NukeWatch Press Releases

Billions of Taxpayer Dollars to be Spent on Plutonium Pit Production – NNSA Chooses Speed Over Safety, Condones Potential Lethal Radioactive Doses to Public

Santa Fe, NM – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency with the Department of Energy, is no longer pursuing a safety class active confinement system at PF-4, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium pit manufacturing facility. This is a long-running battle between the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) and NNSA.

The Safety Board has strongly recommended active confinement systems since 2004, reporting that they “will continue to function during an accident, thereby ensuring that radioactive material is captured by filters before it can be released into the environment.” [i] However, a few years ago NNSA tried to kill the messenger by seriously restricting DNFSB access to NNSA nuclear facilities across the country.

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New Mexico: Number One in Nuclear Weapons and Radioactive Wastes Near Last in Citizen and Child Well-Being

Santa Fe, NM – According to budget documents just released by the Department of Energy, DOE facilities in New Mexico will receive $9.4 billion in FY 2023, substantially larger than the state’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. Seventy-one percent ($6.7 billion) will be for core nuclear weapons research and production programs under the DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That is 40.5% of the NNSA’s total nation-wide nuclear weapons budget of $16.5 billion. It is also double that of the next closest state, since the Land of Enchantment has two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories (the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories). Both of these Labs are within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, whose Archbishop John Wester has echoed Pope Francis’ call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In contrast, the goal of NNSA programs in New Mexico is to indefinitely extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. This will be followed by completely new nuclear weapons that cannot be tested given the global testing moratorium. Alternatively, it could prompt the U.S. back into nuclear weapons testing, which would have serious international proliferation implications. NNSA’s claimed rationale is “deterrence” which requires only a few hundred nuclear weapons. In reality the U.S. and Russia each have thousands of ready-to-launch weapons for nuclear war-fighting that would result in global catastrophe, no longer so hypothetical since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Los Alamos Lab: More Plutonium, More Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM – On Good Friday afternoon, just before the Easter weekend, the Department of Energy (DOE) posted its “Laboratory Tables”, the best source for site specific budget information. DOE boosts funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to $4.6 billion in FY 2023 (+21%), which begins October 1. With another typical $300 million in “Work for Others” (the Defense Department, FBI, CIA, etc.), LANL’s total institutional funding for FY 2023 will be approximately $4.9 billion.

Out of that, $3.6 billion is slated for core nuclear weapons research and production programs. The percentage of nuclear weapons funding at LANL has steadily grown as the Lab increasingly banks its future on plutonium “pit” bomb core production. A decade ago, nuclear weapons programs were 59% of LANL’s total institutional budget. Today it is 73%. Moreover, the remainder of Lab programs (including nonproliferation and cleanup) either directly or indirectly support nuclear weapons programs, for example through a 6% internal tax for “laboratory-directed research and development” that has historically tilted towards nuclear weapons.

LANL’s largest funding increase is for “Plutonium Modernization”, jumping 61% to $1.6 billion in FY 2023. Within that, funding to expand the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores at LANL’s aging plutonium pit production facility is increased 68% to $588 million.

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Biden’s FY 2023 Budget Fuels New Nuclear Arms Race

President’s 2023 Congressional Budget Request Increases Spending on New Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM – The Biden Administration is slow rolling its nuclear weapons budget for the federal fiscal year 2023, which will begin October 1, 2022. Top line budget numbers released on March 24 showed that Biden is increasing the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) budget category for “Total Weapons Activities” by 7.4% to $16.5 billion. That may seem like a relatively modest increase, especially given accelerating inflation.

However, huge increases in specific programs have now been disclosed in an obscure budget chart entitled “Comparative Appropriation by Congressional Control FY 2023.” These NNSA programs are the tip of the spear in the United States’ $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. It will rebuild every nuclear warhead in the planned stockpile with new military capabilities; design and manufacture new-design nuclear weapons as well; construct new production plants expected to be operational until the 2080’s; and procure at enormous taxpayers’ expense new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver these weapons of mass destruction. It is, in short, a program of nuclear weapons forever.

