Nuclear Watch New Mexico – Work Product

MOST RECENT

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. LANL is banking on a cap of less than five feet of soil and gravel to protect northern New Mexico from these wastes for a thousand years. But bomb-making plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years and is generally considered dangerous for 100,000 years. Finally, as an internal Lab document concluded, “Future contamination at additional locations is expected over a period of decades to centuries as more of the contaminant inventory reaches the water table.”

The Lab claims that the cap and cover will be protective for 1,000 years. However, Area C is loaded with radioactive transuranic (TRU) wastes, defined as wastes that contain manmade elements heavier than uranium on the periodic table (e.g. plutonium). Therefore, Area C should be required to meet DOE regulations for TRU wastes containment for 10,000 years. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which was built to dispose of transuranic wastes, meets DOE’s requirement of a reasonable expectation of containment for 10,000 years and is 2,150 feet deep. Area C is 25 feet deep at the deepest and should not be allowed to become a permanent dump for plutonium and other dangerous transuranic bomb-making materials.

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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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South Carolina Environmental Law Project and Nuclear Watchdogs Virtual Press Conference

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, along with other watchdog groups, has announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its expanded production of plutonium cores for the U.S. nuclear weapons “modernization” plans. There has been inadequate environmental review by federal agencies, who have failed to detail potential impacts of the projects around communities in New Mexico and South Carolina.

The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration demanding the federal agency that oversees U.S. nuclear research and bombmaking must “take a legally required ‘hard look’ at impacts on local communities and possible alternatives before expanding manufacturing of the plutonium cores used to trigger nuclear weapons.”

The push from U.S. officials to “modernize” the country’s nuclear arsenal cites only general global security concerns that do not justify the science and brand new, untested technology that will be necessary to the task. citing global security concerns. Although “most of the plutonium cores currently in the stockpile date back to the 1970s and 1980s,” scientific experts estimate that plutonium pits will last 100 years or more., and on warhead type, the best estimate of minimum pit life is 85–100 years.minimum.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina face enormous (and, frankly, unrealistic) deadlines to produce a massive number of plutonium cores in coming years – 50 or more cores at South Carolina and 30 or more at Los Alamos National Lab. The Savannah River Site location now has estimated costs up to $11.1 billion, with a completion date ranging from 2032 to 2035. The U.S. doesn’t need the new plutonium cores with the taxpayer bearing the burden for the expense of lagging deadlines and bloated budgets.

“The watchdog groups said Tuesday that the agency took a piecemeal approach to decide on locating the production at Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site, where nearby communities are already underrepresented and underserved.”

Tom Clements of Savannah River Site Watch said the South Carolina location was picked for political reasons following the failure of a facility designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel. As the Savannah River Site has never served as a storage or production site for the pits in its history, establishing pit construction there would be “a daunting technical challenge that has not been properly reviewed,” Clements said.

With very real, current threats the U.S. is facing right now, we don’t need another Rocky Flats situation in New Mexico or South Carolina where a $7 billion, yearslong cleanup is required after the facilities fail due to leaks, fires and environmental violations, doing irreparable damage to the earth and placing communities there in unequivocal peril.

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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Groups Notify Biden Admin of Impending Lawsuit Over Nuclear Bomb Core Plans

Multi-state coalition says DOE’s plans to massively expand plutonium pit production violate a major environmental law and constitutes an environmental injustice.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico commented, “Instead of maintaining the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, NNSA may actually undermine it because all future pit production is for speculative new-design nuclear weapons. This is a colossal and unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money on top of already wasted taxpayers’ money.”

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A coalition of public interest organizations notified (PDF below) the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) urging a comprehensive review of plans to vastly ramp up production of nuclear bomb cores at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

FULL PRESS RELEASE

In Tuesday’s letter to department officials, the groups say this lack of review violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would saddle already-burdened communities nearby the two DOE sites with significant quantities of toxic and radioactive waste, contravening President Biden’s executive order of making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency.

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Local Governments Should Leave the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

Summary: Local governments get little in return for being members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC). That is because the Coalition is ineffective, dysfunctional, wastes taxpayers’ money and stands in the way of genuine, comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The RCLC was created to serve the interests of the Department of Energy and Los Alamos County, both of whom strongly support expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons and supply 80% of the Coalition’s funding. The Regional Coalition brings no discernible economic benefit to local governments other than already rich Los Alamos County because the Lab’s presence is an economic net loss to them. Local governments should not put their time and money into the Coalition. Instead, their constituents would be better served if local governments left the coalition and advocated for comprehensive cleanup that would permanently protect the environment while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

Background

In 2011 the Department of Energy pulled promised funding from the Community Involvement Fund administered by the New Mexico Community Foundation that supported independent, often critical citizen and tribal analyses of DOE cleanup programs. At the same time DOE began funding the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities modeled on earlier alliances with local governments around the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, CO and the Mound Plant, near Mound, OH.

