Nuclear Watch New Mexico – Work Product

2023

NNSA Suppresses How Taxpayers Money Is Spent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 19, 2024
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has just released cursory two or three page summaries of contractors’ performance paid for by the American taxpayer. For the just ended fiscal year 2023, NNSA gave nothing less than grades of “Excellent” or “Very Good” in six broad mission goals for its major contractors. This is despite the constant cost overruns and schedule delays that are the rule, not the exception, in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement ever since GAO started that List in 1991.

NNSA Suppresses How Taxpayers Money Is SpentA current example is the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, originally estimated in 2011 to cost $1.4 to $3.5 billion. After costs started going through the roof, NNSA and Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-TN), then-chair of Senate Energy and Water Appropriations, swore that UPF would never go over $6.5 billion. But even after eliminating non-nuclear weapons production missions and a formal decision to continue operations at two old, unsafe buildings slated for replacement, the Uranium Processing Facility is now estimated to cost $8.5 billion. However, even that is not the final price, as NNSA is still to “rebaseline” UPF costs at some unspecified date.

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U.S. Strategic Posture Commission Ratchets Up Nuclear Arms Race

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, October 12, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – Today, America’s Strategic Posture, The Final Report was released by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In its own words:

“The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States was established by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and concludes that America’s defense strategy and strategic posture must change in order to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with China and Russia. Decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared to address the threats from these two nuclear-armed adversaries arising during the 2027-2035 timeframe. Moreover, these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously.”

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Los Alamos Lab’s Future at a Crossroads: Cleanup or More Nuclear Weapons? NukeWatch Applauds NM State Rejection of Fake Cleanup

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 18, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342, c 505.470.3154 | Email
Scott Kovac – c. 505.316.4148 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – In an important win for genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Lab’s plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and toxic wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. Area C is located in the heart of nuclear weapons production at LANL, contiguous to the Lab’s main plutonium facility which is expanding production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores.

In a September 7, 2023 “Public Notice of Statement of Basis,” the Environment Department ruled:

“For maximum protection of human health and the environment and to ensure that the drinking water resource can be conservatively protected, NMED has determined that the selected [cleanup] remedy for MDA C must consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste… Excavation will ensure that the source of contamination at MDA C is removed…”

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Plutonium Detections From Trinity Test Discovered 78 years After Test – Confirm RECA Must Be Expanded

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 31, 2023
Tina Cordova, Tularosa Basin Downwind Consortium – 505.897.6787 | Email
Dr. Michael E. Ketterer – 928.853.7188 | Email
Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – New preliminary information strongly supports Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) status for New Mexicans downwind of the Trinity Test Site. In the past weeks, Michael E. Ketterer, (Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ) has completed a short “proof of principle” study that directly investigates where plutonium in soils originates by analyzing isotopic ratios, in a known portion of the Trinity Test plume.

Dr. Ketterer sampled soils along highways NM 42, US 54, NM 55, US 60, and US 380. The isotopes show that there is definitely plutonium from the Trinity Test in the northeast plume, and distinguishes it from global (stratospheric) background and New Mexico regional background from Nevada Test Site fallout. Soils along all five of these highways contain plutonium that reflects mixtures of Trinity Test debris and global/Nevada regional background fallout; in some cases, nearly 100% of the Pu originates from the Trinity Test.

While Dr. Ketterer has not encountered any activities (expressed as Bq/kg or pCi/g, Becquerels or picocuries respectively) of plutonium that cause alarm from the radio-toxicity standpoint, there’s very limited data.

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RECENT FACT SHEETS

Comment on the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

Nuclear Watch New Mexico January 21, 2023 Email

Via email to: [email protected]
Ms. Fana Gebeyehu-Houston,
LLNL SWEIS Document Manager,
1000 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20585

Dear Ms. Fana Gebeyehu-Houston:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for the continued operation of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Main Site in Livermore, CA and Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy, CA.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico takes particular interest in the Livermore Lab as the sister lab of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). We have long been involved in the issue of plutonium pit production at LANL. We see the two labs as inextricably linked given that LANL will be producing plutonium pits for the new W87-1 warhead, for which LLNL is the lead design agency.

Our mission statement: Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks 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.

NukeWatch DNFSB 2022 Hearing Comments 1-20-23

Nuclear Watch New Mexico January 20, 2023 Email

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20004

Via email at <[email protected]>

Re: Comments concerning the November 16, 2022 public hearing regarding legacy cleanup activities, nuclear safety, and increased production activities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory

Dear Safety Board:

Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NukeWatch) appreciates the opportunity to provide follow up written comments for the November 16, 2022 public hearing in Santa Fe, NM. We want to thank the Board for its continuing concern over Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) safety issues and for having a public hearing to begin with. Further, we are grateful for the DNFSB’s perseverance in the face of the Department of Energy’s arguably illegal attempts to restrict its access. We look forward to many more years of the Safety Board’s insights and recommendations on nuclear facilities at DOE and NNSA sites, for which the DNFSB is uniquely positioned. Your service is invaluable and irreplaceable. Thank you!

Our mission statement: Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks 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.

PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION BRIEFING

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico January 17, 2023 Email

GAO report: NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Pit Production Capability, January 12, 2023, gao.gov/products/gao-23-104661

  • “NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Scope of Work Includes Dozens of Programs, Projects, and Other Activities Managed by Multiple NNSA Offices at Multiple Sites.” p. 19
  • “NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Establishing its Pit Production Capability.” p. 40
  • They [NNSA officials] said they did not want to introduce uncertainty about dates and wanted to avoid releasing preliminary or unpalatable information that was subject to change.” pp. 40-41
  • “NNSA will have spent billions of dollars without having an overall idea of total program costs, or when program objectives, to include the capability to produce 80 pits per year, will be reached.” pp. 55-56

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Presentation to the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee on Discussion Topics Concerning LANL Jay Coghlan
Questionable Department of Energy benefits to New Mexico:

• DOE plans to spend $9.4 billion in New Mexico during this fiscal year 2023, 71% for nuclear weapons research and production while much of the rest is for related radioactive waste disposal. This is 10% more than the State’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. Forty-one percent of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nation-wide FY 2023 nuclear weapons research and production budget will be spent in the Land of Enchantment alone(1).

• How does this really benefit New Mexicans when the Land of Enchantment:

  • Has the third highest rate of poverty (18.2%) after Mississippi and Louisiana(2);
  • Is fourth lowest in per capita income in 2022, 3 down from 37th in 1959; and
  • Is ranked 46th in best states to live in, according to five criteria (affordability, economy, education and health, quality of life, and safety),4 dead last in quality of education(5) and dead last in quality of life for children?(6)

At the same time, Los Alamos County is the 11th richest county in the USA(7), has the most millionaires per capita (11.6%)(8), and has been ranked the best county to live in(9). Clearly the economic benefits are for a privileged minority of the New Mexican population.

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RECENT PRESS RELEASES

NNSA Suppresses How Taxpayers Money Is Spent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 19, 2024
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has just released cursory two or three page summaries of contractors’ performance paid for by the American taxpayer. For the just ended fiscal year 2023, NNSA gave nothing less than grades of “Excellent” or “Very Good” in six broad mission goals for its major contractors. This is despite the constant cost overruns and schedule delays that are the rule, not the exception, in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement ever since GAO started that List in 1991.

NNSA Suppresses How Taxpayers Money Is SpentA current example is the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, originally estimated in 2011 to cost $1.4 to $3.5 billion. After costs started going through the roof, NNSA and Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-TN), then-chair of Senate Energy and Water Appropriations, swore that UPF would never go over $6.5 billion. But even after eliminating non-nuclear weapons production missions and a formal decision to continue operations at two old, unsafe buildings slated for replacement, the Uranium Processing Facility is now estimated to cost $8.5 billion. However, even that is not the final price, as NNSA is still to “rebaseline” UPF costs at some unspecified date.

Continue reading

U.S. Strategic Posture Commission Ratchets Up Nuclear Arms Race

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, October 12, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – Today, America’s Strategic Posture, The Final Report was released by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In its own words:

“The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States was established by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and concludes that America’s defense strategy and strategic posture must change in order to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with China and Russia. Decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared to address the threats from these two nuclear-armed adversaries arising during the 2027-2035 timeframe. Moreover, these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously.”

Continue reading

Los Alamos Lab’s Future at a Crossroads: Cleanup or More Nuclear Weapons? NukeWatch Applauds NM State Rejection of Fake Cleanup

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 18, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342, c 505.470.3154 | Email
Scott Kovac – c. 505.316.4148 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – In an important win for genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Lab’s plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and toxic wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. Area C is located in the heart of nuclear weapons production at LANL, contiguous to the Lab’s main plutonium facility which is expanding production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores.

In a September 7, 2023 “Public Notice of Statement of Basis,” the Environment Department ruled:

“For maximum protection of human health and the environment and to ensure that the drinking water resource can be conservatively protected, NMED has determined that the selected [cleanup] remedy for MDA C must consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste… Excavation will ensure that the source of contamination at MDA C is removed…”

Continue reading

Plutonium Detections From Trinity Test Discovered 78 years After Test – Confirm RECA Must Be Expanded

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 31, 2023
Tina Cordova, Tularosa Basin Downwind Consortium – 505.897.6787 | Email
Dr. Michael E. Ketterer – 928.853.7188 | Email
Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – New preliminary information strongly supports Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) status for New Mexicans downwind of the Trinity Test Site. In the past weeks, Michael E. Ketterer, (Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ) has completed a short “proof of principle” study that directly investigates where plutonium in soils originates by analyzing isotopic ratios, in a known portion of the Trinity Test plume.

Dr. Ketterer sampled soils along highways NM 42, US 54, NM 55, US 60, and US 380. The isotopes show that there is definitely plutonium from the Trinity Test in the northeast plume, and distinguishes it from global (stratospheric) background and New Mexico regional background from Nevada Test Site fallout. Soils along all five of these highways contain plutonium that reflects mixtures of Trinity Test debris and global/Nevada regional background fallout; in some cases, nearly 100% of the Pu originates from the Trinity Test.

While Dr. Ketterer has not encountered any activities (expressed as Bq/kg or pCi/g, Becquerels or picocuries respectively) of plutonium that cause alarm from the radio-toxicity standpoint, there’s very limited data.

Continue reading

Biden Releases Record NNSA Nuclear Weapons Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 14, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email | Scott Kovac – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – President Biden has released his proposed FY 2024 budget for the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The budget for NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” for nuclear weapons research and production programs is slated to increase by 10% to $18.8 billion.

Of that $18.8 billion requested for FY 2024, over $3 billion is devoted to “Life Extension Programs” or “Alterations” that extend the service lives of existing nuclear weapons by decades while giving them new military capabilities. It also includes two new-design nuclear weapons, the W87-1 ICBM warhead (increased 50% to $1 billion) and the sub-launched W93 warhead (increased 62% to $390 million). Meanwhile, funding for dismantlements that provide a good nonproliferation example and save taxpayers’ money by eliminating long-term security costs is decreased by 4% to $53.7 million. That is a small fraction of one percent of NNSA’s Total Weapons Activities.

