Nuclear Watch New Mexico – Work Product

RECENT PRESS RELEASES

Billions of Taxpayer Dollars to be Spent on Plutonium Pit Production – NNSA Chooses Speed Over Safety, Condones Potential Lethal Radioactive Doses to Public

Santa Fe, NM – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency with the Department of Energy, is no longer pursuing a safety class active confinement system at PF-4, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium pit manufacturing facility. This is a long-running battle between the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) and NNSA.

The Safety Board has strongly recommended active confinement systems since 2004, reporting that they “will continue to function during an accident, thereby ensuring that radioactive material is captured by filters before it can be released into the environment.” [i] However, a few years ago NNSA tried to kill the messenger by seriously restricting DNFSB access to NNSA nuclear facilities across the country.

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New Mexico: Number One in Nuclear Weapons and Radioactive Wastes Near Last in Citizen and Child Well-Being

Santa Fe, NM – According to budget documents just released by the Department of Energy, DOE facilities in New Mexico will receive $9.4 billion in FY 2023, substantially larger than the state’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. Seventy-one percent ($6.7 billion) will be for core nuclear weapons research and production programs under the DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That is 40.5% of the NNSA’s total nation-wide nuclear weapons budget of $16.5 billion. It is also double that of the next closest state, since the Land of Enchantment has two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories (the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories). Both of these Labs are within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, whose Archbishop John Wester has echoed Pope Francis’ call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In contrast, the goal of NNSA programs in New Mexico is to indefinitely extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. This will be followed by completely new nuclear weapons that cannot be tested given the global testing moratorium. Alternatively, it could prompt the U.S. back into nuclear weapons testing, which would have serious international proliferation implications. NNSA’s claimed rationale is “deterrence” which requires only a few hundred nuclear weapons. In reality the U.S. and Russia each have thousands of ready-to-launch weapons for nuclear war-fighting that would result in global catastrophe, no longer so hypothetical since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Los Alamos Lab: More Plutonium, More Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM – On Good Friday afternoon, just before the Easter weekend, the Department of Energy (DOE) posted its “Laboratory Tables”, the best source for site specific budget information. DOE boosts funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to $4.6 billion in FY 2023 (+21%), which begins October 1. With another typical $300 million in “Work for Others” (the Defense Department, FBI, CIA, etc.), LANL’s total institutional funding for FY 2023 will be approximately $4.9 billion.

Out of that, $3.6 billion is slated for core nuclear weapons research and production programs. The percentage of nuclear weapons funding at LANL has steadily grown as the Lab increasingly banks its future on plutonium “pit” bomb core production. A decade ago, nuclear weapons programs were 59% of LANL’s total institutional budget. Today it is 73%. Moreover, the remainder of Lab programs (including nonproliferation and cleanup) either directly or indirectly support nuclear weapons programs, for example through a 6% internal tax for “laboratory-directed research and development” that has historically tilted towards nuclear weapons.

LANL’s largest funding increase is for “Plutonium Modernization”, jumping 61% to $1.6 billion in FY 2023. Within that, funding to expand the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores at LANL’s aging plutonium pit production facility is increased 68% to $588 million.

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Biden’s FY 2023 Budget Fuels New Nuclear Arms Race

President’s 2023 Congressional Budget Request Increases Spending on New Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM – The Biden Administration is slow rolling its nuclear weapons budget for the federal fiscal year 2023, which will begin October 1, 2022. Top line budget numbers released on March 24 showed that Biden is increasing the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) budget category for “Total Weapons Activities” by 7.4% to $16.5 billion. That may seem like a relatively modest increase, especially given accelerating inflation.

However, huge increases in specific programs have now been disclosed in an obscure budget chart entitled “Comparative Appropriation by Congressional Control FY 2023.” These NNSA programs are the tip of the spear in the United States’ $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. It will rebuild every nuclear warhead in the planned stockpile with new military capabilities; design and manufacture new-design nuclear weapons as well; construct new production plants expected to be operational until the 2080’s; and procure at enormous taxpayers’ expense new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver these weapons of mass destruction. It is, in short, a program of nuclear weapons forever.

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NukeWatch Lawsuit Settlement Speeds Up Cleanup at Los Alamos Lab

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Nuclear Watch New Mexico is announcing successful settlement of a lawsuit it brought against the Department of Energy (DOE) over its slow cleanup of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The watchdogs’ lawsuit alleged violations of a 2005 Consent Order, which was a site-wide cleanup agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and DOE to address radioactive and toxic wastes at the Lab. NMED has since sued DOE to terminate a revised 2016 Consent Order issued under the Martinez Administration that is far weaker than the original 2005 Order.

After a six-year court battle, NukeWatch’s settlement agreement requires DOE to:

  1. Reestablish a surface water flow monitoring station near where the Los Alamos Canyon meets the Rio Grande. This is critical because the Canyon has long been a known pathway for plutonium contaminants to migrate as far as 20 miles south to Cochiti Lake, a popular recreational area. The Buckman Direct Diversion Project (BDDP), three miles south of the Canyon, supplies drinking water directly out of the river to the City and County of Santa Fe. The original monitoring station warned the BDDP to close its intake gates as a precaution during stormwater events and allowed characterization of the radioactive contaminants in the stormwater flows.” However, it was destroyed during a 2013 flood and DOE had refused to reinstall it ever since, despite repeated BDDP requests. Meanwhile, during that same period of time, funding doubled for LANL’s nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the radioactive and toxic pollution to begin with.

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NNSA Whitewashes LANL Performance, Hides Information from Taxpayers

Santa Fe, NM – Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released cursory three-page summaries of its FY 2021 Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) which grade contractor performance at its eight nuclear weapons sites. Out of six missions goals the NNSA gave the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) two “Excellent” and four “Very Good,” thereby awarding 87% of the at-risk award fee of $26 million to Triad National Security, LLC, the Management and Operating Contractor. In all, including the fixed fee of $20.5 million, Triad will receive $46.7 million for its FY 2021 contractor performance.[1]

The NNSA is releasing only summaries of the Performance Evaluation Reports (“Performance Evaluation Summaries”), which provide scant information and essentially whitewash contractor performance. For context, the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons and cleanup programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for project and contractor mismanagement for 27 consecutive years. In 2012 Nuclear Watch New Mexico sued to obtain the full and complete Performance Evaluation Reports, after which NNSA caved in and immediately provided them. However, that unfortunately resulted in no legal settlement requiring annual releases of the full and complete PERs, and now the agency is back to suppressing information of contractor performance paid for by the American taxpayer.