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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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Recent Press Releases

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. LANL is banking on a cap of less than five feet of soil and gravel to protect northern New Mexico from these wastes for a thousand years. But bomb-making plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years and is generally considered dangerous for 100,000 years. Finally, as an internal Lab document concluded, “Future contamination at additional locations is expected over a period of decades to centuries as more of the contaminant inventory reaches the water table.”

The Lab claims that the cap and cover will be protective for 1,000 years. However, Area C is loaded with radioactive transuranic (TRU) wastes, defined as wastes that contain manmade elements heavier than uranium on the periodic table (e.g. plutonium). Therefore, Area C should be required to meet DOE regulations for TRU wastes containment for 10,000 years. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which was built to dispose of transuranic wastes, meets DOE’s requirement of a reasonable expectation of containment for 10,000 years and is 2,150 feet deep. Area C is 25 feet deep at the deepest and should not be allowed to become a permanent dump for plutonium and other dangerous transuranic bomb-making materials.

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FY 2022 LANL Budget Bar Chart outtake

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.

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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.

Continue reading

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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NNSA Slams Door Shut on Public Accountability While Ramming Through Expanded Plutonium “Pit” Bomb Core Production

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that it will NOT prepare a new site-wide environmental impact statement for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (1).  With this decision NNSA is slamming the door shut on public accountability while it rams through expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production at the Lab.  NNSA is relying upon outdated studies from 2008 to justify pit production. Since that time the agency has wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars, another catastrophic wildfire threatened the Lab, serious deep groundwater contamination was discovered and LANL has had chronic nuclear safety incidences with plutonium that it can’t seem to fix.
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Non-Governmental Organizations Demand Resumption of Los Alamos Nuclear Bomb Plant Public Information Meetings


The NGOs request that the semi-annual public meetings resume by early fall 2020, and the CMRR Project website be updated and maintained until the RLUOB reconfiguration and PF-4 upgrades are completed. All documents and presentations from the previous 13 public meetings must be reposted. The NGOs are also asking that the unilateral decision by the DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to increase the amount of plutonium equivalent allowed in the RLUOB from 8.4 grams to 400 grams be reviewed by NMED.

READ/DOWNLOAD FULL PRESS RELEASE

Los Alamos Lab Suppresses Data on Negative Economic Impact on Surrounding Counties; Wealthy White Los Alamos County Asks for 3,000 Acres Seized from Hispanics and Native Americans

“This is yet another example of the racial disparity that exists in the wake of communities like Los Alamos, established under the protective umbrella of government sanctioned white privilege. When you take something by force and don’t pay for it, that’s called stealing. So why is land stolen by the US government from the original Hispanic and Native American owners not being given back to them?…As the national reckoning over racial injustice unfolds, let us not forget how Los Alamos Lab came to be and the insult to injury that giving away land stolen from others represents.”

— Chuck Montaño, Nuclear Watch NM Steering Committee member. Mr. Montaño, born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 32 years where he investigated allegations of fraud, waste and abuse.

READ/DOWNLOAD FULL PRESS RELEASE

WATCHDOG GROUPS FILE LEGAL PETITION WITH ENERGY DEPT: Allege Agency is Slow Walking “Record of Decision” Re: Plutonium Bomb Core Production to Prevent Judicial Review; Stage Set for Litigation on Expanded Production

“DOE and NNSA appear to be deliberately slow-walking the issuance of a formal Record of Decision on expanded plutonium pit production in an apparent effort to prevent the federal courts from reviewing the agencies’ failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.”

READ/DOWNLOAD FULL PRESS RELEASE

Past Work Product

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!

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

76 Years After the First Nuclear Bomb Test, the U.S. is Still Dead Set on Building Weapons of Mass Destruction

76 Years After the First Nuclear Bomb Test, the U.S. is Still Dead Set on Building New Weapons of Mass Destruction

Last week, July 16 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb explosion. Within another month, memorials and commemorations will be held for the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the U.S. bombed on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. Although it was unknown to most residents of New Mexico until after the United States’ atomic bombing of Japan, the citizens and communities in the southern region of the state were in fact the first nuclear victims.

