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.

“The threat of nuclear war has dangled over humankind for much too long. We have survived so far through luck and brinkmanship. But the old, limited safeguards that kept the Cold War cold are long gone. Nuclear powers are getting more numerous and less cautious. We’ve condemned another generation to live on a planet that is one grave act of hubris or human error away from destruction without demanding any action from our leaders. That must change...

Over the past several months, I’ve been asked, including by colleagues, why I want to raise awareness on nuclear arms control when the world faces so many other challenges — climate change, rising authoritarianism and economic inequality, as well as the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Part of the answer is that both of those active conflicts would be far more catastrophic if nuclear weapons were introduced into them...The other answer lies in our recent history. When people around the world in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s began to understand the nuclear peril of that era, a vocal constituency demanded — and achieved — change.

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!

Map of “Nuclear New Mexico”

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan 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

Plutonium Sampling at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Source/Reference Documents

Letter on LANL’s detection methodologies by chemist Dr. Michael Ketterer

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New & Updated

Holtec International, the U.S. Federal Government, and the State of New Mexico – What Do We Know?

Nuclear power is a trending topic lately. What’s missing from most of these conversations is the nitty gritty details of the nuclear waste produced from nuclear power plants, and how to handle it. In mainstream and social media, nuclear is often hyped up as a climate solution and the issue of what to do with the waste is promoted as being nearly or already solved. Unfortunately this conception is entirely inaccurate. Most people don’t think about the problem of nuclear waste on a frequent basis, however New Mexicans are often forced to confront it whether we like it or not (spoiler: most of us DON’T).

New Mexico has the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the southeastern corner of the state, where radioactive waste is stored in a salt formation repository located deep underground. WIPP has been open since 1999, and now federal regulators are currently considering another facility that would store up to 175,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive nuclear waste. The new repository is called a “HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility” by Holtec International, the New Jersey-based company who owns the private waste facility, and the waste would be transported in from nuclear reactors around the nation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued Holtec a license for this project on May 9, 2023.

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New Mexico shouldn’t be the nation’s nuclear dump

“A storage facility cannot be “interim” without a final, designated location. Such a site does not exist. And when it comes to anything nuclear, there’s no such thing as interim or temporary.”

MY VIEW, THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | May 13, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

The federal government’s longstanding failure to build a repository for nuclear waste should not be left for New Mexico to solve.

Yet a decision last week by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue a license to “temporarily” store tons of spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico could mean waste from commercial power plants across the nation will end up buried in the state. It’s bad news for us, of course, but it’s catastrophic for a nation that has never fully come to grips with the reality of nuclear power.

To recap: The commission said it will allow Holtec International to build and operate a nuclear waste storage facility near the Lea and Eddy County line in far southeast New Mexico.

This, despite the clear message from New Mexico’s congressional delegation, governor and statewide elected officials that the state is not interested in being the one-size-fits-all nuclear storage solution for the country. New Mexico already hosts the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. It stores transuranic waste, a byproduct of the country’s nuclear defense program.

Putin ‘Not Insane’ But May Resort to Nuclear Weapons: Estonian President

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not likely to use nuclear weapons in Moscow’s struggling war on Ukraine, according to Estonian President Alar Karis, though may again flirt with using weapons of mass destruction if the Kremlin finds itself in a “very desperate” situation.

BY  NEWSWEEK | May 13, 2023 newsweek.com

Speaking with Newsweek at the presidential palace, which once served as the seat for both the occupying Soviet Union and Nazi German authorities, ahead of the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, Karis said that while he is “not that worried” that the Kremlin will deliver on its well-worn nuclear threats, he and other Western leaders must prepare for that possibility.

“There are very few people who are close to Putin who actually know. But he is definitely not insane, at least in medical terms. That means he knows exactly what he is doing,” Karis said about the Russian dictator’s mentality. “But there is not much information, you can speculate when Putin starts to change generals that something is not going the way he wants.”

Bloomberg - The Russian nuclear company the West can’t live without

Bloomberg – The Russian nuclear company the West can’t live without

“Cutting the heart out of a nuclear power plant is a surgical procedure that only a few specialists are equipped to handle…”

Bloomberg News | May 13, 2023 mining.com

Among the oldest and most experienced is Germany’s Nukem Technologies Engineering Services GmbH, which for decades has offered its unique services in Asia and Africa and across Europe. Nukem engineers helped contain radiation from the destroyed reactors in Chernobyl and Fukushima. They helped lead the clean-up of an atomic-fuel factory in Belgium. In France, the company devised ways to treat waste from the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

With researchers predicting that cleaning up after aging nuclear power plants will evolve into a $125 billion global business in the near future, Nukem should be ideally positioned to capitalize on the moment.

