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

Atomic Histories & Nuclear Testing

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

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NukeWatch Compilation of the DOE/NNSA FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.

LANL FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

Sandia FY 2020 Budget Request – VIEW

Livermore Lab FY 2020 Budget Chart – Courtesy TriValley CAREs – VIEW

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

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

Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

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

Recent Posts

Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

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

BY SAMMY FRETWELLthestate.com

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

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

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

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

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

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Critics raise concerns over proposed atomic bomb factory near Aiken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brave Political Leadership on Disarmament?

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

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

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


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

mynorthwest.com June 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New & Updated

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Could Trump Trash The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

Think of what the world would be like if Russia, the United States, China, India and Pakistan were testing nuclear weapons.

BY MICHAEL KREPONforbes.com

They are not because of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is responsible for shutting down nuclear testing by major and regional powers for more than two decades. Walking away from the CTBT would be extraordinarily dumb and dangerous, but the Trump administration has taken a step in this direction.

The CTBT was negotiated in 1996, but it isn’t solidly in place. While Russia has signed and ratified it, Senate Republicans rejected it in 1999. China, like the United States, has signed but not ratified. There are other holdouts, including India and Pakistan. And yet none of these states has tested nuclear weapons since 1998. When a treaty is negotiated, it’s common diplomatic practice not to undercut its objectives while awaiting its entry into force. Hence the two-decades-long moratorium on testing by every nuclear-armed state except North Korea.

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30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China’s Communist rulers.

In the 1980s, China was going through huge changes. The ruling Communist Party began to allow some private companies and foreign investment. Leader Deng Xiaoping hoped to boost the economy and raise living standards. However, the move brought with it corruption, while at the same time raising hopes for greater political openness. The Communist Party was divided between those urging more rapid change and hardliners wanting to maintain strict state control. In the mid-1980s, student-led protests started, and in spring 1989, the protests grew, with demands for greater political freedom. On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops were sent to crush pro-democracy student protests in the famous square in central Beijing, leaving at least hundreds—and possibly thousands—of people dead.

The casualties included soldiers, but were overwhelmingly unarmed demonstrators who had been protesting in the square for six weeks, turning the site into the hub for protests in 400 other cities nationwide. Millions of people took part in the demonstrations, with more than 1 million people descending on Tiananmen Square.

As part of an ongoing brutal crackdown of internal dissent, Chinese authorities have carried out a harsh policy of history suppression, forbidding on-line or other discussions of the events at Tiananmen Square. In light of that it is worth recalling what U.S.  government officials learned at the time and how they assessed Beijing’s response to internal dissent.

To mark an event that decisively shaped contemporary China, the National Security Archive is republishing three documentary E-books that appeared on previous anniversaries, in 1999, 2001, and 2015.  The declassified documents demonstrate that U.S. embassy officials realized very quickly that the Chinese military had carried out a massacre ordered by top officials who feared the public expression of dissent could threaten Communist Party rule. VIEW HERE

Billion-dollar LANL building has plumbing problem

JUNE 1, 2019 | BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

FILE This undated file aerial view shows the Los Alamos National laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a seven-year, $213 million upgrade to the security system that protects the lab's most sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn't work. Virtually every major project under the National Nuclear Security Administration's oversight is behind schedule and over budget. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal)
A $1B building at Los Alamos National Laboratory was found to have a carbon steel valves that can’t handle liquid radioactive waste, according to a report by inspectors for the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (Associated Press)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A building at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a price pegged at more than $1 billion apparently has some bad plumbing.

A federal safety oversight board recently reported that the operations staff at the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building found a leak in the building’s radioactive liquid waste system.

Lab watchdogs have labeled RLUOB, which got the green light for construction in 2011, as the most expensive building in New Mexico. The lab’s website says it’s part of a capital project to replace aging Cold War-era facilities.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a frequent LANL critic who called attention to the recent safety board report, said the plumbing problem is symptomatic of the lab’s history of safety issues, which has included using the wrong kind of cat litter as a desiccant when packing a radioactive waste drum. A reaction in the drum caused it to breach in 2014 and contaminate the nation’s nuclear waste storage facility near Carlsbad.

