2023 News Articles – All Posts
A permit to renew the operating permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the subject of this hybrid public meeting hosted by the New Mexico Environment Department.
More information on WIPP and the permit renewal process: https://nukewatch.org/issues/wipp/
Posted by Nuclear Watch New Mexico on Friday, September 22, 2023
A permit to renew the operating permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the subject of this hybrid public meeting hosted by the New Mexico Environment Department.
“…Human beings make the threats, evaluate the threats, and decide how to respond. If human beings are prone to folly—and we are—and if human beings run the deterrence process, then nuclear deterrence is inherently flawed. It will fail. Over the long run it cannot be safe. Eventually, human failure will lead to a catastrophic nuclear war.”
Almost everyone who works actively against nuclear weapons is, at some level, appalled by the immorality of nuclear weapons. This makes sense because the indiscriminate killing of children, grandparents, people with disabilities, and a host of other ordinary folks is appalling.
As a result, the first argument that almost all activists reach for is moral. They bring forward hibakusha to put a human face on the immorality. They talk about the indigenous people who suffered during the mining and production of nuclear weapons. They show graphic pictures of the destruction, the burns, the radiation sickness, and other catastrophic damage done by the bombings. They say, in effect, “Look at the immorality!” They sometimes point to it with a hint of outrage in their voices. How can people not be moved by these horrible, immoral acts?
And yet here we are, 78 years later, in the midst of a second nuclear weapons arms race. Every nation that possesses nuclear weapons is either expanding or upgrading its nuclear arsenal. How can this be?
The film Oppenheimer, about the physicist who spearheaded the Manhattan Project, landed in theaters at an apt moment. After two decades during which many people thought the nuclear weapons genie had been tamed, the risks seem graver than ever and the public, at least for the time being, is engaged. Russian President Vladimir Putin, having launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, also has threatened to actually use nuclear weapons against states that might intervene in the conflict. Putin and the film have provoked a new debate with endless permutations. Click the link below for the collection of essays, where Stephen J. Cimbala explores the ambiguities of nuclear weapons, Chantell L. Murphy remembers the human beings erased by the film and Lisbeth Gronlund recalls the physicists who worked to limit the catastrophic weapons that their colleagues unleashed. This is a teachable moment if people can be made to understand the enduring danger of the nuclear weapons that J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team created and the need to restrain, and ultimately, eliminate them.—CAROL GIACOMO
The U.S. Department of Energy has funded a project to assist “the design of the ePIC detector at the future Electron-Ion Collider — a $2 billion state-of-the-art machine which will begin operations early in the next decade…and is expected to push the frontier of physics, develop new technologies and knowledge and accelerate advances in areas such as…national security.”
If there were no strong nuclear force binding atomic particles together, matter as we know it would not exist. However, there are still several unresolved questions in the study of this fundamental interaction.
“In justification of what could be $2.5 billion in spending for new test equipment and construction, NNSA said in the fiscal 2024 budget justification material, “Current diagnostics mostly confine [test] studies to early-implosion dynamic behavior [of plutonium], while the “new test beds will enable integral tests on late-stage implosion [of plutonium].”
“To meet the current information gap in subcritical experimenting, NNSA has turned to measurement devices known as Scorpius and Zeus to determine what happens when the tiny bit of plutonium reaches high pressure and density, during the late stages of implosion.”
Former military aide Buzz Patterson, who handled the football during the Clinton Administration, “recalled grappling over how he would refuse the president’s command to launch nuclear weapons if he believed they were not of sound mind and body.”
“‘And I told myself internally many times ‘If I think he’s coming across as nuts, I don’t think I can participate in this, and so that’s how I rationalized it to myself, and I think a lot of the other aides thought the same kind of thing.””
Moscow says it would respond with ‘countermeasures’, after US air force budget item hinted at possible move
The Russian foreign ministry has said Moscow will view any move to return US nuclear weapons to the UK as an escalation and will respond with “countermeasures” for its own security.
The foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova was responding to a report last week about an item in the 2024 US air force budget for building a dormitory at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk for personnel on a “potential surety mission” – military jargon for nuclear safety and security. It raised the prospect of the return of US nuclear weapons to British soil for the first time in more than 15 years.
“If this step is ever made, we will view it as escalation, as a step toward escalation that would take things to a direction that is quite opposite to addressing the pressing issue of pulling all nuclear weapons out of European countries,” Zakharova said.
Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
The UN nuclear watchdog said that Iran‘s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium was down compared to May but it was still more than 18 times the limit set in the 2015 accord. According to a confidential International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated at 3,795.5 kilograms (8,367.7 pounds) as of August 19, down by 949 kilograms from May, news agency AFP reported. The limit in the 2015 deal was set at 202.8 kilograms. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
“I’ve learned it’s very important to educate colleagues that don’t have the honor of representing downwind communities, or uranium mine workers themselves, so that they can see from the families themselves that are leading this fight, that will be able to benefit from this package…which would offer justice where injustice has lived for almost eight decades.” — Ben Ray Luján
Arlene Juanico grew up in Paguate Village on the Pueblo of Laguna, about a mile from a uranium mine where she worked as a truck driver from 1975 to 1982.
Over the years, Juanico lost her grandmother, father and brother to cancer. She and her husband, Lawrence, who also worked in the mine, have been diagnosed with lung disease.
She said to this day, cancer rates in the small village are high, and many people need oxygen tanks to get around because of diseases that are likely linked to the village’s long history with uranium mining.
“The ALPS treated water will meet both Japanese regulatory standards based on relevant international standards. In other words, tritium levels in the treated water and diluted water will be below those considered safe for drinking.”
Aug 22 (Reuters) – Japan said late on Monday it had responded to inquiries from China and Russia about the ocean discharge of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power station, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco) (9501.T).
The Japanese government has shared its responses to the two neighbouring countries in a document dated Aug. 18 and posted on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s website.
Tepco has been filtering the contaminated water, using machines called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), to remove isotopes, leaving only tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate from water. Tepco will dilute the water until tritium levels fall below regulatory limits before pumping it into the ocean from the coastal site.
“The agency spending more on pit production than originally envisioned isn’t technically a cost overrun because no funding baseline was ever established…This means there’s no benchmark anyone can point to and say the agency has spent too much, she said, which in turn leaves funding for pits open-ended.”
Federal officials estimate Los Alamos National Laboratory won’t produce 30 nuclear bomb cores until 2030 — four years after the legally required deadline.
The additional time needed to produce 30 bowling-ball-sized warhead triggers, known as pits, will cost the lab significantly more than originally estimated, a government watchdog said in a newly released report.
The agency in charge of the country’s nuclear arsenal estimates in the Government Accountability Office report it will take until 2030 for the Los Alamos lab’s plutonium facility to be capable of making 30 pits.
The new documentary “In Search of Resolution,” which examines the current state of international nuclear arms control and is the third film of The Nuclear World Project, airs on @PBS stations throughout August.
Filmed in 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this timely documentary examines the continuing dangers posed by the existence of nuclear weapons. The program includes in-depth interviews with scholars, ambassadors, and leaders in the field to provide historical context, while international experts reflect on arms control measures, nuclear disarmament, and possible ways forward.
The film provides, among other things, an interesting inside look at the TPNW MSP1, the 2022 Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, and the 2022 NPT Review Conference.
Find out more and watch online here: https://video.kpbs.org/show/in-search-of-resolution/
🠟 LISTEN • 28:59
University Showcase 8/18 8a: This month marks the 78th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the first atomic blast, which took place on July 16th, 1945 in New Mexico. The new film “Oppenheimer” focuses on the physicist who led the Manhattan Project here in Los Alamos.
“My book chronicles the birth of the nuclear age. Since the first nuclear testing and bombing in 1945, the man-made nuclear danger has continually increased. Now, today’s 13,000 atomic weapons are unthinkably destructive, indiscriminate, climate-altering devices that can be unleashed by design, by sabotage, or by accident. Therefore, I strongly endorse Congresswoman Norton’s Nuclear Abolition and Conversion Act, H.R. 2775…”
New York (August 16, 2023) – Kai Bird, co-author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on which Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer movie is based, issued the following statement endorsing a bill by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the Nuclear Abolition and Conversion Act, H.R. 2775
Learn about the role of the U.S. Department of Energy – and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina particular – in production of plutonium “pits” for new nuclear weapons as a key part of the new nuclear arms race from this August 16, 2023 event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK9YOFoT6r0
“Thanks to the bipartisan efforts of U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the Senate recently passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act making Trinity Downwinders, and communities in three other western states, eligible for recognition and compensation by the federal government. It is now up to congressional leaders to meet in conference and negotiate a final version of the bill.”
Of all the chores I had to do during summer visits to my grandmother Savina’s home in southern New Mexico, hauling water out of the cistern was my least favorite.
As a city kid, I was always puzzled by the fact that she still insisted on using rainwater for cooking and cleaning, even after my family had upgraded her house with indoor plumbing. But I knew better than to question the wisdom of a woman who had managed to lift her family out of rural poverty in the span of a single generation and conceded that maybe the tortillas she cooked on her wood-burning stove did taste better with fresh rainwater. It certainly never occurred to her that the rainwater in that cistern, along with most of the locally harvested food she used to sustain her large family, was likely contaminated as a result of the detonation of the world’s first nuclear weapon, which occurred 72 miles west of Savina’s home on July 16, 1945.
An informal gathering was held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Ashley Pond Park to recognize the harm of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan 78 years ago. Participants included representatives of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Veterans for Peace and Nonviolent Santa Fe, who carried posters and banners and meditated in a shelter at the south side of the park.
On the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we, the bishops of four Catholic arch/dioceses in areas impacted by nuclear weapons, declare that we will begin working together to achieve a “world without nuclear weapons.” We urge that there be concrete progress made by August 2025, the 80th anniversary of the atomic bombings.
In the spirit and teaching of Pope Francis, we recognize that even the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral.
The Madonna of Nagasaki – Burnt 78 Years Ago by the Plutonium Bomb.
New Mexicans are integral to the history of atomic development and testing, but they’re nowhere to be seen on screen.
“We’ve been slept-walked into a new nuclear arms race, arguably far more dangerous than the first,” said John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe. “I grew up in the duck-and-cover generation. Perhaps some of you remember that. I felt chills many decades later when I read that Robert McNamara, defense secretary during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said that we survived that crisis only by luck. Luck is not a sustainable strategy for the survival of the human family.”
Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, emphasized the danger from renewed plutonium pit production at Los Alamos, which he sees as both unnecessary for nuclear deterrence, and as risking development of new nuclear weapons.
In Christopher Nolan’s three-hour biopic “Oppenheimer,” released last week, the Manhattan Project comes to New Mexico largely because J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) wishes it so. The film was shot in the Land of Enchantment with a hastily assembled Ghost Ranch set serving as the film’s freshly constructed Los Alamos. “Oppenheimer” features New Mexico as setting, backdrop, and refuge for the transplant scientists and military men who spent World War II developing the atom bomb. The film does not show the people already living in New Mexico, neither before the first shovel hits the dirt nor after Trinity’s radioactive fallout creates the first downwinders.
“It’s difficult to comprehend the level of contamination, the diversion of amounts of money into something that, in my view, will not improve national security,” says Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a Santa Fe-based watchdog.
In the Lab Oppenheimer Built, the U.S. Is Building Nuclear Bomb Cores Again
Something unusual is happening inside the plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. PF-4, as it is known to top government officials, is the heart of America’s nuclear complex, a lab where scientists and engineers study and experiment on highly radioactive materials in tight secrecy…
“Tina Cordova is an activist seeking justice for the unknowing, unwilling, and uncompensated, innocent victims of the July 16, 1945, Trinity Test in south-central New Mexico.”
BY July 24, 2023 time.com|
As the world eagerly awaits a sneak peek at Christopher Nolan’s film, “Oppenheimer,” a New Mexico community continues to be haunted by the legacy of the scientist the film portrays.
“Oppenheimer” explores the life of scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the secretive Manhattan Project for nuclear weapons research and development during World War II.
