Last week, July 16 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb explosion. Within another month, memorials and commemorations will be held for the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the U.S. bombed on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. Although it was unknown to most residents of New Mexico until after the United States’ atomic bombing of Japan, the citizens and communities in the southern region of the state were in fact the first nuclear victims.
When the U.S. Army detonated an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., “its thunderous roar during the rainy season knocked people from breakfast tables in Tularosa and sent others on the Mescalero Apache reservation into hiding.” (axios.com) Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in New Mexico are working to pressure lawmakers to compensate those who have suffered extremely because of the experiment. Rare forms of cancer and other health problems have been discovered in those living near the site of the Trinity Test, and the vast, noxious consequences of this experiment have had lasting impact on now multiple, entire generations.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico, along with other watchdog groups, has announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its expanded production of plutonium cores for the U.S. nuclear weapons “modernization” plans. There has been inadequate environmental review by federal agencies, who have failed to detail potential impacts of the projects around communities in New Mexico and South Carolina.
The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration demanding the federal agency that oversees U.S. nuclear research and bombmaking must “take a legally required ‘hard look’ at impacts on local communities and possible alternatives before expanding manufacturing of the plutonium cores used to trigger nuclear weapons.”
The push from U.S. officials to “modernize” the country’s nuclear arsenal cites only general global security concerns that do not justify the science and brand new, untested technology that will be necessary to the task. citing global security concerns. Although “most of the plutonium cores currently in the stockpile date back to the 1970s and 1980s,” scientific experts estimate that plutonium pits will last 100 years or more., and on warhead type, the best estimate of minimum pit life is 85–100 years.minimum.
Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina face enormous (and, frankly, unrealistic) deadlines to produce a massive number of plutonium cores in coming years – 50 or more cores at South Carolina and 30 or more at Los Alamos National Lab. The Savannah River Site location now has estimated costs up to $11.1 billion, with a completion date ranging from 2032 to 2035. The U.S. doesn’t need the new plutonium cores with the taxpayer bearing the burden for the expense of lagging deadlines and bloated budgets.
“The watchdog groups said Tuesday that the agency took a piecemeal approach to decide on locating the production at Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site, where nearby communities are already underrepresented and underserved.”
Tom Clements of Savannah River Site Watch said the South Carolina location was picked for political reasons following the failure of a facility designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel. As the Savannah River Site has never served as a storage or production site for the pits in its history, establishing pit construction there would be “a daunting technical challenge that has not been properly reviewed,” Clements said.
With very real, current threats the U.S. is facing right now, we don’t need another Rocky Flats situation in New Mexico or South Carolina where a $7 billion, yearslong cleanup is required after the facilities fail due to leaks, fires and environmental violations, doing irreparable damage to the earth and placing communities there in unequivocal peril.
DOE Environmental Management released the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Congressional Budget Request and asked for a $107.5 million increase over last year for legacy cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The FY22 EM funding request for cleanup at LANL totaled $333.5 million, which was a record request for cleanup at the Lab.
The Budget Request gives lifecycle costs. LANL has spent $3.8 billion on cleanup from 1997 to 2020. The high estimate is $4.6 billion for FY21 to FY90. This gives a total lifecycle cost of $8.4 billion from 1997 through 2090. The assumption included with these estimates is that most of the waste will remain buried at LANL. This is the first time DOE has mentioned legacy cleanup lasting until 2090. Last year the completion date was given as 2036.
Is legacy cleanup completion being pushed back to prioritize pit production? If DOE starts spending more on cleanup like this year in the future, shouldn’t cleanup take less time? The numbers work out to DOE only spending an average of $50 million between now and 2090, so DOE must not have plans to spend $330 million annually through 2090.
The National Nuclear Security Administration’s detailed fiscal year 2022 budget request was (partially) unveiled last week on Friday, May 28, in the evening before a long holiday weekend. The Biden Administration’s total NNSA FY22 budget request is just under $20 billion, requesting of $15.48 billion for NNSA “Total Weapons Activities” and following suit with Trump’s excessive nuclear weapons budget of $15.35 billion that Congress appropriated for FY 2021.
Of particular note in the budget request is that it will cost more than double what the National Nuclear Security Administration had previously estimated for the total of DOE’s Plutonium Bomb Plant construction at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The facility would be a converted production plant for the fabrication of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear warheads. The cost for the plant has ballooned from the previous estimate of $4.6 billion to a now staggering $11.1 billion. What’s more, the schedule for the facility’s initial operation has slipped up to five years. The plans for the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant have already run far over budget and fallen behind schedule, and “these troubling and potentially debilitating developments foreshadow problems to come to the challenging pit-production project,” according to the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch.