Except for one thing: the company is wholly owned by Rosatom Corp., the Kremlin-controlled nuclear giant, putting it in the center of an uncomfortable standoff.

Holtec licensed to store nuke waste in New Mexico despite outcry from elected officials

“This is a bad idea, full stop. Placing a nuclear storage facility in the heart of oil and gas operations is a recipe for ecological disaster and unnecessarily puts New Mexicans at risk,

Bottom line, the world’s most active oil and gas producing field is not the right place for a long-term nuclear waste storage site. Holtec needs to understand that New Mexico is not the nation’s dumping ground and should stop misleading the public about the dangers their proposal presents.” — Land Commissioner-elect Stephanie Garcia Richard

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus | May 9, 2023 currentargus.com

Federal nuclear officials gave the green light to a project which would store high-level nuclear waste at a facility in southeast New Mexico, despite concerns from state and federal leaders it would expose residents to radiation.

Holtec International, headquartered in Jupiter, Florida, applied in 2017 for a 40-year license to store 8,680 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods in 500 cannisters from power plants across the country, using a surface-level facility in a remote desert area near the border of Eddy and Lea counties.

That would be the first of 20 phases of the project that could ultimately include more than 100,000 metric tons in a total of 10,000 canisters holding the waste.

Threats by artificial intelligence to human health and human existence

“AI could harm human health via its impacts on the social and upstream determinants of health through: the control and manipulation of people, use of lethal autonomous weapons and the effects on work and employment”

By Frederik Federspiel, Ruth Mitchell, Asha Asokan, Carlos Umana, David McCoy BMJ GLOBAL HEALTH | May 9, 2023 gh.bmj.com

Dr. Ruth Mitchell (IPPNW Board Chair) and Dr. Carlos Umaña (IPPNW Co-President) co-author BMJ Global Health publication, “Threats by artificial intelligence to human health and human existence”. The 5 expert authors state, “AI could harm human health via its impacts on the social and upstream determinants of health through: the control and manipulation of people, use of lethal autonomous weapons and the effects on work and employment”.

NRC starts special inspection of New Mexico uranium facility

| May 9, 2023 krqe.com

EUNICE, N.M. (AP) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Monday began a special inspection at the Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility in southeastern New Mexico following an incident last month.

NRC officials said the April 21 incident involved the operation of a crane near a building that handles uranium hexafluoride without the required safety controls present.

They said there are concerns about safety protocols at the site and that warrants additional NRC inspection as it involves a breakdown of controls designed to prevent chemical, radiological and criticality hazards, which are the primary concern at U.S. fuel cycle facilities.

U.S. sees a new era of nuclear risk dawning in China-Russia cooperation – Japan Times

“To avert miscalculations, nuclear-weapons states must engage on existing and potential threats, from Iran’s atomic ambitions to the use of artificial intelligence for decision-making during crises,” — Pranay Vaddi, the National Security Council’s senior director for arms control.

JAPAN TIMES | May 6, 2023 japantimes.co.jp

An undated image released in July 2021 shows what researchers say are missile silos under construction in the Chinese desert. | 2021 PLANET LABS INC. / VIA AFP-JIJIAn undated image released in July 2021 shows what researchers say are missile silos under construction in the Chinese desert. | 2021 PLANET LABS INC. / VIA AFP-JIJI

The deepening cooperation between China and Russia threatens to overturn decades of international stability in nuclear arms control, according to a top adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden.

“We’re entering a different period,” Vaddi said after talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency. “It requires a little bit of experimentation.”

Assessments that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its disavowal of arms-control agreements, are adding to concern about an era fraught with new dangers. Unlike the Cold War, when the U.S. and Soviet Union maintained atomic parity and agreed to limit certain types of arms, more nations are developing the technologies and materials needed for weapons of mass destruction.

Never Give Artificial Intelligence the Nuclear Codes – The Atlantic

“AI offers an illusion of cool exactitude, especially in comparison to error-prone, potentially unstable humans. But today’s most advanced AIs are black boxes; we don’t entirely understand how they work. In complex, high-stakes adversarial situations, AI’s notions about what constitutes winning may be impenetrable, if not altogether alien. At the deepest, most important level, an AI may not understand what Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meant when they said, ‘A nuclear war cannot be won.’”

By Ross Andersen – THE ATLANTIC | May 4, 2023 rsn.org

The temptation to automate command and control will be great. The danger is greater.

No technology since the atomic bomb has inspired the apocalyptic imagination like artificial intelligence. Ever since ChatGPT began exhibiting glints of logical reasoning in November, the internet has been awash in doomsday scenarios. Many are self-consciously fanciful—they’re meant to jar us into envisioning how badly things could go wrong if an emerging intelligence comes to understand the world, and its own goals, even a little differently from how its human creators do. One scenario, however, requires less imagination, because the first steps toward it are arguably already being taken—the gradual integration of AI into the most destructive technologies we possess today.