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NukeWatch Lawsuit Settlement Speeds Up Cleanup at Los Alamos Lab

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico is announcing successful settlement of a lawsuit it brought against the Department of Energy (DOE) over its slow cleanup of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The watchdogs’ lawsuit alleged violations of a 2005 Consent Order, which was a site-wide cleanup agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and DOE to address radioactive and toxic wastes at the Lab. NMED has since sued DOE to terminate a revised 2016 Consent Order issued under the Martinez Administration that is far weaker than the original 2005 Order.

After a six-year court battle, NukeWatch’s settlement agreement requires DOE to:

  1. Reestablish a surface water flow monitoring station near where the Los Alamos Canyon meets the Rio Grande. This is critical because the Canyon has long been a known pathway for plutonium contaminants to migrate as far as 20 miles south to Cochiti Lake, a popular recreational area. The Buckman Direct Diversion Project (BDDP), three miles south of the Canyon, supplies drinking water directly out of the river to the City and County of Santa Fe. The original monitoring station warned the BDDP to close its intake gates as a precaution during stormwater events and allowed characterization of the radioactive contaminants in the stormwater flows.” However, it was destroyed during a 2013 flood and DOE had refused to reinstall it ever since, despite repeated BDDP requests. Meanwhile, during that same period of time, funding doubled for LANL’s nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the radioactive and toxic pollution to begin with.

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NNSA Whitewashes LANL Performance, Hides Information from Taxpayers

Santa Fe, NM – Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released cursory three-page summaries of its FY 2021 Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) which grade contractor performance at its eight nuclear weapons sites. Out of six missions goals the NNSA gave the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) two “Excellent” and four “Very Good,” thereby awarding 87% of the at-risk award fee of $26 million to Triad National Security, LLC, the Management and Operating Contractor. In all, including the fixed fee of $20.5 million, Triad will receive $46.7 million for its FY 2021 contractor performance.[1]

The NNSA is releasing only summaries of the Performance Evaluation Reports (“Performance Evaluation Summaries”), which provide scant information and essentially whitewash contractor performance. For context, the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons and cleanup programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project and contractor mismanagement for 27 consecutive years. In 2012 Nuclear Watch New Mexico sued to obtain the full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports, after which NNSA caved in and immediately provided them. However, that unfortunately resulted in no legal settlement requiring annual releases of the full and complete PERs, and now the agency is back to suppressing information of contractor performance paid for by the American taxpayer.

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Groups Fire Back at Feds’ Move to Dismiss Plutonium Pit Lawsuit

Groups Fire Back at Feds’ Move to Dismiss Plutonium Pit Lawsuit

Federal agencies continue to reject a full review of the public safety and environmental risks of producing nuclear bomb cores at multiple DOE sites.

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “The government has yet to explain to American taxpayers why it will spend more than $50 billion to build new plutonium pit bomb cores for new-design nuclear weapons when we already have thousands of existing pits proven to be reliable for a century or more. This has nothing to do with maintaining the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile and everything to do with building up a new nuclear arms race that will threaten the entire world.”

SRS WATCH / EIN PRESSWIRE October 26, 2021

AIKEN, SOUTH CAROLINA  — Public interest groups shot back at the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s attempt to suppress a lawsuit seeking a comprehensive environmental review of the agencies’ plans to produce large quantities of nuclear bomb cores, or plutonium pits, at DOE sites in New Mexico and South Carolina.

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Expanded Plutonium “Pit” Bomb Production Rules Over Genuine Cleanup Los Alamos Lab Plans to Make Existing Nuclear Waste Dumps Permanent Without Eliminating Threat to Groundwater

The Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted a report to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declaring its preferred plan to “cap and cover” radioactive and toxic wastes at one of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) oldest dumps. DOE’s $12 million cleanup-on-the-cheap plan for Material Disposal Area C will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above our regional groundwater. In contrast, DOE has asked Congress for one billion dollars for expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production at LANL for fiscal year 2022 alone.