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Groups Fire Back at Feds’ Move to Dismiss Plutonium Pit Lawsuit

Groups Fire Back at Feds’ Move to Dismiss Plutonium Pit Lawsuit

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.”

SRS WATCH / 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.

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Expanded Plutonium “Pit” Bomb Production Rules Over Genuine Cleanup Los Alamos Lab Plans to Make Existing Nuclear Waste Dumps Permanent Without Eliminating Threat to Groundwater

The Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted a report to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declaring its preferred plan to “cap and cover” radioactive and toxic wastes at one of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) oldest dumps. DOE’s $12 million cleanup-on-the-cheap plan for Material Disposal Area C will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above our regional groundwater. In contrast, DOE has asked Congress for one billion dollars for expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production at LANL for fiscal year 2022 alone.

LANL used to falsely claim that groundwater contamination was impossible and even asked NMED for a waiver from even having to monitor for it. We now know that there is extensive groundwater contamination from hexavalent chromium (the carcinogen in the Erin Brockovich movie) and high explosives. Traces of plutonium have been detected 1,300 feet under Area C in regional groundwater monitoring wells. The dump also has a large toxic gaseous plume of industrial solvents known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which threatens nearby facilities.

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New Mexico: Number One in Nuclear Weapons and Radioactive Wastes Near Last in Citizen and Child Well-Being

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 2, 2021
Santa Fe, NM – According to budget documents just released by the Department of Energy, DOE facilities in New Mexico will receive $8 billion in FY 2022, nearly double that of any other state. Seventy-five percent ($6 billion) is for core nuclear weapons research and production programs under the DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration. This is 39% of the agency’s total nation-wide nuclear weapons budget of $15.5 billion, more than double the next closest state.

The goal of NNSA programs in New Mexico is to indefinitely extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. This will be followed by completely new nuclear weapons that cannot be tested given the global testing moratorium. Alternatively, it could prompt the U.S. back into nuclear weapons testing, which would have serious international proliferation implications. NNSA’s claimed rationale is “deterrence” which requires only a few hundred nuclear weapons. In reality the U.S. and Russia each have thousands of ready-to-launch weapons for nuclear war-fighting.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Biden Administration Over Nuclear Bomb Core Production Plans

Federal agencies’ refusal to review cross-country expansion of plutonium pit production violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, groups say.

AIKEN, S.C. – Today, a coalition of community and public interest groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This legal action is prompted by the agencies’ failure to take the “hard look” required by the National Environmental Policy Act at their plans to more than quadruple the production of plutonium pits and split their production between the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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FY 2022 BUDGET GRAPHS

New Mexico: Number One in Nuclear Weapons and Radioactive Wastes Near Last in Citizen and Child Well-Being

Santa Fe, NM – According to budget documents just released by the Department of Energy, DOE facilities in New Mexico will receive $9.4 billion in FY 2023, substantially larger than the state’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. Seventy-one percent ($6.7 billion) will be for core nuclear weapons research and production programs under the DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That is 40.5% of the NNSA’s total nation-wide nuclear weapons budget of $16.5 billion. It is also double that of the next closest state, since the Land of Enchantment has two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories (the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories). Both of these Labs are within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, whose Archbishop John Wester has echoed Pope Francis’ call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In contrast, the goal of NNSA programs in New Mexico is to indefinitely extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities. This will be followed by completely new nuclear weapons that cannot be tested given the global testing moratorium. Alternatively, it could prompt the U.S. back into nuclear weapons testing, which would have serious international proliferation implications. NNSA’s claimed rationale is “deterrence” which requires only a few hundred nuclear weapons. In reality the U.S. and Russia each have thousands of ready-to-launch weapons for nuclear war-fighting that would result in global catastrophe, no longer so hypothetical since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Continue reading

Los Alamos Lab: More Plutonium, More Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM – On Good Friday afternoon, just before the Easter weekend, the Department of Energy (DOE) posted its “Laboratory Tables”, the best source for site specific budget information. DOE boosts funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to $4.6 billion in FY 2023 (+21%), which begins October 1. With another typical $300 million in “Work for Others” (the Defense Department, FBI, CIA, etc.), LANL’s total institutional funding for FY 2023 will be approximately $4.9 billion.

Out of that, $3.6 billion is slated for core nuclear weapons research and production programs. The percentage of nuclear weapons funding at LANL has steadily grown as the Lab increasingly banks its future on plutonium “pit” bomb core production. A decade ago, nuclear weapons programs were 59% of LANL’s total institutional budget. Today it is 73%. Moreover, the remainder of Lab programs (including nonproliferation and cleanup) either directly or indirectly support nuclear weapons programs, for example through a 6% internal tax for “laboratory-directed research and development” that has historically tilted towards nuclear weapons.

LANL’s largest funding increase is for “Plutonium Modernization”, jumping 61% to $1.6 billion in FY 2023. Within that, funding to expand the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores at LANL’s aging plutonium pit production facility is increased 68% to $588 million.

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Biden’s FY 2023 Budget Fuels New Nuclear Arms Race

President’s 2023 Congressional Budget Request Increases Spending on New Nuclear Weapons

Santa Fe, NM – The Biden Administration is slow rolling its nuclear weapons budget for the federal fiscal year 2023, which will begin October 1, 2022. Top line budget numbers released on March 24 showed that Biden is increasing the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) budget category for “Total Weapons Activities” by 7.4% to $16.5 billion. That may seem like a relatively modest increase, especially given accelerating inflation.

However, huge increases in specific programs have now been disclosed in an obscure budget chart entitled “Comparative Appropriation by Congressional Control FY 2023.” These NNSA programs are the tip of the spear in the United States’ $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. It will rebuild every nuclear warhead in the planned stockpile with new military capabilities; design and manufacture new-design nuclear weapons as well; construct new production plants expected to be operational until the 2080’s; and procure at enormous taxpayers’ expense new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver these weapons of mass destruction. It is, in short, a program of nuclear weapons forever.

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Past Work Product (2020-2021)

Groups Fire Back at Feds’ Move to Dismiss Plutonium Pit Lawsuit

Groups Fire Back at Feds’ Move to Dismiss Plutonium Pit Lawsuit

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.”

SRS WATCH / 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.

Continue reading

Expanded Plutonium “Pit” Bomb Production Rules Over Genuine Cleanup Los Alamos Lab Plans to Make Existing Nuclear Waste Dumps Permanent Without Eliminating Threat to Groundwater

The Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted a report to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declaring its preferred plan to “cap and cover” radioactive and toxic wastes at one of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) oldest dumps. DOE’s $12 million cleanup-on-the-cheap plan for Material Disposal Area C will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above our regional groundwater. In contrast, DOE has asked Congress for one billion dollars for expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production at LANL for fiscal year 2022 alone.

