FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 19, 2024
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email
Santa Fe, NM – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has just released cursory two or three page summaries of contractors’ performance paid for by the American taxpayer. For the just ended fiscal year 2023, NNSA gave nothing less than grades of “Excellent” or “Very Good” in six broad mission goals for its major contractors. This is despite the constant cost overruns and schedule delays that are the rule, not the exception, in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement ever since GAO started that List in 1991.
A current example is the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, originally estimated in 2011 to cost $1.4 to $3.5 billion. After costs started going through the roof, NNSA and Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-TN), then-chair of Senate Energy and Water Appropriations, swore that UPF would never go over $6.5 billion. But even after eliminating non-nuclear weapons production missions and a formal decision to continue operations at two old, unsafe buildings slated for replacement, the Uranium Processing Facility is now estimated to cost $8.5 billion. However, even that is not the final price, as NNSA is still to “rebaseline” UPF costs at some unspecified date.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, October 12, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email
Santa Fe, NM – Today, America’s Strategic Posture, The Final Report was released by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In its own words:
“The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States was established by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and concludes that America’s defense strategy and strategic posture must change in order to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with China and Russia. Decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared to address the threats from these two nuclear-armed adversaries arising during the 2027-2035 timeframe. Moreover, these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously.”
Santa Fe, NM – In an important win for genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Lab’s plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and toxic wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. Area C is located in the heart of nuclear weapons production at LANL, contiguous to the Lab’s main plutonium facility which is expanding production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores.
In a September 7, 2023 “Public Notice of Statement of Basis,” the Environment Department ruled:
“For maximum protection of human health and the environment and to ensure that the drinking water resource can be conservatively protected, NMED has determined that the selected [cleanup] remedy for MDA C must consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste… Excavation will ensure that the source of contamination at MDA C is removed…”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 31, 2023
Tina Cordova, Tularosa Basin Downwind Consortium – 505.897.6787 | Email
Dr. Michael E. Ketterer – 928.853.7188 | Email
Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico – 505.989.7342 | Email
Santa Fe, NM – New preliminary information strongly supports Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) status for New Mexicans downwind of the Trinity Test Site. In the past weeks, Michael E. Ketterer, (Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ) has completed a short “proof of principle” study that directly investigates where plutonium in soils originates by analyzing isotopic ratios, in a known portion of the Trinity Test plume.
Dr. Ketterer sampled soils along highways NM 42, US 54, NM 55, US 60, and US 380. The isotopes show that there is definitely plutonium from the Trinity Test in the northeast plume, and distinguishes it from global (stratospheric) background and New Mexico regional background from Nevada Test Site fallout. Soils along all five of these highways contain plutonium that reflects mixtures of Trinity Test debris and global/Nevada regional background fallout; in some cases, nearly 100% of the Pu originates from the Trinity Test.
While Dr. Ketterer has not encountered any activities (expressed as Bq/kg or pCi/g, Becquerels or picocuries respectively) of plutonium that cause alarm from the radio-toxicity standpoint, there’s very limited data.
Santa Fe, NM – President Biden has released his proposed FY 2024 budget for the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The budget for NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” for nuclear weapons research and production programs is slated to increase by 10% to $18.8 billion.
Of that $18.8 billion requested for FY 2024, over $3 billion is devoted to “Life Extension Programs” or “Alterations” that extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons by decades while giving them new military capabilities. It also includes two new-design nuclear weapons, the W87-1 ICBM warhead (increased 50% to $1 billion) and the sub-launched W93 warhead (increased 62% to $390 million). Meanwhile, funding for dismantlements that provide a good nonproliferation example and save taxpayers’ money by eliminating long-term security costs is decreased by 4% to $53.7 million. That is a small fraction of one percent of NNSA’s Total Weapons Activities.
Two bright spots, yet still small relative to the U.S.’ planned $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program, are the zeroing out of funding for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) warhead and stronger language on the retirement of the 1.2 megaton B83 bomb. Trump proposed to bring back nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, which were retired by President George H. Bush after the end of the Cold War. Biden’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review canceled the SLCM, but Congress insisted on funding it, which will only grow stronger with Republican control the House.
