Oppie red

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

A national network of organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

May 14, 2015

 

WATCHDOG GROUPS HEAD TO D.C. TO URGE CONGRESS, OBAMA ADMIN.

TO CONFRONT “THE GROWING U.S. NUCLEAR THREAT;”

NEW REPORT SEEKS CUTS IN BOMB PLANTS, WARHEAD MODERNIZATION

DIVERTING SAVINGS TO CLEANUP AND WEAPONS DISMANTLEMENT

            Dozens of community leaders from around the country will travel to Washington, DC next week to oppose U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons projects, which they say will waste billions in taxpayer funds, damage the environment and undermine the nation’s non-proliferation goals. The group will meet with leading members of Congress, committee staffers, and top administration officials with responsibility for U. S. nuclear policies to press for new funding priorities.

Activists from nearly a dozen states are participating in the 27th annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) “DC Days.” They will deliver copies of ANA’s just-published report, The Growing U.S. Nuclear Threat (http://bit.ly/growing_nuclear_threat). The new 20-page analysis dissects the Obama Administration’s latest plans to spend hundreds of billions more on nuclear weapons programs without, the authors conclude, enhancing U.S. security.

Joining the Alliance will be four members of Nuclear Watch New Mexico: Dr. James Doyle, a nonproliferation expert fired by the Los Alamos Lab after writing a study arguing for nuclear weapons abolition; Chuck Montano, former LANL auditor and author of his just-released book Los Alamos: A Whistleblower’s Diary (http://losalamosdiary.com/index.html); Jay Coghlan, Executive Director; and Scott Kovac, Operations Director. “We will use this opportunity to represent New Mexicans who oppose the open checkbook policy for nuclear weapons by Congress to the National Labs,” Kovac stated.

Both Doyle and Coghlan have recently returned from the NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations in New York City where they witnessed U.S. officials claiming that one trillion dollar plans for nuclear weapons modernization “contribute to and do not detract from progress on our NPT nuclear disarmament obligations.” But as Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, the report’s editor, noted, “Massive spending on nuclear weapons ‘modernization’ increases the nuclear danger for the U.S. Lack of accountability at DOE wastes billions and puts the public at even greater risk. ANA members from across the country will urge policy-makers to cut programs that fund dangerous boondoggles. The money saved should be redirected to cleaning up the legacy of nuclear weapons research, testing and production.” Participants in DC Days include activists from groups that monitor such U.S. nuclear weapons facilities as Hanford, Lawrence Livermore, Rocky Flats, Los Alamos, Kansas City Plant, Pantex, Sandia, Oak Ridge, Savannah River and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a network of local, regional and national organizations representing the concerns of communities downwind and downstream from U.S. nuclear weapons production and radioactive waste disposal sites. As part of its DC Days, ANA will sponsor an Awards Reception honoring leaders of the movement for responsible nuclear policies on Monday evening, May 18. Honorees include U.S. Senator Harry Reid, U.S. Representative John Garamendi, Los Alamos whistleblower Dr. James Doyle, former FBI investigator of Rocky Flats Jon Lipsky, and nuclear campaigner Michael Keegan: The event will take place in Room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

After learning of his award, Dr. James Doyle replied, “It is an honor to be recognized by citizen organizations across the country who have been opposing nuclear weapons at the grassroots for decades.  The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is an important part of the fabric of our civil society and helps create an informed citizenry essential to our freedom and security.  My case shows that even in America you must be careful when you question nuclear weapons.  These groups have been trying to change that since before I knew what nuclear war would mean for humanity.  I am proud to be working with them to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

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 Four Reasons Why U.S. Claims of NPT Compliance Are False

 In April 2015 the U.S. State Department issued a so-called Fact Sheet entitled Myths and Facts Regarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Regime. Its targeted audience was international delegations attending the 2015 NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Given the increasing dissatisfaction of non-nuclear weapons states, the State Department argued that numerical stockpile reductions since the end of the Cold War is ample evidence that the U.S. is complying with the NPT’s Article VI obligation for nuclear disarmament. It also claimed:

 The United States is committed not to pursue new nuclear warheads, and life extension programs will not provide for new military capabilities… infrastructure modernization, stockpile stewardship, and life extension programs for U.S. warheads will contribute to and do not detract from progress on our NPT nuclear disarmament obligations. [1]

 There are four immediate reasons why these claims by the United States Government are false:

1)   While it’s true that the number of weapons is being reduced (albeit more slowly now), the U.S.’ nuclear stockpile is being indefinitely preserved and qualitatively improved through new military capabilities. Clearly this is not the nuclear disarmament required by NPT Article VI.