LANL used to falsely claim that groundwater contamination was impossible and even asked NMED for a waiver from even having to monitor for it. We now know that there is extensive groundwater contamination from hexavalent chromium (the carcinogen in the Erin Brockovich movie) and high explosives. Traces of plutonium have been detected 1,300 feet under Area C in regional groundwater monitoring wells. The dump also has a large toxic gaseous plume of industrial solvents known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which threatens nearby facilities.

Continue reading

Lawsuit Filed Against Biden Administration Over Nuclear Bomb Core Production Plans

Federal agencies’ refusal to review cross-country expansion of plutonium pit production violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, groups say.

AIKEN, S.C. – Today, a coalition of community and public interest groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This legal action is prompted by the agencies’ failure to take the “hard look” required by the National Environmental Policy Act at their plans to more than quadruple the production of plutonium pits and split their production between the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

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South Carolina Environmental Law Project logo

MEDIA ADVISORY – South Carolina Environmental Law Project and Nuclear Watchdogs Hold Virtual Press Conference

WHAT:

Public interest groups will hold a press conference for a major announcement of a forthcoming legal action as the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration forge ahead with plans to drastically expand production of plutonium pits, the cores of nuclear weapons, at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The legal action follows previous unanswered requests from the groups to DOE and NNSA as seen in correspondence in February and April.

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Following New Mexico Environment Department Lawsuit DOE Dramatically Increases Funding for Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Santa Fe, NM – The Biden Administration has finally released budget details for Department of Energy (DOE) programs that clean up Cold War contamination and radioactive and toxic wastes. In January the New Mexico Environment Department sued DOE in order to terminate a 2016 “Consent Order” that subordinated cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to the budget that DOE wants, which is increased nuclear weapons production. The Biden Administration has responded by increasing proposed cleanup funding at the Lab by 33% from $226 million in FY 2021 to $333.5 million proposed for FY 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021).

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Biden Continues Trump’s Bloated Nuclear Weapons Budget

Will That Change in Future Years?

Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move that discouraged media coverage, the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its long delayed FY 2022 Congressional Budget Request around 7:30 pm EST Friday, May 28, at the very beginning of the long Memorial Day weekend.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly opposed the 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration bequeathed to NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs. That massive increase was originally sold in testimony to Congress as essential to maintaining the nuclear deterrence but later revealed as necessary to cover NNSA cost overruns and blown schedules.[i]

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75TH ANNIVERSARY HIROSHIMA DAY ONLINE COMMEMORATION CALLING FOR THE ABOLITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
August 6, 2020

"Jay Coghlan of Nukewatch.org on the history of the Los Alamos labs, where the bomb was designed and fabricated, and how it continues to play the leading role in the creation of most U.S. nuclear weapons since then."

[embeddoc url="https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/plutonium-pit-production-fact-sheet.pdf" download="all" viewer="browser"]

PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION WORKSHOP – NOVEMBER 19, 2019

RADIO INTERVIEW – SCOTT KOVAC & JON LIPSKY

Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Jon Lipsky, the FBI agent who led the 1989 raid investigating environmental crimes that shut down the Rocky Flats Nuclear Bomb Plant join Xubi to talk about Nuclear weapons, Nuclear clean up and Pit production plans at LANL.

livingontheedge.libsyn.com

RADIO INTERVIEW – JAY COGHLAN & JON LIPSKY

PIT Production at LANL with Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Jay Coghlan and Workshop Speaker, Jon Lipsky

The Richard Eeds Show 11/18

RADIO INTERVIEW – MARYLIA KELLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRI-VALLEY CARES

Nuclear Watch NM’s Workshop on LANL & PIT Production with Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CARES

The Richard Eeds Show 11/19


Pit Production Workshop: View the Presentations

Jon Lipsky, FBI agent that led the 1989 raid investigating environmental crimes that shut down the Rocky Flats bomb plant

Introduction by Jay Coghlan

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on plutonium pit production at LANL

Marylia Kelly, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Livermore, CA) on the new nuclear arms race

Scott Kovac Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on LANL cleanup issues

Blog Posts

Why Funding for the SLCM Nuclear Warhead Should Be Deleted

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.” 

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Action Alert: Call Your House Armed Services Committee Representative by Wednesday June 22

Action Alert: Call Your House Armed Services Committee Representative by Wednesday June 22


Incredibly, the NNSA does not have an integrated master schedule for simultaneous pit production, long recommended by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO).
NNSA plans to produce at least 30 pits per year by 2026 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and at least 50 pits per year by 2030 at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The agency has admitted that the 2030 date is already long delayed. NNSA last gave an overall cost estimate for expanded pit production in 2018 of $43 billion over 30 years.

The Twisted Myth that Nuclear Weapons Make Us Safer

“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.

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The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability DC Days 2022: NukeWatch Visits DC

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability DC Days 2022: NukeWatch (Virtually) Visits Washington DC

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.
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The W93 Warhead and Other Future New-Design Nuclear Weapons: Funding and Schedules

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).

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What’s the Current Status of U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons? How Many Exist and Just How Powerful Are They?

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?

This graphic from Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists shows the locations of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Storage Sites in Europe, where there are currently an estimated 100 US Air Force nuclear bombs stored.

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).

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Millennials Memeing Nuclear War

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.

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How are we Back Here…? Reflecting on the History of Nuclear Close Calls as Putin’s Threat Reignites Cold War Fears of Nuclear War

“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

By

A nuclear “close call” is usually defined as an incident that could have led to at least one unintended, mistaken, or unauthorized nuclear detonation or missile launch.

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RECENT FACT SHEETS

The Need for Independent Pit Aging Studies

June 16, 2022 | FACT SHEETS

Summary: The United States is aggressively expanding the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores to at least 80 pits per year, which the Pentagon has called the number one issue in its $1.7 trillion plan to “modernize” nuclear forces. The average age of plutonium pits is around 40 years. Los Alamos Lab Director Thom Mason has said that “The best way to deal with this dilemma [of uncertainty about aging effects] is to take it off the table. We do that by making new pits, immediately.” Thus, he justifies spending tens of billions of dollars, creating additional occupational and public risks, generating more radioactive wastes with uncertain disposal pathways, fundamentally transforming the Lab into a nuclear weapons production site and fueling the increasingly dangerous new nuclear arms race.