Two bright spots, yet still small relative to the U.S.’ planned $2 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program, are the zeroing out of funding for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) warhead and stronger language on the retirement of the 1.2 megaton B83 bomb. Trump proposed to bring back nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, which were retired by President George H. Bush after the end of the Cold War. Biden’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review canceled the SLCM, but Congress insisted on funding it, which will only grow stronger with Republican control the House.

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In Response to Lawsuit, NNSA Releases FY 2022 Performance Evaluation Reports as “Frequently Requested Documents” as Required by FOIA; Reveals Pit Production Schedule is Likely Increasingly Delayed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 9, 2023
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email | Scott Kovac – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the National Nuclear Security Administration[1] (NNSA) finally posted its FY 2022 Performance Evaluation Reports to its electronic “FOIA Reading Room.” These reports are “Frequently Requested Documents” as defined by the Freedom of Information Act (meaning three or more requests) and are therefore required to be posted under the law. The catalyst for this was a lawsuit filed by Nuclear Watch New Mexico in September 2022.

NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear weapons research and production sites[2] grade annual contractor performance and award performance fees accordingly. Approximately 57,000 people are employed by the NNSA nuclear weapons complex, 95% of them contractor personnel. The Department of Energy and NNSA (or its predecessor DOE Defense Programs) have been on the independent Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars since 1992.

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State Environment Department Begins to Rein in Work On LANL’s Chromium Plume Given Major Differences With DOE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 21, 2023 | Scott Kovac – 505.989.7342 | Email

At a February 9, 2023 public community forum hosted by the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Office, there were strong indications that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is convinced that DOE’s plans to remediate the chromium groundwater contamination plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is not working. Kimberly Lebak, program manager for N3B, the LANL cleanup contractor, described how it is finalizing the 2023 milestones under the Consent Order that governs cleanup, despite the fact that the NMED Groundwater Bureau has requested that DOE stop injecting treated water by April 1, 2023. DOE and NMED are not seeing eye-to-eye concerning the “Interim Measure” that N3B is using to contain the chromium plume.

The two agencies disagree on the Interim Measure, originally designed to prevent chromium from migrating across the San Ildefonso Pueblo border while DOE tries to figure out a final remedy.

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District Court Denies Department of Energy’s Motion to Dismiss Plutonium Pits Suit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 13, 2023 | South Carolina Environmental Law Project, Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri-Valley CAREs, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition

AIKEN, S.C. — In a win for public participation and environmental protection, the United States District Court of South Carolina denied the Department of Energy’s motion to dismiss a 2021 legal action filed by multiple citizen groups. The suit was 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 for new nuclear weapons and split their production between the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site.

In her ruling, Judge Mary Geiger Lewis thoroughly rejected the defendants’ arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing, saying it was “not a close call”.

“We were able to defeat yet another attempt to use standing as a weapon to keep members of the public out of the government’s decision-making process,” said Leslie Lenhardt, Senior Managing Attorney at the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP).

To date, the Department of Energy (DOE) has refused to fully examine the environmental and safety impacts of their cross-country plan, which would create massive quantities of dangerous and radioactive material, put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on the line, risk a new nuclear arms race, and violate the nation’s foundational environmental law.

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Top Environment Official Takes Inside Info to Nuclear Weapons Agency, Gets Puny Slap-on-Wrist for Ethical Violation; Governor Should Enforce State Code of Conduct

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 8, 2023 | Joni Arends, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety – 505.986.1973 | Email
Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) will spend $9.4 billion dollars in New Mexico during this fiscal year 2023, 10% more than the State’s entire operating budget of $8.5 billion. To help enable its agenda of expanding nuclear weapons production that will cause more radioactive wastes and contamination, the DOE’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) or its contractors often go head hunting for top State officials.

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has sued DOE over the slow pace of cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Stephanie Stringer, former Deputy Cabinet Director (the number two position at NMED), applied to work for NNSA in August 2022, and resigned to take that job in November. During that time, she was privy to NMED litigation strategy against DOE and chaired the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission that denied a citizens’ motion against one of LANL’s most crucial facilities for expanding plutonium pit production, the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility. As a result, the New Mexico Ethics commission fined Stringer a paltry $250. Assuming that Stringer is earning at least $100,000 base salary in her new position, that fine would have cost her approximately five hours of her time.

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Independent Government Accountability Office Releases Scathing Report on Expanding Plutonium Pit Production; Pressure Mounts on Los Alamos Lab to Increase Production

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 12, 2023 | Jay Coghlan – 505.989.7342 | Email

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing report entitled NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Pit Production Capability. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its parent Department of Energy have been on the GAO’s High Risk List for project mismanagement since 1991.

Plutonium pits are the essential radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. There has been only limited production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) since 1989 when a FBI raid investigating environmental crimes abruptly shut down production at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. NNSA now plans to spend $2.9 billion in FY 2023 alone to establish production of at least 30 pits per year at LANL and 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

The two main findings of GAO’s report are:

  • NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Scope of Work Includes Dozens of Programs, Projects, and Other Activities Managed by Multiple NNSA Offices at Multiple Sites (p 19)

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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.