2)   The United States Government is preparing to spend more than one trillion dollars over the next thirty years for nuclear weapons modernization and new ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines and bombers.[2] [3] This too is obviously not nuclear disarmament.

3)   The new Kansas City Plant has begun operations to produce or procure up to 100,000 nonnuclear components every year for nuclear weapons life extension programs.[4] Multi-billion dollar upgrades and new facilities are planned for expanded production of plutonium pit cores at the Los Alamos Lab and for thermonuclear components (“secondaries”) at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.[5] These upgrades and new facilities are being designed to produce up to 80 plutonium pits and secondaries per year. Once completed, these three new complexes comprehensively rebuild the production side of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Moreover, they are expected to be operational until ~2075.  That is not nuclear disarmament.

4)   The United States Government has a high-level annual plan to indefinitely preserve its nuclear weapons stockpile [6] and a new high-level plan to prevent other countries from acquiring or proliferating nuclear weapons.[7] But the United States Government has no high-level policy plan to implement its NPT Article VI nuclear disarmament obligation.

Concerning indefinite preservation of the nuclear stockpile, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration has scheduled programs out to 2040 and beyond that extend the service lives of nuclear weapons by at least 30 years. Moreover, the current B61-12 life extension program will be followed by another program in 2038 to produce the B61-13 nuclear bomb, indicating a perpetual cycle of life extension programs.[8] It also suggests that some form of the B61 nuclear bomb is planned to be forward deployed in Europe until around the year 2070.

Concerning new military capabilities, the B61-12 blurs the line between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. The B61 life extension program is creating the world’s first nuclear smart bomb through the installation of a new guided tail fin kit that will dramatically increase its accuracy. It is also slated for delivery by the new super stealthy F-35. Yet the United States continues to assert that it would never give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities.[9]

This is part of a long pattern. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the international delegations at the 2010 NPT Review Conference that “[o]ur Nuclear Posture Review ruled out the development of new U.S. nuclear weapons and new missions and capabilities for our existing weapons.” [10] But at the same time the U.S. was ramping up a life extension program for the 100 kiloton W76 warhead that gave it the capability of assuming the hard target kill mission of the 475 kiloton W88 warhead.[11]  Going further back, in the late 1990’s the 9 megaton surface-burst B53 bomb was replaced by the 400 kiloton B61-11 earth-penetrating modification to destroy hardened deeply buried targets. The point is that the general direction of post-Cold War planning for nuclear warfighting has been toward more accurate weapons with lower yields and reduced fallout, all of which make them arguably more usable.

Nevertheless, the United States maintains that these are not new military capabilities. It apparently avoids talking about the characteristics of individual nuclear weapons types and adopts the position that there are no new military capabilities because of the incalculable amount of extremely destructive military capabilities already in the stockpile as a whole. Thus, by this logic, if a lower yield, more precise nuclear weapon assumes the mission of a higher yield weapon, then that is not a new military capability. If so, then the United States Government’s assertion that it will never give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities is essentially meaningless, giving it carte blanche to do whatever it wants with its existing stockpile.

The international community should demand that the United States Government fully explain and justify its claim that it would never give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities, when the evidence points to the contrary. Perhaps that would be a step toward getting serious about global, verifiable nuclear disarmament.