“A new study, released on Thursday ahead of submission to a scientific journal for peer review, shows that the cloud and its fallout went farther than anyone in the Manhattan Project had imagined in 1945. Using state-of-the-art modeling software and recently uncovered historical weather data, the study’s authors say that radioactive fallout from the Trinity test reached 46 states, Canada and Mexico within 10 days of detonation.”
In July 1945, as J. Robert Oppenheimer and the other researchers of the Manhattan Project prepared to test their brand-new atomic bomb in a New Mexico desert, they knew relatively little about how that mega-weapon would behave.
On July 16, when the plutonium-implosion device was set off atop a hundred-foot metal tower in a test code-named “Trinity,” the resultant blast was much stronger than anticipated. The irradiated mushroom cloud also went many times higher into the atmosphere than expected: some 50,000 to 70,000 feet. Where it would ultimately go was anyone’s guess.
“Counting on luck is not a winning strategy,” – Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester.
On July 16, 1945, the world was changed forever by a flash in the New Mexico desert.
The state’s link to that fateful day — from the builders of the first atomic bomb, to its 1945 detonation in a test at Trinity Site, to the victims of contamination decades later — gives New Mexico a special responsibility to lead the way to a peaceful future free of nuclear weapons, Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester said Sunday afternoon…
…Seventy-eight years after the device was exploded in a test north of Alamogordo, its reverberations are still being felt. Wester has made nuclear disarmament one of his key causes. He and representatives of other faiths and anti-nuclear groups organized a prayer and remembrance ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Santa María de la Paz Community Hall on the anniversary of the Trinity test north of Alamogordo and a 1979 uranium mill spill near Church Rock.
“These are two examples of nuclear colonialism in rural New Mexican communities and what makes today such a politically and emotionally charged day,” said Myrriah Gómez, author of Nuclear Nuevo México, a book that examines the state’s nuclear history in the context of the Spanish and American colonialism that preceded it.
Gómez said the national laboratories that employ so many New Mexicans could be repurposed to discover cures for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico News:
SANTA FE — To commemorate the anniversary of the first detonation of an atomic weapon in 1945 at the nearby Trinity Test Site, the complete elimination of nuclear weapons must be prioritized. “From Reflection to Action:
An Interfaith Remembrance of the Trinity Test” will be held at the Santa Maria de la Paz Community Hall in Santa Fe, featuring music, speakers, exhibitions, and moments of reflection and prayer. The free public event is 4-6 p.m. (doors open at 3:15 p.m.), Sunday, July 16, 2023. Pre-registration is encouraged, and the event will be live streamed.
Alarm is intensifying in Kyiv over the possibility that a Russian-occupied nuclear reactor in southern Ukraine could become a target of attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reinforced warnings that Russia may be planning to sabotage the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which Moscow’s forces have occupied since the start of the war. In response, the Kremlin accused the government in Kyiv of planning its own provocation. Concern has run high since last month’s destruction of the Kakhovka dam triggered catastrophic flooding and drained a reservoir used for the plant’s cooling system. The UN’s atomic watchdog agency, which has said it’s seen no evidence of explosives, is seeking fresh access to rooftops of reactors and other parts of the complex, IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said.
“Communities in New Mexico and around the U.S. benefit from the clean-up of legacy waste and its disposal at WIPP,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “The new permit conditions affirm New Mexico’s authority and position that all roads lead from WIPP – we are no longer the last stop for clean-up but the driving force in that process that begins here.”
New Mexico Environment Departement NEWS RELEASE
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Salado Isolation Mining Contractors LLC (SIMCO), successfully negotiated a settlement agreement last week with multiple parties that invited a hearing and that opposed the draft 10-year renewal permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) located in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The agreement includes modified conditions that provide greater regulatory oversight, improve safeguards, and authorize disposal of waste in two new underground panels over the next ten-year permit term. The modified conditions also prioritize legacy waste from cleanup activities, including from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The tripolar nuclear age could put human survival at risk. But some experts cite a number of three-body lessons from nature — starting with Newton’s — that illuminate the issue and suggest possible ways forward.
Physicists have long explored how phenomena in groups of three can sow chaos. A new three-body problem, they warn, could lead to not only global races for new armaments but also thermonuclear war. . If achieved, the rise would represent a fivefold increase from the “minimum deterrent” that Beijing possessed for more than a half-century and would make it a nuclear peer of Moscow and Washington.
Dr. Newman calls the tripolar state “much less resilient” than the bipolar standoff. Even so, three-body theorists see a number of ways that the unthinkable might be avoided.
For instance, Dr. Krepinevich, in a Foreign Affairs article last year, argued that Moscow could fade into economic and strategic insignificance, leaving a strong Beijing and Washington to “navigate their way to a new bipolar equilibrium.” The armed revolt over the weekend in Russia drives home not only Moscow’s weakness but the threat of new instability in an atomic superpower.
On a different note, Siegfried S. Hecker , a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, argued that Washington should aim to deal with the rival superpowers as separate entities.
“I don’t see Russia and China getting together” on atomic strategies, he said. “I see it as two bipolars.” As the Ukraine war rages and Washington has little interaction with Moscow…
“…the safety of these weapons is a persistent worry for Washington. U.S. intelligence agencies said in their 2023 Annual Threat assessment that ‘Russia’s nuclear material security … remains a concern despite improvements to material protection, control, and accounting at Russia’s nuclear sites since the 1990s.'”
The Wagner mercenary group’s march on Moscow has revived an old fear in Washington: What happens to Russia’s nuclear stockpile in the event of domestic upheaval?
An agreement on Saturday by Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to order his fighters back to their camps quelled immediate worries of major conflict inside Russia. But the episode signaled that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grasp on power is weakening.
Grigory Klinishov, who was in his 90s, has reportedly died by suicide in Moscow.
Russian nuclear physicist Grigory Klinishov, one of the creators of the Soviet Union’s first two-stage thermonuclear bombs, has been found dead in Moscow apparently by suicide, Russia’s state news agencies have reported.
Klinishov, who was in his early 90s, was reported to have died on June 17. A suicide note was found next to his body at an apartment residence in central Moscow, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.
The Indian Point nuclear plant along the Hudson River is at the center of a controversy two years after it was shut down
The latest flashpoint revolves around plans to release 1.3 million gallons of water with traces of radioactive tritium into the river as part of the plant’s decommissioning.
Legislature approves bill to prohibit disposal of nuclear wastewater in Hudson River
Santosh Nandabalan, a senior organizer for the environmental group Food & Water Watch, said new legislation that would halt the dumping of all radiological wastewater into the Hudson River is critical to preserving one of the state’s most important ecological features.
“It is a huge threat not only to that water, but to the local communities along the river,” he said. “Then, there’s a vibrant economy that’s linked to this river, which would take a massive hit if that dumping went forward.”
The bill is a response to a plan by Holtec that would dispose of about 300,000 gallons of wastewater into the Hudson in September…
Daniel Ellsberg was best known for leaking the Pentagon Papers, but he was also a lifelong anti-nuclear activist, stemming from his time working as a nuclear planner for the U.S. government. In December 2017, he joined us to discuss his memoir, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. “This was an actual war plan for how we would use the existing weapons,” he noted, “many of which I had seen already that time.”
June 20, 2023 democracynow.org|
ABC NEWS: Dan Smith says the Ukraine War has propelled the resurgence of nuclear threats, despite a general decline over the past 35 years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned there is a “serious danger” of NATO being drawn further into the Ukraine war if members of the alliance continue to supply military weaponry to Kyiv.
…“This is a serious danger of further drawing NATO into this military conflict,” he added.
During his speech to the forum, Putin also suggested Russia’s large number of nuclear weapons would “guarantee” its security – noting that Russia had more such weapons than NATO countries.
Russia has a total stockpile of around 6,250 nuclear warheads as of January 2021, according to the Arms Control Association. The US has more than 5,500 while two other NATO member states, Britain and France, have about 220 and 290 nuclear warheads, respectively.
“Nuclear weapons are created to guarantee our security in the broader sense and the existence of the Russian state,” Putin said.
“But first of all, there is no need and secondly the very fact of talking about it reduces the possibility of the threshold for using these weapons being reduced.”
In its report “Wasted: 2022 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending” the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons shows in 2022, the year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nine nuclear-armed states spent $82.9 billion on their nuclear weapons, more than $157,000 per minute, an overall increase of $2.5 billion from 2021.
ByJune 12, 2023 icanw.org|
Nine countries spent $82.9 billion on nuclear weapons, of which the private sector earned at least $29 billion in 2022. The United States spent more than all of the other nuclear armed states combined, $43.7 billion. Russia spent 22% of what the U.S. did, at $9.6 billion, and China spent just over a quarter of the U.S. total, at $11.7 billion.
This is the fourth annual report documenting massive investments in global nuclear weapons spending. Through an ever-changing and challenging security environment, from security threats of climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nuclear weapons spending has steadily increased, with no resulting measurable improvement on the security environment. If anything, the situation is getting worse.
As companies throw money at lobbyists and researchers to assert the continued relevance and value of nuclear weapons, the record shows the inutility of weapons of mass destruction to address modern security challenges — and the legitimate fear, backed by peer-reviewed scientific evidence, that they can end global civilisation as we know it.
2022 Select Highlighted Press Items
Putin’s Nuclear Threats Are a Wake-Up Call for the World | March 15, 2022
China and the United States: It’s a Cold War, but don’t panic | March 10, 2022
Flying Under The Radar: A Missile Accident in South Asia | April 4, 2022
2022 News Articles
“Next year in spring, [Japan] plans to begin releasing the water into the Pacific after treatment for most radioactive particles…”
A Department of Energy proposal to dilute and dispose of plutonium waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad is ready for public comment — the draft environmental impact statement, all 412 pages of it, has been released.
“Stay alert for notices of meetings and time for public comment. There’s no guarantee informed opposition will change plans by agencies intent on certain action, but speaking up beats staying quiet. Oh, and think about this: before rushing full speed ahead to produce even more plutonium pits, it’s time to at least try to find a way to dispose of the waste we’ve already created.”
[NukeWatch will provide sample comments and make it as easy as possible to participate in the public comment process for the WIPP Permit and Plutonium Waste Disposal plans]
The public can weigh in, whether in writing or by showing up for public hearings that will take place early next year.
Buckle up. This is going to be a contentious discussion.
The U.S. wants to be rid of 34 metric tons of plutonium bomb cores, or pits, stored at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo. The pits are Cold War legacies; because WIPP is restricted in the type of waste it can take, before disposing of it, the material must be diluted. Thus, the term, dilute and dispose. The Department of Energy’s decision about the waste was announced two years ago, but with no details.
At one point the Energy Department wanted to turn Cold War plutonium into a mixed oxide fuel for use in commercial nuclear plants. That would have happened at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, but billions in cost overruns and delays hamstrung the effort, and the Trump administration killed the project in 2018.
It chose the dilute-and-disposal plan.
The draft statement fleshes out just what would happen to prepare the pits for disposal — in a facility, we might point out, that currently is seeking a renewal of its hazardous waste permit from the state of New Mexico. WIPP is open, but state Environment Department Secretary James Kenney and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham want more oversight of waste disposal at the plant.
That back and forth is separate from the Energy Department dilute-and-disposal proposal, but the permit discussion provides context for the coming fierce debate.Continue reading
A new book investigates the toxic legacy of Hanford, the Washington state facility that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.
“Bechtel is a privately owned corporation and we’re spending billions of dollars paying this company to not get the job done. It’s a big mess.”
The most polluted place in the United States — perhaps the world — is one most people don’t even know. Hanford Nuclear Site sits in the flat lands of eastern Washington. The facility — one of three sites that made up the government’s covert Manhattan Project — produced plutonium for Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. And it continued producing plutonium for weapons for decades after the war, helping to fuel the Cold War nuclear arms race.
Today Hanford — home to 56 million gallons of nuclear waste, leaking storage tanks, and contaminated soil — is an environmental disaster and a catastrophe-in-waiting.
It’s “the costliest environmental remediation project the world has ever seen and, arguably, the most contaminated place on the entire planet,” writes journalist Joshua Frank in the new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.
It’s also shrouded in secrecy.
