozen community groups throughout the United States to lose funding?
9. Did DOE consult with elected officials historically concerned about SSFL cleanup as to whether the grant should be given to the CAG and whether it was a legitimate group representing the community? Why did DOE ignore the opposition to the CAG expressed, in writing, by the electeds?
10. Why did DOE not publicly solicit grant applications instead of secretly arranging to give the money to the CAG? Why did DOE not solicit a grant application from the longstanding SSFL Work Group established by the electeds, which supports the cleanup agreements DOE is supposedly sworn to uphold? Given that very few people attend CAG meetings, and the Work Group meetings are often standing-room only, why did DOE secretly fund the CAG, without a competitive grant application process, and not solicit an application from SSFL the Work Group?
Again, in addition, I request that DOE provide a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application or proposal to DOE, as well as the DOE-SSFL CAG grant contract or agreement, immediately.
Coordinator, SSFL Work Group
Associate Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles
cc: Senator Barbara Boxer
Congresswoman Julia Brownley
California Senator Fran Pavley
LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks
LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander
DTSC Director Barbara Lee
DTSC IRP Chair Gideon Kracov
The Department of Energy Inspector General has issued its audit report National Nuclear Security Administration’s Management of the B61-12 Life Extension Program. The B61-12 will literally cost twice its weight in gold. It is slated for production beginning 2020 and will blur the line between battlefield and strategic nuclear weapons by combining one strategic and three tactical variants. It will also be the world’s first “smart” nuclear bomb with a steerable tailfin kit giving it vastly improved accuracy. Nevertheless the U.S. government denies that the B61-12 will have any new military capabilities.
In its audit report, the DOE IG notes:
We believe without further improvement to its project management tools, it will be difficult for the program to proactively manage the costs, schedule, and risks of the B61-12 LEP to ensure it can deliver the First Production Unit within cost and meet its critical national security schedule. In addition, there is uncertainty whether the original cost estimate for the B61-12 LEP contains sufficient management reserve to allow the program to respond to the numerous risks identified in the program. Finally, not having documented assurance that unresolved significant finding investigations are a part of weapons design input significantly reduces management’s ability to ensure that redesigned nuclear weapon components have addressed prior safety and reliability concerns.
Regarding the last sentence “… reduces management’s ability to ensure that redesigned nuclear weapon components have addressed prior safety and reliability concerns”:
There was a problem with the new-design arming, firing and fuzing set for the W76-1, which is being produced now in its current Life Extension Program. It wasn’t a showstopper, but nevertheless a problem where new individual AF&F components had to be screened to determine whether their performance was affected.
The graph below from the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study shows how the supermajority of nuclear weapons defects are discovered within the first few years of production. The point I’m reaching for is that as Life Extension Programs become more aggressive and more new-design components are used, design and production defects will be inevitable. It would be far better to maintain the stockpile through a conservative curatorship approach.
Circa 1995 I met with DOE Asst. Sec. for Defense Programs Victor Reis, the so-called father of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Reis explicitly told me that the exorbitant Stockpile Stewardship Program was all about “the other side of the bathtub curve,” meaning it’s all about accelerated defects showing up at some time due to aging. Guess what? It hasn’t happened, not with ongoing surveillance and maintenance and exchange of limited life components that have been almost routine for decades. As the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study concluded,
“It is clear that, although nuclear weapons ages, they do not wear out; they last as long as the nuclear weapons community (DOE and DOD) desire. In fact, we can find no example of a nuclear weapon retirement where age was ever a major factor in the retirement decision.”
Since then, the 1993 Sandia Stockpile Life Study’s conclusion has been buttressed by the JASON’s 2006 Pit Life Study and 2009 Life Extension Programs Study. In short, Life Extension Programs are not necessary for maintaining the nuclear stockpile, and may in fact undermine reliability by intentionally introducing major changes to an extensively tested stockpile. Life Extension Programs are, however, essential for creating new military capabilities for existing nuclear weapons, which is pretty clearly demonstrated by the B61-12 about to go into production, and arguably the W76-1 as well.
August 10, 2016
Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, on the 71st anniversary of the destruction of Nagasaki by a plutonium bomb, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) submitted a report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) plans to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. NNSA has scheduled a formal “Critical Decision 2” at the end of this coming September to proceed with preliminary design of the upgraded and new facilities necessary to expand plutonium pit production.
The NNSA is a semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, which has the singular distinction of being the only federal department on the GAO’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayer’s dollars for 25 consecutive years. LANL is NNSA’s so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence” and the nation’s only site for pit production, but major operations at PF-4, its main plutonium facility, have been stopped since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns. In addition, there is no place for LANL to send its radioactive transuranic wastes from plutonium pit production since one of its waste drums ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 and indefinitely closed that multi-billion facility.