For use with DOE’s scheduled budget release on Friday May 28, 2021
For more information, key contacts are listed below.
The White House is releasing its detailed Fiscal Year 2022 budget on Friday, May 28. A so-called “skinny budget” was released on April 9 that increased Department of Energy (DOE) funding to $46.1 billion, which reportedly includes major new investments in clean energy and climate change abatement. That said, historically roughly 60% of DOE’s funding has been earmarked for nuclear weapons production and cleanup of Cold War wastes and contamination. The pending budget release will finally provide details on those programs.
Because the budget release is so late Congress has already announced that it can’t consider the annual Defense Authorization Act until September. Related appropriations bills will no doubt be delayed too. This means that the government will probably have to run on a Continuing Resolution(s) for much of FY 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021).
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability strongly opposed the massive 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration gave to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) nuclear weapons programs and proposed cuts to Department of Energy cleanup. In addition, DOE’s nuclear weapons and environmental management programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars for 28 consecutive years. Related, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released a report that projects a 28% increase in costs for so-called “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces that between the Defense Department and DOE is expected to cost around $1.7 trillion over 30 years.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a 34-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, will be analyzing the following critical issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.
May 26, 2021
Nuclear Watch New Mexico virtually visited Washington, DC this month to participate in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s “DC Days,” an annual event where organizations from across the nation, whose members are directly affected by nuclear weapons production and the incidental health and environmental consequences, make their voice heard to federal policy makers.
Nuclear Watch NM was focused on opposing new plutonium pit production at Savannah River Site and Los Alamos, pushing for safe and secure toxic cleanup and prioritizing public health while saving billions by terminating ill-conceived new nuclear weapons programs. View more information on these issues in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s new report, “Safety, Security, and Savings,” which describes in detail the foundation of our 2021 advocacy. The report includes a series of fact sheets and recommendations covering new warheads, bomb plants, nuclear waste, cleanup, and more.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico, as part of a larger coalition of environmental groups, has threatened the federal government with a lawsuit over cross-country plans to produce plutonium pits, the cores at the heart of modern nuclear weapons.
A more comprehensive review should have been done on the plans to produce plutonium cores at Los Alamos and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This lack of review violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would saddle already-burdened communities nearby the two DOE sites with significant quantities of toxic and radioactive waste, contravening President Biden’s executive order of making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency. Here in New Mexico, we are well aware of how much our local community has already have been burdened with legacy contamination from previous defense work. While the budget continues to be cut and slashed for cleanup funding, the astronomical cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal continues to balloon out of proportion without NNSA or DOE batting an eyelash. The federal government’s plans are unnecessary and provocative – more plutonium pit production will result in more waste and help to fuel a new arms race.
11 March 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the triple catastrophe which marked the life of many residents of Eastern Japan: a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left almost 18,500 people killed or missing. Much has been achieved in disaster-hit areas but they are still seriously recovering, and the staggering loss of life and community is still being felt by the nation today. The impacts on communities from the ongoing dispersal of radioactive contamination released from the explosions at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima have been disastrous. Tokyo will probably face a massive earthquake in the next 30 years, and Japan must prepare for this next big quake while the Fukushima nuclear meltdown on Japan’s north-eastern coast remains firmly in the minds of everyone there.
Since the disaster, tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral lands. The harm extends far beyond the immediate threat to health – as well as destroying livelihoods, it has destroyed an entire way of life.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has had two major wildland fires — the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 and the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. Each fire burned partially on Lab property within miles of several nuclear facilities. LANL’s wildfire prevention should be 100% in place and constantly updated. But a February 1, 2021, report by the DOE Inspector General found that activities designed to reduce the impact from wildland fire had not been fully implemented at LANL. The DOE-IG found that while the contractor, Triad, had identified fire risks, it had not completely implemented all measures to prevent serious fires.
The nuclear energy industry has had a fraught year. Well…I mean, haven’t we all…But still, it’s pleasantly surprising to see such a looming giant begin to wither and fall. The nuclear power industry is failing, as evidenced not only by the alarming reports of fraud, corruption, and other fiascos that occurred at multiple nuclear facilities over the course of 2020, but also by the numbers that prove renewables are simply better for ALL of our futures – not just the nuclear business moguls our taxpayer dollars so generously continue to bail out.