Frank has worked to change that, beginning with a series of blockbuster investigations published in Seattle Weekly a decade ago. Atomic Days offers an even fuller picture of the ecological threats posed by Hanford and its failed remediation.
The Revelator spoke with him about the environmental consequences, the botched cleanup operation, and what comes next.
Why is the most polluted place in the country so little known?
State wants full waste inventory, limits to disposal
WIPP, open since 1999, mining new panels
New Mexico will be “unwavering” in sticking to proposed new conditions on a federal underground nuclear waste repository, a state official said, including one that revokes the facility’s permit should Congress expand its disposal limit.
The state is demanding the Energy Department and its site contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, furnish an accurate inventory of all remaining wastes awaiting clean-up and emplacement at the site and an annual report detailing the agency’s progress toward siting another repository in another state.
“On December 13, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Livermore Lab held a press conference and, with maximum hoopla, announced that an experiment at the National Ignition Facility earlier that month had achieved fusion “ignition”.
Physicist MV Ramana, who is currently with the University of British Columbia and was previously at Princeton’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory and its Program on Science and Global Security, wrote this article for a science and tech magazine. For more information on what did and did not happen at NIF, we highly recommend it:”
- On December 13, the US Department of Energy announced that the National Ignition Facility had reached a “milestone”: the achievement of “ignition” in nuclear fusion earlier in the month.
- While the step has been described as a milestone in clean energy, generating electricity commercially or at an industrial scale through fusion is likely unattainable in any realistic sense – at least within the lifetimes of most readers of this article.
- The main utility that the facility offers nuclear weapons designers and planners is by providing a greater understanding of the underlying science and modernizing these weapons.
The Guardian [Letters]: Nuclear fusion ‘holy grail’ is not the answer to our energy prayers
Dr Mark Diesendorf questions the claim that nuclear fusion is safe and clean, while Dr Chris Cragg suspects true fusion power is a long way off. Plus letters from Dick Willis and Martin O’Donovan
“It is great news that scientists have succeeded in getting more energy out of fusion than they put in. It brings to mind a quote from a past director of the Central Electricity Generating Board: ‘One day you may get more energy out of nuclear fusion than you put in, but you will never get more money out than you put in.’” – Martin O’Donovan (Ashtead, Surrey)
You report on the alleged “breakthrough” on nuclear fusion, in which US researchers claim that break-even has been achieved (Breakthrough in nuclear fusion could mean ‘near-limitless energy’, 12 December). To go from break-even, where energy output is greater than total energy input, to a commercial nuclear fusion reactor could take at least 25 years. By then, the whole world could be powered by safe and clean renewable energy, primarily solar and wind.
The claim by the researchers that nuclear fusion is safe and clean is incorrect. Laser fusion, particularly as a component of a fission-fusion hybrid reactor, can produce neutrons that can be used to produce the nuclear explosives plutonium-239, uranium-235 and uranium-233. It could also produce tritium, a form of heavy hydrogen, which is used to boost the explosive power of a fission explosion, making fission bombs smaller and hence more suitable for use in missile warheads. This information is available in open research literature.
The US National Ignition Facility, which did the research, is part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which has a history of involvement with nuclear weaponry.
Dr Mark Diesendorf
University of New South Wales
“Because of how the Energy Department presented the breakthrough in a news conference headlined by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, news coverage has largely glossed over its implications for monitoring the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, even many serious news outlets focused on the possibility of carbon-free, fusion-powered electricity generation—even though the NIF achievement has, at best, a distant and tangential connection to power production.”
This week’s headlines have been full of reports about a “major breakthrough” in nuclear fusion technology that, many of those reports misleadingly suggested, augurs a future of abundant clean energy produced by fusion nuclear power plants. To be sure, many of those reports lightly hedged their enthusiasm by noting that (as The Guardian put it) “major hurdles” to a fusion-powered world remain.
Indeed, they do.
The fusion achievement that the US Energy Department announced this week is scientifically significant, but the significance does not relate primarily to electricity generation. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility, or NIF, focused the facility’s 192 lasers on a target containing a small capsule of deuterium–tritium fuel, compressing it and inducing what is known as ignition.
The report “Risky Returns” provides an overview of investments in 24 companies heavily involved in the production of nuclear weapons for the arsenals of China, France, India, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States in 2022. Overall, the report finds that 306 financial institutions made over $746 billion available to these companies, in loans, underwriting, shares or bonds. US-based Vanguard remains the largest single investor, with $68,180 million invested in the nuclear weapon industry.
While the total value of investments in the 24 nuclear weapon producers was higher than previous years, this is also attributed to share price variances through a turbulent year in the defence sector. Some nuclear weapon producers also produce conventional weapons and saw their stock values rise, likely resulting from the announcements by NATO states that they would significantly increase defence spending. Yet the report found no increase in the number of investors in the nuclear weapon producers.
A new book is out about Hanford, by Joshua Frank, co-editor of Counterpunch, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.
Once home to the United States’s largest plutonium production site, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is laced with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. The threat of an explosive accident at Hanford is all too real—an event that could be more catastrophic than Chernobyl.
Of the three waves of colonization New Mexico has undergone — Spanish, American and nuclear — the latter is the least explored. And for author Myrriah Gómez, there were personal reasons to reveal the truth about how “nuclear colonization” has altered the state’s past and continues to shape its future.
Gómez, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, is the author of “Nuclear Nuevo México,” a book that explores the history of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the fundamental tension of living in its shadow. Its publication this month by the University of Arizona Press couldn’t be timelier: Los Alamos is currently preparing to build plutonium “pits” that act as triggers in nuclear weapons, putting the lab front and center in an ongoing national debate about nuclear impacts.
“If Spanish colonialism brought Spanish colonizers and U.S. colonialism brought American colonizers,” as Gómez writes in her book, “then nuclear colonialism brought nuclear colonizers, scientists, military personnel, atomic bomb testing, and nuclear waste among them.”
“Why did they say it was safe to go outdoors? Why did they build it so close to Kyiv?…Why was it all such a secret?” – Yuriy Samoilenko, chief environmental inspector at Kyiv’s city hall at the time of the Chernobyl meltdown.
CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — Sophia Arkadiyivna remembers when the Soviet Union built the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1977, just 20 miles from the village where she served as mayor.
After years of atomic energy powering big Russian cities like Moscow, Leningrad and Voronezh, the USSR was finally ready to expand the technology to other Soviet republics like Ukraine. Soviet propaganda promised easier jobs and cleaner air.
“We didn’t have a reason to distrust the government. They showed us how good things could be,” she says.
Or so she thought at the time. It didn’t take long for Arkadiyivna to turn skeptical.
NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said the State wanted a permit with stronger regulations moving forward, to better protect people and the environment from the impacts of nuclear waste disposal.
“It will be more stringent, full stop,” Kenney said. “The conditions were adding to it are designed to add more accountability to the whole complex that are sending waste to WIPP.”
Tougher rules for a nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad could be on the way as New Mexico officials sought “more stringent” regulations as the federal government sought to renew its permit with the state for the facility.
The State sought new requirements to prioritize nuclear waste from within New Mexico for disposal, called for an accounting of all of the waste planned for disposal in the next decade and regular updates on federal efforts to find the location for a new repository as conditions of the permit.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy which holds a permit with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) that must be updated every 10 years.
The facility sees transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste from DOE facilities around the country disposed of via burial in an underground salt formation about 2,000 feet beneath the surface.
The lost nuke has never been found—only the pilot’s helmet was recovered, and the government kept it secret for years.
In the early days of the Cold War, the United States wanted to make sure it could launch a retaliatory strike against the Soviet Union as quickly as possible if it launched a nuclear strike. The goal was 15 minutes. This was before the advent of submarines that launch ballistic missiles and intercontinental ballistic missile silos. From 1960 until 1968, America maintained that 15-minute ability to pepper the globe with nukes by putting pilots on 24-hour alert. For more than a decade, hundreds of U.S. pilots criss-crossed the planet in planes loaded with nuclear bombs. To keep up with brutal hours, many of the pilots and crew took amphetamine.
As noted in Task & Purpose, the U.S. military had 32 nuclear accidents during the Cold War, and six of the weapons are still unaccounted for. Every story of a Broken Arrow—the military term for a missing nuke—is harrowing, but what happened off the coast of Japan in 1965 was especially frightening.
On December 5, 1965, U.S. Navy Lt. Douglas Webster was supposed take an A-4E Skyhawk loaded with a nuclear bomb into the sky. On the USS Ticonderoga aircraft carrier, stationed in the Philippine Sea about 70 miles from Okinawa, Japan, the crew loaded the weapon onto the vehicle and Webster got into the cockpit. The crew then pushed the plane to an elevator that would bring it up to the flight deck.
Watch a brief YouTube Clip about this event:
If nuclear weapons are ever eliminated, it will be the result of actions big and small at every communal level, from international leaders to civil society.
The Reverend John C. Wester occupies a unique role in this continuum as the Roman Catholic archbishop of Santa Fe, whose archdiocese is home to the Los Alamos and Sandia national nuclear laboratories and site of the first Manhattan Project nuclear tests. In January, Wester issued a pastoral letter, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament,” which called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and declared that the archdiocese “must be part of a strong peace initiative.” He had a compelling basis for action: In 2021, Pope Francis shifted the church’s position from accepting deterrence as a legitimate rationale for nuclear weapons to decrying the possession of nuclear weapons as “immoral.” Even with the pope’s admonition, however, Wester is finding his peace initiative slow going. He discussed his efforts with Carol Giacomo, editor of Arms Control Today. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ARMS CONTROL TODAY: You often tell the story of visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2017. It almost seems like an epiphany. How did that trip and other forces, including serving as the top Roman Catholic Church official in Santa Fe, home to Los Alamos and Sandia, propel you to take on the mission of eliminating nuclear weapons?
Archbishop John C. Wester: Until I came here to Santa Fe, I was pretty much like I believe most people are, lulled into a false sense of complacency.
Many of these shelters, which are marked by a characteristic yellow sign, were not specifically designed for such purposes and may not have provided sufficient levels of protection against radiation.
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February, concerns over the potential use of nuclear weapons have grown. Specially designed bunkers may provide some degree of protection to people in the event of a nuclear attack.
But where are all the nuclear bunkers in the United States and who are they for?
During the Cold War, the U.S. government constructed a number of bunkers around Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that were designed to provide a safe haven for high-ranking members and staff during a nuclear attack on the country.
“Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said there’s a long list of Environment Department officials who went to work for the lab or the agencies that manage it.
He noted Chris Catechis, acting director of the state Resources Protection Division, is going to work for the lab just weeks after Stringer took a job with the nuclear security agency.”
Many of these shelters, which are marked by a characteristic yellow sign, were not specifically designed for such purposes and may not have provided sufficient levels of protection against radiation
MENTONE, Texas (AP) — A strong earthquake shook a sparsely populated patch of desert in West Texas on Thursday, causing tremors felt as far away as the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez. The magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck around 3:30 p.m., according to Jim DeBerry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the West Texas city Midland. He said the strength of the quake means it likely caused damage in the remote oil patch and scrubland, but none had been reported so far.
DeBerry said the epicenter was about 23 miles (37 kilometers) south of Mentone, a tiny community south of the New Mexico state line and 95 miles (153 kilometers) west of Midland.
State Rep. Eddie Morales, Jr., whose district includes Mentone, said he spoke with local authorities and there were no reported injuries. He said via Twitter that state officials will be “inspecting roads, bridges and other infrastructure as a precaution.”
DeBerry said there were reports of people feeling vibrations from the quake 200 miles (515 kilometers) west in the border city of Ciudad Juárez and as far south as Terlingua, a small community near the Rio Grande and Big Bend National Park.
Officials from the two countries were due to meet in the Egyptian capital of Cairo from November 29 to December 6.
Nuclear disarmament talks between Russia and the United States set to take place this week have been postponed, according to Moscow’s foreign ministry and the US Embassy.
Officials from the two countries were due to meet in the Egyptian capital of Cairo from November 29 to December 6 to discuss resuming inspections under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which had been suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
EDF says the 480-megawatt Saint-Nazaire Offshore Wind Farm would help to “support the French State’s energy transition goals.”