[1]     http://www.state.gov/t/isn/rls/fs/2015/240650.htm

[2]     Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2015 to 2024, Congressional Budget Office, January 22, 2015,

CBO estimates the Administration’s plans for nuclear forces would cost $348 billion over the next decade… For each leg of the triad, most of the cost to procure new systems would occur after 2023.” https://www.cbo.gov/publication/4987

[3]     The Trillion Dollar Triad, James Martin Center, Jan. 7, 2014, http://cns.miis.edu/trillion_dollar_nuclear_triad/

[4]     http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/aboutus/ourlocations/kansas-city-plant

[5]     See the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2016 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, March 2015, Section 2.4.6.3 “Uranium Sustainment” and Section 4.3.3.1 “Strategy for Key Commodities,” http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/FY16SSMP_FINAL%203_16_2015_reducedsize.pdf

[6]     FY 2016 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, National Nuclear Security Administration, March 2015, http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/FY16SSMP_FINAL%203_16_2015_reducedsize.pdf

[7]     Prevent, Counter, and Respond – A Strategic Plan to Reduce Global Nuclear Threats, National Nuclear Security Administration, March 2015, https://www.scribd.com/doc/259397464/Prevent-Counter-and-Respond-A-Strategic-Plan-to-Reduce-Global-Nuclear-Threats-FY-2016-2020

[8]        FY 2016 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, National Nuclear Security Administration, March 2015, chapter 2, page 19 and chapter 8, page 18, http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/FY16SSMP_FINAL%203_16_2015_reducedsize.pdf

[9]       For more, see General Confirms Enhanced Targeting Capabilities of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb, Hans Kristensen, January 23, 2014, http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/01/b61capability/

[10]    Hillary Clinton’s Remarks before the 2010 NPT Review Conference, May 3, 2010, http://www.cfr.org/united-states/hillary-clintons-remarks-before-2010-npt-review-conference/p22042

[11]    For more, see Administration Increases Submarine Nuclear Warhead Production Plan, Hans Kristensen, August 30, 2007, http://fas.org/blogs/security/2007/08/us_tripples_submarine_warhead/

 

Appeals court overturns sabotage convictions of Transform Now Plowshares activists, vacates sentences of Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed on all charges and remands for resentencing.

Court suggests decision may lead to release of Rice, Boertje-Obed and Walli

8 May 2015
for immediate release

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in favor of the Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed who were convicted in 2013 of sabotage for their July 28, 2012 Transform Now Plowshares protest of nuclear weapons production at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“The purpose of the action of Michael, Megan and Greg was to call attention to the ongoing production of thermonuclear weapons components at the bomb plant in Oak Ridge and, more specifically, to oppose plans to build a new, multi-billion dollar bomb plant—the Uranium Processing Facility—at Y12,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “They were nonviolent protestors in the tradition of Gandhi, not saboteurs. We are pleased the Sixth Circuit appreciated the difference.”

The court ruled 2-1 in a decision handed down on May 8, 2015, that the government failed to prove the Transform Now Plowshares activists intended to “injure the national defense,” a requirement for conviction under the sabotage act.  Disposing of the government’ arguments one by one, the court finally states simply: “The defendants’ convictions under §2155(a) must be reversed.”

The circuit court had the option of merely reversing the sabotage conviction but letting the defendants’ sentences stand on the other charge for which they were convicted—depredation of government property. Noting the lesser charge would have resulted in lesser sentences—the men received 62 month sentences and Megan Rice a sentence of 35 months—under federal sentencing guidelines (“it appears that the guidelines ranges for their § 1361 convictions on remand will be substantially less than their time already served in federal custody.“), the court chose to vacate all sentences and remand the their cases for resentencing on the remaining depredation count.
Michael Walli is currently serving his sentence at McKean federal prison in Bradford, PA; Greg Boertje-Obed is in Leavenworth, KS; Megan Rice is in federal prison in Brooklyn, NY. Her release date is currently in mid-November, 2015.
At this time, it is not clear when resentencing will take place.

for more information
Ralph Hutchison  865 776 5050
Paul Magno 202 321 6650

 

NM Environment Department Starts Clock on Four Legacy Waste Penalties at LANL

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has sent notices to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that the State intends to assess penalties for four environmental reports that have missed required deadlines. Each report could be subject to penalties of $1000 per day for the first 30 days late and $3000 per day thereafter starting at the date of the notice. These four assessments for FY2015 reports under the Consent Order (CO) showed up on the Los Alamos Electronic Public Reading Room (EPRR) daily notifications.