Despite all this, funding for NNSA’s nuclear weapons research and production programs is being increased to nearly double the Cold War’s historic average, while nonproliferation, warhead dismantlement and cleanup programs are being cut or held flat. This is in part due to plans to spend at least a trillion dollars over the next 30 years on completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear weapons and producing new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver them. The “modernized” U.S. nuclear force is expected to be operational until at least until 2080, more than a century after the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty’s mandate for global nuclear disarmament.
The GAO’s report found that NNSA’s plans for upgraded and new facilities to expand plutonium pit production to 50-80 pits per year “did not include key performance parameters” and lacked analysis of a full range of alternatives. LANL’s currently approved production level is up to 20 pits per year, sanctioned in a 1996 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that was required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Subsequent NEPA efforts by NNSA to formally approve expanded plutonium pit production at LANL failed, and new efforts to expand plutonium pit production without adequate NEPA coverage could be vulnerable to legal challenge. Additionally, there is no public explanation or justification for the need to expand to 50-80 pits per year other than the nuclear weaponeers saying so. In contrast, independent expert studies have shown that pits have reliable lifetimes of at least a century (the average age of pits in the stockpile is now around 31 years), and up to 20,000 plutonium pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.
In 2012, in the face of exploding costs and rising citizen opposition, NNSA cancelled an earlier proposal to build a Walmart-sized “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project-Nuclear Facility” for expanded plutonium pit production. Now, as an alternative, NNSA and LANL seek to raise the administrative limit on plutonium in the CMRR Project’s first phase, the newly constructed Radiological Lab, from an original 8.4 grams to 400 grams; upgrade PF-4, the Lab’s main plutonium facility; and proceed with a “Plutonium Modular Approach project.”
Raising the amount of plutonium in the Rad Lab to 400 grams allows for dramatically increased “materials characterization” and “analytical chemistry” in direct support of expanded plutonium pit production. But it also raises the Rad Lab from a “radiological facility” to a “Hazard Category 3” nuclear facility, which has never been done before. Planned gloveboxes and the existing ventilation system may have to change and the facility’s seismic safety rating re-examined. The Rad Lab was originally constructed and equipped for a total cost of $400 million, but now up to another $675 million in equipment is being added. On top of that, re-categorizing the Rad Lab to a Hazard Category 3 facility could cost another $365 million. In all, the Rad Lab can cost up to $1.5 billion, while upgrades to PF-4 will cost another billion.
The Plutonium Modular Approach involves building at least two and perhaps three underground “modules” at one billion dollars each or more. The GAO report notes how since NNSA narrowly defined the program requirement as building the modules themselves instead of examining the need for the modules, “there is effectively no project alternative other than the modular approach,” despite DOE’s own orders to complete an analysis of a full range of alternatives.
In all, according to the GAO report, the full CMRR alternative of upgrading the Rad Lab and PF-4 and building at least two modules would cost at least 4 billion dollars, compared to the CMRR”s previous price tag of $5.8 billion (which was up from $975 million in 2005), and this is before the usual cost overruns. The GAO report also notes how the CMRR alternative appears cheaper because non-nuclear weapons operations, such as preparing plutonium for NASA’s spacecraft battery packs, have been eliminated. NNSA’s pattern when faced with its own cost overruns is to cut out all but nuclear weapons production, as it did with the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN. When a Defense Department estimate put UPF construction at $19 billion (up from $6.5 billion), NNSA eliminated dismantlements and downblending of highly enriched uranium so that it could keep production of thermonuclear components that can kill millions.
Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL is not needed to maintain stockpile safety and reliability, but instead is a must for nuclear weaponeers who want to give existing weapons new military capabilities through so-called Life Extension Programs. This GAO report is more evidence of how taxpayers’ money could be far better spent than on poorly planned, unnecessary and very expensive expanded plutonium pit production.”
# # #
The GAO report NNSA Needs to Clarify Requirements for Its Plutonium Analysis Project at Los Alamos is available at
DOE’s 25 year status on GAO’s High Risk list is documented at
For an extensive history of successful citizen activism against plutonium pit production see
Santa Fe, NM
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is a semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, which has the singular distinction of being the only federal department on the GAO’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayer dollars for 25 consecutive years. LANL is NNSA’s so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence” and the nation’s only site for pit production, but major operations at PF-4, its main plutonium facility, have been stopped since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns. In addition, there is no place for LANL to send its radioactive transuranic wastes from plutonium pit production since one of its waste drums ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014 and indefinitely closed that multi-billion facility.
Despite all this, funding for NNSA’s nuclear weapons research and production programs is being increased to nearly double the Cold War’s historic average, while nonproliferation, warhead dismantlement and cleanup programs are being cut or held flat…
For immediate release July 28, 2016
LANL Estimate of $2.9 Billion for “Remaining” Cleanup
Leaves Nuclear & Toxic Wastes Behind and Kills Needed Jobs
Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will cost $2.9 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year.
