Nuclear Watch New Mexico

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

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

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LANL’s Central Mission: Los Alamos Lab officials have recently claimed that LANL has moved away from primarily nuclear weapons to “national security”, but what truly remains as the Labs central mission? Here’s the answer from one of its own documents:

LANL’s “Central Mission”- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications (PDF) 4/27/11

Banner displaying “Nuclear Weapons Are Now Illegal” at the entrance in front of the Los Alamos National Lab to celebrate the Entry Into Force of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty on January 22, 2021

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Follow the Money!

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

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan and and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev shake hands after signing the arms control agreement banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missles, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty.

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 Blog Posts

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New & Updated

NNSA: No new programmatic environment study needed for plutonium pit production at LANL

“NNSA’s refusal to complete programmatic environmental review before plunging ahead with plans to more than quadruple the production authorization for plutonium bomb cores flies in the face of our country’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a standing federal court order mandating that the government conduct such a review,” – Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CARES

BY: KENDRA CHAMBERLAIN | nmpoliticalreport.com

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for Los Alamos National Lab to produce 30 plutonium pit cores annually by 2030.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will not complete a programmatic study for environmental impacts of increased plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) and one other lab located in South Carolina. The decision to not do so drew criticism from Nuclear Watch NM and other groups, who argue such assessments are required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and an existing court order.

Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear warheads where the chemical reactions occur that cause the warhead to detonate. The U.S. made thousands of cores during the Cold War, but pit production has all but stopped in the last thirty years.

Now, the federal government is getting ready to ramp up pit production in order to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and “assure the nation has a safe, secure and credible deterrent,” said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and the NNSA Administrator, in a statement. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for at least 80 plutonium pits to be produced per year by 2030, with a target of 30 pits produced annually at LANL and 50 pits produced annually at Savannah River Site.

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Trump budget coming Feb. 10 — here’s what you can expect

BY: &  | defensenews.com

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to submit its fiscal 2021 budget request to Congress Feb. 10, with defense spending expected to be essentially flat compared to the previous year.A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget confirmed to Defense News that the date for the budget submission has been locked in. The date was first reported by Politico.

President Donald Trump signed off on the FY20 budget, including $738 billion for defense, on Dec. 20, following almost three months of the government running under a continuing resolution.

The two-year budget deal from last summer called for $740 billion in defense spending for FY21, essentially flat. The budget is expected to continue the department’s focus on implementing the National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes challenging China and Russia.

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Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and an Existing Court Order

Natural Resources Defense Council
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Savannah River Site Watch
Tri-Valley CAREs
The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has formally announced that it is proceeding with aggressive plans to expand the production of plutonium pits without required nation-wide “programmatic” public review. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs assert this is in direct violation of the legal requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act and a 1998 court order that stipulates that DOE must prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS) when it plans to produce more than 80 pits per year. Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons.

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New Mexico reconsidering 2016 waste agreement with LANL

The state of New Mexico is reconsidering its 2016 pact with the U.S. Department of Energy on how to regulate the cleanup of decades-old hazardous waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Ryan Flynn, who became the state’s environment secretary in 2013, granted the lab 150 deadline extensions during his tenure, said
Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Shortly after Flynn announced in 2016 that the consent order was being revised, the Energy Department reduced its top-range estimate for the long-term cleanup to $3.8 billion and said it would need at least 20 years to complete it, Coghlan said.

That reduced the yearly cleanup projection to $150 million from the earlier $250 million estimate, Coghlan said.

“It’s no coincidence that a mere few months after the 2016 consent order came out, DOE low-balled its life-cycle estimate,” he said.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

The administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to revisit the agreement — known as a consent order — that the state Environment Department crafted under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to replace a more stringent 2005 version that expired at the end of 2015.

The public will have a chance to air views about the current consent order and suggest changes at a meeting Thursday at the University of New Mexico’s Los Alamos campus. The meeting is being held in response to people expressing concerns about the consent order to state regulators and legislative leaders, said Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Environment Department.

January 9th: New Mexico Environment Department to Host Los Alamos Public Meeting

 

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Why the new US ICBMs would be too expensive even if they were free

“Experts estimate that it would take two Russian warheads to destroy with high confidence one of the 400 active US ICBMs, each armed with a single warhead. This might seem like a good deal, until you ask what the impact of 800 Russian warheads exploding on US territory would be…The long-term contamination would be about ten times greater than that from the Chernobyl accident, rendering a large swath of the Midwest uninhabitable for generations.”

BY: ROBERT J. GOLDSTON | thebulletin.org

Two missile maintenance personnel perform an electrical check on a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in its silo, 1980. Photo credit: Bob Wickley/Wikimedia Commons.

The proposed US nuclear modernization program includes replacing the 400 existing Minuteman III missiles with a new set of “Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent” missiles and their associated facilities. The cost for this modernization is very large, with an advertised price tag of $85 billion, and if history is any guide, a substantial cost escalation is likely. On the one hand, if these silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) deter attacks that would cost tens of millions of lives, then they are worth this much many times over. On the other hand, if they are more likely to cause massive numbers of human deaths, then they are immensely expensive even if they cost nothing.

The primary argument for silo-based ICBMs is that they would “sponge up” a large number of Russian warheads if the United States were attacked.

