volume 1, issue 1
newsletter of nuclear watch new mexico
Ready, Fire, Aim!
Together, the United States and Russia have 10,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert pointed at each other. As recently as 1995, the Russians mistook a research satellite for an incoming missile. The Russian counterattack was averted, but within only minutes of launch. Despite the recent Russian approval of START II (to reduce the number of warheads) and the CTBT (to eliminate explosive nuclear weapons testing) both nations still maintain a policy of immediate deployment.
The effort to create delay in nuclear launch is called de-alerting. A national campaign which promotes bilateral agreements for de-alerting, called Back from the Brink, has produced a 12-minute video outlining the problem and offering solutions, which include more time between alert and launch, relaxing hair-trigger launch on warning systems, new technologies for detection and communications, and even physical removal of weapons from delivery systems.
The Russians Are Coming!
Nuclear Watch is sponsoring an evening at St. John's College in Santa Fe to screen the Back from the Brink video and to facilitate a discussion on de-alerting. We are fortunate enough to have four nuclear safety activists from Russia who will participate in this forum. They'll tell us about the increasing difficulty of speaking out in Russia, serious environmental problems they face from nuclear weapons production, and their ideas on de-alerting. Please join us at this special event!
Our Very Own Hole In The Ground
We've got a hole in southeast New Mexico called WIPP, we're putting nuclear waste into it, and most folks know there are rules for what can go in and what can't. Our state Environment Department (NMED) is the regulator charged with ensuring that the federal Department of Energy follows the rules. Now, just six months after the public was part of a process that produced the permit defining the rules for WIPP, DOE has pressured NMED into changing those rules, this time without public input. NMED has decided to reverse its position on limiting the mixed waste to be put into the old, collapsing rooms of WIPP's Panel I, and this is being called a Class I modification -- a designation for correcting typographical errors, not for introducing substantive changes.
Other changes proposed by NMED do allow for public input. A hearing will be held on those changes, but most regulators expect low turnout. Why should the public care? Because of where these changes are headed. If we look up from the immediate details and scan the horizon, we can see the intended trajectory. As one oversight official said recently: "If Yucca Mountain doesn't get approved for high-level waste in 2001, there will be a short list of alternatives. WIPP will be numbers one and two on that list."
If the public wakes up in 2001, it will be too late. The rules will have been quietly changed and nuclear power plant fuel rods will be on their way to WIPP. New Mexicans were promised, not so long ago, that this could never happen.
If we don't attend the hearings, we won't know what's in the works. Soon, all changes will be called Class I modifications, and there won't be any hearings. We need to show we're paying attention.
Friends and neighbors, activism isn't difficult. A little knowledge makes it easier. A fact sheet on the hearings will be available after May 12 from activist organizations and at: Ark Books, the Marketplace, the downtown public library, etc. Read the fact sheet, join us at the hearings, and bring a friend.
WIPP Hearings (again) (no, really)
WHAT TO DO! (this month)
Tell Them How You Feel!
Rep. Heather Wilson
Rep. Joe Skeen
Rep. Tom Udall
Nuclear Watch of New Mexico
551 W. Cordova