LANL used to falsely claim that groundwater contamination was impossible and even asked NMED for a waiver from even having to monitor for it. We now know that there is extensive groundwater contamination from hexavalent chromium (the carcinogen in the Erin Brockovich movie) and high explosives. Traces of plutonium have been detected 1,300 feet under Area C in regional groundwater monitoring wells. The dump also has a large toxic gaseous plume of industrial solvents known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which threatens nearby facilities.

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New Mexico: Number One in Nuclear Weapons and Radioactive Wastes Near Last in Citizen and Child Well-Being

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 2, 2021
Santa Fe, NM – According to budget documents just released by the Department of Energy, DOE facilities in New Mexico will receive $8 billion in FY 2022, nearly double that of any other state. Seventy-five percent ($6 billion) is for core nuclear weapons research and production programs under the DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration. This is 39% of the agency’s total nation-wide nuclear weapons budget of $15.5 billion, more than double the next closest state.

The goal of NNSA programs in New Mexico is to indefinitely extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. This will be followed by completely new nuclear weapons that cannot be tested given the global testing moratorium. Alternatively, it could prompt the U.S. back into nuclear weapons testing, which would have serious international proliferation implications. NNSA’s claimed rationale is “deterrence” which requires only a few hundred nuclear weapons. In reality the U.S. and Russia each have thousands of ready-to-launch weapons for nuclear war-fighting.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Biden Administration Over Nuclear Bomb Core Production Plans

Federal agencies’ refusal to review cross-country expansion of plutonium pit production violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, groups say.

AIKEN, S.C. – Today, a coalition of community and public interest groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This legal action is prompted by the agencies’ failure to take the “hard look” required by the National Environmental Policy Act at their plans to more than quadruple the production of plutonium pits and split their production between the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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South Carolina Environmental Law Project logo

MEDIA ADVISORY – South Carolina Environmental Law Project and Nuclear Watchdogs Hold Virtual Press Conference

WHAT:

Public interest groups will hold a press conference for a major announcement of a forthcoming legal action as the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration forge ahead with plans to drastically expand production of plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear weapons, at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The legal action follows previous unanswered requests from the groups to DOE and NNSA as seen in correspondence in February and April.

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Following New Mexico Environment Department Lawsuit DOE Dramatically Increases Funding for Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Santa Fe, NM – The Biden Administration has finally released budget details for Department of Energy (DOE) programs that clean up Cold War contamination and radioactive and toxic wastes. In January the New Mexico Environment Department sued DOE in order to terminate a 2016 “Consent Order” that subordinated cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to the budget that DOE wants, which is increased nuclear weapons production. The Biden Administration has responded by increasing proposed cleanup funding at the Lab by 33% from $226 million in FY 2021 to $333.5 million proposed for FY 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021).

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Biden Continues Trump’s Bloated Nuclear Weapons Budget

Will That Change in Future Years?

Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move that discouraged media coverage, the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its long delayed FY 2022 Congressional Budget Request around 7:30 pm EST Friday, May 28, at the very beginning of the long Memorial Day weekend.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly opposed the 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration bequeathed to NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs. That massive increase was originally sold in testimony to Congress as essential to maintaining the nuclear deterrence but later revealed as necessary to cover NNSA cost overruns and blown schedules.[i]

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New Mexico Environment Department Takes Legal Action To Terminate Defective LANL Cleanup “Consent Order”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 25, 2021

The New Mexico Environment Department has announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate a “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Nuclear Watch New Mexico, which has fought against that Consent Order ever since it went into effect nearly five years ago, strongly supports and applauds NMED’s decision.

Much to its credit, in 2005 the State of New Mexico successfully compelled DOE to enter into a strong, enforceable Consent Order after years of tough negotiations and lawsuits brought against it by DOE and the University of California (then LANL’s manager). However, at the Lab’s request the anti-regulation Susanna Martinez Administration eviscerated that Consent Order with more than 150 milestone extensions.

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Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab Opens Office in the City of the Santa Fe (“Holy Faith”) of Peace and Environmental Protection

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – A Lab press release has announced that “[c]onnections between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the City of Santa Fe will be strengthened with the Laboratory’s opening of a new downtown office” after signing a 10-year lease on a 28,000-square-foot building. The Lab’s press release ignores LANL’s $2.9 billion nuclear weapons production budget (up 33% in one year), its proposed 46% cut to cleanup to $120 million, serious groundwater contamination and recent reports how it has neglected wildfire protection. Two catastrophic wildfires in the last 21 years on or near the Lab blanketed a large portion of northern New Mexico with possibly contaminated smoke.