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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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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/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

https://www.facebook.com/NukeWatch.NM/videos/825812604488302/

Scott Kovac Nuclear Watch New Mexico, on LANL cleanup issues

Blog Posts

NNSA Suppresses How Taxpayers Money Is Spent

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has just released cursory two or three page summaries of contractors’ performance paid for by the American taxpayer. For the just ended fiscal year 2023, NNSA gave nothing less than grades of “Excellent” or “Very Good” in six broad mission goals for its major contractors. This is despite the constant cost overruns and schedule delays that are the rule, not the exception, in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex. NNSA and its parent Department of Energy have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement ever since GAO started that List in 1991.

A current example is the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, originally estimated in 2011 to cost $1.4 to $3.5 billion. After costs started going through the roof, NNSA and Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-TN), then-chair of Senate Energy and Water Appropriations, swore that UPF would never go over $6.5 billion. But even after eliminating non-nuclear weapons production missions and a formal decision to continue operations at two old, unsafe buildings slated for replacement, the Uranium Processing Facility is now estimated to cost $8.5 billion. However, even that is not the final price, as NNSA is still to “rebaseline” UPF costs at some unspecified date.

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U.S. Strategic Posture Commission Ratchets Up Nuclear Arms Race

Today, America’s Strategic Posture, The Final Report was released by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. In its own words:

“The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States was established by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and concludes that America’s defense strategy and strategic posture must change in order to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with China and Russia. Decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared to address the threats from these two nuclear-armed adversaries arising during the 2027-2035 timeframe. Moreover, these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously.”

The United States has already embarked upon a $2 trillion “modernization” program that is a complete makeover of its nuclear forces. This program will rebuild every warhead in the planned future stockpile while giving them new military capabilities. It will also build new-design nuclear weapons and new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver them, plus new nuclear weapons production plants expected to be operational until the 2080’s.

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Los Alamos Lab’s Future at a Crossroads: Cleanup or More Nuclear Weapons? NukeWatch Applauds NM State Rejection of Fake Cleanup

Santa Fe, NM – In an important win for genuine cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Lab’s plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and toxic wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. Area C is located in the heart of nuclear weapons production at LANL, contiguous to the Lab’s main plutonium facility which is expanding production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores.

In a September 7, 2023 “Public Notice of Statement of Basis,” the Environment Department ruled:

“For maximum protection of human health and the environment and to ensure that the drinking water resource can be conservatively protected, NMED has determined that the selected [cleanup] remedy for MDA C must consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste… Excavation will ensure that the source of contamination at MDA C is removed…”

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DNFSB Recommendation February 8, 2024 – Excerpts Pertaining to LANL

Published 2/8/24 in the Federal Register at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2024-02-08/pdf/2024-02513.pdf

Pre-published at: https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2024-02513.pdf

Page numbers below are from that. All excerpts are verbatim.

DNFSB Recommendation 2003-01
Onsite Transportation Safety

[TSD = “Transportation Safety Document”

MAR = “Materials at Risk”, typically plutonium]

Page 2: however, more work is necessary to ensure the LANL TSD appropriately identifies all hazards, analyzes all pertinent accident scenarios, and evaluates the effectiveness of all credited safety controls.

3: the risk remains that LANL or other defense nuclear sites may regress to inadequate TSDs that fail to provide an effective set of safety controls

4: These safety issues are particularly concerning given the high material-at-risk (MAR) allowed by the TSD, the proximity of LANL’s onsite transportation routes to the public, and the nature of several credible accident scenarios. These factors result in high calculated unmitigated dose consequences to the public without an adequate safety control strategy.

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As New Mexicans Struggle, Sen. Heinrich is Proud of Nuclear Weapons Money

Sen. Heinrich is so proud of all of the nuclear weapons money in New Mexico. He is one of the chief congressional architects of expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores and sits on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee from where he can direct $$billions to the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs.

But during the Department of Energy’s long presence in the Land of Enchantment, according to Census Bureau data New Mexico has slid in per capita income from 32nd in 1959 to 47th in 2022. New Mexico has the most children living in poverty (30%) and is rated dead last in well-being of children and quality of public education. Finally, in a report that the Los Alamos Lab tried to suppress, six county governments surrounding Los Alamos County suffer a net economic loss from LANL.

In fiscal year 2024 DOE will spend $10 billion in New Mexico, 75% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs and 5% for dumping related radioactive wastes in our state. DOE’s budget is 6% greater than the entire operating budget of the State of New Mexico ($9.4 billion).

Senator Heinrich, please explain what good all that nuclear weapons money does for average New Mexicans, and not just for the privileged nuclear weapons enclaves.

For much more, please see nukewatch.org/new-mexico-americas-nuclear-colony

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Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: January 2024

FEDERAL BUDGET NEWS

Half of the federal budget (including Energy and Water appropriations which funds DOE) shuts down January 19 and the other half February 2 if a Continuing Resolution (CR) is not reached. House Speaker Johnson agreed to a previous funding agreement with the Biden Administration but the so-called Freedom Caucus is now in revolt.

Update: On January 18, Congress passes third stopgap funding bill instead of full FY24 budget, keeping the government funded until March. 

Sen. Martin Heinrich aids and abets the new, more dangerous nuclear arms race. He is outspokenly proud of all of the nuclear weapons money in New Mexico, and he is one of the chief congressional architects of expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores. In congress, Heinrich sits on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee from where he can direct $$billions to the Sandia and Los Alamos Labs.

But during the Department of Energy’s long presence in the Land of Enchantment, according to Census Bureau data New Mexico has slid in per capita income from 32nd in 1959 to 47th in 2022. New Mexico has the most children living in poverty (30%) and is rated dead last in well-being of children and quality of public education. Finally, in a report that the Los Alamos Lab tried to suppress, six county governments surrounding Los Alamos County suffer a net economic loss from LANL.

