SAVE THE DATE: 77th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, Japan
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
5:15 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Followed by Panel Discussion with Interfaith Leaders at 6:15 p.m.
ALBUQUERQUE – Friday, July 1, 2022 – Join Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, for 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, NM. His homily will be centered on his pastoral letter on nuclear disarmament, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament,” released on January 11, 2022. Following Mass, at approximately 6:15 p.m., a panel discussion with prominent interfaith leaders on today’s need for nuclear disarmament will be held with a question and answer session. All are welcomed to either event.
In his pastoral letter, Archbishop Wester reflects upon his trip to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the history of Catholic social teaching on nuclear weapons, the history of the development and production of nuclear weapons in New Mexico, and Jesus’ example of nonviolence. He encourages all to read the pastoral letter and use the reflection questions and suggestions for action.
Archbishop’s pastoral letter can be found here.
For more information, contact the Office of Social Justice & Respect Life (505) 831-8205.
Today marks the 77 years since the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan during World War II. Three days ago, August 6, marks the same anniversary for the bombing of the city of Hiroshima, Japan. In both cities the blast completely annihilated everything within a 1-mile radius from the center of explosion. The bombs not only decimated the current population, destroyed property, and scorched the land; the entirety of the ways of life of these communities was ripped away in a terrorizing flash.
"The atomic explosion almost completely destroyed Hiroshima's identity as a city. Over a fourth of the population was killed in one stroke and an additional fourth seriously injured, so that even if there had been no damage to structures and installations the normal city life would still have been completely shattered." - The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (atomicarchive.com)
The total effects of the only two nuclear weapons ever detonated in warfare are not fully known, despite 77 years of people (scientists, military experts, civilians, Japan, etc.) trying to estimate the number of the dead and injured. "The most credible estimates cluster around a “low” of 110,000 mortalities and a “high” of 210,000, an enormous gap (the estimates for each city have a range of ±10,000)." - Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
The events of August 6 and 9, 1945, forever changed the world. But today, besides continuing to attempt to know the extent of the cost of life of these bombings, how are we moving forward in reflection and in growth? How, as a global community, can we explore and prioritize processing the deep, deep pain of these events? The city of Nagasaki has been rebuilt since World War II and is today an important tourist site, serving as a significant spiritual center for movements to ban nuclear weapons. Aging survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, continue to push for a nuclear ban and hope to convince younger generations to join the movement.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Environmental Management held a Presentation and “Community Forum” for Santa Fe on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), formatted as a hybrid in-person and Zoom meeting on Thursday, July 7, 2022. Nuclear Watch New Mexico is extremely unsatisfied with the outcome of this meeting, and is not alone in criticizing both the substance of the meeting and the format.
We have recorded this public forum with the chat included because there was an overwhelming amount of participation within the chat, and we feel the chat is a valuable resource in and of itself, as well as a testament to the large amount of community concern present around the subject of WIPP. View that recording HERE (and below).
Introduction: In 1991, in response to the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union, President George H. Bush ordered the withdrawal of all nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) from U.S. surface ships and submarines. In 2018 President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review proposed to redeploy SLCMs on Virginia-class attack submarines, saying they would provide the United States with “a needed non-strategic regional presence” that would address “the increasing need for flexible and low-yield options.”1 Congress subsequently approved $15.2 million in FY 2022 funding for the Navy’s new cruise missile and nuclear warhead.
In March 2022 President Biden transmitted a new classified Nuclear Posture Review to Congress that reportedly canceled the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile. In parallel, his proposed FY 2023 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has no funding for the SLCM nuclear warhead. This has prompted some congressional pushback, with one suggested compromise being continuing modest research funding. But as a Congressional Research Service analysis put it: “The Navy indicated that the program was “cost prohibitive and the acquisition schedule would have delivered capability late to need.”
“Mutually Assured Destruction” has been the MO of the world’s nuclear powers for decades. If Russia points a giant nuclear warhead toward the U.S., we would gear up to point an even more massive missile their way, and then, in theory, Russia shrugs its shoulders and says, “Eh, not worth it.” They would be completely “deterred” from advancing a nuclear attack based on the reality that doing this would mean the entire country, continent, and ultimately, the entire world, would become obliterated as we know it; the cost and the risk greatly outweigh any benefit. According to this thesis, the existence of nuclear weapons makes the cost of war seem frighteningly high and thus “discourage[s] states from starting any wars that might lead to the use of such weapons” (Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,”) The idea that nuclear weapons make conventional war safer is a widely used as a framing for why we need nukes at all, with one specific reason being framing that nuclear weapons can still be the equalizer against superior conventional forces.