That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump. Those wastes sit in unlined pits and trenches, 800 feet above groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande (plutonium contaminants have been detected 200 feet below Area G). During this same period of time the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with will cost ten times as much, even before expected funding increases for expanded production of plutonium bomb core “pits” and increasingly aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities.
DOE’s announcement also pegs the cost of past cleanup at LANL at $3.2 billion to date, raising the question of what has been and will be accomplished with precious taxpayer dollars. The answer is not much for the money. According to DOE’s own data, for the next couple of years only around a sixth of LANL’s “cleanup” funding will actually go to cleanup. Approximately one-third will be used to catch up on worker pensions and another third to babysit improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. More than half of the remaining one-third for real cleanup goes to LANL’s notoriously high overhead.
DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” Despite repeated requests, DOE refused to estimate cleanup costs at LANL until a new Consent Order was finalized with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). Both agencies recently signed it, creating a giant loophole in which the Lab can claim that cleanup is too expensive or impractical to achieve. This is the exact opposite of the original 2005 Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL ask Congress for additional cleanup funding. Subsequently, funding for LANL cleanup has fallen from $224 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017.
Under the Gov. Martinez Administration, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at the Lab’s request and then claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed suit against DOE and LANL for missing compliance milestones under the original Consent Order, with potential fines of more than $300 million. NMED explicitly absolves those violations and fines through the new Consent Order and has intervened in the lawsuit against NukeWatch. This raises the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case, a $2.3 billion per year nuclear weapons facility)?
DOE and NMED kill the chance for serious job creation at the Los Alamos Lab with a deceptive plan for so-called cleanup that leaves tons of radioactive and toxic wastes in the ground that will permanently threaten northern New Mexico’s precious water resources. In addition to the environmental and safety threats and contamination, nuclear weapons programs are not big producers of new jobs. For example, the environmental impact statement for a planned $6.5 billion plutonium facility for expanded nuclear weapons production explicitly stated that not one new Lab job would be created because it would merely relocate existing jobs. In contrast, a LANL study of full cleanup of Area G assumed that around 40% of the total cost would go to labor. Thus, as a rough approximation, for every additional billion dollars put into cleanup, another 3,000 years of cleanup work could be created for one hypothetical worker (in other words, hundreds of high paying jobs for the regional economy).
Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Director, commented, “The Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department deal New Mexicans a bad hand by pushing a plan that blocks genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab. We need real cleanup that protects our precious water resources for future generations, not more nuclear bombs that cause the mess to begin with.”
# # #
DOE’s presentation on its cost estimate for future LANL cleanup is available at
Santa Fe, NM.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will cost $2.9 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year.
“That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump. Those wastes sit in unlined pits and trenches, 800 feet above groundwater and three miles uphill from the Rio Grande (plutonium contaminants have been detected 200 feet below Area G). During this same period of time the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with will cost ten times as much, even before expected funding increases for expanded production of plutonium bomb core “pits” and increasingly aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities…”
Nuclear Watch New Mexico has amended its federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) that alleges twelve violations of a 2005 Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Those violations could result in potential penalties of more than $300 million dollars that would go to the state, if only the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) were to enforce them.
Nuclear Watch now asks the court to declare the new 2016 Consent Order to be invalid because the requirement for the opportunity of a public hearing was not met.
NMED intervened in the case on June 23, 2016. The next day, NMED and DOE signed the 2016 Consent Order after a 60-day comment period, during which over 40 citizens, nonprofit organizations, public officials, and two Pueblos provided comments. Lack of enforceability and lack of concrete long-term schedules were common major foci of the comments. Despite that, “No change” without any further explanation was NMED’s overwhelming response to specific public comments as the two agencies moved from the draft to final Consent Order.
The finalized new Consent Order surrenders enforceability by creating a giant loophole where DOE and LANL can avoid cleanup by claiming that it is either too expensive or impractical. This is clearly the opposite of what is needed, when nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the mess to begin with are receiving increased taxpayer funding, while cleanup programs are being cut.
In addition, NMED’s new Consent Order explicitly absolves DOE and LANS of past violations. In response, Nuclear Watch has added to its lawsuit this request for declaratory judgment by the court that DOE and NMED violated the public’s right for the opportunity of a formal hearing, explicitly required by the 2005 Consent Order.
Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “We will not let the public’s right for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab be papered over by DOE and NMED. Both agencies agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, which included rigorous public participation requirements and a detailed the cleanup schedule, including a final compliance date. We will continue to push for the public to have a true voice in these important matters. ”
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Attorney John E. Stroud are representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce timely cleanup at LANL.
NMED’s Final Consent Order and the “response” to comments matrix are available here
Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s original lawsuit complaint is available here
Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here
Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here
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