“Remember, this is the gang that couldn’t get it straight between organic and inorganic cat litter, sending a radioactive waste drum that ruptured and closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for three years, costing the American taxpayer three billion dollars to reopen,” Coghlan said in a statement. “Now we learn that they don’t know elementary plumbing for liquid radioactive wastes lines, and we’re supposed to trust them while they unjustifiably expand plutonium pit production?”

LANL is in the process of ramping up for a congressional mandate to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s weapons complex, for production of “pits,” the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons as part of a huge plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

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Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They’re Talking.

Nearly everyone who’s seen it and lived to tell the tale describes it the same way: a horrifying, otherworldly thing of ghastly beauty that has haunted their life ever since.

VIDEO BY MORGAN KNIBBE | theatlantic.com

“The colors were beautiful,” remembers a man in Morgan Knibbe’s short documentary The Atomic Soldiers. “I hate to say that.”

“It was completely daylight at midnight—brighter than the brightest day you ever saw,” says another.

Many tales of the atomic bomb, however, weren’t told at all. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an estimated 400,000 American soldiers and sailors also observed nuclear explosions—many just a mile or two from ground zero. From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

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New START Must Be Extended, Without or Without China

The baffling non-answers from the senior administration officials strongly suggest that the president’s impulse for a grand U.S.-Chinese-Russian arms control bargain is not backed up with a realistic plan.

BY DARYL KIMBALLnationalinterest.org

On May 14, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Sochi, Russia to discuss what the State Department called a “new era” in “arms control to address new and emerging threats” with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin.

The trip follows reports that Donald Trump has directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China that should include: “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.”

U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, have criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because it only limits U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons and does not cover Russia’s stockpile of sub-strategic warheads in central storage inside Russia.

New START, which caps each side’s enormous and devastating long-range nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers, will expire in February 2021 if Trump and Putin don’t agree to an extension.
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Trump Prepared to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sale: Senators

Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Democrats warn Trump may use ’emergency’ loophole to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.

WILLIAM ROBERTS | aljazeera.com

Washington, DC – Democrats in the United States Senate have warned that the Trump administration is preparing to approve a major new arms sale to Saudi Arabia, using an “emergency” loophole to bypass Congress.

“I am expecting that the administration is going to notice a major arms sale through emergency powers,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, told Al Jazeera on Thursday, after he said an administration official gave the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “informal notice” of the forthcoming announcement.

US arms control law allows Congress to reject weapons sales to foreign countries but an exemption in the law allows the president to waive the need for congressional approval by declaring a national security emergency.

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Last week, Nuclear Watch New Mexico was in Washington participating in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 31st annual DC Days. As a recent addition to the NukeWatch NM staff, this was my first time attending DC Days. The week consisted of a Sunday training day followed by three days straight of lobbying meetings with congress and other government departments that have a huge say in new nuclear weapons or energy developments. When the meeting days concluded, I also attended ANA’s Spring Meeting, which is a two-day debriefing and planning session to discuss thoughts on the week and new plans for the year ahead. This week was not only informative but enlightening, in terms of how I learned the ins-and outs of congress and the true functioning (or lack thereof, occasionally) of government. A large part of why I learned as much as I did and why I did feel so engaged, was due to being surrounded by the most genuine and helpful set of people. I would not have felt as comfortable in this world of politics (which is completely foreign to me) if it was not for the other members of ANA organizations that treated me as an equal contributor, despite my lack of knowledge in certain areas. This is a brief introduction to my time in DC, but there are more technical issues to discuss! A following post will contain the specific details of the issues ANA, and NukeWatch specifically, tackled during the week, including: Lobbying for No New Bomb Plants, Reducing proposed plutonium pit production, fighting Yucca mountain & consolidated interim storage – proposing alternatives to these, supporting a No First Use Policy, and much, much more.

Parties Prepare to Start Mediation Over WIPP Waste Volume

 The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located in the massive salt of the Salado Formation. b. Contact Handled transuranic nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in New Mexico in TRUPac II containers. c. Remote Handled nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in a 72B cask. d. Over 10,000 nuclear waste drums and standard waste boxes filling 1 of 56 rooms to be filled at WIPP. Note the higher activity remote handled waste plunged into boreholes in the wall to the right (like SNF could be) and plugged with a 4-foot metal-wrapped cement plug. The Valentine’s Day leak of 2014 occurred from a single drum in Panel 7 Room 7. Source: DOE CBFO
Source: DOE CBFO

Face-to-face mediation is expected in June between public interest groups and the New Mexico Environment Department over changes to the way waste volume is calculated underground at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

exchangemonitor.com | May 23, 2019

The New Mexico Court of Appeals often encourages mediation in cases involving state agencies in hopes parties can bridge their differences outside the courtroom, officials say.