But does independent review of pit aging data support this need to immediately produce new pits? The answer is no given that independent experts concluded in 2006 that pits last at least a century with no determined end date. Further, no future pit production is scheduled to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile – it is all for speculative new designs which could raise reliability issues or even prompt the U.S. to resume testing.

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Why Funding for the SLCM Nuclear Warhead Should Be Deleted

June 6, 2022 | FACT SHEETS

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.” 

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Recent Formal Comments

Nuclear Watch New Mexico Comments on U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Interim Storage Partners/Waste Control Specialists Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Draft Environmental Impact Statement

RE: Docket ID NRC-2016-0231/Report Number NUREG-2239, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Interim Storage Partners/Waste Control Specialists Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Dear U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioners and Staff,

We respectfully submit these comments in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Docket ID NRC-2016-0231) regarding Interim Storage Partner’s (ISP) application for a license to build and operate a “Consolidated Interim Storage Facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel in Andrews County, Texas” (NUREG-2239), which plans to bring at least 40,000 metric tons of spent fuel, high-level radioactive waste, from nuclear reactors around the country to west Texas. Please know that we do not consent to our region becoming a national radioactive high-level waste dumping ground or to transporting up to thousands of canisters of radioactive waste through thousands of communities. We should not have to risk the contamination of our land, aquifers, air, plants, wildlife, and livestock. We do not consent to endangering present and future generations.

Read/Download full comments HERE 

Scoping Comments on the LLNL SWEIS

October 21, 2020
Ms. Fana Gebeyehu-Houston
NEPA Document Manager
National Nuclear Security Administration
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
P.O. Box 808, L-293, Livermore, CA 94551-0808

By Email to:LLNLSWEIS@nnsa.doe.gov

Re: Scoping Comments on the LLNL SWEIS

Dear NEPA Document Manager:
I appreciate this opportunity to submit comments on the scope of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for the continued operation of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Main Site in Livermore, CA and Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy, CA.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We seek to promote safety and environmental protection at nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act the purpose of scoping is: “early identification of concerns, potential impacts, relevant effects of past actions and possible alternative actions.” Therefore, I ask that the analyses I am requesting be fully undertaken – and my questions fully answered – in the draft SWEIS.

First, I am skeptical of the timing of the initiation of this new SWEIS for LLNL during the COVID-19 pandemic and just before the November 3 election. As a prerequisite, the
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) should have already begun a nationwide programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on expanded plutonium pit
production which would then inform the LLNL SWEIS of the Livermore Lab’s role in that national effort, which is not insignificant. Following that pit production PEIS, both a
LLNL and Los Alamos National Laboratory SWEIS should proceed in parallel. It is particularly striking that NNSA is claiming NEPA compliance while relying on an
outdated Complex Transformation Supplemental PEIS and LANL SWEIS, both completed in 2008, and refusing to prepare new or supplemental ones.

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Past NukeWatch Events

WIPP Community Forum & Open House (In person & virtual), Thursday, July 7 at 5.30 p.m.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC (NWP) CBFO and NWP will host an in person and virtual meeting to provide an update on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

In the words of our colleague Cindy Wheeler at 285 ALL,

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to find out -from the horse’s mouth- what DOE is planning in regard to WIPP expansion.  We intend to ask questions and will expect answers that tell us how much risk this expansion will expose us to as more of a more dangerous waste is transported past our homes for what will probably be at least the rest of this century.”

Your participation is essential!! It tells DOE how concerned New Mexicans are about the risks it is proposing.  Please plan to attend, in person if at all possible.

Please register if attending virtually, however you do not need to register if attending in person.


IN PERSON:

Santa Fe Convention Center – Okeefe & Milagro Rooms

(201 West Marcy Street Santa Fe, NM 87501)

Thursday, July 7, 2022, starts at 5.30 p.m.

VIRTUAL:

REGISTER HERE

https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEuduqsqz4qH9PEL2Rbp3U5Ae7vkXDv-LAD

For questions regarding this meeting and open house please contact the WIPP Information Center at infocntr@wipp.ws or by calling 1-800-336-9477.

Join John Dear and Archbishop Wester July 2nd on Nuclear Disarmament

Please join NukeWatch in welcoming and supporting Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester and Father John Dear on July 2nd at 11am Pacific/ 12pm Mountain/ 1pm Central/ 2pm Eastern Time when Archbishop Wester will speak at the Beatitudes Center about his pastoral letter, an historic call for nuclear disarmament, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace,” and what we can do to help achieve this global goal.

Register at www.beatitudescenter.org.

Note, registration closes on Monday, June 27th. You will receive the zoom link a few days beforehand, and a recording link a few days afterward. If you have any questions, email Kassandra at beatitudescentermb@gmail.com.

“The New Mexican congressional delegation has always historically supported the nuclear weapons industry in the name of jobs, jobs, jobs. This needs to be critically examined and questioned, both morally and practically. Why is it that New Mexico always ranks near the bottom of all 50 states in key socioeconomic indicators? Does the nuclear weapons industry really benefit New Mexicans as a whole? The facts indicate no.”

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Coming soon!  The opportunity to participate in the 10-year renewal of the hazardous waste permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP):

The New Mexico Environment Department is required to maintain a Facility Mailing List to which you can add your name and address to get the latest information – just email Ricardo Maestas at the New Mexico Environment Department at ricardo.maestas@state.nm.us and ask to be added to the list.  Or mail your request with your mailing address to:

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HELP US SUPPORT NEW MEXICO’S GOVERNOR IN ACTING TO STOP WIPP EXPANSION!

STOP “FOREVER WIPP!”

The Department of Energy is seeking to modify the nuclear waste permit for southeastern New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Dragging out WIPP’s operations decades past the original 20-year agreement violates the social contract made with New Mexicans. WIPP is being equipped to take the waste that will be generated from production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads, and it was never supposed to do that. An expansion of WIPP will impact the entire country, not just residents of southeastern New Mexico.

View the videos below for more information, and, if you live in an area that may be endangered by these nuclear waste transportation risks, please consider making your own “This is My Neighborhood” video!

Background Information –  Problems with Nuclear Waste
Playlist: Problems with Nuclear Waste


Mixed Waste Landfill Facts

Mixed Waste Landfill Facts

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Support a Santa Fe County resolution calling for a new site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) at the Los Alamos Lab before plutonium “pit” bomb core production is expanded.

The last SWEIS was in 2008 and much has changed.

Public comment period beginning not sooner than 3:30 pm (exact time indefinite), Tuesday January 26.