The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and while in Japan paid homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.

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LANL Falls Behind on Wildfire Protection While Expanding Nuclear Weapons Production Watchdog Calls for New Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy’s Inspector General is reporting that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is falling seriously behind in wildfire protection. This is despite the fact that the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire forced the mandatory evacuation of both LANL and the Los Alamos townsite, burned 3,500 acres of Lab property and came within a half-mile of Area G, its largest waste dump. At the time Area G stored above ground some 40,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes. It could have been catastrophic had they burst and sent respirable airborne plutonium across northern New Mexico (inhaled plutonium is a very serious carcinogen).

In 2011 the Los Conchas Fire raced 13 miles in 24 hours to the Lab’s western boundary, where it was stopped along State Highway 4. Both it and the Cerro Grande Fire sent huge plumes of harmful smoke across northern New Mexico, possibly carrying Lab contaminants as well (operation of radioactive air emissions monitoring equipment was suspended during the Cerro Grande Fire).

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DOE Issues Controversial Decision to Pursue a Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at Savannah River Site (SRS); Inadequate Environmental Review and Lack of Justification for Production of 50 or More “Pits” per Year to Modernize Entire Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Open to Legal Challenge

November 5, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a formal decision that it will pursue a massive Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at the DOE’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, in order to produce plutonium “pits,” or cores, for nuclear warheads. The provocative decision, which adds fuel to concerns about a new nuclear arms race with Russia and China, drew immediate opposition from public interest groups near DOE sites in South Carolina, New Mexico and California.

The issuance by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the “Record of Decision” (ROD) on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on pit production at SRS, issued in late September, officially affirms the “preferred alternative” that DOE intends to produce a minimum of 50 plutonium “pits” per year by 2030 at SRS. Also on November 5, NNSA issued an “Amended Record of Decision” (AROD) to its 2008 nation-wide Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that incorporated its SRS pit-production decision.

NNSA Slams Door Shut on Public Accountability While Ramming Through Expanded Plutonium “Pit” Bomb Core Production

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that it will NOT prepare a new site-wide environmental impact statement for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (1).  With this decision NNSA is slamming the door shut on public accountability while it rams through expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production at the Lab.  NNSA is relying upon outdated studies from 2008 to justify pit production. Since that time the agency has wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars, another catastrophic wildfire threatened the Lab, serious deep groundwater contamination was discovered and LANL has had chronic nuclear safety incidences with plutonium that it can’t seem to fix.
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Non-Governmental Organizations Demand Resumption of Los Alamos Nuclear Bomb Plant Public Information Meetings


The NGOs request that the semi-annual public meetings resume by early fall 2020, and the CMRR Project website be updated and maintained until the RLUOB reconfiguration and PF-4 upgrades are completed. All documents and presentations from the previous 13 public meetings must be reposted. The NGOs are also asking that the unilateral decision by the DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to increase the amount of plutonium equivalent allowed in the RLUOB from 8.4 grams to 400 grams be reviewed by NMED.

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Los Alamos Lab Suppresses Data on Negative Economic Impact on Surrounding Counties; Wealthy White Los Alamos County Asks for 3,000 Acres Seized from Hispanics and Native Americans

“This is yet another example of the racial disparity that exists in the wake of communities like Los Alamos, established under the protective umbrella of government sanctioned white privilege. When you take something by force and don’t pay for it, that’s called stealing. So why is land stolen by the US government from the original Hispanic and Native American owners not being given back to them?…As the national reckoning over racial injustice unfolds, let us not forget how Los Alamos Lab came to be and the insult to injury that giving away land stolen from others represents.”

— Chuck Montaño, Nuclear Watch NM Steering Committee member. Mr. Montaño, born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 32 years where he investigated allegations of fraud, waste and abuse.