A facility described as “France’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project” is fully operational, multinational utility EDF said this week.
The news represents a significant step forward for the country’s offshore wind sector, with more projects set to come online in the years ahead.
In a statement Wednesday, EDF said the 480-megawatt Saint-Nazaire Offshore Wind Farm would help to “support the French State’s energy transition goals, which include targets to generate 32% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.” EDF’s majority shareholder is the French state.
Nuclear waste storage in southeast New Mexico drew the ire of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who called on President Joe Biden via a Wednesday letter to block such a project near Carlsbad and Hobbs for perceived threats to nearby residents and implications of environmental racism.
“New Mexico has grave concerns for the risk this proposed storage site would pose to our citizens and communities, our first responders, our environment, and to New Mexico’s agriculture and natural resource industries,” Lujan Grisham wrote.
Holtec International proposed the project, which would store up to 100,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods on the surface in a remote area near the Eddy-Lea county line, after being recruited by a consortium of local leaders in the area known as the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance.
The Alliance provided the land, about 1,000 acres amid the oilfields of the Permian Basin, and worked with Holtec to promote the project and seek public support.
But Lujan Grisham, her administration and elected officials both at the state government and in Congress became opposed to the project, frequently voicing their disapproval in the years since.
The Defense secretary painted a bleak picture for the world, alluding to a scenario in which autocrats will race to acquire the bomb if Russia isn’t repelled.
“Austin further warned that “Putin may resort again to profoundly irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling” as the war drags on and if Ukrainian forces continue their gains against Russian troops.”
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could entice autocrats around the world to race to develop nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday, potentially sparking a dangerous era of nuclear proliferation.
Moscow has threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine several times over the past nine months, leading to a flurry of phone calls this month between U.S., European and Russian officials trying to tamp down tensions.
A day before he leaves for a multi-day swing through the Indo-Pacific, Austin painted a bleak picture for the world, alluding to a scenario in which autocrats will race to acquire the bomb if Putin isn’t successfully repelled.
[NukeWatch would amend this headline to add “‘lightly’ grills” – The DNFSB was asking tough questions, but DOE and the LANL contractors were not forthcoming with those answers.]
“Much of the discussion involved complex, technical subjects. But board Chairwoman Joyce Connery said a basic complaint is the lack of response the board has gotten at times when raising concerns in letters sent to the lab and nuclear security agency.”
A federal watchdog agency on Wednesday grilled top officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the agency that oversees nuclear weapons about ongoing safety concerns and how they aim to resolve them as the lab gears up to produce an unprecedented number of warhead triggers.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent organization within the executive branch, questioned lab Director Thom Mason and National Nuclear Security Administration head Jill Hruby about safety issues that could prove important as the lab moves toward making 30 bomb cores, known as pits, per year by 2026.
The board provides recommendations and advice to the president and the secretary of energy regarding public health and safety issues at Department of Energy defense nuclear facilities.
The daylong hearing was held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. It is the first time in several years the safety board has held a public hearing in the Santa Fe area.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has provided evidence to CCNS and Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE) that Stephanie Stringer, a New Mexico Environment Department Deputy Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the New Mexico Water Quality Commission, made adjudicatory decisions against the non-governmental organizations while she was applying for NNSA employment.
This is the second time NNSA has hired an adjudicatory decision-maker during an ongoing proceeding addressing the groundwater discharge permit, DP-1132, for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/190606-CCW-Petition-for-Mandamus-2019-06-06.pdf , see ¶¶ 14 – 24.
This time, Stephanie Stringer, after applying for the NNSA job, demonstrated her bias by not recusing herself from the matter. She voted against the NGOs in the requested permit review before the Water Quality Control Commission.
“PORTS is a massive complex that dominates the landscape in Pike County and, for people in the communities that surround it, so do cancer and death.”
ANOTHER SOMBER MOMENT IN THE CEMETERY
PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (WKRC) – On a crisp, sun-drenched day, the shadow of sadness followed Larry Farmer as he made a now-routine somber walk at Mound Cemetery in Piketon, Ohio.
Larry comes there three-to-four times a month to visit his son.
“I come in here and talk to Zach,” Larry said, at a spot overlooking a tombstone with etched pictures of his son smiling in his baseball uniform.
AN ALL-AMERICAN STORY
Zach Farmer was an All-American baseball pitcher at Piketon High School and rising start at Ohio State, when his dreams of making it to the big leagues were cut down by acute myeloid leukemia.
He died in 2015, just eight days after he turned 21.
“You’re never going to find peace,” Larry said as he recalled the pain of losing his son.
“While the U.S. has cut off most contacts with Russia over the invasion, some channels remain. In Moscow, officials have called for a resumption of broader strategic dialogue, including on a possible successor treaty to New START. The U.S. has said that’s not possible until the inspections resume.”
Russia said it will hold talks with the U.S. from late November to early December in Cairo about inspections of atomic weapons sites under the New START treaty, a first step toward reviving broader arms-control talks suspended since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The consultations in the Egyptian capital will last about a week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday, according to state news service RIA Novosti.
I do not share your enthusiasm for the “good news” that Sizewell C is believed to be safe from Jeremy Hunt’s budgetary cuts (“Britain can’t afford to waver over nuclear power – soon it will be too late”, Editorial). “On a freezing cold, windless, winter’s evening”, Britain’s grid will indeed need an alternative power source to wind or solar, but why is it assumed that only nuclear can provide an alternative base load? And at the cost of how many billions? And how many decades of lead time?
Geothermal could do the job faster, more safely and cheaply – for about a quarter of the cost. Geothermal power plants operate already in the United States, Italy and Iceland. And nothing is more certain and regular than the tide twice a day; sea turbines already operate in tidal flows off Orkney and Shetland and are another safe source of energy baseload. Let us not be blinkered by nuclear.
Sweden plans to declare nuclear weapons cannot be stationed on its territory when the country joins the NATO military alliance, following in the footsteps of its Nordic neighbors, the Swedish foreign minister told local news agency TT on Friday.
Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO earlier this year in a move triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So far, the application has been ratified by 28 of NATO’s 30 countries.
Sweden’s supreme commander raised eyebrows this month when he recommended that the government should not insert any red lines in the final negotiations with NATO, such as bans against permanent alliance bases or nuclear weapons on Swedish soil.
However, Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Sweden would join Denmark and Norway in unilaterally declaring that it would not allow nuclear weapons in Sweden.
“It is still the long-term Moderate Party position,” he told TT. “We have never intended to change the conditions for the application submitted by the previous government,” he said.
A Moderate Party-led alliance won the September general election, ending eight years of Social Democratic rule in Sweden.
“Australia must ‘make sure that we are able to be good nuclear stewards from cradle to grave’.” – Defence Minister of Australia Richard Marles
But New Zealand said it was “pleased to observe a positive shift” in Australia’s position in a United Nations vote and “would, of course, welcome any new ratifications as an important step to achieving a nuclear weapon-free world”.
“White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has held talks with top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow in recent weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“After a series of setbacks in Ukraine, Putin has signaled that he was willing to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, causing Biden to warn of a nuclear ‘Armageddon.’”
U.S. officials and allies told the news outlet that Sullivan has been in talks with Yuri Ushakov, a foreign-policy adviser to Putin, as well as Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s security council.
It’s unclear how many times Sullivan has spoken with the officials, but the conversations have been focused on preventing escalation of the war as fears of Russia using nuclear weapons have been rising, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“This “bait and switch” tactic, where WIPP is marketed with one mission in mind, then greatly expanded decades later, contradicts DOE’s professed dedication to a consent-based process that, in their own words, “focuses on the needs and concerns of people and communities.”
This expansion represents such a dramatic change in WIPP’s core mission that its managers must reassess safety issues and negotiate a new social contract with the public before moving forward.”
The U.S. Department of Energy proposes a dramatic expansion of the type and amount of radioactive waste for burial at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. In March, community groups rallied outside the state Capitol protesting this planned expansion, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sent the Department of Energy a letter in April that cited “ongoing frustration among New Mexicans regarding the lack of meaningful and transparent public engagement from the DOE on waste clean-up, shipments, and long-term plans for the WIPP.”
While it may seem too late to protest a facility that has operated for decades, citizen activists are right to object, and the governor is right to demand the Department of Energy address the concerns of state citizens.
“Even a “limited” regional nuclear war could kill millions or even billions, disrupt global climate, and lead to mass starvation. Nuclear winter would not stop at the borders of nuclear perpetrator states—the entire global population would bear the costs of catastrophic deterrence failure or accidents.
Complicating the setting, it would most likely be future generations that would have to cope with the devastating consequences, which makes necessary action today appear to be a less pressing concern.
After all, why should today’s decision-makers—particularly in democracies, and nuclear-armed ones at that—care more about future voters than their current electorates?”
The global nuclear order—built on policies of nuclear deterrence, nonproliferation, and disarmament—is unjust. Russia’s war against Ukraine proves that the distribution of the costs and benefits of nuclear deterrence is particularly discriminatory. The current situation is a painful reminder that nuclear weapons are to global security what fossil fuels are to a green economy: a costly legacy of past generations thwarting justice and sustainability efforts in the long-term.
It is time for nuclear scholars, policy makers, and the general public to (re)politicize the ongoing and future negative effects of this Nuclear Injustice and push for fundamental change in the role of nuclear weapons in the world. They can do so by making Nuclear Injustice front and center at all relevant conferences and actively engaging in the debate about the nuclear lessons learned from the war in Ukraine.
“Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said given the reported problems the lab and Savannah River are grappling with, the review might be trying to add “wiggle room” to production goals.
“It’s interesting how vague the Nuclear Posture Review is on both the rate and timing of pit production,” Coghlan said.”
“A lawsuit remains before a federal judge in South Carolina in which the plaintiffs – SRS Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico (Santa Fe, NM) and Tri-Valley CAREs (Livermore, CA) – have demanded that a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on pit production be prepared. The PEIS would analyze impacts of pit production at all DOE sites, including heretofore unanalyzed disposal of plutonium by-product waste (transuranic waste) from pit production in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.”
SRS Pit Plant would Fabricate Plutonium Pits (Cores) for New and Old Nuclear Weapons; Schedule Delays, Cost Increases Mounting, with Cost Nearing $12 Billion
Our prediction that the unneeded SRS plutonium pit plant would continue to face significant delays and substantial cost increases is sadly being proven true”
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, US – A facility proposed to make the key plutonium component for new U.S. nuclear warheads faces another substantial delay, according a U.S. Department of Energy official at a nuclear meeting this week in South Carolina. The delay of construction of the Plutonium Bomb Plant, proposed to make plutonium “pits” at the U.S. Department of Energy’s sprawling 310-square-mile Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, SC, could push the price tag to $11.5 billion or higher.
“Congress should have the courage to begin to help lead us toward a future world free of nuclear weapons…In particular, I call upon the New Mexican congressional delegation to end their support for unneeded, exorbitantly expensive plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons. ”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CNS) — The world still has not learned “the essential lesson” of the Cuban Missile Crisis that “the only way to eliminate the nuclear danger is through careful, universal, verifiable steps to eliminate nuclear weapons,” said Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“It is the very nature of these weapons that the possession of any nuclear weapons is an existential danger to all,” he said. “And Pope Francis has been explicitly clear that ‘the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.’”
He renewed his call “for dialogue on the existential issue of eliminating nuclear weapons” and said New Mexico’s congressional delegation should help lead this dialogue,” given that the federal government spends billions in the state on weapons production while New Mexico “remains mired at the bottom of numerous socioeconomic indicators.”
Investigators arrived in St. Louis on Aug. 15, 2022. The study was released in mid-October with the results of radioactive lead found at Jana Elementary School.