A lawsuit filed in January by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), which challenged a change to the state hazardous waste permit for WIPP, has been stayed pending the talks.

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi issued the stay May 2 and called for the parties to file a status report on the mediation by July 31.

The mediation itself should occur in late June, SRIC Administrator Don Hancock said by email.

Then-state Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate in December authorized a permit modification allowing DOE to stop counting empty spaces between container drums as transuranic waste. The order adopted the findings of state hearing officer, who recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual waste inside containers.

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Study questions whether LANL, DOE can meet ‘pits’ production goal

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the report “makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons. … They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely. Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.”

ARTICLE BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – A recent study casts serious doubts on the potential success of any of the options considered by the U.S. Department of Energy for meeting mandates on the manufacture of plutonium cores for nuclear weapons – most of them involving Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The congressionally funded study also says that it would be “very high risk” to try to meet the nation’s ambitious goals for making bomb “pits” by installing more equipment and adding an extra work shift for a production “surge” at LANL’s existing plutonium facility, an idea that has been discussed.

Some of the risks cited in the report include whether there is the ability to stage, store and ship waste, and “the transport/transfer complexity of radioactive material.”

The study goes further and questions the overall plan to ramp up U.S. pit production, which is estimated to cost $14 billion to $28 billion, saying that “eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.”
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Federal workers struggle for years to prove they got sick on the job

Part 2 of NCR’s look at the toxic legacy of one nuclear weapons plant

BY CLAIRE SCHAEFFER-DUFFY | ncronline.org

The Kansas City Plant, pictured May 16, 2019, is under demolition by a private developer. The white bags in the foreground are designed to handle up to 3,000 pounds, or the equivalent of four 55-gallon drums, each of household hazardous waste. (NCR photo/Toni-Ann Ortiz)

Editor’s note: As the government invests in the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while weakening environmental regulations and federal laws protecting worker safety, National Catholic Reporter looks at the toxic legacy of one shuttered weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri.
In a three-part series about the Kansas City Plant on Bannister Road and its successor eight miles south, NCR reviews hundreds of pages of government reports and environmental summaries, and interviews more than two dozen sources, including five plant workers and their families, three former federal employees who worked nearby, nuclear industry and government officials, health experts, business sources, state environmental regulators and a former city councilman.
This is Part 2. Read Part 1 here.

If the Kansas City Plant was not a “dirty” site, then why were its workers getting sick and dying prematurely? The question haunted television reporter Russ Ptacek. In November 2009, he began investigating the Bannister Federal Complex, a 300-acre property that housed the post-war nuclear components plant as well as various federal offices leased by the General Services Administration (GSA). Ptacek began his inquiry after he was shown a list of nearly 100 sick and dying workers compiled by Barbara Rice, a retired data analyst, who worked for 31 years on the GSA side of the complex.

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Cleanup LANL: 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! These meetings with public comment opportunities are upcoming:

Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee of the NM State Legislature
Next Meeting: TODAY!! August 23, 2019, from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
University of New Mexico
Los Alamos Wallace Hall, 4000 University Drive, Los Alamos
More information: nmlegis.gov

Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board
Next Meeting: August 28th, 2019, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
NNMCAB Office, 94 Cities of Gold Road, Pojoaque, NM 87506
More information: energy.gov

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities
Next Meeting: September 6, 2019, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location TBA
More information: regionalcoalition.org

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 News

NAPF Cali No Nukes Plate

CALIFORNIA LEADS THE WAY IN SUPPORT OF NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

California State Legislature Passes Pro-Nuclear Disarmament Resolution

Sacramento–Assembly Joint Resolution 33 (AJR 33), introduced by Santa Barbara’s State Assembly member, Monique Limón, passed in the state Senate today by a vote of 22 to 8. This marks a huge step forward in California’s support of nuclear disarmament and puts the state at the forefront of this critical issue.