These four are the first Stipulated Penalties since 2009 that have assessed by NMED under the 2005 Consent Order. In January 2012, the State and DOE/LANL agreed to a “Framework Agreement”, which focused on shipping transuranic (TRU) waste from LANL to WIPP, and put the CO on the back burner. We believe that there were no Stipulated Penalties Lists at all for FY13 and FY14. NMED granted approximately 100 extensions to CO deliverables during this time, which were not subject to penalties.

Before the beginning of each DOE fiscal year (October 1st) NMED and DOE/LANS work out which 15 deliverables to the CO will have potential penalties attached during the upcoming fiscal year. These deliverables are documents or reports that cover activities required under the 2005 Consent Order, which lays out the fence-to-fence cleanup of legacy waste on the Lab’s 36 square miles. For instance, after a mandatory monitoring well is drilled, a Well Completion Report would be required. Each year there may be 40 to 50 or so deliverables required by the State, of which only 15 are chosen to be subject to penalties for being late or deficient.

TRU waste shipments stopped in February 2014 when a TRU waste drum (improperly packaged at LANL) overheated and released radiation in the underground at WIPP. The radiation reached the surface of WIPP and contaminated 21 workers. This TRU waste at LANL is not actually covered under the Consent Order, but much of the aboveground TRU (originally scheduled to be shipped before 2012) is physically in the way of CO cleanup at the Lab.

In December 2014, NMED fined DOE/LANL $37 million and DOE/WIPP $17 million for the release at WIPP. NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn has hinted that there may be up to $104 million in possible additional fines to DOE/LANL that also have nothing to do with consent order. But the four recent notices are all about the Consent Order.

These CO Stipulated Penalties may seem small compared the potential $100 million fines, but the Consent Order itself is the primary driver for cleanup at the Lab. There are millions of cubic meters of hazardous and radioactive wastes and contaminated backfill buried at LANL. These wastes will pose a permanent threat to our aquifer unless removed.

“The Consent Order was designed to keep pressure on cleanup of legacy waste at Los Alamos. Penalties for missed deadlines are aimed at forcing DOE headquarters in DC to provide sufficient funding. We are pleased that NMED is focusing on the Consent Order again and not backing away from assessing penalties. We have a long way to go and we must all remain vigilant as the Lab addresses each of the many cleanup sites at Los Alamos.” ~ Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Consent Order Stipulated Penalty Documents for Federal Fiscal Year 2015

LANL Consent Order Extensions as of Jan 6 2015

Intent To Assess Stipulated Penalties – Phase II Investigation Report For Upper Canada Del Buey Aggregate Area, March 13, 2015

Intent To Assess Stipulated Penalties – Investigation Report For Upper Water Canyon Aggregate Area, March 13, 2015

Intent To Assess Stipulated Penalties – Installation And Instrumentation Of Six Boreholes At Material Disposal Area T at Technical Area 21, March 18, 2015

Intent to assess stipulated penalties – Investigation report for Starmer/Upper Pajarito Canyon Aggregate Area

 

 

 
WIPP TAT 15Mar 350 degrees

DOE releases Investigation of Incident at WIPP by Technical Assessment Team

On February 14, 2014, an incident in Panel 7 Room 7 (P7R7) of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground repository resulted in the release of radioactive material into the environment and contaminated 21 people with low-level radioactivity.

To add to the completed Accident Investigation Board (AIB) investigations, the Department of Energy (DOE) created a Technical Assessment Team (TAT) to determine what may have contributed to the failure of the waste drum. The TAT was led by scientists from several DOE National Laboratories. Los Alamos National Laboratory was not listed as a member of the team.

The report generally confirms what was already known but left the main question unanswered – What was the exact cause? The TAT could not determine the cause of the drum breach with absolute certainty because the investigation was hindered by “several constraints”.

The TAT’s overarching conclusion is that chemically incompatible contents of Drum 68660 from Los Alamos National Laboratory in combination with physical conditions caused the release.