On 7 July 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Just over three years later, the TPNW reached the 50 national ratifications needed to become international law. The treaty will enter into force on January 22, 2012, and nuclear weapons will become officially illegal under international law. This day will represent a culmination of years of campaigning for nuclear weapons to be reframed as a collective humanitarian problem, one which requires prohibition and elimination, rather than a national military defense asset that needs to be managed and even upgraded.
Because of overwhelming public demand and technical problems with the first virtual public meeting, the National Nuclear Security Administration is holding a second meeting on the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) controversial plan to vent up to 100,000 curies of tritium gas. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, used to boost the explosive power of nuclear weapons. Most vented tritium will condense into water vapor which can then be readily ingested by living organisms, including humans. Fetuses are particularly at risk.
LANL’s nuclear weapons budget has doubled over the last decade to $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2021. But funding for so-called cleanup has remained flat at around $220 million, or 8% that of nuclear weapons. In fact, LANL plans to “cap and cover” some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes, leaving them permanently buried in unlined pits above our groundwater, some three miles uphill from the Rio Grande, and call it cleaned up. To add to this, the Lab now plans to dose the public by venting excess tritium.
In her September 17, 2020 testimony before before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, restated the ongoing company line that more money must be spent on the US nuclear weapons stockpile, or the whole enterprise might fall over.
She stated, “The need to now modernize our nuclear weapons stockpile and recapitalize the supporting infrastructure needed to produce and maintain that stockpile has reached a tipping point.”
Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), has rejected a request by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to extend the public comment period on expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, even in normal times NNSA and its parent Department of Energy routinely ask other government agencies for major time extensions when it comes to cleanup and independent oversight.
The two Senators requested a 45 day comment period extension on behalf of more than 120 organizations and individuals. Before that, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich were among 24 Senators who asked the Office of Management and Budget to extend all federal public comment periods during the coronavirus national emergency.
Today, on behalf of more than 120 groups and individuals, Nuclear Watch New Mexico sent a letter to New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. It asks them to act upon their own words and demand that the public comment period be extended for plutonium “pit” bomb core production that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is fast tracking during the coronavirus epidemic. As sitting members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, Udall and Heinrich are in strong positions to make that demand of NNSA.
Today, in the middle of the growing coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Energy ignored the real national crisis and irresponsibly shifted its focus to planning for nuclear war, revealing plans to construct a Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.
DOE’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today formally released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Plutonium Pit Production at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, whose proposed action is to establish the production of plutonium “pits” (nuclear warhead cores) at SRS at a rate of up to 125 pits per year, with at least 50 pits per year by 2030 as the stated objective for now.
Santa Fe, NM – On March 11, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) sent the federal Environmental Protection Agency a formal notice that the Lab will intentionally release up to some 100,000 curies of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen gas, beginning April 17, 2020.
An internal Lab document states that actual “anticipated emissions” could be half that because of tritium remaining behind in equipment but offers no documentation to substantiate it. During the 1980’s LANL arbitrarily used a self-declared “building shielding factor” not approved by the EPA that reduced its legally required annual calculated radioactive air dose to the public by a third. When that reduction was disallowed LANL was in fact in legal violation of the Clean Air Act. With that as an example, undocumented reductions in radioactive doses claimed by LANL should be viewed with suspicion.
Santa Fe, NM – Today the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), announced that it will not complete a new site-wide environmental impact statement for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The last site-wide environmental impact statement was in 2008.
Since that time a catastrophic wildfire burned to the western boundary of the Lab (likely to occur more frequently with climate change); an exploding radioactive waste drum improperly prepared by LANL shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for three years, costing taxpayers ~$3 billion to reopen; the full extent and depth of a hexavalent chromium plume contaminating the regional groundwater is still not fully determined; and LANL’s long track record of chronic nuclear safety incidences remain unresolved.
Santa Fe, NM – The Trump Administration has released more budget details for its proposed Fiscal Year 2021 federal budget for the Department of Energy and its semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is slated to receive nearly a one billion dollar increase for its nuclear weapons programs (up 48%), overwhelmingly for new production. At the same time cleanup, whose need is caused by nuclear weapons production, is cut by 46%.