Santa Fe, NM – Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) finally posted its FY 2022 Performance Evaluation Reports to its electronic “FOIA Reading Room.” These reports are “Frequently Requested Documents” as defined by the Freedom of Information Act (meaning three or more requests) and are therefore required to be posted under the law. The catalyst for this was a lawsuit filed by Nuclear Watch New Mexico in September 2022.
NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear weapons research and production sites grade annual contractor performance and award performance fees accordingly. Approximately 57,000 people are employed by the NNSA nuclear weapons complex, 95% of them contractor personnel. The Department of Energy and NNSA (or its predecessor DOE Defense Programs) have been on the independent Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars since 1992.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 21, 2023 | Scott Kovac – 505.989.7342 | Email
At a February 9, 2023 public community forum hosted by the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Office, there were strong indications that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is convinced that DOE’s plans to remediate the chromium groundwater contamination plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is not working. Kimberly Lebak, program manager for N3B, the LANL cleanup contractor, described how it is finalizing the 2023 milestones under the Consent Order that governs cleanup, despite the fact that the NMED Groundwater Bureau has requested that DOE stop injecting treated water by April 1, 2023. DOE and NMED are not seeing eye-to-eye concerning the “Interim Measure” that N3B is using to contain the chromium plume.
The two agencies disagree on the Interim Measure, originally designed to prevent chromium from migrating across the San Ildefonso Pueblo border while DOE tries to figure out a final remedy.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 13, 2023 | South Carolina Environmental Law Project, Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley CAREs, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition
AIKEN, S.C. — In a win for public participation and environmental protection, the United States District Court of South Carolina denied the Department of Energy’s motion to dismiss a 2021 legal action filed by multiple citizen groups. The suit was 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 for new nuclear weapons and split their production between the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site.
In her ruling, Judge Mary Geiger Lewis thoroughly rejected the defendants’ arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing, saying it was “not a close call”.
“We were able to defeat yet another attempt to use standing as a weapon to keep members of the public out of the government’s decision-making process,” said Leslie Lenhardt, Senior Managing Attorney at the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP).
To date, the Department of Energy (DOE) has refused to fully examine the environmental and safety impacts of their cross-country plan, which would create massive quantities of dangerous and radioactive material, put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on the line, risk a new nuclear arms race, and violate the nation’s foundational environmental law.
Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) will spend $9.4 billion dollars in New Mexico during this fiscal year 2023, 10% more than the State’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. To help enable its agenda of expanding nuclear weapons production that will cause more radioactive wastes and contamination, the DOE’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) or its contractors often go head hunting for top State officials.
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has sued DOE over the slow pace of cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Stephanie Stringer, former Deputy Cabinet Director (the number two position at NMED), applied to work for NNSA in August 2022, and resigned to take that job in November. During that time, she was privy to NMED litigation strategy against DOE and chaired the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission that denied a citizens’ motion against one of LANL’s most crucial facilities for expanding plutonium pit production, the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility. As a result, the New Mexico Ethics commission fined Stringer a paltry $250. Assuming that Stringer is earning at least $100,000 base salary in her new position, that fine would have cost her approximately five hours of her time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 12, 2023 | Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email
Santa Fe, NM – Today, the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing report entitled NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Pit Production Capability. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its parent Department of Energy have been on the GAO’s High Risk List for project mismanagement since 1991.
Plutonium pits are the essential radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. There has been only limited production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) since 1989 when a FBI raid investigating environmental crimes abruptly shut down production at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. NNSA now plans to spend $2.9 billion in FY 2023 alone to establish production of at least 30 pits per year at LANL and 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.
The two main findings of GAO’s report are:
- NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Scope of Work Includes Dozens of Programs, Projects, and Other Activities Managed by Multiple NNSA Offices at Multiple Sites (p 19)
Santa Fe, NM – As part of a long, ingrained history, senior officials at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have repeatedly resigned to go to work for the nuclear weapons labs, the Department of Energy, or DOE contractors. In a number of cases that is where they came from to begin with.