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WATCHDOG GROUPS FILE LEGAL PETITION WITH ENERGY DEPT: Allege Agency is Slow Walking “Record of Decision” Re: Plutonium Bomb Core Production to Prevent Judicial Review; Stage Set for Litigation on Expanded Production

“DOE and NNSA appear to be deliberately slow-walking the issuance of a formal Record of Decision on expanded plutonium pit production in an apparent effort to prevent the federal courts from reviewing the agencies’ failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.”

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COMMUNITIES PUSH BACK AGAINST REPORTS OF HUGE NUCLEAR WEAPONS BUDGET INCREASE

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.

Multiple sources indicate the FY2021 budget request from the Trump Administration will seek a dramatic increase in funding for nuclear weapons—an unprecedented leap of 20% over current spending levels, bringing the total for The National Nuclear Security Administration to $20 billion. Reportedly, the increase is earmarked principally for modernization programs for warhead design and plutonium pit manufacturing facilities.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability released a letter to Congressional leadership calling for a hard look at the budget request when it arrives, scheduled for February 10, and encouraging House and Senate members to reject the increase as unjustified and unwise.

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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

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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LANL Proposes Satellite “Campus” in Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported: 

“Santa Fe city leaders asked for developers’ ideas on what to do with the city-owned midtown campus…The National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA], which administers the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract, submitted a master developer proposal to build an open-campus environment with administrative offices, sustainable green spaces, engineering space, light manufacturing, training facilities and research and development…

[A NNSA spokesperson said] “LANL is undergoing unprecedented growth and expects to hire more than 1,000 new personnel annually for the next several years. Having a new campus — midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories [LANL and Sandia]— to house professional staff, scientists, and engineers in partnership with the city of Santa Fe — would be very beneficial.” ”

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POPE FRANCES CALLS FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS ABOLITION

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons while paying homage to the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two cities were both destroyed by atomic weapons designed and produced by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located in northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese.

The Holy Father declared: 

“With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home. The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.  How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”

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Citizens Rebut Government Attempt To Continue Illegal Construction Of Nuclear Weapons Plant

12 November 2019 for immediate release

Calling the National Nuclear Security Administration’s brazen disregard for a federal court’s September 24, 2019, ruling an “abuse of the judicial process,” the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with four individual plaintiffs, returned to federal court in Knoxville, TN, today to file a rebuttal of the NNSA’s argument that the agency should be allowed to continue construction on a new nuclear weapons production plant “in the interim”—even while they are preparing the studies that will tell them whether the facilities can be made safe for workers and the public in the event of an earthquake.
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Trump’s 2020 Nuclear Weapons Budget Escalates New Arms Race

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Trump Administration released more budget details for the Department of Energy and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons programs for fiscal year 2020. This same fiscal year will also mark the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising

In sum, the world is facing the most serious nuclear threats since the first half of the 1980’s. At that time President Ronald Reagan said, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought” and called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

View/Download the entire press release here

Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and Public Review

Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch, and Tri-Valley CAREs sent a letter of demand to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to inform the government that its plan to quadruple the production rate of plutonium bomb cores is out of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NNSA’s premature plan to quadruple the production rate of plutonium bomb cores (“pits”), the heart of all US nuclear weapons, is out of compliance with requisite environmental law, the groups argue, as NNSA has failed to undertake a legally-mandated programmatic review and hold required public hearings.

View/Download the entire press release here


Read The Letter To NNSA On NEPA Requirements For Expanded Plutonium Pit Production

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Watchdog groups oppose DOE attempt to limit oversight, endanger safety at nuclear facilities

DNFSB seal

 

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

CONTACTS:
Kathy Crandall Robinson (Washington, DC): 202 577 9875
Joni Arends (New Mexico): 505 986 1973
Tom Carpenter (Washington state): 206 419 5829
Tom Clements (South Carolina): 803 834 3084
Jay Coghlan (New Mexico): 505 989 7342
Don Hancock (New Mexico): 505 262 1862
Ralph Hutchison (Tennessee): 865 776 5050
Marylia Kelley (California): 925 443 7148

Watchdog groups from across the nuclear weapons complex are pushing back against a new Department of Energy order that severely constrains the oversight capacity of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board [DNFSB] at an August 28 hearing in Washington, DC. Kathy Crandall Robinson will speak at the hearing.