The official NATO website was updated as recently as a few days ago (May 17, 2022), and reads in its header, “NATO is committed to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, it will remain a nuclear alliance (emphasis my own).” What happens to the theories of “Deterrence” and “Mutually Assured Destruction” when we take a closer look? What is the possibility for NATO ever disbanding because a nuclear alliance is no longer needed? If all of the over 12,000 nuclear warheads in the world somehow magically disappear, would we be better off? Or would these theories prove correct, and would World War III start imminently with conventional weapons (or sticks and stones, as the saying goes)?
A recent (May 23, 2022) headline reads, “‘Destroy whole UK in two minutes!’ Russia MP threatens nuclear strike in on-air outburst” with a summary below, “A RUSSIAN MP has boasted during a TV interview that a nuclear strike could “destroy the whole UK in two minutes” amid mounting hostility between London and Moscow.”
This article certainly doesn’t seem to bode well for the theory that nuclear weapons make conventional war safer. On the contrary, Putin has been able to escalate war with Ukraine because of Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal, not despite it. Although the risk of this conflict actually going nuclear is low, the question is undeniably raised (again, for most, for the first time since the 19050s and ’60s) if future wars could escalate beyond the nuclear threshold.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability held its annual DC Days conference virtually again this year beginning May 16, 2022. Nuclear Watch New Mexico was proud to participate in this week-long event, where we discussed issues related to nuclear waste and nuclear weapons modernization under the Biden Administration, especially regarding expanded plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Lab and at the Savannah River Site, and the generational problem of nuclear waste storage in the United States.
The W93 warhead is a proposed new-design submarine-launched nuclear weapon for the Navy. Its need is not clear given that the Navy’s W76 warhead recently completed a major “Life Extension Program” that extended its service life by at least 30 years and increased its accuracy through a new arming, fuzing and firing set. The Navy’s other sublaunched warhead, the W88, is entering a major “Alteration” which will refresh its conventional high explosives and give it a new arming, fuzing and firing set (presumably increasing its accuracy as well).
The interest in this question has gone up immensely over the past 50 days, since Russia first invaded Ukraine on February 24, and since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country’s nuclear forces had been placed on “high alert” just a few days later on the 27th.
In 1986, there were 70,000 nuclear weapons on the planet—an entirely terrifying number. Nuclear weapons analysts estimate that the world’s nine nuclear states—China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—have around 13,000 nuclear warheads in total today (Arms Control Association). That build-down started when U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, agreed under the INF Treaty on the Soviet Union destroying 889 of its intermediate-range missiles and 957 shorter-range missiles, and the U.S. destroying 677 and 169 respectively (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).
What are the specifics of where the remaining nuclear weapons possessed by the U.S. and Russia are located? How powerful are they, and, most relevantly, what is the readiness levels of these weapons to launch?
HOW MANY WEAPONS IN THE UNITED STATES?
- WHAT ARE THE LIMITS? On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers) and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800 (Arms Control Association).
- WHAT ARE THE ACTUAL NUMBERS? At the beginning of 2021, the U.S. maintained an estimated stockpile of approximately 3,800 nuclear warheads for delivery by 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft (Arms Control Association).
It seems like my generation has never before experienced this much nuclear fear. And what do we do with it? Laugh any way we can, for one. Putin has threatened the use of nuclear weapons by increasing Russia’s nuclear forces alertness levels and stating in a national address, “…For those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside, No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”
Nuclear simulations have come close to capturing the extra-short attention spans of millennials and gen-z, but there’s never been anything like the current real time situation that has ever put this much attention on the reality of the threat of nuclear weapons. And of course the only recourse for a heavy dose of reality is a flood of relevant comedy.
“Sadly, we are treading back through old historical patterns that we said that we would never permit to happen again,”
– Fiona Hill, Former Senior Director for Europe and Russia at the United States National Security Council, in an interview with POLITICO, today, February 28, 2022: ‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes
Did you see what the Santa Fe Archbishop wrote in the very heart of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex?
“With this pending Nuclear Posture Review, President Biden has the opportunity to show his moral leadership. I know he is capable. After all, much of what is needed is only to turn his own past words into new policy—and to reject today’s fearful status quo, embracing a new path that we can all live with.”
Read the entire article here and see the picture.
“The difference is that [Santa Fe Archbishop] Wester is alone and standing in what came to be the center of the “American Nuclear Soul” in Santa Fe calling us again to examine our American consciences. As Pope Francis said at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima on Nov. 24, 2019, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral. … How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”
U.S. nuclear weapons issues:
- In anticipation of the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference that was to start January 4 the P-5 (original nuclear weapons powers U.S., Russia, China, France and U.K.) came out with an unbelievable collective statement on how they are in compliance with the NPT Article VI mandate to disarm. Then the Review Conference was indefinitely postponed because of omicron.