To participate by phone, call 1-408-418-9388, using meeting number 968 291 714 and password DcTWMVai436. To participate via internet, go to https://sfco.webex.com/sfco/j.php?MTID=maa656c921d094b90a0b6ce6ab2f26db9

The Santa Fe County agenda is available at https://www.santafecountynm.gov/documents/agendas/agendas/BCC_Agenda_1-26-2020.pdf
The draft resolution is available at https://wp.me/aar4I0-3cl and below:

Resolution Requesting NNSA Complete Full SWEIS for LANL Before Expanding Plutonium Pit Production

 

Public Comment Period Open until Feb. 1, 2021 – Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP):

NNSA issues Notice of Intent to prepare Environmental Impact Statement for Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

“In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, an online scoping meeting will be held in place of an in-person meeting.  The online public scoping meeting is tentatively scheduled for the end of January 2021.  The information and details on how to participate in the online public scoping meeting and submit comments will be provided in a future notice posted on the NNSA National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Reading Room website (https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/nnsa-nepa-reading-room) and will also be published in local newspapers.  Any necessary changes will be announced in the local media and on the NNSA NEPA Reading Room website.”

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Past Work Product (2019-)

Plutonium Pit Production Forum – Full Video

Workshop on expanded production of the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory

Presenters:

  • Jon Lipsky, FBI agent that led the 1989 raid investigating environmental crimes that shut down the Rocky Flats bomb plant
  • Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on plutonium pit production at LANL
  • Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Livermore, CA) on the new nuclear arms race
  • Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on LANL cleanup issues

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Is Los Alamos Lab Half Empty or Over Full of Radioactive Wastes?

August 22, 2019

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Environmental Management Los Alamos (EMLA) field office has repeatedly claimed that “> [i.e., more than] ½ of legacy cleanup has been completed.”1 This claim doesn’t explain how this is measured. Does it mean ½ of the time, ½ of the cost, ½ of the sites, or ½ of the wastes? However it is measured, New Mexicans need to know that DOE and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are NOT talking about real comprehensive cleanup.

When EMLA and its cleanup contractor (N3B) talk about cleanup, they mean specific narrow measures for specific sites, including much paperwork and studies instead of actual cleanup. Contrary to EMLA’s self-proclaimed openness and transparency, the claim of greater that half-completed cleanup is based on decisions made without public input to leave the vast majority of radioactive and toxic wastes permanently buried above our precious groundwater.

While some Lab cleanup started in the late 1980s, tracking of the cleanup budget didn’t start until 1997, which is the date used as the beginning of “prior costs” in recent DOE Congressional Budget Requests. 2 EMLA’s current estimated date for completion of planned cleanup is 2037. That would be 22 years down and 18 to go, if we look at 1997 to 2037, which would be ½ of the time if EMLA completes its planned cleanup by 2037. If decisions are made to remove more wastes, which would be the right thing to do, cleanup could last for decades more while generating 100’s of high-paying jobs. Real, comprehensive cleanup would be well worth the wait!

2019


Proposed LANL Campus in Santa Fe

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


Pope Frances Calls for Nuclear Weapons Abolition

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


VIEW LIVE RECORDING & WORKSHOP RESOURCES

Presenters:

  • Jon Lipsky, FBI agent that led the 1989 raid investigating environmental crimes that shut down the Rocky Flats bomb plant
  • Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on plutonium pit production at LANL
  • Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Livermore, CA) on the new nuclear arms race
  • Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on LANL cleanup issues

NukeWatch’s 22-page formal comments on expanded plutonium pit production

Until NNSA fully complies with the National Environmental Policy Act through the preparation of a programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production, Nuclear Watch believes that any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources to either the expansion of pit production at the Los Alamos Lab or to the repurposing of the MOX Facility at the Savannah River Site is unlawful.

Read/Download the Full Document HERE


Scoping comments on NNSA draft EIS for plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site

THE NEED FOR A PROGRAMMATIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT: This is our first and primary concern, that NNSA must first complete a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on its nation-wide plans for plutonium pit production, in advance of the Savannah River Site-specific environmental impact statement. To get right to the point, we argue that the SRS EIS process should go no further than this scoping period and should resume only after a completed formal Record of Decision for a new or supplemental PEIS.

Read/Download the Full Document HERE


Expanding Nuclear Pit Production: The Facts and What You Can Do

The Facts
• The Trump administration wants the United States to produce 80 plutonium pits per year
by 2030 without offering any concrete justification for the additional nuclear bomb cores.
• Multiple studies by government agencies have found that pits last for at least 100 years.
The average pit in the US stockpile is around 36 years old.
• More than 15,000 existing pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.
• Independent experts find it nearly impossible that the Los Alamos National Laboratory
and the Savannah River Site will be able to meet the 80 pit per year by 2030 requirement,
and billions of taxpayer dollars will be thrown down the drain in the meantime.

Read/Download the Full Document HERE


Federal Government Meets Watchdogs’ Demand for Environmental Review of Expanded Plutonium Pit Production

In a victory for transparency and legal compliance by the government, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today published a “Notice of Intent” in the Federal Register to complete environmental reviews on its controversial proposal to expand plutonium “pit” production for new and refurbished nuclear weapons.

[embeddoc url="https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/SRS-plutonium-bomb-plant6-14-19.pptx" download="all" viewer="google"]

Read/Download the Full News Release HERE


Noted Environmental Lawyers Warn Government Not to Expand Production of Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Policy Act and Public Review

On behalf of three public interest organizations - Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment and Savannah River Site Watch – attorneys for the law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently sent a 16-page letter to Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The detailed letter warns the nuclear agency to not proceed with aggressive plans to expand plutonium pit production without first meeting its legal requirements for timely public review and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


Faulty Radioactive Liquid Waste Valves Raise Crucial Plutonium Pit Production and Safety Board Issues

Last Wednesday, facility operations personnel entered a service room and noticed a leak emanating from a valve on the radioactive liquid waste (RLW) system. Upon subsequent visual inspection by a radiological control technician, RLUOB engineers believe that this valve, and 6 similar valves, may be constructed of carbon steel. The RLW system handles radioactive liquid waste streams from chemistry operations that include nitric and hydrochloric acids—carbon steel valves would be incompatible with these solutions. The suspect valves are also in contact with stainless steel piping, which would create another corrosion mechanism. RLUOB management plans to drain the affected piping sections and develop a work package to replace all of the suspect valves. They will also confirm the valve materials and if shown to be incorrect, investigate the cause of this failure in the design, procurement, and installation processes. The valves were installed in 2013 as part of a modification to add straining and sampling capabilities that were not in the included in the original design. [Please note that DNFSB reports are posted a few weeks later than dated.]