In fiscal year 2024 DOE will spend $10 billion in New Mexico, 75% for core nuclear weapons research and production programs and 5% for dumping related radioactive wastes in our state. DOE’s budget is 6% greater than the entire operating budget of the State of New Mexico ($9.4 billion).

Senator Heinrich, please explain what good all that nuclear weapons money does for average New Mexicans, and not just for the privileged nuclear weapons enclaves.

For much more, please see https://nukewatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/New-Mexico-Americas-Nuclear-Colony.pdf

ACCELERATING NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

North Korea Issues Ominous Warning About Nuclear Strike This Year
North Korea has issued an ominous warning about “the highest risk of clashes this year” between the totalitarian state and its neighbor to the south, which could end in “a nuclear strike,” according to South Korean media. Yonhap News Agency, a major media outlet in Seoul, reported on Thursday that North Korea media condemned recent Army artillery exercises and naval firing drills and exercises. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, said the exercises are “self destructive” and called South Koreans “warmongers,” according to Yonhap.

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: December 2023

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: December 2023
RECA supporters face setback after House omits compensation from defense bill / KOB4 kob.com/new-Mexico/reca-supporters-face-setback-after-house-omits-compensation-from-defense-bill/

Nuclear weapons issues

Final conference by Senate and House Armed Services Committee deleted expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that would have covered Trinity Test Downwinders, among others. In contrast, it authorized tens of billions for expanding nuclear weapons programs. So, it’s nothing for those harmed by nuclear weapons testing and production in New Mexico, but radical expansion of those programs that did harm them.

The FY 2024 Defense Authorization Act added money above Biden’s request for pit production at the Savannah River Site and the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and its new nuclear warhead. The Biden Administration opposed the SLCM, but Congress authorized it anyway.

LANL SWEIS

The 2020 Supplement Analysis that we had robustly critiqued with comprehensive formal comments, which DOE/NNSA have ignored, contains analysis of pit production based solely off the 2008 SWEIS pit analysis. Our single biggest point in the 2020 SA comments was the need for a programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production.

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Homily and Statement by Archbishop Wester to the Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

On November 29, 2023, the 34th anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day, and in conjunction with the Second Meeting of the State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester gave a homily on nuclear disarmament at Our Church of the Savior near the United Nations. Dorothy Day was a life-long anti-nuclear weapons activist and is now being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church.

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The Second Meeting of States Parties on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Since the invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, to the recent situation in Israel/Gaza, the risk of impending nuclear war has been a reality considered by many for the first time.  As stated at a side event during the weeklong meeting of States Parties on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) held last week from November 27 to Decmber 1st, Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), warned that the wide-scale violence brought by these two events “continue to heighten the risk that nuclear weapons could actually be used.” This fear is made all the more tangible when considering also that earlier this month, the Putin announced Russia would be revoking its ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Terasaki pointed out is a “serious setback for the cause of nuclear disarmament.”

As stated in the article, The Voices of Victims of Nuclear Weapons Testing, “these realities make convening the current Second Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, which concludes December 1, all the more important and a crucial opportunity to revive momentum for nuclear disarmament and abolition.”

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: November 2023

Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: November 2023

Nuclear weapons issues

New bomb: The Pentagon has announced a new nuclear bomb, the B61-13. The B61-12 is now in production and will be forward deployed in Europe. But it has a dial-a-yield that maxes out at 50 kilotons. The new B61-13 will max out at 360 kt to get at hardened deeply buried targets (both have limited earth-penetrating capabilities). At one time, production of the B61-12 at least potentially signified retirement of the 1.2 megaton surface burst B83 strategic bomb, but now production of the B61-13 will probably be relatively quick at the tail end of already scheduled B61-12 production.

See: https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3571660/department-of-defense-announces-pursuit-of-b61-gravity-bomb-variant/ and https://media.defense.gov/2023/Oct/27/2003329624/-1/-1/1/B61-13-FACT-SHEET.PDF

See excellent analysis by the Federation of American Scientists:

https://fas.org/publication/biden-administration-to-build-a-new-nuclear-bomb/

Strategic Posture Review:  Commissioned by Congress,

“The Commission recommends that a strategy to address the two-nuclear-peer threat [Russia and China] environment be a prerequisite for developing U.S. nuclear arms control limits for the 2027-2035 timeframe. The Commission recommends that once a strategy and its related force requirements are established, the U.S. government determine whether and how nuclear arms control limits continue to enhance U.S. security…”
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RECENT FORMAL COMMENTS

Comments to the New Mexico Environment Dept. in Support of Comprehensive Cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Request for a Hearing

Nuclear Watch New Mexico November 6, 2023 | Email

New Mexico Environment Department
Hazardous Waste Bureau
2905 Rodeo Park Drive, Building 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505-6303
By email to [email protected]

SUBJECT: Support for Comprehensive Cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a Request for a Hearing

Dear New Mexico Environment Department:
We strongly support the Environment Department’s mandate for comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Material Disposal Area C, an 11.8-acre dump consisting of seven unlined pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and toxic wastes. This mandate will help maximize protection of human health and the environment and ensure that our critical drinking water resources are permanently protected.

We completely agree that the cleanup remedy for Area C must, in NMED’s own words, “consist of waste excavation, characterization, and appropriate disposal of the buried waste,” plus a soilvapor extraction system to remove the underground plume of volatile organic compounds (which are typically carcinogenic solvents).