The resolution calls on federal leaders and our nation to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of our national security policy, and spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war. (More on the Treaty here.)

Rick Wayman, Deputy Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in Santa Barbara whose mission is to create a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons, was asked by Limón to testify in support of the Resolution.

Read More Here

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The modern nuclear arsenal: A nuclear weapons expert describes a new kind of Cold War

The modern nuclear arsenal: A nuclear weapons expert describes a new kind of Cold War

Nuclear Knowledge: The modern nuclear arsenal

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/nuclear-knowledge-the-modern-nuclear-arsenal/2018/08/20/9d370fec-a0b8-11e8-a3dd-2a1991f075d5_video.html
Secrecy, bombastic threats and doomsday talk abound when talking about nuclear weapons, so The Post sat down with expert Hans Kristensen to clear the air. (Jenny Starrs /The Washington Post)

By Jenny Starrs
August 24 at 7:00 AM

With the flurry of talks with North Korea and the fallout from the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, nuclear weapons have become a major topic of discussion in recent months. But secrecy abounds: Who has what weapons? How many? How much damage could they do?

Hans Kristensen tries to answer those questions. As the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Kristensen and his colleagues delve into open source data, analyze satellite imagery and file requests under the Freedom of Information Act to get the most accurate picture of the world’s nuclear-armed countries. The initiative produces reports on nuclear weapons, arms control and other nuclear matters, and gives recommendations on how to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons worldwide.

Kristensen sat down with The Washington Post to discuss how the United States’s nuclear capabilities stack up with the rest of the world, and potential problems down the road. The questions and answers have been edited for brevity.

Read the Article here

Los Alamos National Laboratory

New Los Alamos lab manager Triad will pay Gross Receipts Tax

New Los Alamos lab manager Triad will pay GRT, official says
By Andy Stiny | astiny@sfnewmexican.com
Aug 22, 2018 Updated 16 hrs ago

A representative of Triad National Security LLC, which takes over management of Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, said Wednesday the consortium will pay gross receipts taxes, easing concerns of local officials about losing millions of dollars in revenue.
Scott Sudduth, assistant vice chancellor with the Office of Federal Relations for the Texas A&M University system, told an audience of about 50 community members during a meeting in Los Alamos that the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department responded to a recent inquiry from Triad by saying that “it is their view that the gross receipts tax does apply to Triad.”
Los Alamos County officials had said previously that if Triad were deemed to have nonprofit status, the county estimated it could lose $21 million annually and the state $23 million in gross receipts tax revenues, according to published reports.

Read More in the SF New Mexican here.

ELEA/Holtec storage ground view

State could block proposed nuclear storage site near Carlsbad

State could block nuclear storage site near Carlsbad even if federally licensed

State lawmakers maintained they will have a say in a proposed facility to store high-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad and Hobbs, despite an opinion issued by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas suggesting New Mexico will have a limited role in licensing the project.

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), who chairs the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee said Balderas’ opinion was informative but did not preclude lawmakers from preventing the facility from operating.

The committee convened in May to study the project proposed by New Jersey-based Holtec International, and held its third meeting on Wednesday at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

Opposed to the project, Steinborn said state lawmakers owe their constituents a full review of the proposal.

“I think it’s kind of a troubling deficiency in the government if the state doesn’t have to give consent to have something like this foisted upon it,” he said. “The State of New Mexico owes it to the people to look at every aspect of it.”

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Trinity site cancer study expected to finish in 2019

  • Updated

ALBUQUERQUE — A long-anticipated study into the cancer risks of New Mexico residents living near the site of the world’s first atomic bomb test likely will be published in 2019, the National Cancer Institute announced.

Institute spokesman Michael Levin told the Associated Press that researchers are examining data on diet and radiation exposure on residents who lived near the World War II-era Trinity test site, and scientists expect to finish the study by early next year.