When the U.S. Army detonated an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., “its thunderous roar during the rainy season knocked people from breakfast tables in Tularosa and sent others on the Mescalero Apache reservation into hiding.” (axios.com) Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in New Mexico are working to pressure lawmakers to compensate those who have suffered extremely because of the experiment. Rare forms of cancer and other health problems have been discovered in those living near the site of the Trinity Test, and the vast, noxious consequences of this experiment have had lasting impact on now multiple, entire generations.

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South Carolina Environmental Law Project and Nuclear Watchdogs Virtual Press Conference

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, along with other watchdog groups, has announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its expanded production of plutonium cores for the U.S. nuclear weapons “modernization” plans. There has been inadequate environmental review by federal agencies, who have failed to detail potential impacts of the projects around communities in New Mexico and South Carolina.

The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration demanding the federal agency that oversees U.S. nuclear research and bombmaking must “take a legally required ‘hard look’ at impacts on local communities and possible alternatives before expanding manufacturing of the plutonium cores used to trigger nuclear weapons.”

The push from U.S. officials to “modernize” the country’s nuclear arsenal cites only general global security concerns that do not justify the science and brand new, untested technology that will be necessary to the task. citing global security concerns. Although “most of the plutonium cores currently in the stockpile date back to the 1970s and 1980s,” scientific experts estimate that plutonium pits will last 100 years or more., and on warhead type, the best estimate of minimum pit life is 85–100 years.minimum.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina face enormous (and, frankly, unrealistic) deadlines to produce a massive number of plutonium cores in coming years – 50 or more cores at South Carolina and 30 or more at Los Alamos National Lab. The Savannah River Site location now has estimated costs up to $11.1 billion, with a completion date ranging from 2032 to 2035. The U.S. doesn’t need the new plutonium cores with the taxpayer bearing the burden for the expense of lagging deadlines and bloated budgets.

“The watchdog groups said Tuesday that the agency took a piecemeal approach to decide on locating the production at Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site, where nearby communities are already underrepresented and underserved.”

Tom Clements of Savannah River Site Watch said the South Carolina location was picked for political reasons following the failure of a facility designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel. As the Savannah River Site has never served as a storage or production site for the pits in its history, establishing pit construction there would be “a daunting technical challenge that has not been properly reviewed,” Clements said.

With very real, current threats the U.S. is facing right now, we don’t need another Rocky Flats situation in New Mexico or South Carolina where a $7 billion, yearslong cleanup is required after the facilities fail due to leaks, fires and environmental violations, doing irreparable damage to the earth and placing communities there in unequivocal peril.

Cleanup Funding Request at Los Alamos Would Be Needed Increase

DOE Environmental Management released the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Congressional Budget Request and asked for a $107.5 million increase over last year for legacy cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The FY22 EM funding request for cleanup at LANL totaled $333.5 million, which was a record request for cleanup at the Lab.

The Budget Request gives lifecycle costs. LANL has spent $3.8 billion on cleanup from 1997 to 2020. The high estimate is $4.6 billion for FY21 to FY90. This gives a total lifecycle cost of $8.4 billion from 1997 through 2090. The assumption included with these estimates is that most of the waste will remain buried at LANL. This is the first time DOE has mentioned legacy cleanup lasting until 2090. Last year the completion date was given as 2036.

Is legacy cleanup completion being pushed back to prioritize pit production? If DOE starts spending more on cleanup like this year in the future, shouldn’t cleanup take less time? The numbers work out to DOE only spending an average of $50 million between now and 2090, so DOE must not have plans to spend $330 million annually through 2090.

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Modernization: The Mainspring of NNSA FY 2022 Budget Request in the Form of Ballooning SRS Pit Costs

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s detailed fiscal year 2022 budget request was (partially) unveiled last week on Friday, May 28, in the evening before a long holiday weekend. The Biden Administration’s total NNSA FY22 budget request is just under $20 billion, requesting of $15.48 billion for NNSA “Total Weapons Activities” and following suit with Trump’s excessive nuclear weapons budget of $15.35 billion that Congress appropriated for FY 2021.