This immediately raises two crucial issues: 1) the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) plans for expanded plutonium pit production; and 2) the current attempt by the Department of Energy to restrict Safety Board access to its nuclear weapons facilities.

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


A Tale of Two Consent Orders and What Is Needed

On March 1, 2005, after arduous negotiations and threats of litigation, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Department of Energy (DOE), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) entered into a Consent Order specifying the schedule for investigation and cleanup of the Lab’s hundreds of contaminated sites. This Consent Order (CO) was LANL’s agreement to fence-to-fence cleanup of Cold War legacy wastes, which NMED began to enforce.

Read/Download the Full Comparison HERE


Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising

More than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, all eight established nuclear weapons powers are “modernizing” their stockpiles. Talks have broken down with North Korea, the new nuclear weapons power. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan narrowly averted war last month. Russian President Vladmir Putin made new nuclear threats in response to Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This could lead to hair-trigger missile emplacements in the heart of Europe and block extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. If so, the world will be without any nuclear arms control at all for the first time since 1972. Meanwhile, the U.S. criticizes non-weapons states for signing a nuclear weapons ban treaty, despite the fact there have long been treaties completely banning chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that the U.S. seeks to enforce. The pending international NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee conference at the United Nations is widely expected to collapse in failure because of the nuclear weapons powers’ failure to enter into serious negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. The NPT’s Article VI mandate for those negotiations has been in effect since 1970, when the Treaty was signed by 189 countries (more than any other treaty).

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE



Nuclear Watch New Mexico — Department of Energy FY 2020 Nuclear Weapons Budget Request

Read/Download the Full Budget Compilation HERE


2018


Expanded Plutonium Pit Production for U.S. Nuclear Weapons

Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. Their production has always been a chokepoint of resumed industrial-scale U.S. nuclear weapons production ever since a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes shut down the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. In 1997 the mission of plutonium pit production was officially transferred to its birthplace, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in northern New Mexico, but officially capped at not more than 20 pits per year. However, in 2015 Congress required expanded pit production by 2030 whether or not the existing nuclear weapons stockpile actually needs it. This will support new military capabilities for nuclear weapons and their potential use.

Read/Download the full fact sheet pdf HERE


Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and Public Review

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch, and Tri-Valley CAREs sent a letter of demand to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to inform the government that its plan to quadruple the production rate of plutonium bomb cores is out of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NNSA’s premature plan to quadruple the production rate of plutonium bomb cores (“pits”), the heart of all US nuclear weapons, is out of compliance with requisite environmental law, the groups argue, as NNSA has failed to undertake a legally-mandated programmatic review and hold required public hearings.

View/Download the entire press release HERE


DNFSB Hearing - Formal Comments

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is submitted formal comments to express in the strongest possible terms our opposition to DOE Order 140.1 Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. We find that the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) attempt to restrict and suppress DNFSB access is very misguided, arrogant, and likely illegal in that it acts contrary to the Board’s enabling legislation.

Read the comments here


New Contractors Selected For Expanded Nuclear Weapons Production at Los Alamos

Santa Fe, NM. Today the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced its choice for the new management and operating contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).The new contractor, Triad National Security, LLC, is a limited liability company consisting of the Battelle Memorial Institute, the University of California and Texas A&M University. All three are non-profits, and it is unclear how this will affect New Mexico gross receipts taxes.

Battelle claims to be the world's largest non-profit technology research and development organization, and manages a number of labs including the Lawrence Livermore and Idaho National Laboratories. Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as the state's first public institution of higher learning and has the largest nuclear engineering program in the country. DOE Secretary Rick Perry is an avid A&M alumnus.

View/download full press release


Groups Release Key DOE Documents on Expanded Plutonium Pit Production, DOE Nuclear Weapons Plan Not Supported by Recent Congressional Actions

View/download press release


Los Alamos Cleanup

View/download Fact sheet


What's Not in NNSA's Plutonium Pit Production Decision

View/download Press Release


NNSA Proposal to Raise Plutonium Limit Ten-Fold in Los Alamos' Rad Lab Is First Step in Expanded Plutonium Pit Production: Environmental Assessment Is Premature and Deceptive By Omission

View/download Press Release


LANL Rad Lab: Formal Comments Under Nat'l Environmental Policy Act

View/download Nuclear Watch comments as submitted

Excerpt:
"This Draft Rad Lab EA is deficient. There are major omissions, for example the lack of analyses of potential beryllium hazards and Intentional Destructive Acts. Moreover, safety, occupational and seismic risks are explained away in "preliminary analyses." All this should be corrected in a more complete environmental impact statement, including final and transparent analyses of safety and seismic risks...

"NNSA should proceed with a broader environmental impact statement after its May 11 decision on the future of expanded plutonium pit production."

- NNSA is planning a 10-fold increase in plutonium at the LANL Rad Lab with a view to ramping up the production of plutonium pits for new nuclear weapons.
- NNSA wants to re-categorize the Rad Lab from a "radiological facility" to a "Hazard Category-3" nuclear facility.
- (See details in our press release)
- National Environmental Policy Act


United States To Begin Construction Of New Nuclear Bomb Plant

"This project is already a classic boondoggle, and they are just getting started," said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) in Knoxville, Tennessee. "Worse, it undermines US efforts to discourage nuclear proliferation around the world. How can we oppose the nuclear ambitions of other countries when we are building a bomb plant here to manufacture 80 thermonuclear cores for warheads every year?"

Jay Coghlan of NukeWatch points out that "This project already has a long history, and it is instructive. In 2013, DOE announced it was 85% finished with the UPF design when it ran into the 'space/fit' issue- and more than a half-billion taxpayer dollars were just written off. In private business, that kind of thing gets you fired. In DOE's world of contractors running amok, they not only didn't get fired, not one Congressional hearing was held and the UPF budget went up the next year!"

- See full press release for all the details (PDF)
- View/download the OREPA/NukeWatch FOIA request (pdf)


The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities: Benefits for the Select Few

Santa Fe, NM- According to media reports, Andrea Romero, Executive Director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, is accused of charging some $2,200 dollars of unallowable travel costs, such as alcohol and baseball tickets, while lobbying in Washington, DC for additional funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). She in turn accused the nonprofit group Northern New Mexico Protects of political motivations in revealing these questionable expenses. Romero is running in the Democrat Party primary against incumbent state Rep. Carl Trujillo for Santa Fe County's 46th district in the state House of Representatives.
Perhaps more serious is the fact that Romero was awarded an undisclosed amount of money by the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) for her private business Tall Foods, Tall Goods, a commercial ostrich farm in Ribera, NM. According to a May 8, 2017 Los Alamos Lab news release announcing the award to Tall Foods, Tall Goods, "The VAF was established in 2006 by Los Alamos National Security [LANS], LLC to stimulate the economy by supporting growth-oriented companies."[1] LANS, primarily composed of the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California, has held the annual ~$2.4 billion Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) management contract since June 2006.