 

The following key judgments led to and support that conclusion:

Key Judgment 1: Contents of Drum 68660 were chemically incompatible.

Key Judgment 2: Drum 68660 breached as the result of internal chemical reactions that generated heat and produced gases that built up pressure sufficient to overcome the drum vent and seal.

Key Judgment 3: Drum 68660 was the source of the radiological contamination in WIPP.

Key Judgment 4: Initiation of the thermal runaway was internal and not caused by phenomena outside Drum 68660.

Key Judgment 5: Thermal and pressure effects resulted in the movement of material during the release event and caused the damage observed in WIPP P7R7; the release did not result from a detonation.

 

The TAT did conclude that a glovebox glove in drum 68660 did not add to the reaction because none of the specialized glove materials were found on any monitors.

The TAT estimated that drum 68660 internally reached 350+ degrees Celsius after 70 days, which is the amount of time given from when the drum was packed at Los Alamos, shipped to WIPP, emplaced in the underground, to when it reacted and released.  (350 degree Celsius = 662 degree Fahrenheit) The report did not estimate the temperature in the drum as it headed down the highway from Los Alamos to WIPP.

Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director at Nuclear Watch New Mexico stated, “It looks like we may never know the exact cause of the February 14, 2014 release at WIPP. What we do know is that human beings are fallible, and nuclear waste will eventually escape whatever we devise to protect ourselves from it. The key question is, will the New Mexico Environment Department allow WIPP to reopen without knowing what caused the contamination to begin with?”

More to come as we continue to study the report.

Read the TAT Fact Sheet here.

Read the full report here.

 

 

The New Mexican

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/

Letters to the editor, March 10, 2015

Department of Energy waste needs to be cleaned up

As usual, the Department of Energy gets it exactly wrong. The department was fined by our state Environment Department for lousy procedures that caused the explosion and leak at WIPP. As predicted more than 25 years ago, improperly characterized and mislabeled wastes make a dangerous mix. Now the feds want to steal from nuclear cleanup programs to pay the fine. Cleanup is already perennially underfunded, and environmental targets remain unmet year after year — because all DOE really wants to do is make more unneeded weapons, and thus more waste that doesn’t get cleaned up.

Every time DOE is fined for shoddy work, it should have to pay out of weapons research and development funds — and then throw double the amount of the fine into the cleanup budget. New Mexicans, have we had enough of watching the weaponeers roll around in their pork dollars while we pay the price with our land, water and future? Bad theater, indeed.

Sasha Pyle

Santa Fe

(Sasha is a former NukeWatch NM Steering Committee member.)

 

 
NukeWatch NM Commentary: Not to mention Tom Udall’s not-so-unlikely alliance with the nuclear weapons industry in New Mexico. For that he sits on the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, the same seat from which Pete Domenici sent buckets of money to the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs. Except given the beginning of the trillion dollars over 30 years for nuclear weapons “modernization,” Tom is outdoing Pete in supplying money for nuclear weapons programs.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/07/us/tom-udalls-unlikely-alliance-with-the-chemical-industry.html?_r=0

Tom Udall’s Unlikely Alliance With the Chemical Industry

By MARCH 6, 2015

WASHINGTON — Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has earned a reputation as an environmental champion. He helped lead the fight against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and pushed through legislation for a new federal wilderness area in his home state of New Mexico.

It is part of his family legacy, dating back to the Kennedy administration, when his father, Stewart, served as the secretary of interior, and later played a vital role in enacting the landmark Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

So environmental activists were stunned to learn that Mr. Udall’s political supporters now include the chemical industry, which has donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns and sponsored a television ad that praised his leadership.

This unlikely alliance has been forged as Mr. Udall emerged as the chief Senate negotiator for Democrats on legislation that would fundamentally change the way the federal government evaluates the safety of more than 80,000 chemicals.

Some of Mr. Udall’s Democratic Senate colleagues and prominent environmentalists say he has helped the industry write new regulations in a way that protects profits more than public health.

Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, who until last year served as chairwoman of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, has been the harshest critic of the negotiations between Mr. Udall and Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, notably over the language that would prevent states from setting their own, tougher standards.