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Nuclear Waste Storage in New Mexico Angers State, Cheers Locals – Bloomberg News

America’s Nuclear Waste Capital Wants More of It, Against State Wishes
Burying the country’s nuclear weapons waste brought an economic lifeline to Carlsbad, New Mexico. State leaders worry it’s become a dumping ground.

By BLOOMBERG NEWS | May 2, 2023 bloomberg.com

At the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, much of the activity is underground. 
Photographer: Daniel Moore/Bloomberg

A half-mile underground beneath a windswept field in the southeast corner of New Mexico, hundreds of workers haul drums of radioactive waste into a salt mine that will entomb them for at least 10,000 years.

Up on the surface, federal officials overseeing the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) are working harder than ever to smooth over tensions with state officials and skeptics in the state capital so the facility can meet its mission: cleaning up the country’s nuclear weapons production sites.

Dealing with a debacle: A better plan for US plutonium pit production

“There is…another concern about the NNSA’s plans: The designs of new warheads in which new plutonium pits would be used may depart from designs that have been previously tested. This could result in demands to resume explosive testing, which would undermine the moratorium on nuclear testing that has been observed by all nuclear-weapon states (other than North Korea) since 1998.”

By Curtis T. AsplundFrank von Hippel, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | April 27, 2023 thebulletin.org

The Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos, in front of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Photo credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory The Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos, in front of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Photo credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

For two decades, the Pentagon and Congress have been increasingly concerned that the United States does not have a reliable capability to produce plutonium “pits,” the cores of US thermonuclear warheads. In 2018, the agency responsible for the production and maintenance of US nuclear warheads, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), responded with a plan to build, on a crash basis, pit production lines in New Mexico and South Carolina at the same time, with a combined production capacity of 80 pits per year.

Video Indicates that Lida Air Base Might Get Russian “Nuclear Sharing” Mission in Belarus

On 14 April 2023, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence released a short video of a Su-25 pilot explaining his new role in delivering “special [nuclear] munitions” following his training in Russia. The features seen in the video, as well as several other open-source clues, suggest that Lida Air Base––located only 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and the only Belarusian Air Force wing equipped with Su-25 aircraft––is the most likely candidate for Belarus’ new “nuclear sharing” mission announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS | April 19, 2023 fas.org

A Belarusian pilot standing in front of a Su-25 aircraft.The Belarusian MoD’s military channel features a Belarusian pilot standing in front of a Su-25 aircraft at an unidentified air base.

The video shows the pilot standing in a revetment with a Su-25 in the background. The interview takes place at a grassy location with trees in the distance along with several distinct features, including two drop tanks flanking the Su-25 on either side, and objects behind the aircraft. The revetment itself is also somewhat distinct, as the berm wraps around three sides of the hardstand and the size and orientation of the six rectangular tiles across the opening are clearly visible in the video.

A Su-25 aircraft sits in a revetment surrounded by berms and trees, with drop tanks on either side of the aircraft.
The Belarusian MoD’s video shows a Su-25 aircraft sitting in a revetment surrounded by berms and trees, with drop tanks visible on either side of the aircraft.

Although the pilot is announcing the completion of their training that occured in Russia, the footage was filmed and released by the Belarusian Ministry of Defense. This factor seemed to indicate that the filming location took place in Belarus instead of at the training center in Russia. Additionally, while Su-25s have operated out of other air bases in Belarus throughout the war, including Luninets Air Base, the only Su-25 wing in the Belarusian Air Force is based at Lida.

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NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby Offers Frank Answers On LANL Plutonium Pit Production And More During Hybrid Town Hall Meeting In Santa Fe

“We are working around the U.S and we are working with our international partners to develop verification technologies some of which are associated with imagining a world without nuclear and some that are associated with a test treaty with Russia and/or China,” Hruby said, saying to Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester that while she knows his vision is clear, she wanted to make these comments about “where NNSA is today so that it’s understood and not misunderstood”.

Nuke Watch New Mexico Executive Director Jay Coghlan told Hruby it strikes him that NNSA has been avoiding an update pit life study. He mentioned a 2005 Jason Study that concluded that plutonium pits last at least 100 years.

BY MAIRE O’NEILL, LOS ALAMOS REPORTER | April 11, 2023 losalamosreporter.com

DOE-EM Senior Advisor William ‘Ike’ White, DOE NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby, center, and Santa Fe County Commission Chair Anna Hansen following Tuesday’s town hall meeting in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

It was described by some as a somewhat momentous occasion last Tuesday evening (April 4) when Jill Hruby and William “Ike” White joined Santa Fe County Commission Chair Anna Hansen on the dais for a hybrid town hall meeting at the Santa Fe Convention Center, which was attended by some 250 people in person and another 200 online.