Sweetheart Deal Negotiated Behind Closed Doors Violates CEQA Mandates
Thursday, October 6, 2022
Jeff Ruch, PEER, [email protected] (510) 213-7028
Melissa Bumstead, Parents Against Santa Susana Field Lab [email protected] (818) 233-0642
Denise Duffield, Physicians for Social Responsibility, [email protected] (310) 339-9766
Lawrence Yee [email protected]
Oakland — The Newsom administration’s backroom deal with the Boeing Co. to dramatically weaken cleanup standards at the profoundly polluted Santa Susana Field Laboratory violates the public involvement and transparency requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), charges a lawsuit filed today by community and public health groups. The suit would open the cleanup agreement to public scrutiny and force the state agencies and the Boeing Co. to justify a cleanup methodology that leaves 90% of the contamination onsite.
Filed today in Ventura County Superior Court by Parents Against Santa Susana Field Lab, Physicians for Social Responsibility (LA Chapter), and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the suit would, if successful, vacate both the cleanup agreement and an accompanying promise to free Boeing from toxic stormwater discharge requirements.
“This suit does not prevent cleanup from beginning immediately but instead aims to ensure it continues until it is fully completed,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that under a prior Consent Order, the cleanup was supposed to have been completed back in 2017. “This lawsuit is about having this cleanup done right and well beyond the outrageous ‘rip and skip’ deal that Boeing wrangled behind closed doors.”
After repeatedly promising to enforce a 2007 legally binding cleanup agreement with Boeing, the Newsom administration secretly negotiated an 800-page agreement that “supersedes” the prior order by substantially relaxing key cleanup requirements, allowing hundreds of times higher levels of toxic chemicals than previously permitted, and leaving much of the contamination onsite.
Nuclear News Archives – 2021
“The Environment Department “should be equally considerate towards the judicial review process as it was in the administrative permit modification process, to ensure the courts have sufficient time to review objectively the facts and arguments associated with the appeal.” – Steve Zappe, a member of the Environment Department who worked on WIPP for 17 years.”
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety | December 23, 2021
Two appeals have been filed in the New Mexico Court of Appeals to challenge the decision by New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney to approve the new shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety filed the second appeal on November 29th. On November 9th, Southwest Research and Information Center and Cynthia Weehler had filed the first appeal. Visit: env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/, scroll down to HWB 21-02 – APPEAL: Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Class 3 Permit Modification Request, “Excavation of a New Shaft and Associated Connecting Drifts.
SRIC and Weehler also asked Secretary Kenney for a stay, that is, a delay, of shaft construction until the Court of Appeals rules on their appeal. On the stay motion, Secretary Kenney can grant, or deny, or take no action. If he does not grant the stay, or if he takes no action by January 10th, a stay motion then could be filed with the Court of Appeals. Visit: env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/ , scroll down to HWB 21-02 –Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Class 3 Permit Modification Request, “Excavation of a New Shaft and Associated Connecting Drifts.
Unfortunately, key documents are missing, including the SRIC/Weehler Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, the Hearing Officer’s Report and the Secretary’s Final Order.
The stay motion was supported by three affidavits. Cynthia Weehler stated that she purchased her home near U.S. Highway 285 knowing that the WIPP Permit anticipated that shipments to WIPP would end in 2024. Now, the WIPP expansion plan that requires the new shaft “would result in thousands of additional shipments coming near my house for many decades.” She is very concerned that accidents could result in health effects and “such shipments will reduce my property values.”
Kathleen Wan Povi Sanchez, an Elder from the Tewa Pueblo of San Ildefonso and among the founding mothers of Tewa Women United, stated in her affidavit that an increase in waste transportation near two schools located on New Mexico Highway 502 would endanger the health of Pueblo children in attendance. Further, “The WIPP expansion plan would result in thousands of new shipments using  Highway 502 for decades transporting plutonium from the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas to [Los Alamos National Laboratory], and from [Los Alamos] to the Savannah River Site, followed by shipments from that site to WIPP.”
An anti-nuclear group said this type of plutonium isn’t explosive but would be hazardous to breathe.
It’s possible the lab made this type of plutonium a lesser priority while ramping up pit production, and now it plans to take big shipments, said Scott Kovac, research and operations director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
“That’s a huge amount to accept,” Kovac said. “Now they’re asking NNSA to say that’s OK.”
The estimated cost of handling the degrading radioactive material is rising steadily — $512 billion at last count.
“DoE is now running up against a statutory limit for how much waste it can store in the space, so it recently changed its counting method to exclude space between storage drums as storage space. New Mexico regulators approved the change but the matter is being challenged in court.
“They knocked a third out of it with a slight of hand. That will allow them a lot more waste,” complains Scott Kovac, operations & research director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM), a local anti-nuclear group.”
“Germany’s move [planning to to attend the meeting as an observer] has put Japan — which has stated it aspires to a world free of nuclear weapons as the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings — in the spotlight. Both countries are key U.S. allies that rely on American nuclear forces for protection.”
© KYODO NEWS | December 20, 2021
The United States has urged Japan not to attend as an observer the first meeting of signatories to a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, according to U.S. government sources, reflecting Washington’s opposition to the pact.
The Japanese government has suggested it will come into line with the United States and take a cautious approach to the issue, the sources said. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that Tokyo has no “concrete plans” to attend the meeting as an observer.
The sources said the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden made the request to Japan through diplomatic channels after German political parties announced Nov. 24 that the deal for the new ruling coalition included taking part as an observer at the meeting scheduled for March in Vienna.
Maybe because of the request, Kishida also suggested last week that participation in the meeting would be premature “before building a relationship of trust with President Biden.”
At least 125 people were present for the service, many bearing roses in honor of the Lady of Guadalupe. Among them was Karen Weber, who said it’s “highly symbolic” for Wester to speak out on the “abolishment of nuclear weapons.”
Looking up at the sky as a young teen one day in Daly City, Calif., Archbishop John C. Wester had one thought as he saw military planes overheard.
Were they ours, or were they Russian planes?
The year was 1962, perhaps the first time nuclear war between the two superpowers seemed likely to erupt as the Cuban Missile Crisis played out and students were taught to prepare for an atomic attack by diving under their desks at schools.
“I don’t think going under our desks was very helpful,” Wester said Sunday in Santa Fe, moments before issuing a call for the world to rid itself its nuclear weapons.
Now, some 60 years later, he said he wants to do more to end the threat of an atomic war. Wester spoke and prayed during a 30-minute prayer service and ceremony at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe before he unveiled a sign bearing an image of Pope Francis and a quote uttered by the pope in Hiroshima in 2020: “The possession of nuclear arms is immoral.”
Wester said “our archdiocese needs to be facilitating, encouraging an ongoing conversation” about nuclear disarmament.
“While the labs work on relearning high-stakes industrial techniques for terrifying weapons, it is estimated that most of the existing warheads will remain fully functional for at least 100 years after first manufacture. Given an arsenal of hundreds of deployed warheads, the stakes of failure to modernize are that, in the event of the worst war humanity has ever known, some warheads might fail to detonate, letting millions live.”
Plutonium pits, the potent hearts of modern nuclear weapons, degrade over time. As these cores decay, so too does the certainty that they will work as designed when detonated. Los Alamos National Laboratory, the organization that grew out of the Manhattan Project to design and equip the nuclear arsenal of the Cold War, is advancing towards its goal of manufacturing 30 new plutonium pits to go inside nuclear bomb cores by 2026.
The project is both a specific manufacturing challenge, and an opening for the United States to newly consider how many warheads it needs on hand to achieve its stated strategic objectives.
Inside a nuclear warhead, a plutonium pit is crucial to setting off the sequence of reactions that make a thermonuclear explosion. Inside the pit is a gas, like deuterium/tritium, and around the pit is chemical explosive. When the chemical explosive detonates, it compacts the plutonium around the gas until the core is dense enough to trigger a fission reaction. What makes a warhead thermonuclear, as opposed to just atomic, is that this is combined in the same warhead with a uranium core, which creates a fusion explosion.
The letter argued that “by making clear that the United States will never start a nuclear war, it reduces the likelihood that a conflict or crisis will escalate to nuclear war.” And it would demonstrate, they argued, that the United States was committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which obliges the nuclear-armed states to move toward reducing their arsenals.
Written By: Jesus Jiménez © 2021 The New York Times Company The New York Times | December 17, 2021
Nearly 700 scientists and engineers, including 21 Nobel laureates, asked President Joe Biden on Thursday to use his forthcoming declaration of a new national strategy for managing nuclear weapons as a chance to cut the US arsenal by a third and to declare, for the first time, that the United States would never be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.
The letter to Biden also urged him to change, for the first time since President Harry S. Truman ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, the American practice that gives the commander in chief sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. The issue gained prominence during the Trump administration, and the authors of the letter urged Biden to make the change as “an important safeguard against a possible future president who is unstable or who orders a reckless attack.”
Today I had the honor of delivering a letter on nuclear weapons issues to @POTUS signed by 697 scientists & engineers, including 21 Nobel laureates & 69 members of the National Academies. It recommends four steps to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war: https://t.co/o9ktgLlOxd pic.twitter.com/stjn9BJCCu
— Stephen Young (@StephenUCS) December 16, 2021
Some senators say Biden’s social and climate bill costs too much, but comparing it to the military spending plan they just passed suggests otherwise.
This week, the families of 61 million children received their final payments under the expanded Child Tax Credit. This credit has kept 10 million children above the poverty line, but it is expiring as the Senate delays a vote to renew it through the Build Back Better Act.
Instead, on the same day these last payments went out, the Senate voted to approve a $778 billion military spending budget — four times as much as the annual cost of the entire Build Back Better plan. Yet we’ve heard endlessly about how it’s Build Back Better that needs to be gutted so we can skimp and save.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for a “new momentum” to nuclear disarmament as she met with her Swedish counterpart with an eye toward a review of a non-proliferation treaty.
Germany and Sweden have paired up to find ways to get the world’s nuclear powers to move toward committing to disarmament. The foreign ministers met in Stockholm to plot the way forward ahead of next month’s review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Baerbock has been in talks with her Swedish counterpart Ann Linde and met with the Stockholm Initiative, a group of 16 countries seeking to get rid of nuclear weapons.
“Our joint goal is clear: a world free of atomic weapons,” Baerbock said during a press conference with Linde.
“Our message to the review conference will be clear: Nuclear weapons countries have to push ahead with nuclear disarmament,” read a statement from the initiative, calling for an irreversible, transparent end to nuclear weapons subject to oversight.
“By taking the lead of the toxic alliance between fossil gas and nuclear (energy) at a European level, Emmanuel Macron clearly sides with the polluters’ camp. Nuclear is not a green energy: it produces radioactive waste that piles up across the country”
By Reuters | December 14, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) – Demonstrators unfurled a banner declaring “Gas & nuclear are not green” outside France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday in protest at a government drive to label nuclear energy and fossil gas as sectors for climate-friendly investment.
One of the about 20 protesters, wearing a mask of President Emmanuel Macron, chained himself to a gas bottle and a nuclear barrel outside the ministry’s headquarters in Paris. Another held a banner that read “Macron shame on you.”
The European Union is preparing a rulebook on climate friendly investments, which from next year will define which activities can be labelled as green in sectors including transport and buildings.
The EU’s aim is to restrict the green investment label to climate-friendly activities, steer cash into low-carbon projects and stop companies or investors making unsubstantiated environmental claims.
“The public deserves an explanation,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “Given the persistent criticality safety problems at Y-12, it is astonishing that the National Nuclear Security Administration has turned the management over to Fluor and Amentum, two companies that have racked up millions of dollars in fines in the last two decades for nuclear safety violations.”
immediate release: December 13, 2021
more information: Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050 / [email protected]
According to the web site goodjobsfirst.com, which tracks violations in government contracting, AECOM, parent company of Amentum, has been penalized more than $167 million for 114 violations since 2000. Fifty-one of those violations were safety related, for a total of $4.5 million in penalties and fines; of that total, $3,866,250 was assessed for nuclear safety violations.
“From the beginning of October to mid-November, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board documented nine nuclear safety incidents at Y-12, an average of more than one a week,” Hutchison said. “Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly—Y-12 is consistently plagued by nuclear safety issues, many of them from legacy activities or the ongoing degradation of the buildings used to manufacture nuclear weapons components.