Of particular note in the budget request is that it will cost more than double what the National Nuclear Security Administration had previously estimated for the total of DOE’s Plutonium Bomb Plant construction at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The facility would be a converted production plant for the fabrication of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear warheads. The cost for the plant has ballooned from the previous estimate of $4.6 billion to a now staggering $11.1 billion. What’s more, the schedule for the facility’s initial operation has slipped up to five years. The plans for the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant have already run far over budget and fallen behind schedule, and “these troubling and potentially debilitating developments foreshadow problems to come to the challenging pit-production project,” according to the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S FY 2022  NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND CLEANUP BUDGET REQUEST

For use with DOE’s scheduled budget release on Friday May 28, 2021
For more information, key contacts are listed below.

The White House is releasing its detailed Fiscal Year 2022 budget on Friday, May 28. A so-called “skinny budget” was released on April 9 that increased Department of Energy (DOE) funding to $46.1 billion, which reportedly includes major new investments in clean energy and climate change abatement. That said, historically roughly 60% of DOE’s funding has been earmarked for nuclear weapons production and cleanup of Cold War wastes and contamination. The pending budget release will finally provide details on those programs.

Because the budget release is so late Congress has already announced that it can’t consider the annual Defense Authorization Act until September. Related appropriations bills will no doubt be delayed too. This means that the government will probably have to run on a Continuing Resolution(s) for much of FY 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021).

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability strongly opposed the massive 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration gave to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) nuclear weapons programs and proposed cuts to Department of Energy cleanup. In addition, DOE’s nuclear weapons and environmental management programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars for 28 consecutive years. Related, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released a report that projects a 28% increase in costs for so-called “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces that between the Defense Department and DOE is expected to cost around $1.7 trillion over 30 years.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a 34-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, will be analyzing the following critical issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

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Virtual Advocacy for “Safety, Security, and Savings” at ANA DC Days:

May 26, 2021

Nuclear Watch New Mexico virtually visited Washington, DC this month to participate in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s “DC Days,” an annual event where organizations from across the nation, whose members are directly affected by nuclear weapons production and the incidental health and environmental consequences, make their voice heard to federal policy makers.

Nuclear Watch NM was focused on opposing new plutonium pit production at Savannah River Site and Los Alamos, pushing for safe and secure toxic cleanup and prioritizing public health while saving billions by terminating ill-conceived new nuclear weapons programs. View more information on these issues in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s new report, “Safety, Security, and Savings,” which describes in detail the foundation of our 2021 advocacy. The report includes a series of fact sheets and recommendations covering new warheads, bomb plants, nuclear waste, cleanup, and more.

Notice of Impending Lawsuit to DOE & NNSA Over Nuclear Bomb Core Plans from Environmental Groups

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, as part of a larger coalition of environmental groups, has threatened the federal government with a lawsuit over cross-country plans to produce plutonium pits, the cores at the heart of modern nuclear weapons.

A more comprehensive review should have been done on the plans to produce plutonium cores at Los Alamos and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This lack of review violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would saddle already-burdened communities nearby the two DOE sites with significant quantities of toxic and radioactive waste, contravening President Biden’s executive order of making environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency. Here in New Mexico, we are well aware of how much our local community has already have been burdened with legacy contamination from previous defense work. While the budget continues to be cut and slashed for cleanup funding, the astronomical cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal continues to balloon out of proportion without NNSA or DOE batting an eyelash. The federal government’s plans are unnecessary and provocative – more plutonium pit production will result in more waste and help to fuel a new arms race.

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10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

10 Years Since Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

11 March 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the triple catastrophe which marked the life of many residents of Eastern Japan: a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left almost 18,500 people killed or missing. Much has been achieved in disaster-hit areas but they are still seriously recovering, and the staggering loss of life and community is still being felt by the nation today. The impacts on communities from the ongoing dispersal of radioactive contamination released from the explosions at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima have been disastrous. Tokyo will probably face a massive earthquake in the next 30 years, and Japan must prepare for this next big quake while the Fukushima nuclear meltdown on Japan’s north-eastern coast remains firmly in the minds of everyone there.

Since the disaster, tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral lands. The harm extends far beyond the immediate threat to health – as well as destroying livelihoods, it has destroyed an entire way of life.

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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!

(read full press release)


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.

(view/download full press release)


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..."

(view/download complete press release)


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.

- view/download fact sheet


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).

View/download the full press release


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.

View/download the complete talking points


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."

View/download the full press release


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.

View/download the full press release


(View/download PDF)


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.)”

Read the full press release for all the details.


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
See video clips of some of the speakers:


(view/download PDF)


Read the full press release for all the details.


(more: read full press release)

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