Comments on the scope of the Environmental Assessment for Chromium Plume Interim Measure and Final Remedy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Nuclear Watch New Mexico June 6, 2023 Email

NEPA Document Manager
U.S. DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office
1200 Trinity Drive, Suite 400
Los Alamos, NM 87544

By email to: [email protected]

Dear Document Managers,

Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM) respectfully submits these comments on the needed scope of the Environmental Assessment for Chromium Plume Interim Measure and Final Remedy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico (hereinafter “Cr EA”). We would appreciate their serious consideration by the Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) and look forward to a comprehensive response.

Our mission statement: Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional 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.

We work on contemporaneous budget, environmental and policy issues concerning nuclear weapons facilities. We have publicly and vocally pressed the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to diversify its missions away from nuclear weapons programs and move more toward critically needed programs, such as nonproliferation efforts, other new national security priorities (for example, port security), and pure science and energy efficiency programs. Through detailed budget analyses, we hope to demonstrate that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) can move towards comprehensive cleanup of the LANL site and still contribute to the economy of New Mexico.

The U.S. is flirting with the initiation of another nuclear arms race, the first since the end of the Cold War. The Department of Energy’s plan is to rebuild the nuclear weapons complex for continuing nuclear warhead production throughout the 21st century, including new designs. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a hard look at all reasonable alternatives to preferred federal proposals.

Comments on the needed scope of the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operation of Sandia National Laboratories/New Mexico

Nuclear Watch New Mexico June 5, 2023 Email

SNL/NM SWEIS Comments
National Nuclear Security Administration Sandia Field Office
PO Box 5400
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185

By email to: [email protected]

Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NWNM) respectfully submits these comments on the needed scope of the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operation of Sandia National Laboratories/New Mexico (DOE/EIS-0556) (hereinafter “Sandia SWEIS”). We would appreciate their serious consideration by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and look forward to the agency’s comprehensive response.

Our mission statement: Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional 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.

We work on contemporaneous budget, environmental and policy issues concerning nuclear weapons facilities. We have publicly and vocally pressed the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to diversify its missions away from nuclear weapons programs and move more toward critically needed programs, such as nonproliferation efforts, other new national security priorities (for example, port security), and pure science and energy efficiency programs. Through detailed budget analyses, we hope to demonstrate that Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) can move towards these real national security issues and still contribute to the economy of New Mexico.

Comment on the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

Nuclear Watch New Mexico January 21, 2023 Email

Via email to: [email protected]
Ms. Fana Gebeyehu-Houston,
LLNL SWEIS Document Manager,
1000 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20585

Dear Ms. Fana Gebeyehu-Houston:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for the continued operation of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Main Site in Livermore, CA and Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy, CA.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico takes particular interest in the Livermore Lab as the sister lab of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). We have long been involved in the issue of plutonium pit production at LANL. We see the two labs as inextricably linked given that LANL will be producing plutonium pits for the new W87-1 warhead, for which LLNL is the lead design agency.

Our mission statement: Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks 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.

NukeWatch DNFSB 2022 Hearing Comments 1-20-23

Nuclear Watch New Mexico January 20, 2023 Email

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20004

Via email at <[email protected]>

Re: Comments concerning the November 16, 2022 public hearing regarding legacy cleanup activities, nuclear safety, and increased production activities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory

Dear Safety Board:

Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NukeWatch) appreciates the opportunity to provide follow up written comments for the November 16, 2022 public hearing in Santa Fe, NM. We want to thank the Board for its continuing concern over Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) safety issues and for having a public hearing to begin with. Further, we are grateful for the DNFSB’s perseverance in the face of the Department of Energy’s arguably illegal attempts to restrict its access. We look forward to many more years of the Safety Board’s insights and recommendations on nuclear facilities at DOE and NNSA sites, for which the DNFSB is uniquely positioned. Your service is invaluable and irreplaceable. Thank you!

Our mission statement: Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks 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.

Scoping Comments to the National Nuclear Security Administration On the Los Alamos National Laboratory Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

A Reduced Operations Alternative is not only a reasonable alternative but is in the actual best interests of the nation.

Such an alternative would best preserve stockpile reliability by foregoing production of new pits that may deviate from tested designs; conservatively maintain the existing, extensively tested nuclear weapons stockpile; augment and accentuate nonproliferation programs, especially the development of monitoring and verification technologies that could help underpin a future world free of nuclear weapons; and augment and accentuate cleanup programs that are truly comprehensive, permanently eliminating the threat to groundwater.

October 18, 2022

LANL SWEIS COMMENTS
NNSA Los Alamos Field Office
3747 W. Jemez Road
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Via [email protected]

Dear National Nuclear Security Administration:

Nuclear Watch New Mexico hereby submits these scoping comments on the new Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS).



Executive Summary

First, NNSA should complete a new nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement on expanded plutonium pit production. A new LANL Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement should then be “tiered” off of that document and address all of these issues outlined in these scoping comments, and in particular the site-specific impacts of expanded plutonium pit production. In the event that NNSA continues its arguably illegal behavior in not completing a new PEIS, a new draft LANL SWEIS should nevertheless analyze the issues outlined in these scoping comments, particularly expanded plutonium pit production.
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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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Past 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:[email protected]

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

WEBINAR on TWIN EXISTENTIAL THREATS: Nuclear Weapons & Climate Change

Warheads to Windmills:
Addressing the threats of climate and nuclear weapons

Thursday, February 29 — Leap Year Day

    4pm PST | 5pm MST | 6pm CST | 7pm EST

This webinar is sponsored by VFP’s Nuclear Abolition Working Group and features two major anti-nuclear activists speaking on climate and nuclear weapons: Dr. Ivana Hughes and Dr. Timmon Wallis. They will speak on why both issues must be addressed with equal urgency, and then discuss how together we can build mass movement that can put an end to these threats. REGISTER HERE.