“I’ve been around the Senate for a long time, but I have never before seen so much heavy-handed, big-spending lobbying on any issue,” Ms. Boxer said. “To me it looks like the chemical industry itself is writing this bill.”

Mr. Udall emphatically rejects the notion that he is industry’s emissary. “I am fighting for our children and trying to make sure they are not being pumped full of chemicals in the next generation,” he said. “We can’t do something that is pie in the sky; we have to deal with the reality.”

It is a reality that pleases industry officials who have worked to get close to Mr. Udall over the past 20 months, after the death of Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, who once led Democrats in negotiations on a deal with Senate Republicans.

“The leadership he is providing is absolutely critical,” said Cal M. Dooley, a former Democratic representative from California, who is now the president and a lobbyist at the American Chemistry Council, which represents DuPont, Dow and other giants in the $800 billion-a-year industry.

The courting of Mr. Udall, even with Republicans in control of Congress, demonstrates how important securing the support of at least a few Democrats in the Senate is to any corporate agenda in Washington, where almost nothing can emerge from the chamber without 60 votes.

Unlike most industries that fight new federal regulations, the chemical industry wants Congress to act. T he existing fe deral law, adopted in 1976, is so antiquated that individual state governments have imposed their own chemical safety regulations.

The E.P.A. acknowledges there are about 1,000 chemicals used in the United States that might represent health hazards. Asbestos, for example, is still illegal to manufacture and sell, but the agency for decades h as been unable to ban its use.

Industry executives also realize the public is increasingly losing confidence in the safety of common chemicals once routinely found in toys or baby bottles, a fear they say can be addressed with more rigorous regulations.

But some environmental activists involved in the negotiations between Mr. Udall and Mr. Vitter are convinced that Mr. Udall has been too open to pressure from the industry.

“Senator Udall’s strong support for the legislation, in spite of its remaining flaws, has emboldened the chemical industry to take a more aggressive approach in Congress and try to disregard the critique of health experts and state governments,” said Andy Igrejas, national campaign director of a nonprofit group called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which represents hundreds of public health, labor and environmental groups.

The criticism is, in part, a negotiating tactic. The environmental groups still hope to toughen the draft legislation. But the disagreements are real.

The most intense disputes are over the pace the E.P.A. will attempt to test the backlog of chemicals whose safety has never been comprehensively assessed. The speed depends in part on how much the chemical industry must pay to cover the cost of tests and rule-making.

Mr. Udall’s current draft would require the start of testing just 10 high-risk chemicals in the first year, a figure Mr. Udall conceded he wishes could be higher.

But Mr. Udall added that the current draft legislation does give the E.P.A. clearer authority to impose limits on chemicals that its tests show cause any “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.”

Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund who has been involved in drafting the bill, along with other environmentalists and chemical industry representatives, said this new safety standard language is a major improvement.

“It is not the bill I would have written from scratch,” Mr. Denison said. “But it’s a solid compromise that would be much more protective of public health.”

Still, the chemical industry prefers Mr. Udall and Mr. Vitter over Ms. Boxer. “Senator Boxer can no longer unilaterally stop the progress of reform,” said Anne Womack Kolton, a Chemistry Council spokeswoman.

The Chemistry Council is engaged in an aggressive push to pass the legislation, which will be named after Mr. Lautenberg as another tip of the hat to Democrats.

As part of its push, the Chemistry Council spent more than $4 million during the 2014 election cycle on television and radio spots to help their allies in Congress.

“These days in Washington, it is not easy getting things done,” said the advertisement that ran in New Mexico, featuring images of Mr. Udall. “But New Mexico’s Tom Udall brings both sides together to get results.”

Millions of dollars in campaign contributions were also distributed among the political accounts of the lawmakers involved in the debate, including Mr. Udall. First elected to the House in 1998, Mr. Udall had never before received a contribution from the Chemistry Council. The industry also made donations to Mr. Vitter, who is running for governor in Louisiana, and Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would oversee the debate in the House.

Lobbyists from at least 100 chemical manufacturers, retailers that sell chemicals or trade associations representing them were registered as of last year to lobby Congress on the topic, disclosure records show, compared with a total of about 15 environmental, public health and educational institutions.