“And the equally sad truth is that contractors at Y-12 have a history of failing to aggressively address issues as they arise. An outside assessment delivered in October noted that Consolidated Nuclear Services declared some cases ‘closed’ even though the actual problem had not been corrected and the cases were, in fact, still open.
By CBSBoston.com Staff December 7, 2021
PLYMOUTH (CBS) – The company managing the shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant now says it will not release contaminated water into Cape Cod Bay in 2022 as planned.
Holtec International planned to discharge the water sometime early next year.
But in a statement on Monday, they promised to store the water on site through 2022 and search for other options to get rid of it.
“We appreciate and understand the public’s questions and concerns and remain committed to an open, transparent process on the decommissioning of Pilgrim Station focused on the health and safety of the public, the environment, and on-site personnel,” Holtec said in a statement.
Pilgrim went offline in 2019.
“I support having by far the strongest military in the world and the good-paying defense jobs in my district that protect our troops,” said Representative Andy Levin, Democrat of Michigan. “But I cannot support ever-increasing military spending in the face of so much human need across our country.”
By: The New York Times | December 7, 2021
WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a $768 billion defense policy bill after lawmakers abruptly dropped proposals that would have required women to register for the draft, repealed the 2002 authorization of the Iraq war and imposed sanctions for a Russian gas pipeline, in a late-year drive to salvage a bipartisan priority.
The legislation, unveiled hours before the vote, put the Democratic-led Congress on track to increase the Pentagon’s budget by roughly $24 billion above what President Biden had requested, angering antiwar progressives who had hoped that their party’s control of the White House and both houses of Congress would lead to cuts to military programs after decades of growth.
Instead, the measure provides significant increases for initiatives intended to counter China and bolster Ukraine, as well as the procurement of new aircraft and ships, underscoring the bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill for continuing to spend huge amounts of federal money on defense initiatives, even as Republicans lash Democrats for spending freely on social programs.
“Essentially blessing what DOE was going to have to do anyway in order to expand nuclear weapons activities and waste disposal,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “And once again demonstrated the subservience of our state government to the nuclear weapons industry here in New Mexico.”
The N.M. 4 and East Jemez Road intersection in the far northwestern corner of Santa Fe County will be improved as part of a $15.5 million upgrade of routes on which Los Alamos National Laboratory transports nuclear waste to an underground disposal site in Southern New Mexico.
The U.S. Energy Department will spend $3.5 million to improve the intersection, which lies just outside Los Alamos County, and another $12 million to upgrade routes it owns and uses mostly to ship transuranic waste — contaminated gloves, clothing, equipment, soil and other items — to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.
Human beings are not necessarily destined to annihilate ourselves.
“…the actual danger of nuclear conflict is now greater than at any point in history.”
FOR YEARS, the Dutch organization PAX has been issuing reports detailing the Armageddon that’s hiding in plain sight. The business of nuclear weapons — and it is in fact a business — does not for the most part take place in secret underground lairs. It is all around us, conducted by corporations and banks that might otherwise make cellphones or cornflakes or autonomous vacuum cleaners.
PAX’s newest paper, “Perilous Profiteering,” should be front-page news around the world. Why it is not is an interesting question.
Nuclear war is still a threat to humanity. It’s true that it’s generally vanished from popular culture and our imagination since the end of the Cold War 30 years ago. What almost no one knows, however, is that many serious observers believe that the actual danger of nuclear conflict is now greater than at any point in history.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists invented its Doomsday Clock in 1947 to express how close the world was to self-destruction. It was initially set at seven minutes to midnight. Since then it has varied, being set both closer to and further away from midnight. But today, in 2021, it is the closest it’s ever been: 100 seconds to midnight. The publication’s reasoning can be read here.
“Germany is to shut down its last nuclear reactors next year. However, the country still has no place to store the 27,000 cubic metres of highly radioactive material it has already produced, with the amount set to grow as power stations are decommissioned and dismantled. German authorities have set a deadline of 2031 to find a permanent storage location – but for now, the waste is being stored in temporary locations, much to the anger of local residents.”
A fault in the plant’s fire prevention system caused the gas leak, which was not linked to any radioactive material, the regional fire service posted on Twitter.
MADRID, Nov 24 (Reuters) – One person has died and three have been taken to hospital after a carbon dioxide leak at the Asco nuclear power plant in the Spanish region of Catalonia, local emergency services said on Wednesday.
Shortly afterwards, the fire service said it was preparing to leave the site after checking over the extractor fans with the plant’s staff and ensuring the systems were working properly.
The three people taken to hospital suffered light injuries from carbon dioxide inhalation, emergency services said.
Russia’s envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Twitter they “started quite successfully.” Asked he if was optimistic, Iran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, told reporters: “Yes, I am.”
Vienna, Austria EU, Iranian and Russian diplomats sounded upbeat as Iran and world powers held their first talks in five months on Monday to try to save their 2015 nuclear deal, despite Tehran taking a tough stance in public that Western powers said would not work.
“I feel extremely positive about what I have seen today,” Enrique Mora, the EU official chairing the talks, said after the meeting — the seventh round of talks aimed at reviving a deal under which Iran limited its disputed uranium enrichment program in return for relief from US, EU and UN economic sanctions.
“They have accepted that the work done over the first six rounds is a good basis to build our work ahead,” he said. “We will be of course incorporating the new political sensibilities of the new Iranian administration.”
“I hope Sen. Durbin changes his mind about promoting nuclear energy. The real carbon-free sources of electricity are wind and solar.”
I cannot disagree more with the assertion by Sen. Dick Durbin in a recent Sun-Times op-ed that nuclear power is a necessary and viable way to combat climate change.
Electricity production by nuclear power is not, and can never be made, safe and economical.
When nuclear power plants were first touted in the 1950s as a new and safe method for producing electricity, it was said the electricity would be “too cheap to meter.” This is pure nonsense! If it was so safe, why weren’t any power plants built and put on line until passage of the Price-Anderson Act? The law has been amended a number of times and greatly limits the liability of operators of nuclear power plants.
Anything paid out beyond the limits set in Price-Anderson would take years of lawsuits.
Sen. Durbin wrote “It is past time for Congress to step up and develop a comprehensive, consent-based plan to store nuclear waste.” That’s an understatement. Nuclear waste is stored within a half-mile of Lake Michigan at the now-closed Zion nuclear power plant. Why is it close to the source of our drinking water? Because there is nowhere to ship it! Plans to ship such waste to a depository in Yucca Mountain in the southwest fell through when some improperly stored barrels burst into flames, releasing large amounts of high-level radioactive material.
Who does the senator think will agree to a “consent-based plan” when there is no known method of safely storing these dangerous materials for thousands of years, the time it takes for radioactive decay to make it safe for the environment?
Sen. Durbin argued that “we must ensure the nuclear fleet remains safe and economical,” but nuclear power has never been economical. As far as I know, the last time a permit was approved for a new nuclear plant was during the Obama administration. That plant in Georgia is only about half complete, although it was to be finished by now and the cost is already double the initial estimate.
The current “fleet,” as Sen. Durbin called them, of nuclear power plants were designed and engineered to last about 30 to 40 years. Most of our country’s plants are near that age. Their internal systems are constantly bombarded by radioactive particles, making the metal in the systems more brittle and prone to failure every year. Subsidizing them is a waste of taxpayer money and a dangerous gamble with our lives.
I hope Sen. Durbin changes his mind. The real carbon-free sources of electricity are renewables: wind and solar.
George Milkowski, West Ridge
To the editor: Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz are both professors who served as U.S. Energy secretary. They have more science credentials than most mortals. I am none of those things.
Yet, I was concerned when I read in their piece advocating for the continued use of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant past the planned 2025 decommissioning that they referred to the electricity it produces as “clean.”
I recognize that they did so in order to differentiate nuclear from energy sources that emit carbon dioxide. However, the lack of carbon emissions notwithstanding, can nuclear energy truly be called clean?
There is the not-so-small matter of spent nuclear fuel. Where does it go? Where will it go? It’s currently in a cooling pool on-site. Owner Pacific Gas and Electric has requested permission to develop a dry cask storage system on-site; it did not estimate how long the spent fuel would be stored there.
Spent fuel is radioactive for a very long time. Whichever way you store it, if anything compromises the containment, the danger is released.
Carbon emissions or none, it is misleading to refer to nuclear energy as clean, especially when it comes to its impact on the environment.
Elise Power, Garden Grove
To the editor: I was energized by the piece on the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. It reminded me of the sad situation at our local San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.Continue reading
“Diane Turco, of Harwich, the director of Cape Downwinders, a citizen group that was at the forefront of the effort to close Pilgrim, called any option that included sending radioactive water into the bay “outrageous” and “criminal.” Turco said she has no confidence in the decommissioning process.
“The process has been to allow radioactivity into the environment,” she said. “The answer should be no you can’t do that.””
PLYMOUTH — One of the options being considered by the company that is decommissioning the closed Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is to release around one million gallons of potentially radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.
The option had been discussed briefly with state regulatory officials as one possible way to get rid of water from the spent fuel pool, the reactor vessel and other components of the facility, Holtec International spokesman Patrick O’Brien said in an interview Wednesday. It was highlighted in a report by state Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Regional Director Seth Pickering at Monday’s meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel in Plymouth.
“We had broached that with the state, but we’ve made no decision on that,” O’Brien said.
As of mid-December, Holtec will complete the process of moving all the spent fuel rods into casks that are being stored on a concrete pad on the Pilgrim plant site in Plymouth. After that, O’Brien told the panel, the removal and disposal of other components in those areas of the facility will take place and be completed sometime in February.
“New round of talks unlikely to produce breakthrough but will shed light on posture of new Iranian government, analysts say.”
“We’re going to find out how different these [Iranian] hardliners are from previous hardliners; we’re going to find out if they’re going to be a little softer,” said Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian-American journalist and analyst.
“And we’re also going to find out if the Americans have really realised that they missed an opportunity, and that they should change their position to some extent.”
Proponents of the deal, including Mortazavi, have criticised US President Joe Biden for not moving with urgency to restore the agreement in the first months of his administration, when a more moderate Iranian government headed by former President Hassan Rouhani was in charge.
Six rounds of talks in Vienna between April and June failed to forge a path back into the agreement.
“That golden window of opportunity was short, and the Biden team completely missed it,” Mortazavi told Al Jazeera.
The Kirtland Air Force Lab is dedicated to militarizing space, not improving the lives of New Mexico citizens.
“The United States should recognize that a pattern of continued militarization of space is insufficient to provide the stability on which its economy and its armed forces depend, so the tools of diplomacy and international law should be marshalled too.”
Air Force Research Laboratory spending on space and “directed energy” technology like lasers and microwaves boosted the local economy by nearly $2 billion over the past three years, according to a new economic impact report.
“The occurrence of smaller earthquakes began to increase in 2017, when oil and gas boomed in the region, up to about three per day recently. In 2021, records show the region was on track for more than 1,200 earthquakes with magnitudes of 1 to 4.”
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Multiple earthquakes were felt earlier this fall in West Texas, leading regulators in that state to designate a seismic response area and call for less wastewater from oil and gas development to be injected in disposal wells.
As more seismic activity was reported closer to the state line, officials in New Mexico have been watching closely and gathering data. Some officials are concerned that as Texas limits the injection of produced water as a means to curb the seismic activity, that could affect producers in New Mexico.
“Against this backdrop, Russo-Chinese coordination is becoming a stabilising factor in world affairs,” said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
MOSCOW/WASHINGTON, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Russia’s defence minister on Tuesday accused U.S. bombers of rehearsing a nuclear strike on Russia from two different directions earlier this month and complained that the planes had come within 20 km (12.4 miles) of the Russian border.
But the Pentagon said its drills were announced publicly at the time and adhered to international protocols.
Moscow’s accusation comes at a time of high tension with Washington over Ukraine, with U.S. officials voicing concerns about a possible Russian attack on its southern neighbour – a suggestion the Kremlin has dismissed as false.
Moscow has in turn accused the United States, NATO and Ukraine of provocative and irresponsible behaviour, pointing to U.S. arms supplies to Ukraine, Ukraine’s use of Turkish strike drones against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and NATO military exercises close to its borders.