Dr. Ivana Nikolić Hughes is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation  and a Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Chemistry at Columbia University. Her work on ascertaining the radiological conditions in the Marshall Islands has been covered widely. Dr. Hughes currently serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Dr. Timmon Wallis is Executive Director of NuclearBan.US and coordinator of the national Warheads to Windmills Coalition. He has a BA in Human Ecology and a PhD in Peace Studies, and has been writing, teaching and campaigning on the issues of climate and nuclear weapons for many years. His book,  Disarming the Nuclear Argument, contributed to the negotiations which led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and earned ICAN its Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. His most recent book, Warheads to Windmills: Preventing Climate Catastrophe and Nuclear War was published in December 2023.

Submit Public Comment on the Environmental Assessment for LANL Chromium Plume by March 13

The comment period for the Chromium Environmental Assessment has been extended to March 13!

The Department of Energy (DOE) releases Draft Chromium Interim Measure and Final Remedy Environmental Assessment to address a chromium plume under Los Alamos National Laboratory. But there is no ‘final remedy.’ The proposed action is to keep trying “what can be done now with the information that is known,” while drilling more wells.

DOE is accepting public comments on the draft EA through Feb. 12 March 13, 2024.Continue reading

WIPP Information Exchange Dec. 13 – In Person and Virtual

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO) (Permittees) will conduct a virtual WIPP Information Exchange pursuant to Permit Part 4, Section 4.2.1.5, Legacy TRU Waste Disposal Plan. This exchange will discuss information regarding the Legacy TRU Waste Disposal Plan.

Questions and comments outside the scope of the Legacy TRU Waste Disposal Plan should be directed to the WIPP Community Forum.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Skeen-Whitlock Building
4021 National Parks Hwy
Carlsbad, NM 88220

REGISTRATION:
In-Person Registration:
WIPP Information Exchange In-Person Registration: https://form.jotform.com/222836798629172

Virtual Registration:
WIPP Information Exchange Virtual Registration: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUrf-GsrjovE9PHyihZO2haDVTMa4txN9Ga

QUESTIONS:
For questions regarding this information exchange please contact the WIPP Information Center at [email protected] or by calling 1-800-336-9477.

Upholding the CTBT Regime in a Time of Adversity

Thursday, Nov. 16, 10:00-11:30 am, U.S. Eastern Time

RSVP via Zoom by November 14

As with other critical nuclear risk reduction and arms control agreements, the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is under threat due to inattention, diplomatic inaction, and worsening relations between nuclear-armed adversaries.

Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill from the Russian parliament to “un-ratify” the CTBT, ostensibly to “mirror” the United States’ posture toward the treaty and somehow pressure the United States to ratify the pact.

Putin says Russia will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless the United States does, but Russian officials have accused the United States of making preparations to resume nuclear testing. U.S. officials deny any such plans. Russia, China, and the United States, however, all continue to engage in military nuclear activities at their former test sites.

Support COMPREHENSIVE CLEANUP at Area C – Your Comments Needed!

Extended 2-Page Sample Comments available now! Download here:

We need your help to support the State’s mandate to excavate wastes instead of leaving them in place.

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rejected the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) plans for so-called cleanup through “cap and cover.” LANL’s plan would leave existing radioactive and hazardous wastes uncharacterized and forever buried in unlined pits and trenches as a permanent threat to groundwater. At issue is remediation of the Lab’s “Material Disposal Area C” waste dump that has 7 pits and 108 shafts of radioactive and hazardous wastes.

This mandate will help maximize protection of human health and the environment and ensure that our critical drinking water resources are permanently protected.

Any person who wishes to comment on the proposed Statement of Basis should submit written comments, along with their name and address, to the NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau, 2905 Rodeo Park Drive, Building 1, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505-6303

or by email to [email protected].

Only written comments received by 5:00 p.m. MDT, November 6, 2023, will be considered by NMED in making a final decision.

Read the Area C NWNM Press Release

Read our 1-PAGE Sample Comments

Read our 2-PAGE Sample Comments

Download our 1-PAGE Sample Comments to use on your own:

Download our 2-PAGE Sample Comments to use on your own:

Important document links from the NMED page – (scroll down to Material Disposal Area (MDA) C, SWMU 50-009, Remediation, September 7, 2023)
env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/lanl
Includes – Public Notice,
September 7, 2023-NMED Statement of Basis MDA C
June 30, 2021-DOE Corrective Measures Evaluation Rev. 1 for MDA C

Read the Santa Fe New Mexican article –
santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/state-tells-feds-to-excavate-lanl-waste-pit-at-805m-cost
State tells feds to excavate LANL waste pit at $805M cost
By Scott Wyland, Sep 18, 2023

THIS Friday! Public Meeting: WIPP Renewal, September 22, 5 – 7PM

WIPP Renewal Public Meeting – In Person or Online

WebEx link: nmed-oit.webex.com…

Meeting number: 2634 380 5952
Password: ESphqvid567
Join by phone
+1-415-655-0001 US Toll
Access code: 2634 380 5952

Location: IN-PERSON or ONLINE

ONLINE: WebEx: nmed-oit.webex.com…
IN-PERSON:
Larrazolo Auditorium
Harold Runnels Bldg
1190 So. St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505
or
Skeen-Whitlock Bldg
4021 National Parks Hwy
Carlsbad, NM 88220

Contact [email protected]

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) Public Hearing November 16 on “Legacy cleanup activities, nuclear safety, and increased production activities” at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)

November 16, 2022 12:00pm to 9:45pm MT
Two Sessions will be Held:
1. Nuclear Safety at Area G – 12:00–2:30 pm MT
2. National Security Missions and Nuclear Safety Posture – 4:00–9:45 pm MT
Santa Fe Community Convention Center
201 West Marcy Street

Santa FeNM 87501


On November 16, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) will hold a public hearing at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Join In-Person if You Can!