Crowd turns out for town hall on plutonium pits, nuclear waste storage

“…Residents of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Alamos and beyond asked questions and made comments about nuclear production and disposal in New Mexico. The crowd addressed a pair of officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management. There was hardly an empty seat in the auditorium; 150 others attended the town hall virtually. Speakers at the town hall generally focused on three main issues: increased production of plutonium pits, ramped up disposal of transuranic waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, and nuclear proliferation.”

By Alaina Mencinger / Journal Staff Writer, ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL | April 5, 2023 abqjournal.com

Crowd turns out for town hall on plutonium pits, nuclear waste storage

Archbishop John Wester, left, and Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, listen as different people speak against plans to start pit production at LANL. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

‘Stop making nuclear weapons’: Activists press federal chief on LANL pit push

“We live in the third-most impoverished state in the nation, and yet we’re throwing away money to build weapons of war rather than take care of our own people…The U.S. must be the one to end the nuclear arms race because only then will other nations follow,” – Rikki Farrell of the ANSWER coalition

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said new pits will be used to equip two new warheads being developed. He asked whether these new designs could lead to a return to explosive nuclear testing underground.

SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | April 5, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

040423 jw lanl meeting3.jpg
Anti-nuclear weapons demonstrator Bobbe Besold watches Tuesday as a panel of representatives from Los Alamos National Laboratory answers questions at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. The lab has been tasked with increasing its production of plutonium pits for weapons to 30 per year by 2026.

Anti-nuclear advocates showed up in force Tuesday to grill the head of the federal nuclear security agency at a town hall about plans to have Los Alamos National Laboratory make 30 plutonium pits for warheads a year, a pursuit that has generated heated controversy in Northern New Mexico since its inception.
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Recording of April 4 Santa Fe Town Hall – Overview of NNSA and EM’s National Security and Environmental Cleanup Priorities

Town Hall – Overview of NNSA and EM’s National Security and Environmental Cleanup Priorities

Anna Hansen, Santa Fe County Commission Chair, is moderating a town hall in collaboration with Jill Hruby, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and Ike White, Senior Advisor for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM). The town hall style event will feature a brief overview of NNSA and EM’s national security and environmental cleanup priorities and then will move into an expanded public question and answer period.

Posted by Nuclear Watch New Mexico on Monday, April 10, 2023

LANL plume cleanup halted due to water concerns

Milestones to meet in the coming year are to work on three monitoring wells and complete two reports, said Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s operations director. He called the effort inadequate for a large contaminated area discovered two decades ago.

“We’re going to have to do better than that,” Kovac said after the meeting. “We should be a lot farther along by now.”

Kovac also questioned why the report on the lab’s site-wide groundwater monitoring should be deemed a milestone. It’s something that must be done every year, so the lab’s parent agency shouldn’t get points for it, he said.

SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN | March 31, 2023 santafenewmexican.com

State regulators’ order to halt injections of treated water into the sprawling chromium plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory will go into effect Saturday as scheduled, federal and state officials confirmed this week at an annual meeting to review cleanup of legacy waste.

Regulators say the technique of extracting contaminated water, treating it and pumping it back into the decades-old plume is not fixing or containing the problem but instead is stirring up the hexavalent chromium and pushing it both toward San Ildefonso Pueblo and deeper into the aquifer.

The U.S. Energy Department’s environmental managers at Los Alamos insist the pump-and-treat method is working to dilute the toxic chromium and prevent its spread but said at a Wednesday meeting they would cease injections on Friday.

“Right now, we don’t have another avenue for any of that extracted water, so it will effectively be turning off the system for the interim measure for the chromium plume treatment,” said Troy Thomson, environmental remediation program manager for N3B, the lab’s legacy waste cleanup contractor.

A state Environment Department manager reiterated the agency’s position that the injection wells were placed inside the plume rather than on the borders, causing the injected water to spread the contaminants outward.

CRITICAL EVENTS

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New Nuclear Media: Art, Films, Books & More

The Biggest Radioactive Spill in US History Never Ended

How the US poisoned Navajo Nation.

BY:  | vox.com

How the US poisoned Navajo Nation

For decades, Navajo Nation was a primary source for the United States’ uranium stockpile during the nuclear arms race. It was home to more than 700 uranium mines, which provided jobs to Navajo residents. But the mining industry came with impending peril. Cases of lung cancer and other diseases began cropping up in a community that had previously had few of them. Land, air, and water was poisoned. And on July 16, 1979, the mining led to the biggest radioactive spill in US history.

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