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St Louis Contaminated Area Map

Federal health officials agree radioactive waste in St. Louis area may be linked to cancer

The federal government confirms some people in the St. Louis area may have a higher risk of getting cancer. A recent health report found some residents who grew up in areas contaminated by radioactive waste decades ago may have increased risk for bone and lung cancers, among other types of the disease. The assessment was conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As CBS News correspondent Anna Werner reports, the situation is not unique to St. Louis because it’s connected to America’s development of its nuclear weapons program decades ago. Radioactive wastes persist in soils, and many believe that’s why they or a loved one developed cancer. Now for the first time, federal health officials agree, on the record, that’s a real possibility.

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Watch Report

WIPP Underground Schematic

NMED Announces Comment Period For WIPP Permit Modification to Change Waste Volume Accounting

In an example of Now-You-See-It-Now-You-Don’t, the NM Environment Department (NMED) is proposing to change their method of measuring waste emplaced into the underground at WIPP. This would would allow 30% more waste into WIPP than is currently allowed. This sleight of hand would be accomplished by not counting the outer-most container of waste packages in the future. This proposal is one piece of a larger plan to bring more waste to WIPP. New Mexicans have already taken enough of the nation”s radioactive waste. More waste increases the the chance of serious accidents leading to dangerous contamination.

Comments are currently due September 20, 2018 at 5pm, but this deadline ridiculously short. Please join us when we ask for an extension.

We will soon post some sample comments and will give updates as soon as NMED posts the Permit Modification online.

See the Notice here – WIPP Class 3 VOR Notice

 

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.

Action Alerts

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Critical Events

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New & Updated

Could Trump Trash The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

Think of what the world would be like if Russia, the United States, China, India and Pakistan were testing nuclear weapons.

BY MICHAEL KREPONforbes.com

They are not because of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is responsible for shutting down nuclear testing by major and regional powers for more than two decades. Walking away from the CTBT would be extraordinarily dumb and dangerous, but the Trump administration has taken a step in this direction.

The CTBT was negotiated in 1996, but it isn’t solidly in place. While Russia has signed and ratified it, Senate Republicans rejected it in 1999. China, like the United States, has signed but not ratified. There are other holdouts, including India and Pakistan. And yet none of these states has tested nuclear weapons since 1998. When a treaty is negotiated, it’s common diplomatic practice not to undercut its objectives while awaiting its entry into force. Hence the two-decades-long moratorium on testing by every nuclear-armed state except North Korea.

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30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China’s Communist rulers.

In the 1980s, China was going through huge changes. The ruling Communist Party began to allow some private companies and foreign investment. Leader Deng Xiaoping hoped to boost the economy and raise living standards. However, the move brought with it corruption, while at the same time raising hopes for greater political openness. The Communist Party was divided between those urging more rapid change and hardliners wanting to maintain strict state control. In the mid-1980s, student-led protests started, and in spring 1989, the protests grew, with demands for greater political freedom. On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops were sent to crush pro-democracy student protests in the famous square in central Beijing, leaving at least hundreds—and possibly thousands—of people dead.

The casualties included soldiers, but were overwhelmingly unarmed demonstrators who had been protesting in the square for six weeks, turning the site into the hub for protests in 400 other cities nationwide. Millions of people took part in the demonstrations, with more than 1 million people descending on Tiananmen Square.

As part of an ongoing brutal crackdown of internal dissent, Chinese authorities have carried out a harsh policy of history suppression, forbidding on-line or other discussions of the events at Tiananmen Square. In light of that it is worth recalling what U.S.  government officials learned at the time and how they assessed Beijing’s response to internal dissent.

To mark an event that decisively shaped contemporary China, the National Security Archive is republishing three documentary E-books that appeared on previous anniversaries, in 1999, 2001, and 2015.  The declassified documents demonstrate that U.S. embassy officials realized very quickly that the Chinese military had carried out a massacre ordered by top officials who feared the public expression of dissent could threaten Communist Party rule. VIEW HERE

Billion-dollar LANL building has plumbing problem

JUNE 1, 2019 | BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

FILE This undated file aerial view shows the Los Alamos National laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a seven-year, $213 million upgrade to the security system that protects the lab's most sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn't work. Virtually every major project under the National Nuclear Security Administration's oversight is behind schedule and over budget. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal)
A $1B building at Los Alamos National Laboratory was found to have a carbon steel valves that can’t handle liquid radioactive waste, according to a report by inspectors for the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (Associated Press)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A building at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a price pegged at more than $1 billion apparently has some bad plumbing.