For all the details, see full press release PDF


Major LANL Cleanup Subcontractor Implicated in Fraud - Entire Los Alamos Cleanup Should Be Re-evaluated

Santa Fe, NM. On December 17, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a separate $1.4 billion contract for cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos, LLC (also known as "N3B"). This award followed a DOE decision to pull cleanup from LANL's prime contractor, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), after it sent an improperly prepared radioactive waste drum that ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). That incident contaminated 21 workers and closed WIPP for nearly three years, costing taxpayers at least $1.5 billion to reopen.
Tetra Tech Inc is a major subcontractor for N3B in the LANL cleanup contract... Serious allegations of fraud by Tetra Tech were raised long before the LANL cleanup contract was awarded. The US Navy found that the company had committed wide spread radiological data falsification, doctored records and supporting documentation, and covered-up fraud at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard cleanup project in San Francisco, CA. See media links and excerpts below..."

(See all the details in the full press release)


Detailed NNSA Budget Documents Accelerates Nuclear Weapons Arms Race

Santa Fe, NM. Late Friday February 23, the Trump Administration released the detailed FY 2019 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the federal Department of Energy. Overall, NNSA is receiving a $2.2 billion boost to $15.1 billion, a 17% increase above the FY 2018 enacted level. Of that, a full $11 billion is for the budget category [Nuclear] "Weapons Activities", 18% above the FY 2018 level. Of concern to the American taxpayer, DOE and NNSA nuclear weapons programs have been on the congressional Government Accountability Office's High Risk List for project mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse since its inception in 1990...

(See all the details in the full press release)


NNSA Releases Draft Environmental Assessment for LANL Rad Lab; Raises Plutonium Limit 10 Times for Expanded Pit Production

Santa Fe, NM. Today the National Nuclear Security Administration announced an Environmental Assessment to increase the amount of plutonium used in the Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building (aka the "Rad Lab") at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 38.6 grams of plutonium-239 equivalent to 400 grams. This 10-fold increase is significant because it will dramatically expand materials characterization and analytical chemistry capabilities in the Rad Lab in support of expanded plutonium pit production for future nuclear weapons designs. It also re-categorizes the Rad Lab from a "radiological facility" to a "Hazard Category-3" nuclear facility.

View/Download full press release


Trump's Budget Dramatically Increases Nuclear Weapons Work

Santa Fe, NM In keeping with the Trump Administration's recent controversial Nuclear Posture Review, today's just released FY 2019 federal budget dramatically ramps up nuclear weapons research and production.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of Energy's semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, is receiving a $2.2 billion overall boost to $15.1 billion, a 17% increase above the FY 2018 enacted level. Of that, a full $11 billion is for the budget category (Nuclear) "Weapons Activities", 18% above the FY 2018 level.
Digging deeper under Weapons Activities, "Directed Stockpile Work" is increased from $3.3 billion to $4.7 billion, or 41%...

(read the full press release)


Draft Nuclear Posture Review Degrades National Security

Yesterday evening the Huffington Post posted a leaked draft of the Trump Administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This review is the federal government's highest unclassified nuclear weapons policy document, and the first since the Obama Administration's April 2010 NPR.
This Review begins with "Many hoped conditions had been set for deep reductions in global nuclear arsenals, and, perhaps, for their elimination. These aspirations have not been realized. America's strategic competitors have not followed our example. The world is more dangerous, not less." The NPR then points to Russia and China's ongoing nuclear weapons modernization programs and North Korea's "nuclear provocations." It concludes, "We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it be."
If the United States government were to really "look reality in the eye and see the world as it is", it would recognize that it is failing miserably to lead the world toward the abolition of the only class of weapons that is a true existential threat to our country. As an obvious historic matter, the U.S. is the first and only country to use nuclear weapons. Since WWII the U.S. has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, and on many other occasions.
Further, it is hypocritical to point to Russia and China's "modernization" programs as if they are taking place in a vacuum. The U.S. has been upgrading its nuclear arsenal all along. In the last few years our country has embarked on a $1.7 trillion modernization program to completely rebuild its nuclear weapons production complex and all three legs of its nuclear triad.
Moreover, Russia and China's modernization programs are driven in large part by their perceived need to preserve strategic stability and deterrence..
(read the full press release)

2017


2017


New Mexico Environment Department Surrendered to DOE Extortion

Santa Fe, NM. The New Mexico State Auditor Office recently questioned whether two settlements between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy were in the best interests of New Mexico. That Office noted:
"The New Mexico Environment Department unnecessarily forgave tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties related to various waste management issues and missed cleanup deadlines by the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors. Considering the seriousness of the violations, and the clarity regarding responsibility for the violations, it appears highly unusual that the Department would not collect any civil penalties under these circumstances."
NMED completed an assessment of $54 million in penalties that would have gone to New Mexico, but did not enforce them before making the settlements with DOE. This was at a time when the state was beginning to face a serious budget crisis. As State Senator John Arthur Smith (Chair of the Senate Finance Committee) put it, NMED's failure to levy penalties when New Mexico was facing a budget crisis is "taking it out of the pockets of our kids and young people when they do something like that."
Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, "This is inexcusable that NMED preemptively surrendered to Department of Energy extortion. In effect DOE is saying if you, the regulator, fine us, we will cut the money the taxpayer has paid to clean up our mess that threatens the citizens you are suppose to protect."

(View/download full press release)


Los Alamos Hires New Contractor - Starts Cleanup On the Cheap

Santa Fe, NM- Today the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the award of the new Los Alamos National Laboratory legacy cleanup contract to Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos, LLC. The $1.39 billion contract is for ten years, which works out to $139 million per year...
Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, "This dooms the Lab to cleanup on the cheap. This 140 million dollars per year to the cleanup contractor is based on a revised Consent Order by the New Mexico Environment Department that was a give away to the Los Alamos Lab. The original 2005 Consent Order held the Department of Energy's feet to the fire to complete real cleanup or pay stipulated penalties. In contrast, the Martinez administration gave the biggest polluter in northern New Mexico a free pass, forgiving a hundred million dollars in possible fines that should have gone to our kids' schools. New Mexicans deserve an Environment Department under a new governor that aggressively protects the environment and creates new high-paying jobs thorough enforcing comprehensive cleanup."