Members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network of organizations that addresses nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup issues, hail the work of the DNFSB as a critical guard against DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration efforts to cut corners on safety.

“The Safety Board works outside of the media spotlight,” said Tom Clements, Director of Savannah River Site Watch in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Its value to the public is immeasurable. DNFSB frequently provides information about SRS operations which DOE fails to communicate. The role of the Safety Board should be expanded, not curtailed.”

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs in Livermore, California, said, “The DNFSB is absolutely vital to worker and public safety. I have spent 35 years monitoring Livermore Lab. I can tell you that workers and community members rely on the Safety Board to do its job—every day!”

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DOE MUST RESTORE DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD ACCESS TO INFORMATION, NUCLEAR SECURITY FACILITIES, AND PERSONNEL

DOE MUST RESTORE DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD ACCESS TO INFORMATION, NUCLEAR SECURITY FACILITIES, AND PERSONNEL

On May 14, 2018, the Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Secretary approved DOE Order 140.1Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,which limits release of information, limits the DNFSB’s access to nuclear security sites, and personnel. The impacts are already being felt by Congress, the Board, DOE contractors and workers, and in communities located near some of the most dangerous nuclear facilities across the nation.

What you can do –

The Board is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, from 9 am to 12:30 pm Eastern Day- light Time. It will be live streamed and the link will be available on the day of the hearing.

Public comments will be accepted until September 28, 2018.

Read the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Fact Sheet here.

More information on the DNFSB site is here.

What’s Not in NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Decision

Excerpts

There is no explanation why the Department of Defense requires at least 80 pits per year and no justification to the American taxpayer why the enormous expense of expanded production is necessary.

NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 “excess” pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in “strategic reserve.” The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that an immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits. (In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old.)

NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes.

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NNSA Proposal to Raise Plutonium Limit Ten-Fold in Los Alamos’ Rad Lab Is First Step in Expanded Plutonium Pit Production: Environmental Assessment Is Premature and Deceptive By Omission

“NNSA should begin a nation-wide review of plutonium pit production, why it’s needed, and what it will cost the American taxpayer in financial, safety and environmental risks. These are all things that the public should know.”

– Jay Coghlan, Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

United States To Begin Construction Of New Nuclear Bomb Plant

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on Friday, March 23, that it was authorizing the start of construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) and two sub-projects at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The UPF is a facility dedicated solely to the manufacture of thermonuclear cores for US nuclear bombs and warheads.

Citizen watchdog groups are responding by filing an expedited Freedom of Information Act request demanding a full fiscal accounting of the UPF bomb plant- something the NNSA has refused to provide for the last five years, including to Congress, despite repeated assurances that the project is “on budget.”
“This project is already a classic boondoggle, and they are just getting started,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Worse, it undermines US efforts to discourage nuclear proliferation around the world. How can we oppose the nuclear ambitions of other countries when we are building a bomb plant here to manufacture 80 thermonuclear cores for warheads every year?”

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The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities: Benefits for the Select Few

Santa Fe, NM

According to media reports, Andrea Romero, Executive Director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, is accused of charging some $2,200 dollars of unallowable travel costs, such as alcohol and baseball tickets, while lobbying in Washington, DC for additional funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). She in turn accused the nonprofit group Northern New Mexico Protects of political motivations in revealing these questionable expenses. Romero is running in the Democrat Party primary against incumbent state Rep. Carl Trujillo for Santa Fe County’s 46th district in the state House of Representatives.

Perhaps more serious is the fact that Romero was awarded an undisclosed amount of money by the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) for her private business Tall Foods, Tall Goods, a commercial ostrich farm in Ribera, NM. According to a May 8, 2017 Los Alamos Lab news release announcing the award to Tall Foods, Tall Goods, “The VAF was established in 2006 by Los Alamos National Security [LANS], LLC to stimulate the economy by supporting growth-oriented companies.”[1] LANS, primarily composed of the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California, has held the annual ~$2.4 billion Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) management contract since June 2006.

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