A federal safety oversight board recently reported that the operations staff at the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building found a leak in the building’s radioactive liquid waste system.

Lab watchdogs have labeled RLUOB, which got the green light for construction in 2011, as the most expensive building in New Mexico. The lab’s website says it’s part of a capital project to replace aging Cold War-era facilities.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a frequent LANL critic who called attention to the recent safety board report, said the plumbing problem is symptomatic of the lab’s history of safety issues, which has included using the wrong kind of cat litter as a desiccant when packing a radioactive waste drum. A reaction in the drum caused it to breach in 2014 and contaminate the nation’s nuclear waste storage facility near Carlsbad.

“Remember, this is the gang that couldn’t get it straight between organic and inorganic cat litter, sending a radioactive waste drum that ruptured and closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for three years, costing the American taxpayer three billion dollars to reopen,” Coghlan said in a statement. “Now we learn that they don’t know elementary plumbing for liquid radioactive wastes lines, and we’re supposed to trust them while they unjustifiably expand plutonium pit production?”

LANL is in the process of ramping up for a congressional mandate to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s weapons complex, for production of “pits,” the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons as part of a huge plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

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Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They’re Talking.

Nearly everyone who’s seen it and lived to tell the tale describes it the same way: a horrifying, otherworldly thing of ghastly beauty that has haunted their life ever since.

VIDEO BY MORGAN KNIBBE | theatlantic.com

“The colors were beautiful,” remembers a man in Morgan Knibbe’s short documentary The Atomic Soldiers. “I hate to say that.”

“It was completely daylight at midnight—brighter than the brightest day you ever saw,” says another.

Many tales of the atomic bomb, however, weren’t told at all. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an estimated 400,000 American soldiers and sailors also observed nuclear explosions—many just a mile or two from ground zero. From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

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New START Must Be Extended, Without or Without China

The baffling non-answers from the senior administration officials strongly suggest that the president’s impulse for a grand U.S.-Chinese-Russian arms control bargain is not backed up with a realistic plan.

BY DARYL KIMBALLnationalinterest.org

On May 14, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Sochi, Russia to discuss what the State Department called a “new era” in “arms control to address new and emerging threats” with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin.

The trip follows reports that Donald Trump has directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China that should include: “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.”

U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, have criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because it only limits U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons and does not cover Russia’s stockpile of sub-strategic warheads in central storage inside Russia.

New START, which caps each side’s enormous and devastating long-range nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers, will expire in February 2021 if Trump and Putin don’t agree to an extension.
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Trump Prepared to Bypass Congress on Saudi Arms Sale: Senators

Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Senator Chris Murphy speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Democrats warn Trump may use ’emergency’ loophole to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.

WILLIAM ROBERTS | aljazeera.com

Washington, DC – Democrats in the United States Senate have warned that the Trump administration is preparing to approve a major new arms sale to Saudi Arabia, using an “emergency” loophole to bypass Congress.

“I am expecting that the administration is going to notice a major arms sale through emergency powers,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, told Al Jazeera on Thursday, after he said an administration official gave the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “informal notice” of the forthcoming announcement.

US arms control law allows Congress to reject weapons sales to foreign countries but an exemption in the law allows the president to waive the need for congressional approval by declaring a national security emergency.

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Last week, Nuclear Watch New Mexico was in Washington participating in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s 31st annual DC Days. As a recent addition to the NukeWatch NM staff, this was my first time attending DC Days. The week consisted of a Sunday training day followed by three days straight of lobbying meetings with congress and other government departments that have a huge say in new nuclear weapons or energy developments. When the meeting days concluded, I also attended ANA’s Spring Meeting, which is a two-day debriefing and planning session to discuss thoughts on the week and new plans for the year ahead. This week was not only informative but enlightening, in terms of how I learned the ins-and outs of congress and the true functioning (or lack thereof, occasionally) of government. A large part of why I learned as much as I did and why I did feel so engaged, was due to being surrounded by the most genuine and helpful set of people. I would not have felt as comfortable in this world of politics (which is completely foreign to me) if it was not for the other members of ANA organizations that treated me as an equal contributor, despite my lack of knowledge in certain areas. This is a brief introduction to my time in DC, but there are more technical issues to discuss! A following post will contain the specific details of the issues ANA, and NukeWatch specifically, tackled during the week, including: Lobbying for No New Bomb Plants, Reducing proposed plutonium pit production, fighting Yucca mountain & consolidated interim storage – proposing alternatives to these, supporting a No First Use Policy, and much, much more.