View/download the full press release


"Nuclear Weapons Development, Testing, Stockpile & UN Treaty" - Presentation by Nukewatch Director Jay Coghlan at the Albuquerque symposium "Dismantling the Nuclear Beast" Dec. 1-3, 2017.

View/download Power Point doc


Congressional Budget Office: Cost of Nuclear Weapons Upgrades and Improvements Increases to $1.2 Trillion

Today, in Washington, DC, the Congressional Budget Office released its new report, "Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046". The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most recent detailed plans for nuclear forces, which were incorporated in the Obama Administration's 2017 budget request, would cost $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars over the 2017-2046 period: more than $800 billion to operate and sustain (that is, incrementally upgrade) nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them.... Driving this astronomical expense is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of "deterrence," thousands of warheads are being refurbished and improved to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government!

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Santa Fe City Council: LANL Cleanup Order Must Be Strengthened & Expanded and Plutonium Pit Production Suspended Until Safety Issues Are Resolved

Santa Fe, NM. On the evening of Wednesday October 25, the Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution requesting that the New Mexico Environment Department strengthen the revised Los Alamos National Labs cleanup order to call for additional characterization of legacy nuclear wastes, increased cleanup funding, and significant additional safety training. The resolution also called for the suspension of any planned expanded plutonium pit production until safety issues are resolved.

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International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Wins Nobel Peace Prize, NukeWatch Calls on New Mexico Politicians and Santa Fe Archbishop To Support Drive Toward Abolition

Santa Fe, NM. Nuclear Watch New Mexico strongly applauds the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (disclosure: NukeWatch is one of ICAN's ~400 member groups around the world). This award is especially apt because the peoples of the world are now living at the highest risk for nuclear war since the middle 1980's, when during President Reagan's military buildup the Soviet Union became convinced that the United States might launch a pre-emptive nuclear first strike. Today, we not only have Trump's threats to "totally destroy" North Korea and Kim Jong-un's counter threats, but also renewed Russian fears of a US preemptive nuclear attack... Generally unknown to the American taxpayer, our government has quietly tripled the lethality of the US nuclear weapons stockpile..."

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Expanded Plutonium Pit Production at LANL Will Not Result in Significant Positive Effect On Job Creation and the Regional Economy

The National Nuclear Security Administration's own documents have explicitly stated that expanded pit production would have no significant positive effect on job creation and the regional economy of northern New Mexico. Nuclear Watch argues that expanded plutonium pit production could actually have negative effect if it blocks other economic alternatives such as comprehensive cleanup, which could be the real job producer. Moreover, given LANL's poor safety and environmental record, expanded plutonium pit production could have a seriously negative economic impact on northern New Mexico in the event of any major accidents.

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Chromium Groundwater Contamination at Los Alamos Lab Far Greater Than Previously Expected; LANL's Treatment Plan Must Be Drastically Changed

Santa Fe, NM. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has detected far more hexavalent chromium (Cr) contamination than previously estimated in the "sole source" regional groundwater aquifer that serves Los Alamos, Santa Fe and the Espanola Basin. Sampling in July from a new well meant to inject treated groundwater back into the aquifer detected chromium contamination five times greater than the New Mexico groundwater standard of 50 micrograms per liter (ug/L).

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Talking Points: The 2016 LANL Cleanup Consent Order Should Be Rescinded

The 2005 LANL Cleanup Consent Order was all about the enforceable schedules. It required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Under Gov. Martinez, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn granted more than 150 compliance milestone extensions at the Lab's request, effectively eviscerating it.
In June 2016 the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) signed a revised Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The new Consent Order is a big step backward in achieving comprehensive, genuine cleanup at the Lab. The revised 2016 CO was a giveaway by NMED to DOE and the Lab, negotiated to allow DOE's budget to drive cleanup, not what is needed to permanently protect our water.
NMED should have kept the original, enforceable 2005 Consent Order that it fought so hard for under the Richardson Administration, modified as needed for the cleanup schedule and final compliance date.

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Washington, DC Today, the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit to stop construction of the problem-plagued Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) until legally required environmental review is completed. The UPF, located at the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA's) Y-12 production plant near Oak Ridge, TN, is slated to produce new thermonuclear weapons components until the year 2080. The UPF is the tip of the spear for the U.S.'s planned one trillion dollar-plus make over of its nuclear weapons arsenal, delivery systems, and production plants.
"The story of this new bomb plant is a long tale of outrageous waste and mismanagement, false starts and re-dos, a federal agency that refuses to meet its legal obligation to engage the public, and a Senator that is bent on protecting this piece of prime nuclear pork for his home state," said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA. "But the short version is this: when the NNSA made dramatic changes to the UPF, and admitted that it intends to continue to operate dangerous, already contaminated facilities for another twenty or thirty years, they ran afoul of the National Environmental Policy Act. Our complaint demands that the NNSA complete a supplemental environmental impact statement on the latest iteration of its flawed plans."

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Santa Fe, NM -The Washington Post has published the first in a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that when imploded initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons. By the way, did you know? Plutonium facilities at LANL are- in principle- designed to withstand a serious earthquake of a degree expected to occur only once every 10,000 years. The last serious earthquake near the Lab is believed to have occurred 11,500 years ago.

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Santa Fe, NM. "The proposed level of funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA)'s Total Weapons Activities is $10.2 billion, a full billion above what was requested for FY 2017. In March, Trump's "skinny budget" stated NNSA's funding priorities as 'moving toward a responsive nuclear infrastructure', and 'advancing the existing warhead life extension programs'.
"Concerning Life Extension Programs, rather than merely maintaining and extending the lives of existing nuclear weapons as advertised, they are being given new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government. A current example is the B61-12 Life Extension Program, which is transforming a "dumb" nuclear bomb into the world's first highly accurate "smart" nuclear bomb.
"With respect to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), "responsive infrastructure" no doubt means accelerating upgrades to existing plutonium facilities and likely building two or three new underground "modules", all for the purpose of quadrupling plutonium pit production from 20 to 80 pits per year. (Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons.)”

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ANA workshop at UN Ban Treaty Conference
Above, from left to right: Rick Wayman, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley Cares (Lawrence Livermore); Ralph Hutchison, OREPA (Y-12); Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM (Los Alamos, Sandia), and Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists.

March 28, 2017, UN, NYC:
Ban Treaty Conference: Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Panel Discussion
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