The hearing will also be streamed and a link will be available on the hearing website on the day of the event: https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/november-16-2022-public-hearing

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A Guide to “Scoping” the New LANL SWEIS

“Scoping” means determining the issues that should be included in public analyses required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of proposed major actions by the federal government. According to the Department of Energy ‘s own NEPA implementation regulations, DOE must prepare a new or supplemental site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) for its major sites when there are “significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns.” The last site-wide EIS for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was completed in 2008 and is badly outdated. Moreover, since 2018 the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, has been aggressively expanding the production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores for nuclear weapons at the Lab.

On August 19, 2022, NNSA finally announced its intent to prepare a new LANL SWEIS, but apparently the agency will not address expanded plutonium pit production.1 NNSA’s dubious argument is that it performed the legally required NEPA analysis for expanded plutonium pit production in a 2008 Complex Transformation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the 2008 LANL SWEIS and a woefully inadequate “Supplement Analysis” in 2020 that concluded a new SWEIS was not needed. 2 3

Issues That Must Be Addressed in a New LANL SWEIS

This is meant to be a guide to (or list of) the issues that must be addressed in a new draft LANL SWEIS. It is not completely exhaustive, nor is it a comprehensive fact sheet on the substance of the issues. Nuclear Watch New Mexico will offer suggested scoping comments for interested citizens and submit its own comprehensive formal comments before the October 3 deadline or extended deadline (see “Timing” below).

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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/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

Santa Fe, NM & Columbia, SC - "Two key U.S. Department of Energy documents on future production of plutonium "pits" for nuclear weapons, not previously released to the public, fail to justify new and upgraded production facilities at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina."

View/download press release


Los Alamos Cleanup

View/download Fact sheet


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

 

- NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 "excess" pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in "strategic reserve." The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits. (In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old.)
- NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes. 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

"NNSA should begin nation-wide review of plutonium pit production, why it's needed, and what it will cost the American taxpayer in financial, safety and environmental risks. These are all things that the public should know." -Jay Coghlan, Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

View/download Press Release


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

Against raising plutonium limit at LANL Rad Lab

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

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on Friday, March 23, that it was authorizing the start of construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) and two sub-projects at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The UPF is a facility dedicated solely to the manufacture of thermonuclear cores for US nuclear bombs and warheads.
Citizen watchdog groups are responding by filing an expedited Freedom of Information Act request demanding a full fiscal accounting of the UPF bomb plant- something the NNSA has refused to provide for the last five years, including to Congress, despite repeated assurances that the project is "on budget."

"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


Oak Ridge Environmental and Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and The Natural Resources Defense Council File Lawsuit Against New Nuclear Bomb Plant

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


Some Background on Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab

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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This year's report examines the extraordinary spending at Department of Energy nuclear facilities and examines ways to reduce risks and save billions of dollars across the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

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SA Preview of Trump's Budget: More Nuclear Bombs and Plutonium Pit Production

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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Ban Treaty Conference: Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Panel Discussion

March 28, 2017, UN, NYC:
Ban Treaty Conference: Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Panel Discussion
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Plutonium Pit Production at LANL (Updated March 2017)

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Costs Jump in Nuclear Weapons vs. Cleanup; Nuclear Weapons Winning over Environmental Protection

Santa Fe, NM. America is at a crossroads, having to choose between an unnecessarily large, exorbitant, nuclear weapons stockpile, and cleanup that would protect the environment and water resources for future generations. Expanded nuclear weapons research and production, which will cause yet more contamination, is winning.
Two recently released government reports make clear the stark inequality between the so-called modernization program to upgrade and indefinitely preserve U.S. nuclear forces (in large part for a new Cold War with Russia), and the nation-wide program to clean up the radioactive and toxic contamination from the first Cold War. The Obama Administration launched a trillion dollar nuclear weapons "modernization" program, which President Trump may expand. In contrast, cleanup of the first Cold War mess has been cut from a high of $8.5 billion in 2003 to $5.25 billion in 2016, even though comprehensive cleanup would produce far more jobs than nuclear weapons programs.

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NNSA Releases Los Alamos Lab Performance Evaluation Report,Nuclear Criticality Safety Issues Still Not Fully Resolved

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has publicly released its fiscal year 2016 Performance Evaluation Report (PER) for Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), the for-profit contractor that runs the Los Alamos Lab. The Performance Evaluation Report is NNSA's annual report card on contractor performance, and overall the agency awarded LANS $59 million in profit out of a possible $65 million. The grade was 85% for the incentive part of the award. In 2012 Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued NNSA to ensure that the Performance Evaluation Reports detailing taxpayers funds paid to nuclear weapons contractors are publicly available. In 2016 the NNSA decided to put the LANL management contract out for competitive bid, but granted LANS a contract extension until the end of September 2018.
Despite the passing grade that NNSA gave LANS, there is still ample reason for public concern. First, it bears repeating that in February 2014 a radioactive waste drum improperly prepared by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) burst underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), contaminating 21 workers and closing that multi-billion dollar facility (a limited restart of operations at WIPP may occur this month).
Less widely known is the fact that LANL's main plutonium facility that produces WIPP wastes has only recently restarted operations after being shut down since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety concerns... (more: read full press release)

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