Parties Prepare to Start Mediation Over WIPP Waste Volume

 The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located in the massive salt of the Salado Formation. b. Contact Handled transuranic nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in New Mexico in TRUPac II containers. c. Remote Handled nuclear waste being transported to the WIPP site in a 72B cask. d. Over 10,000 nuclear waste drums and standard waste boxes filling 1 of 56 rooms to be filled at WIPP. Note the higher activity remote handled waste plunged into boreholes in the wall to the right (like SNF could be) and plugged with a 4-foot metal-wrapped cement plug. The Valentine’s Day leak of 2014 occurred from a single drum in Panel 7 Room 7. Source: DOE CBFO
Source: DOE CBFO

Face-to-face mediation is expected in June between public interest groups and the New Mexico Environment Department over changes to the way waste volume is calculated underground at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

exchangemonitor.com | May 23, 2019

The New Mexico Court of Appeals often encourages mediation in cases involving state agencies in hopes parties can bridge their differences outside the courtroom, officials say.

A lawsuit filed in January by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), which challenged a change to the state hazardous waste permit for WIPP, has been stayed pending the talks.

New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi issued the stay May 2 and called for the parties to file a status report on the mediation by July 31.

The mediation itself should occur in late June, SRIC Administrator Don Hancock said by email.

Then-state Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate in December authorized a permit modification allowing DOE to stop counting empty spaces between container drums as transuranic waste. The order adopted the findings of state hearing officer, who recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual waste inside containers.

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Study questions whether LANL, DOE can meet ‘pits’ production goal

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the report “makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons. … They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely. Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.”

ARTICLE BY MARK OSWALD | abqjournal.com

SANTA FE – A recent study casts serious doubts on the potential success of any of the options considered by the U.S. Department of Energy for meeting mandates on the manufacture of plutonium cores for nuclear weapons – most of them involving Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The congressionally funded study also says that it would be “very high risk” to try to meet the nation’s ambitious goals for making bomb “pits” by installing more equipment and adding an extra work shift for a production “surge” at LANL’s existing plutonium facility, an idea that has been discussed.

Some of the risks cited in the report include whether there is the ability to stage, store and ship waste, and “the transport/transfer complexity of radioactive material.”

The study goes further and questions the overall plan to ramp up U.S. pit production, which is estimated to cost $14 billion to $28 billion, saying that “eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.”
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Federal workers struggle for years to prove they got sick on the job

Part 2 of NCR’s look at the toxic legacy of one nuclear weapons plant

BY CLAIRE SCHAEFFER-DUFFY | ncronline.org

The Kansas City Plant, pictured May 16, 2019, is under demolition by a private developer. The white bags in the foreground are designed to handle up to 3,000 pounds, or the equivalent of four 55-gallon drums, each of household hazardous waste. (NCR photo/Toni-Ann Ortiz)

Editor’s note: As the government invests in the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while weakening environmental regulations and federal laws protecting worker safety, National Catholic Reporter looks at the toxic legacy of one shuttered weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri.
In a three-part series about the Kansas City Plant on Bannister Road and its successor eight miles south, NCR reviews hundreds of pages of government reports and environmental summaries, and interviews more than two dozen sources, including five plant workers and their families, three former federal employees who worked nearby, nuclear industry and government officials, health experts, business sources, state environmental regulators and a former city councilman.
This is Part 2. Read Part 1 here.

If the Kansas City Plant was not a “dirty” site, then why were its workers getting sick and dying prematurely? The question haunted television reporter Russ Ptacek. In November 2009, he began investigating the Bannister Federal Complex, a 300-acre property that housed the post-war nuclear components plant as well as various federal offices leased by the General Services Administration (GSA). Ptacek began his inquiry after he was shown a list of nearly 100 sick and dying workers compiled by Barbara Rice, a retired data analyst, who worked for 31 years on the GSA side of the complex.

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