“Germany can, of course, decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in (its) country, but the alternative is that we easily end up with nuclear weapons in other countries in Europe, also to the east of Germany,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
PAX and ICAN have released the latest Don’t Bank on the Bomb report “Perilous Profiteering: The companies building nuclear arsenals and their financial backers“, which names the 338 investors backing 25 nuclear weapon producing companies and the size of their investments. This report is also the first time we were able to find information on Russian and Chinese investments.
The report also found three clear signs that financial institutions are starting to see nuclear weapons as risky business, and are leaving them behind:
• From 2019 to 2021, the total amount made available for nuclear weapons producing companies dropped by an impressive $63 billion, and the total number of financial institutions willing to invest in nuclear weapons producing companies went down too.
• Nuclear weapons producing companies, despite billion dollar contracts, have debt. But investors are moving away. So instead, they’re borrowing from wherever they can to raise cash. In other words: producing weapons of mass destruction has become extremely unattractive.
• 127 financial institutions stopped investing in companies producing nuclear weapons this year!
Of course, we still have a lot of work to do to hold these profiteers accountable. Banks, insurers, asset managers and pension funds still made $685 billion available for the companies producing nuclear weapons (like Northrop Grumman, which has $24 billion in outstanding contracts).
Our banks, insurers, and pension funds have no business investing in companies that choose to be involved in illegal weapons of mass destruction, and we need to tell them. Read the key findings of the report HERE.
A federal inspection of the decommissioned Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth that began in July and stretched through September found “no violations of more than minor significance,” the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.
The inspection included “an evaluation of the safety screening, safety review, onsite management review, engineering change processes, the fire protection program, maintenance program, and the available results for site radiological and non-radiological characterization,” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. The agency also conducted “a review and observation of the independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) dry cask activities.”
Inspectors visited Pilgrim at least five times during the announced quarterly inspection to observe Holtec Decommissioning International’s activities “as they relate to safety and compliance with the commission’s rules and regulations” and the conditions of the company’s license.
“Based on the results of this inspection, no violations of more than minor significance were identified,” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote in the inspection report.
The Plymouth nuclear plant, which employed about 600 people and had been generating about 680 megawatts of electricity per year since coming online in 1972, permanently ceased operations May 31, 2019.
Holtec has estimated that it can complete decommissioning work by the end of 2027.
“We know it’s part of expanding WIPP. We know what DOE is doing but DOE doesn’t want to publicly admit it and the Environment Department doesn’t want to deal with it…The reason the laws have always put limits on WIPP is that the DOE was supposed to be finding locations for other repositories. There is no other repository and that’s why they don’t want to have a limit on what goes into WIPP.” — Don Hancock, nuclear waste program director at Southwest Research and Information Center.
A New Mexico appellate judge upheld a change in how the volume of nuclear waste disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is counted, shifting the repository from being halfway to capacity to only a third full.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy requested to modify its WIPP operating permit with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to change how it counts the amount of waste toward the facility’s statutory limit of 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic (TRU) waste consisting of clothing materials and equipment irradiated during nuclear activities.
The change was intended to count the inner volume of the waste as opposed to the volume of the outer containers that hold the waste, seeking to avoid counting air between the waste itself and waste drums.
NMED approved the permit modification request (PMR) in 2019, but Albuquerque-based watchdog groups Southwest Research and Information Center and Nuclear Watch New Mexico immediately appealed the decision.
The plan has been fiercely opposed by fishermen, local residents and Japan’s neighbors, including China and South Korea.
TOKYO (AP) — A team from the U.N. nuclear agency arrived in Japan on Monday to assess preparations for the release into the ocean of treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.
The six experts on the team from the International Atomic Energy Agency are to meet with Japanese officials and visit the Fukushima Daiichi plant to discuss technical details of the planned release, Japanese officials said.
The government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, announced plans in April to start gradually releasing the treated radioactive water in the spring of 2023 to allow for the removal of hundreds of storage tanks to make room for facilities needed for the destroyed plant’s decommissioning.
“The rules for transferring a nuclear-powered vessel to a foreign power are uncharted waters…”
U.S., UK aid to Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarines “sheer act of nuclear proliferation”: Chinese envoy
“This literally turns existing precedence and practice on their heads in order to extend traditionally northern hemisphere cooperation to Australia and bolster its role in countering an increasingly assertive China.” https://thebulletin.org
The recently signed Australia–United Kingdom–United States defense agreement, or AUKUS, calls for the United States and Britain to share nuclear-submarine technology with Australia. Although the agreement was light on details of what, when, and how, plans apparently are for Australia to eventually build at least eight nuclear-powered attack submarines. In the interim, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is now advocating for Australia to obtain used nuclear submarines to get the sharing started so as to spin up the Royal Australian Navy’s submarine capabilities and nuclear know-how. Australia has never had a nuclear power plant of any kind.
Speaking last Friday at a Wilson Center event in Washington, D.C., Abbott suggested that, in the short term, Australia should consider leasing or purchasing one or more existing U.S. submarines to develop Australia’s capability to operate nuclear-powered submarines.
Abbott has posed the question, “Might it be possible for Australia to acquire a retiring [Los Angeles] class boat or two and to put it under an Australian flag and to run it, if you like, as an operational training boat?” Abbott added that he’d make a similar proposal for British nuclear-powered submarines “were I in London.”
“There are more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, analysis shared with the BBC shows.”
Campaigners led by Global Witness assessed the participant list published by the UN at the start of this meeting.
They found that 503 people with links to fossil fuel interests had been accredited for the climate summit.
These delegates are said to lobby for oil and gas industries, and campaigners say they should be banned.
“The fossil fuel industry has spent decades denying and delaying real action on the climate crisis, which is why this is such a huge problem,” says Murray Worthy from Global Witness.
“Their influence is one of the biggest reasons why 25 years of UN climate talks have not led to real cuts in global emissions.”
About 40,000 people are attending the COP. Brazil has the biggest official team of negotiators according to UN data, with 479 delegates.
The UK, which is hosting the talk in Glasgow, has 230 registered delegates.
“These advanced nuclear reactors, and the existing fleet, are safe,” Granholm says. “We have the gold standard of regulation in the United States.”
Actually…According to a UCS report, if federal regulators require the necessary safety demonstrations, it could take at least 20 years—and billions of dollars in additional costs—to commercialize such reactors, their associated fuel-cycle facilities, and other related infrastructure.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) may have to adapt some regulations when licensing reactor technologies that differ significantly in design from the current fleet. Lyman says that should not mean weakening public health and safety standards, finding no justification for the claim that “advanced” reactors will be so much safer and more secure that the NRC can exempt them from fundamental safeguards. On the contrary, because there are so many open questions about these reactors, he says they may need to meet even more stringent requirements.
GLASGOW, Scotland — In an interview at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm told Yahoo News on Friday that the Biden administration is “very bullish” on building new nuclear reactors in the United States.
“We are very bullish on these advanced nuclear reactors,” she said. “We have, in fact, invested a lot of money in the research and development of those. We are very supportive of that.”
Nuclear energy is controversial among environmental activists and experts because while it does not create the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, it has the potential to trigger dangerous nuclear meltdowns and creates radioactive nuclear waste [not a small issue].
While 32 countries generate atomic energy, nine have nuclear weapons and seven countries have both.
Nuclear warheads per country
Nine countries possessed roughly 13,150 warheads as of August 2021, according to the Federation of American Scientists. More than 90 percent are owned by Russia and the US.
At the peak in 1986, the two rivals had nearly 65,000 nuclear warheads between them, making the nuclear arms race one of the most threatening events of the Cold War. While Russia and the US have dismantled thousands of warheads, several countries are thought to be increasing their stockpiles, most notably China.
According to the Pentagon’s 2021 annual report (pdf), China’s nuclear warhead stockpile is expected to more than triple and reach at least 1,000 by 2030.
The only country to voluntarily relinquish nuclear weapons is South Africa. In 1989, the government halted its nuclear weapons programme and in 1990 began dismantling its six nuclear weapons. Two years later, South Africa joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear country.
With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference over, nations are making plans to move to green energy in a bid to tackle global warming.
But nuclear energy is a particular sticking point. While it is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in OECD countries, some nations have spoken out against the categorisation of nuclear energy as climate-friendly.
Across the globe, 34 countries harness the power of splitting atoms for generating electricity or for nuclear weapons. (Al Jazeera)
Global nuclear energy
Nuclear energy provides roughly 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Of the 32 countries with nuclear power reactors, more than half (18) are in Europe. France has the world’s highest proportion of its electricity – at 71 percent – coming from atomic power.
Up until 2011, Japan was generating some 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors; however, following the Fukushima disaster, all nuclear power plants were suspended for safety inspections. As of 2020, just 5 percent of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Nuclear power constitutes some 20 percent of the United States’ electricity. About 60 percent of the country’s energy comes from fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas and petroleum, with the remaining 20 percent coming from renewable sources – wind, hydro and solar.
The federal government allowed a stockpile of spent fuel on a Minnesota reservation to balloon even as a dam project whittled down the amount of livable land.
Interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times show how the state of Minnesota and the federal government ignored warnings about potential dangers posed to the tribe as they kept allowing the amount of waste stored on the reservation to expand and did little to address annual flooding that harms the tribe’s economy.
“I mean, this is a classic environmental justice fact pattern,” said Heather Sibbison, chair of Dentons Native American law and policy practice at Dentons Law Firm. “We have a minority community, a disadvantaged community, bearing the brunt of two huge infrastructure projects that serve other people.”
For decades, chronic flooding and nuclear waste have encroached on the ancestral lands in southeastern Minnesota that the Prairie Island Indian Community calls home, whittling them to about a third of their original size.
Two years after the tribe received federal recognition in 1936, the Army Corps of Engineers installed a lock-and-dam system just to the south along the Mississippi River. It repeatedly flooded the tribe’s land, including burial mounds, leaving members with only 300 livable acres.
Decades later, a stockpile of nuclear waste from a power plant next to the reservation, which the federal government reneged on a promise to remove in the 1990s, has tripled in size. It comes within 600 yards of some residents’ homes.
With no room to develop more housing on the reservation, more than 150 tribal members who are eager to live in their ancestral home are on a waiting list.
Cody Whitebear, 33, who serves as the tribe’s federal government relations specialist, is among those waiting. He hopes he can inherit his grandmother’s house, which is on the road closest to the power plant.
“I never had the opportunity to live on the reservation, be part of the community,” said Mr. Whitebear, who began connecting with his heritage after the birth of his son, Cayden. “In my mid-20s I had the desire to learn about my people and who I am and who we are.”
“The agency has said little overall about its plans, despite the potential hazards, said Cindy Weehler, who co-chairs the watchdog group 285 ALL.”
A panel of state lawmakers expressed concerns Friday about plans to truck plutonium shipments through New Mexico, including Santa Fe’s southern edge, and will send letters to state and federal officials asking for more information on the transports.
Two opponents of the shipments — a Santa Fe County commissioner and a local activist — presented the Department of Energy’s basic plan to the Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee, provoking a mixture of surprise and curiosity from members.
Several lawmakers agreed transporting plutonium is more hazardous because it is far more radioactive than the transuranic waste — contaminated gloves, equipment, clothing, soil and other materials — that Los Alamos National Laboratory now ships to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground disposal site near Carlsbad.
“We have to get everything done in the next 25 years…The idea that you’re going to scale up a technology you don’t even have yet, and it’s going to be commercially viable [in that time], just seems to me like la la land.” — Tom Burke, co-founder of climate think tank E3G.
In the midst of the COP26 climate talks yesterday, U.S. and Romanian officials stepped aside for a session in the conference’s Blue Zone, establishing an agreement for U.S. company NuScale to build a new kind of modular nuclear power plant in the southeastern European country. The company’s plants—designed to be quickly scaled up or down based on need—are intended to be quicker and cheaper to build than the traditional kind, with some considering them to be a promising alternative for countries seeking to wean themselves off fossil fuels.
