Nuclear Watch New Mexico – Work Product

2023

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RECENT FACT SHEETS

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RECENT PRESS RELEASES

LANL Falls Behind on Wildfire Protection While Expanding Nuclear Weapons Production Watchdog Calls for New Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy’s Inspector General is reporting that the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is falling seriously behind in wildfire protection. This is despite the fact that the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire forced the mandatory evacuation of both LANL and the Los Alamos townsite, burned 3,500 acres of Lab property and came within a half-mile of Area G, its largest waste dump. At the time Area G stored above ground some 40,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes. It could have been catastrophic had they burst and sent respirable airborne plutonium across northern New Mexico (inhaled plutonium is a very serious carcinogen).

In 2011 the Los Conchas Fire raced 13 miles in 24 hours to the Lab’s western boundary, where it was stopped along State Highway 4. Both it and the Cerro Grande Fire sent huge plumes of harmful smoke across northern New Mexico, possibly carrying Lab contaminants as well (operation of radioactive air emissions monitoring equipment was suspended during the Cerro Grande Fire).

FULL PRESS RELEASE

RECENT NUCLEAR BUDGET GRAPHS

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Past Work Product (2020-2021)

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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

Holtec International, the U.S. Federal Government, and the State of New Mexico – What Do We Know?

Nuclear power is a trending topic lately. What’s missing from most of these conversations is the nitty gritty details of the nuclear waste produced from nuclear power plants, and how to handle it. In mainstream and social media, nuclear is often hyped up as a climate solution and the issue of what to do with the waste is promoted as being nearly or already solved. Unfortunately this conception is entirely inaccurate. Most people don’t think about the problem of nuclear waste on a frequent basis, however New Mexicans are often forced to confront it whether we like it or not (spoiler: most of us DON’T).

New Mexico has the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the southeastern corner of the state, where radioactive waste is stored in a salt formation repository located deep underground. WIPP has been open since 1999, and now federal regulators are currently considering another facility that would store up to 175,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive nuclear waste. The new repository is called a “HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility” by Holtec International, the New Jersey-based company who owns the private waste facility, and the waste would be transported in from nuclear reactors around the nation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued Holtec a license for this project on May 9, 2023.

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Biden Releases Record NNSA Nuclear Weapons Budget

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

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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Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Follow-up to News about the Chromium Plume: Santa Fe New Mexican article, “San Ildefonso governor says halt of plume cleanup will lead to spread onto pueblo”

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes that it is past time that this dangerous contaminant is cleaned up at the source.

Extracted treated groundwater should be pumped or trucked uphill to flush out the remaining 90% of the chromium so that it can be decisively dealt with instead of with only marginally effective “pump and treat” for a few centuries…

By Jay Coghlan

A long road to remediation for hexavalent chromium plume near Los AlamosThe real shame is how ineffective Lab cleanup of the hexavalent chromium plume is. First, even after 18 years, LANL and DOE still don’t know the boundaries of the plume, all the while claiming it’s not on San Ildefonso Pueblo Land (maybe LANL should deprioritize expanded nuclear weapons production and focus on that). Second, this is our common “sole source” (EPA special designation) aquifer that is one of the primary sources of drinking water for the cities of Santa Fe, Española, and Los Alamos, eleven Pueblos and all of the Española Basin’s rural areas. Third, hex chromium is the carcinogen made notorious in the popular movie Erin Brockovich. Fourth, it is estimated that 160,000 pounds of chromium were released up until 1972, but only 10% (i.e. ~16,000 pounds) has been recovered through extraction and treatment. When the head of DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Office was asked where’s the rest of the chromium, Michael Mikolanis demurred and said that he would have to get back on that question.

San Ildefonso governor says halt of plume cleanup will lead to spread onto pueblo

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THE FUTURE OF WIPP: PLUTONIUM BOMB WASTE

THE FUTURE OF WIPP: PLUTONIUM BOMB WASTE

NNSA’s mission is plutonium pit production…for the next 30 years and beyond.

NNSA HAS STATED CLEARLY: “WIPP IS ESSENTIAL FOR PIT PRODUCTION UNTIL 2080.”

As you can see clearly in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s chart above, NNSA is getting ready to dump radioactive wastes from plutonium pit production at WIPP for the next 30 years.

Waste from expanded pit production will soon far outweigh cleanup wastes.

Despite being located in New Mexico, out-of-state sites have been given priority over radioactive wastes from Los Alamos Lab.







ALL FUTURE PIT PRODUCTION is for speculative new designs that can’t be tested because of the international testing moratorium, thereby perhaps eroding confifidence in the stockpile. Or, alternatively, these new designs could push the U.S. into resuming testing, which would have severe proliferation consequences.

Pit production will add an estimated 57,550 cubic meters of radioactive plutonium wastes over 50 years, more than half of WIPP’s projected future capacity. The National Academy of Sciences has already concluded that WIPP doesn’t have sufficient capacity for all of DOE’s planned radioactive wastes.

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

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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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

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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RECENT FORMAL COMMENTS

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RECENT FACT SHEETS

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Past Formal Comments

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Past NukeWatch Events

Past Work Product (2019-)

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2019


Proposed LANL Campus in Santa Fe

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


Pope Frances Calls for Nuclear Weapons Abolition

Read/Download the Full Press Release HERE


VIEW LIVE RECORDING & WORKSHOP RESOURCES

Presenters:

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

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

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

Read/Download the Full Document HERE


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

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

Read/Download the Full Document HERE


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

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

Read/Download the Full Document HERE


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

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

[embeddoc url="https://nukewatch.org/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.

View/download the full press release


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.

(View/download PDF)


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.)”

Read the full press release for all the details.


Ban Treaty Conference: Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Panel Discussion

March 28, 2017, UN, NYC:
Ban Treaty Conference: Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Panel Discussion
See video clips of some of the speakers:


Plutonium Pit Production at LANL (Updated March 2017)

(view/download PDF)


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.

Read the full press release for all the details.


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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