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Final Supplement Analysis (SA) and Determination on Complex Transformation Supplement Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for Expanded Pit Production to be Released Later This Week

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has approved a final Supplement Analysis (SA) and determination on the Complex Transformation Supplement Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) which evaluated whether increasing capabilities to produce a minimum of 50 pits per year at a re-purposed Mixed-oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) and a minimum of 30 pits per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), with additional surge capacity at each site if needed, would require the preparation of a new or supplement EIS.  This SA is the programmatic, complex-wide analysis mentioned in the Notice of Intent for the site-specific SRS EIS that was published in the Federal Register (FR) on June 10, 2019, and the final of the draft SA that was released for an approximately 45-day public comment period on June 28, 2019.

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If the Trump plan survives legal challenges, polluters would no longer need a permit to release contaminated water into ephemeral streams and wetlands that aren’t immediately adjacent to protected waters. This would, according to New Mexico’s Environment Department, eliminate about 40% of the state’s water pollution permits, including those held by wastewater treatment plants, hard-rock mines and coal mines.

The effect this could have on the state’s drinking water is illustrated most starkly at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the former Manhattan Project site that serves as a center of the country’s nuclear research and development.

BY: ANNA M. PHILLIPS | latimes.com

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Trump’s Plans to Strip Clean Water Protections Leave New Mexico Fearing Pollution and Health Risks

The effect this could have on the state’s drinking water is illustrated most starkly at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the former Manhattan Project site that serves as a center of the country’s nuclear research and development.

The 40-square-mile site where scientists built the first atomic bomb remains contaminated from that era.

BY: latimes.com

Twice a day, every day, Vicente Fernandez walks along the banks of the Rio Fernando, inspecting the river that has shaped his valley’s fortunes for generations.

Like his father and his grandfather before him, Fernandez is a mayordomo — the manager of a centuries-old network of irrigation ditches called acequias that divert water from the river into nearby fields. Hundreds of families in the Taos Valley rely on it to nourish their gardens and fruit trees and to replenish the aquifer they depend on for drinking water.

But the future of the Rio Fernando and its acequias is murky.

Early in the coming year, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency plans to roll back clean water rules, abolishing limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands.

Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose protections. A large share of streams in California and other Western states will be hard hit.

Nowhere are the stakes as high as in New Mexico. Environmental regulators in the state estimate that the new rule could leave 96% of the state’s waterways and wetlands unprotected from pollution from coal mines, factory waste, pesticide runoff and other sources.

And New Mexico does not have its own regulations to fill the void, which makes its waterways particularly vulnerable.

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EPA: Permit will regulate polluted stormwater in Los Alamos County

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require a federal pollution permit be used to regulate Los Alamos County’s contaminated stormwater, which for years has flowed into streams and the Rio Grande, a primary source of drinking water.

BY: SCOTT WYLAND | santafenewmexican.com

Attorneys representing the Taos-based advocacy group Amigos Bravos said their client’s September lawsuit against the EPA pushed the agency to require the permitting under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA issued preliminary findings in 2015 that showed pollutants in some parts of Los Alamos National Laboratory property and other areas of Los Alamos County far exceeded state health and water quality standards, yet the agency failed to take action, according to the Oregon-based Western Environmental Law Center.

“The EPA finally took a hard look at where these pollutants are coming from,” said Andrew Hawley, a law center attorney, in an interview. “The pollutants of concern were showing up in the tributaries going into the Rio Grande.”

EPA representatives at the regional office in Dallas couldn’t be reached Tuesday to comment on the agency’s decision or discuss the timeline for implementing the permit.

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Action Alerts

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Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

View Recording of the March 9th PDA CNM Community Gathering:

PDA CNM Community Gathering - March 9, 2022 - Abolishing Nuclear Weapons is a Moral Imperative

PDA CNM welcomed Archbishop John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, and our own executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Jay Coghlan, to speak at their March 9, 2022 monthly gathering: “[Archbishop Wester's] courage in speaking out against the proliferation of nuclear weapons inspires us at PDACNM to follow his example and continue the fight against this peril, especially given the threat of a possible imminent war between two nuclear powers.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, has worked successfully against radioactive incineration at the Los Alamos National Lab, and in Clean Air Act, Freedom of Information Act and National Environmental Policy Act lawsuits against the Department of Energy. He prompted a 2006 independent study that concluded plutonium pits last at least a century, refuting the NNSA’s assertion that we “need” new-design nuclear weapons and expanded plutonium pit production.”

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New Nuclear Media: Recent Books, Art, Film & More

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Past Nuclear News

Biden says US must maintain small force in Middle East, has no plans for major Defense cuts

“The former vice president said the largest readiness issue facing the military is America’s strained relationship with NATO. “They’re worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia diplomatically or other ways, and worried about ‘America First’ meaning ‘America Alone,’” he said.”

stripes.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic Party nominee for president, delivers his acceptance speech on August 20.
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he supports drawing down troops in the Middle East but if elected president would keep a small force there to prevent extremists from posing a threat to the United States and its allies.

“These ‘forever wars’ have to end. I support drawing down the troops. But here’s the problem, we still have to worry about terrorism and [the Islamic State],” Biden told Stars and Stripes in a telephone interview.

He also said he does not foresee major reductions in the U.S. defense budget as the military refocuses its attention to potential threats from “near-peer” powers such as China and Russia.

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Wake up call on nuclear waste! Meet the National Radioactive Waste Coalition!