Significantly, LANL’s FY 2021 budget for design work of nuclear weapons stayed flat after falling by 28% from FY 2018 to FY 2019. Meanwhile, funding for nuclear weapons design work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory more than doubled from FY 2019 to FY 2021.
Santa Fe, NM – This March 5, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the NonProliferation Treaty, whose central bargain was that non-nuclear weapons states forswore acquiring them in exchange for which nuclear weapons states promised to enter into serious negotiations leading to their elimination. Those negotiations have never happened.
The Trump Administration has marked the occasion by finally releasing the detailed fiscal year 2021 Congressional Budget Request for the Department of Energy’s semi- autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The NNSA’s program for new and upgraded nuclear weapons gets a 3 billion dollar-plus mark up to $15.6 billion, slated to jump to $17 billion annually by 2025. This includes a new nuclear warhead, the submarine launched W93, initially funded at $53 million in FY 2021, but slated to climb to $1.1 billion annually by 2025. New warhead design and production typically take around 15 years or more.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 12, 2020
Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342, jay[at]nukewatch.org
Santa Fe, NM – The Trump Administration has released more budget information for fiscal year 2021 for the Department of Energy (DOE). * It states that proposed cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab is “Consistent with the priorities established with the New Mexico Environment Department in the 2016 Consent Order…” It then goes on to cut LANL cleanup by $100 million from $220 million in FY 2020 to $120 million requested for FY 2021. (Pages 52 and 55)
Today the Trump Administration released topline budget numbers for fiscal year 2021 for the Department of Energy (DOE). This includes DOE’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), whose nuclear weapons programs are slated to receive the highest amount of taxpayer dollars since the Cold War ended nearly 30 years ago.
This year 2020 marks the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 50th anniversary of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is commonly regarded as the cornerstone of international nuclear weapons nonproliferation. The NPT required the established nuclear powers to enter into serious negotiations leading to global nuclear disarmament, which they ignored. 2020 also marks the third anniversary of a nuclear weapons ban treaty that needs only 16 more nations to ratify before it goes into effect. The U.S. and other nuclear weapons powers vigorously oppose that ban treaty even as their “modernization” programs are fueling a new nuclear arms race and international arms control is collapsing.
Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported:
“Santa Fe city leaders asked for developers’ ideas on what to do with the city-owned midtown campus…The National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA], which administers the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract, submitted a master developer proposal to build an open-campus environment with administrative offices, sustainable green spaces, engineering space, light manufacturing, training facilities and research and development…
[A NNSA spokesperson said] “LANL is undergoing unprecedented growth and expects to hire more than 1,000 new personnel annually for the next several years. Having a new campus — midway between New Mexico’s two national laboratories [LANL and Sandia]— to house professional staff, scientists, and engineers in partnership with the city of Santa Fe — would be very beneficial.” ”
LANL’s growing jobs are primarily for expanded production of plutonium pits (the radioactive triggers of nuclear weapons) which helps to fuel the new global arms race. Over the last decade the Santa Fe City Council has passed three different resolutions against expanded plutonium pit production. Seventy percent (and growing) of LANL’s ~$2.6 billion annual budget is for core nuclear weapons research and production programs, while the remainder directly or indirectly supports those programs. In contrast, LANL’s renewable energy budget is .007% of its nuclear weapons budget and the Lab has zero dedicated funding to fight climate change. Moreover, LANL claims that its cleanup is more than half complete, intentionally omitting that it plans to leave ~150,000 cubic meters of toxic and radioactive wastes permanently buried uphill from the Rio Grande and above our common groundwater aquifer.
Just this last Sunday Pope Francis called for the abolition of nuclear weapons while in Japan paying homage to the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Those atomic bombs were designed and produced at the Los Alamos Lab.
The City of Santa Fe’s official name is the “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís” (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”), in honor of the beloved saint who preached peace and environmental protection and from whom the present Pope draws his name. It would be supremely ironic if the City of Santa Fe hosted a satellite campus for a massive institution that spends 2 billion dollars (and counting) every year on nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “Mayor Webber and the Santa Fe City Council surely know that the institutionalized presence of a nuclear weapons production laboratory in our city would generate a tremendous amount of controversy, a controversy they could well do without. The leaders of the City of Santa Fe should nix LANL’s proposal for a satellite campus in our town as a nonstarter and an affront to St. Francis de Assisi, the saint of peace.”
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The Santa Fe New Mexican article is available at