- Biden signed the FY 2022 Defense Authorization Act (DAA). Congress gave the Pentagon $24 billion more than Biden asked for. So much for ending endless wars. The DAA fully authorizes what the Biden Administration asked for National Nuclear Security Administration nuclear weapons programs, which increased Trump’s FY 2021 budget which saw a 25% from his FY 2002 budget. LANL is to get a cool billion in FY 2022 for expanded plutonium pit production alone.
- Still no appropriations. Second Continuing Resolution (CR) runs out in February.
- First anniversary of Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons January 22
Less than a week before the Christmas holiday, over 125 people came together at the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the afternoon of Sunday, December 19th to listen to Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe give a blessing to two “signs of peace” he unveiled on-site during a short ceremony. The signs were revealed to show an image of Pope Francis and a quote uttered by the pope in Hiroshima in 2020: “The possession of nuclear arms is immoral.” During the blessing, the Archbishop spoke on his memories of “those days during the Cuban missile crisis when I would walk home from school having been instructed what to do in the event of a nuclear attack within a few thousand yards of a nuke missile site in San Francisco,” before issuing a call for the world to rid itself its nuclear weapons.
“We need to be instruments of peace,” he said, especially as we head into the Christmas season, a “season of peace.”
Wester said that the current arms race “is more ominous” than any that came before. He touched on the growing tension around the Russia-Ukraine border in mentioning that there are at least “40 active conflicts in the world,” and said “our archdiocese needs to be facilitating, encouraging an ongoing conversation” about nuclear disarmament. This is especially true in light of the fact that two of the US’s three nuclear weapons laboratories are to be found in the dioceses of Sandia and Los Alamos, and on top of that there are more nuclear warheads in his dioceses from the 2,500-some count stored in reserve at the Kirtland Air Force Base at Albuquerque. All of this means that more money is spent in his dioceses than any other dioceses in the country and perhaps the world.
FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act: The Bad News.
As Politico put it:
PROGRESSIVES’ PENTAGON POUNDING: … progressives barely put their stamp on Pentagon policy this go-round. Bipartisan provisions requiring women to register for the draft, cracking down on Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions on Russia were nixed; legislation repealing outdated Iraq war authorizations fell by the wayside; reforms to the military justice system and efforts to combat extremism in the ranks were pared back; and a proposal to give Washington, D.C., control of its National Guard was dropped,” they wrote. Democrats hold power in the House, Senate and White House for the first time in more than a decade, yet the high-profile defense bill got more GOP votes than from Biden’s own party. As progressive lawmakers made their dissatisfaction with the bill’s high price tag clear, centrist Democrats knew they needed Republican support to pass the House and Senate.”
Progressives truly felt they had a historic chance to turn their priorities into policy, but the realities of a 50-50 Senate with no filibuster made that near impossible. And with midterms next year, it’s likely they missed their best chance.
Nuclear weapons: Congress added $500 million to Biden’s request for NNSA Total Weapons Activities, which was essentially Trump’s request to begin with. Trump’s Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and B83 (1.2 megatons) service life program were kept. $1.72 billion request for “Plutonium Modernization” authorized.
- However, the NDAA is authorization, not appropriations. The 2nd Continuing Resolution runs until February after which the appropriators will have to come up with something. There’s a chance that the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and B83 sustainment program could be shot down. While those would be notable victories, they really only amount to damage control (i.e., rolling back two of Trump’s pet projects) as the $1.7 trillion modernization beast lumbers on.
It seems obvious that “when assessing the aptitude of a site to receive a deep nuclear-waste repository, seismic activity should be taken into account.” (IAEA). At the moment, the only repository of this kind in the U.S. is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the nation’s main nuclear weapons waste storage site. WIPP lies a half mile underground in a salt formation in southeastern New Mexico. Additional nuclear waste storage facilities are planned to be built nearby, along the border between southeastern New Mexico and west Texas, where risks of quakes caused by oil and gas fracking operations in the area are rising.
“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.” KRQE
In New Mexico in July, a 4.0 temblor shook the southeast corner of the state. Meanwhile, just over the border on the Texas side, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a high-level waste facility, and Holtec International is trying to put their share of the nation’s commercial nuclear waste there as well, on the New Mexico side.. Holtec, with support from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, wants to build a nuclear waste storage facility for up to 100,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods 12 miles north of WIPP, a plan opposed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and others in state government.
“All of these nuclear sites are surrounded by brine injection wells, the likely cause of the increased seismicity in the basin.” Source NM
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has given itself a Categorical Exclusion (CX) under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the removal, relocation, and examination of transuranic (TRU) waste drums at Waste Control Specialists (WCS). These drums are similar to the ones that forced WIPP to close in 2014. LANL officials decided that formal environmental assessments, with public input, of the movement of the possibly exploding waste drums are not needed.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Tonight, MSNBC will air a powerful documentary called “In the Dark of the Valley” at 7 p.m. PST/ 10 p.m. EST. The film follows the story of Melissa Bumstead, a mother whose search for answers about her young daughter’s cancer leads her to the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), a former nuclear and rocket engine testing site near Los Angeles. I have been involved in the fight to clean up SSFL for 15 years, and PSR-LA has been involved for over 30 years. PSR-LA Board President Dr. Bob Dodge and I are featured in the film, along with our longtime ally Dan Hirsch, President of Committee to Bridge the Gap; generations of SSFL cleanup activists, and many others.