The hierarchy of leadership at NMED starts with the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries and then Division Directors. The position of Resource Protection Division Director is particularly critical because it oversees the two NMED bureaus most directly involved with DOE facilities in New Mexico, the Hazardous Waste Bureau and the DOE Oversight Bureau. However, all four former or current Resource Protection Division Directors have gone or are going to work for the nuclear weapons labs, the DOE or its contractors. They are:
- Chris Catechis, currently Acting Resource Protection Division Director, is reportedly assuming a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) within days. Prior to NMED he had worked at the Sandia National Laboratories for 22 years.[i] See https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-catechis-ma-b76b1a8/
- Catechis’ immediate supervisor Stephanie Stringer resigned October 31 to go to work for DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). She was Resource Protection Division Director prior to being promoted to Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Operations (second only to NMED Secretary James Kenney).
Santa Fe, NM– Today, the Biden Administration has released its long awaited unclassified Nuclear Posture Review. It headlines a “Comprehensive, balanced approach to defending vital national security interests and reducing nuclear dangers.” It also declares that “deterrence alone will not reduce nuclear dangers.”
“Deterrence” against others has always been the publicly sold rationale for the United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile. First, there is the inconvenient fact that the U.S. was the first and only to use nuclear weapons in war. But secondly, the United States and the USSR (now Russia) never possessed their huge stockpiles for the sole purpose of deterrence anyway. Instead, their nuclear weapons policies have always been a hybrid of deterrence and nuclear war fighting, which threatens global annihilation to this very day.
As a pertinent example, after the Obama Administration released its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Defense Department declared that, “…[t]he new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a ‘counter-value’ or ‘minimum deterrence’ strategy.” In simple language, that means nuclear war-fighting that could end civilization should deterrence fail, or even possible first strike. That is why we have thousands of nuclear weapons instead of just the few hundred needed for only deterrence. That is why we have the massive, $1.7 trillion “modernization” program that will keep nuclear weapons forever, for which Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review gives added policy foundation.
Santa Fe, NM – Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico has once again filed a lawsuit to pry loose the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports that evaluate contractor performance at its eight nuclear weapons sites. Approximately 57,000 people are employed by NNSA’s nuclear weapons production complex, 95% of them contractor personnel. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the independent Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars since 1992.
NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports grade contractor performance, award performance fees and contain no classified information. Nevertheless, NNSA seeks to hide how taxpayers’ money is spent from the public, issuing only terse three page summaries instead of the full and complete Reports. Nuclear Watch sued in 2012 to obtain the full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports, after which NNSA started releasing them within three working days. But NNSA has again been releasing only summaries since 2019, despite a Freedom of Information Act request by Nuclear Watch that the agency never responded to.
To illustrate the importance of these Performance Evaluation Reports, in its FY 2021 Los Alamos Lab summary NNSA noted that the contractor “[s]ucessfully made advances in pit production processes…” Plutonium “pits” are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons whose expanded production the Pentagon has identified as the number one issue in the United States’ $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. NNSA has directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to begin producing at least 30 pits per year by 2026 and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to begin producing at least 50 pits per year by 2030.
Santa Fe, NM – Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency with the Department of Energy, released a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In its formal notice, NNSA avoids mentioning the elephant in the room, the already predetermined expanded production of plutonium “pits,” the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. This is in direct contradiction to the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that federal agencies take a “hard look” at proposed actions before implementation.
Moreover, future pit production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile, but instead is for speculative, untested new-design nuclear weapons for the accelerating nuclear arms race. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is already spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars to upgrade plutonium facilities and hire more workers for more weapons of mass destruction. This site-wide EIS is a “check off the box” exercise for all the major changes since the last site-wide EIS in 2008. Since then the Lab has fundamentally changed into a nuclear weapons production site as its main mission.
The Department of Energy boosted Lab funding to $4.6 billion in FY 2023 (21% higher than FY 2022), which begins this coming October 1. Of that, $3.6 billion is slated for NNSA’s core nuclear weapons research and production programs, with expanded plutonium pit production taking the biggest slice of the pie at $1.63 billion. The percentage of nuclear weapons funding at LANL has steadily grown as the Lab increasingly banks its future on being a nuclear weapons production site. Today it is 73% of total institutional funding. country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.”
/ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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]
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.” ”
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?”