NuScale CEO John Hopkins sees the agreement as part of a broader recognition that nuclear power has a big role to play as the world decarbonizes. “I’ve seen a significant shift here,” Hopkins said, speaking to TIME from Glasgow yesterday. “It used to be the only thing really discussed was renewables, but I think people are starting to be a little more pragmatic and understand that nuclear needs to be in the mix.”
But others at COP26 aren’t convinced that NuScale’s small reactors can help avoid climate catastrophe. Some point to the fact that NuScale has yet to build a single commercial plant as evidence that the company is already too late to the party.
Costs to clean up a massive nuclear weapons complex in Washington state are usually expressed in the hundreds of billions of dollars and involve decades of work.
Hanford watchdogs generally agree with this process, said Tom Carpenter, director of the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge.
“Nobody is raising any concerns about cocooning,” Carpenter said. “We’re all worried about the tank waste that needs immediate and urgent attention.” The bigger question is whether future generations will be willing to pay the massive costs of Hanford cleanup, he said.
By November 4, 2021 abcnews.go.com
SPOKANE, Wash. — Costs to clean up a massive nuclear weapons complex in Washington state are usually expressed in the hundreds of billions of dollars and involve decades of work.
But one project on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is progressing at a much lower price.
The federal government is moving forward with the “cocooning” of eight plutonium production reactors at Hanford that will place them in a state of long-term storage to allow radiation inside to dissipate over a period of decades, until they can be dismantled and buried.
“It’s relatively non-expensive,” Mark French, a manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, said of cocooning. “The cost of trying to dismantle the reactor and demolish the reactor core would be extremely expensive and put workers at risk.”
The federal government built nine nuclear reactors at Hanford to make plutonium for atomic bombs during World War II and the Cold War. The site along the Columbia River contains America’s largest quantity of radioactive waste.
“Whether we decide to go on with the nuclear energy or not…We will need to find a solution for the management of that nuclear waste” that humankind has already produced.” — Audrey Guillemenet, geologist and spokesperson for one of France’s underground waste repositories.
By November 4, 2021 apnews.com
SOULAINES-DHUYS, France (AP) — Deep in a French forest of oaks, birches and pines, a steady stream of trucks carries a silent reminder of nuclear energy’s often invisible cost: canisters of radioactive waste, heading into storage for the next 300 years.
As negotiators plot out how to fuel the world while also reducing carbon emissions at climate talks in Scotland, nuclear power is a central sticking point. Critics decry its mammoth price tag, the disproportionate damage caused by nuclear accidents, and radioactive leftovers that remain deadly for thousands of years.
But increasingly vocal and powerful proponents — some climate scientists and environmental experts among them — argue that nuclear power is the world’s best hope of keeping climate change under control, noting that it emits so few planet-damaging emissions and is safer on average than nearly any other energy source. Nuclear accidents are scary but exceedingly rare — while pollution from coal and other fossil fuels causes death and illness every day, scientists say.
The Biden administration has publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile, a sharp reversal of the previous administration’s refusal to do so for the past three years.
“Today, as an act of good faith and a tangible, public demonstration of the U.S. commitment to transparency, we will present data which documents our own record of continued progress toward the achievement of the goals” of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), said Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, on Oct. 5.
The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads was at 3,750 as of September 2020, according to the administration document. This number captures active and inactive warheads, but not the roughly 2,000 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement. The document lists stockpile numbers going back to 1962, including the warhead numbers from the years when the Trump administration refused to declassify the information.
Jellyfish are continuing to clog the cooling pipes of nuclear power plants around the world.
Jellyfish are continuing to clog the cooling intake pipes of a nuclear power plant in Scotland, which has previously prompted a temporary shutdowns of the plant.
The Torness nuclear power plant has reported concerns regarding jellyfish as far back as 2011, when it was forced to shut down for nearly a week—at an estimated cost of $1.5 million a day—because of the free-swimming marine animals.
In a short comment to Motherboard, EDF energy, which runs the Torness plant, said that “jellyfish blooms are an occasional issue for our power stations,” but also said that media reports claiming the plant had recently been taken offline because of jellyfish are “inaccurate.” “[There were] no emergency procedures this or last week related to jellyfish or otherwise,” a spokesperson said.
Like many other seaside power plants, the Torness plant uses seawater to prevent overheating. While there are measures in place to prevent aquatic life from entering the intake pipes, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, they are no match for the sheer number of jellyfish that come during so-called “jellyfish blooms.”
“The hibakusha narrative has expanded over time to include victims beyond the city limits of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and as far away as the Navajo Nation, which still suffers the radiation effects of uranium mining; the Marshall Islands, where the United States conducted so many nuclear tests that, on average, the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima-size bombs was detonated every day for 12 years; Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union tested its nuclear weapons for four decades; and other places around the world adversely affected by the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons.”
Noguchi himself considered the term hibakusha to include the victims of nuclear weapons worldwide; he changed the name of his proposed “Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima” to the more inclusive “Memorial to the Atomic Dead.”
As I eagerly await Spotify’s year-end report on my most-played songs of 2021, I wonder which ones will remind me of my summer in New York City—of off-pitch Karaoke Television with friends, or the distinct “popping” sound of a pigeon being run over by a taxi not more than two feet in front of me. Though I thrived amid the frenzied surprises of the city, I also found sudden moments of quiet solemnity while sketching inside the many art museums of the Big Apple. One of those museums was the Noguchi Museum, established in 1985 by its namesake Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American sculptor who is also well known for his landscape architecture and modern furniture designs such as the iconic Noguchi table.Continue reading
Nuclear power is so slow and expensive that it doesn’t even matter whether or not it is ‘low-carbon’ (let alone ‘zero-carbon’). As the scientist, Amory Lovins, says, “Being carbon-free does not establish climate-effectiveness.” If an energy source is too slow and too costly, it will “reduce and retard achievable climate protection,” no matter how ‘low-carbon’ it is.
So here we are again at another COP (Conference of the Parties). Well, some of us are in Glasgow, Scotland at the COP itself, and some of us, this writer included, are sitting at a distance, trying to feel hopeful.
But this is COP 26. That means there have already been 25 tries at dealing with the once impending and now upon us climate crisis. Twenty five rounds of “blah, blah, blah” as youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg, so aptly put it.
So if some of us do not feel the blush of optimism on our cheeks, we can be forgiven. I mean, even the Queen of England has had enough of the all-talk-and-no-action of our world leaders, who have been, by and large, thoroughly useless. Even, this time, absent. Some of them have been worse than that.
Not doing anything radical on climate at this stage is fundamentally a crime against humanity. And everything else living on Earth. It should be grounds for an appearance at the International Criminal Court. In the dock.
Boost for advocates’ group is step further in decades-long fight against mining pollution
Rita Capitan has been worrying about her water since 1994. It was that autumn she read a local newspaper article about another uranium mine, the Crownpoint Uranium Project, getting under way near her home.
Capitan has spent her entire life in Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the eastern Navajo Nation, and is no stranger to the uranium mining that has persisted in the region for decades. But it was around the time the article was published that she began learning about the many risks associated with uranium mining.
“We as community members couldn’t just sit back and watch another company come in and just take what is very precious to us. And that is water – our water,” Capitan said.
To this effect, Capitan and her husband, Mitchell, founded Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (Endaum). The group’s fight against uranium mining on their homeland has continued for nearly three decades, despite the industry’s disastrous health and environmental impacts being public knowledge for years.
Capitan’s newest concerns are over the Canadian mining company Laramide Resources, which, through its US subsidiary NuFuels, holds a federal mining license for Crownpoint and nearby Church Rock. Due to the snail’s pace at which operations like this can move, Laramide hasn’t begun extraction in these areas, but is getting closer by the day.
Take a minute to visit the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website to read this brilliant photo essay on the Tsar Bomba by Associate Professor and Director of the Science and Technology Studies program at the Stevens Institute of Technology Alex Wellerstein. His first book, Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States, was published by the University of Chicago Press in April 2021.
In the early hours of October 30, 1961, a bomber took off from an airstrip in northern Russia and began its flight through cloudy skies over the frigid Arctic island of Novaya Zemlya. Slung below the plane’s belly was a nuclear bomb the size of a small school bus—the largest and most powerful bomb ever created.
At 11:32 a.m., the bombardier released the weapon. As the bomb fell, an enormous parachute unfurled to slow its descent, giving the pilot time to retreat to a safe distance. A minute or so later, the bomb detonated. A cameraman watching from the island recalled:
A fire-red ball of enormous size rose and grew. It grew larger and larger, and when it reached enormous size, it went up. Behind it, like a funnel, the whole earth seemed to be drawn in. The sight was fantastic, unreal, and the fireball looked like some other planet. It was an unearthly spectacle! 
The flash alone lasted more than a minute. The fireball expanded to nearly six miles in diameter—large enough to include the entire urban core of Washington or San Francisco, or all of midtown and downtown Manhattan. Over several minutes it rose and mushroomed into a massive cloud. Within ten minutes, it had reached a height of 42 miles and a diameter of some 60 miles. One civilian witness remarked that it was “as if the Earth was killed.” Decades later, the weapon would be given the name it is most commonly known by today: Tsar Bomba, meaning “emperor bomb.”
Designed to have a maximum explosive yield of 100 million tons (or 100 megatons) of TNT equivalent, the 60,000-pound monster bomb was detonated at only half its strength. Still, at 50 megatons, it was more than 3,300 times as powerful as the atomic bomb that killed at least 70,000 people in Hiroshima, and more than 40 times as powerful as the largest nuclear bomb in the US arsenal today. Its single test represents about one tenth of the total yield of all nuclear weapons ever tested by all nations.
At the time of its detonation, the Tsar Bomba held the world’s attention, largely as an object of infamy, recklessness, and terror. Within two years, though, the Soviet Union and the United States would sign and ratify the Limited Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, and the 50-megaton bomb would fall into relative obscurity.
“The federal government knew, from at least the early 1950s, of severely harmful health effects from uranium mining, but it kept that information from the Diné, as Navajo people call themselves.”
The wheels of justice can move exceedingly slowly, if at all, and it often depends on whether an aggrieved group has much political recognition or clout. Issues linked to mainstream religious freedom can speed their way to the Supreme Court’s shadow docket in record time, while religious and environmental justice issues for Native Americans can simmer on the system’s back burner for a lifetime.
The sprawling Navajo reservation, located in parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, is the largest and most populous Native American reservation, almost 28,000 square miles. Its Four Corners area (the three states plus Colorado) is rich in radioactive uranium ore. From 1944 to 1986, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from the reservation under leases with the Navajo Nation. Many Navajo worked the mines, often living and raising families close by.
The third reactor at Japan’s Mihama nuclear power plant was suspended by the operator, the Kansai Electric Power company, over inability to enhance counter-terrorism infrastructure in time, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday.
Tokyo [Japan], October 24 (ANI/Sputnik): The third reactor at Japan’s Mihama nuclear power plant was suspended by the operator, the Kansai Electric Power company, over inability to enhance counter-terrorism infrastructure in time, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday.
All the required measures to strengthen security are expected to be completed in September 2022, and the reactor might resume operations in mid-October of that year, the outlet said, citing the operator.
The reactor was restarted on June 23, 2021, after more than 40 years of work. The law limits the maximum lifespan of reactors to 40 years, but if additional requirements are met, a reactor can work more. Mihama’s third reactor was stopped for a decade after the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, which in 2011 claimed over 15,000 lives, displaced thousands of people and caused a meltdown at the power plant. (ANI/Sputnik)
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 U.S. envoy for North Korea arrived in South Korea on Saturday amid stalled denuclearization talks and tension over Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.
Special Representative Sung Kim’s visit came days after North Korea fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which prompted criticism from Washington and calls for a return to talks aimed at denuclearizing the North in return for U.S. sanctions relief.
Kim, after talks in Washington with South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Tuesday, urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and substantive dialogue.”
Pyongyang so far has rejected U.S. overtures, accusing the United States and South Korea of talking diplomacy while ratcheting up tensions with their own military activities.
On Thursday, the North said the United States was overreacting to its self-defensive SLBM test and questioned the sincerity of Washington’s offers of talks, warning of consequences.
Arriving in South Korea, Kim said he looks forward to having “productive follow up discussions” with his counterpart, without elaborating.