I urge you to watch the documentary tonight or record it to watch later. Not only is the film masterfully done and visually stunning, it manages to capture the heart of one of the longest and most intensely fought battles to clean up a contaminated site in the US. That’s a big deal.
I’m writing to you all today because as I reflect on the fight to cleanup SSFL — the struggles, the hard work, the heartache, the setbacks, the frustration, the power of the forces we’re up against, the greenwashing, the gaslighting,the personal sacrifices made by so many, the folks we’ve lost along the way — the fact that this film was made so well and is going to be broadcast nationally is more than a big deal. It’s a victory. And victories, especially in these troubled times, should be shared and savored. Particularly for those of you who don’t know as much about SSFL, understanding just how brutal SSFL cleanup advocacy is, and how amazing the community and cleanup advocates are, makes this film — this victory — even sweeter.
The current Continuing Resolution keeping the government running expires 12/3. Another Continuing Resolution is likely.
The Pentagon has released a major threat assessment of China at https://media.defense.gov/2021/Nov/03/2002885874/-1/-1/0/2021-CMPR-FINAL.PDF.
Under “Nuclear Capabilities” it concludes:
► Over the next decade, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] aims to modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.
► The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.
► The PRC has possibly already established a nascent “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.
► New developments in 2020 further suggest that the PRC intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force.
This is bound to have a major influence on Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review, to be released in early 2022. China’s expansion of its nuclear weapons capabilities, along with U.S. and Russian “modernization” programs, may also be big issues at the January 2022 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference.
The Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is a 3,000 acre site sitting on top of the San Fernando and Simi Valleys in California, located less than 30 miles from Malibu. In 1947 the site was developed as a central location for U.S. rocket engine testing and space exploration, and in the 1950’s SSFL began experimenting with constructing nuclear reactors.
Ten nuclear reactors were built in total, and tens of thousands of rocket, energy, and weapons tests took place there from when the laboratory went into operation in 1947 until it’s closure in 2006. The rocket engine tests specifically produced numerous toxic spills and releases. The nuclear reactors built include a “Hot Lab” to “cut up irradiated reactor fuel from around the country,” “plutonium and uranium-carbide fuel fabrication facilities,” and a “sodium burn pit in which open-air burning of contaminated reactor components took place.” One of the reactors, the Sodium Reactor Experiment, experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959, and two other reactors experienced accidents with fuel damage as well.
Congress passed a continuing resolution that keeps the government running until December 3. It freezes funding at 2021 levels which at least prevents short-term budget increases for nuclear weapons modernization programs and has no “anomalies” (i.e. exceptions) for these programs. That said, Biden passed on most of Trump’s nuclear weapons excesses forward in his FY 2022 budget, so it’s not like it makes a whole lot of difference.
Mitch McConnell agreed to let the Democrats raise the national debt ceiling, thereby averting national and international economic disaster. How gracious of him.
Democrats and Republicans joined together to roll Biden on the money in the FY 2023 Defense Authorization Act for the entire military (including the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). These bipartisan porkmeisters added $23.9 billion for $768 billion in total defense spending. The new bogeyman China was repeatedly invoked as the rationale (in comparison China now spends around $250 billion annually on its military).
Today, Sunday, September 26, 2021, marks the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations has been working toward achieving global nuclear disarmament since the organization’s inception; it was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, with a mandate to make specific proposals for the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons has been observed annually since 2014, serving as a tool to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination. In 2013, the year the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was introduced, the President of the General Assembly noted that a “renewed international focus on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons has led to a reinvigoration of international nuclear disarmament efforts.”
The original mission of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico had two specific stipulations: it was to be the FIRST and only operating underground nuclear waste repository in U.S; and it is ONLY authorized to take a certain kind of nuclear weapons waste – legacy transuranic (TRU) waste. In December of last year, the U.S. Department of Energy published a notice of intent to expand WIPP. The notice details expansion of the plant in two ways: capacities and types of waste permissible, as well as extended storage/operation timelines. The federal government’s plans would expand the size of the nuclear weapons dump to more than twice its current size and more than is allowed: Federal law and legal agreements with New Mexico clearly limit the amount of waste at WIPP, but the expansion would allow more than that capacity (as described in the April 2020 National Academy of Sciences Report “Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.”) This means an increased volume of waste, as well as an increased number of shipments travelling to WIPP over the entire rest of the century.