Mr. Udall and Mr. Vitter circulated a new draft on Thursday, but some environmentalists were still critical. The chief lobbyist at the Natural Resources Defense Council said that the law, if adopted without being strengthened, would actually harm public health. And the California attorney general’s office wrote a strongly worded letter late Thursday calling the new draft an “unnecessary evisceration of state regulatory authority.”

Mr. Dooley, of the Chemistry Council, said the industry was pleased with the new draft — and confident that it would prevail.

“This is the best moment, without question,” Mr. Dooley said from his office overlooking the Capitol. “I think we will get 70 votes on the Senate floor, or that is what Senator Udall, who spoke with us the other day, predicted.”

 


 

 

Los Alamos Cleanup Budget Request Slips to 8% for FY 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even as Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) faces more fines from the State for missed environmental cleanup, the cleanup budget request slips to 8% of the Lab’s total budget of $2.2 billion. The request for cleanup for Fiscal Year 2016 is $185.2 million. See the full chart and Lab tables here.

Even this ridiculously small amount is under attack. The ABQ Journal reported that the Department of Energy could be planning to pay for existing LANL fines out of this cleanup budget. In December 2014 the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued fines totalling $37 million for improper waste handling that closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in SE NM.

But really, the breeched drum that closed WIPP (full operations will not resume until 2018 at the earliest) came from the nuclear weapons activities programs. It’s like the weapons program handed the environmental cleanup program a ticking time bomb and said, “You deal with it.” Then when it blows up, it gets blamed on the environment folks. Reckless historic environmental practices by the nuclear weapons programs at the Lab have left a legacy of radioactive and hazardous wastes in the ground above our aquifer.

The official estimate for the total cleanup at Los Alamos has yet to be released. But it could easily $15 – 20 billion to remove the contamination threatening our future. Doing the math, a $15 billion cleanup estimate at $200 million per year would take 75 years. That is too long.

Ask your Congressional Representatives to fully fund cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory and to NOT use cleanup funds to pay any fines!

NM Senator Tom Udall

NM Senator Martin Heinrich

NM Congressional Representative Ben Ray Lujan

 

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

For immediate release.  March 4, 2015

Watchdog Groups Praise NNSA Decision to Obey the Law,

Prepare Supplement Analysis on Bomb Plant

Contacts:       Ralph Hutchison, Coordinator OREPA,  orep(at)earthlink.net;
Jay Coghlan, Executive Director NWNM, jay(at)nukewatch.org

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s disclosure that the agency “in the process” of preparing a Supplement Analysis for the much-changed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons production plant brought praise from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) and Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Just two days ago the two grassroots watchdog groups filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act request asking for the Supplement Analysis. At the same time the two groups noted that NNSA could be legally vulnerable without one. The issue is that the NNSA has proposed major changes to the UPF. The two groups contend that a Supplement Analysis is needed to determine whether or not past public review required under the National Environmental Policy Act needs to supplemented because of those changes.

The UPF is a highly troubled project whose costs have exploded from an original estimate of $600 million to more than $19 billion by one Pentagon study. More recently, in order to keep costs down, the UPF’s future mission has been stripped of dismantlement operations that would work off a backlog of unneeded nuclear weapons parts that need to be kept secure. Instead, the UPF will be a production-only facility for up to 80 “secondaries” per year, the components that give nuclear weapons immense thermonuclear capabilities. The UPF’s original “big box” design has been abandoned, replaced by a number of smaller modular facilities, plus use of existing nuclear facilities that were previously deemed too unsafe for continuing operations.

“It’s always a good thing when the government decides to obey its own laws and regulations,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA. “We had been told previously that a decision had already been made to proceed with the Uranium Processing Facility without preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. We were surprised, because the law requires NNSA to complete and publish a Supplement Analysis in order to make that bigger decision.”

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico commented, “The UPF bomb plant has already been delayed several times by bad management decisions and incompetent design work, which dearly costs the American taxpayer every time. Instead of playing games about whether NNSA is or isn’t going to comply with the law, the agency should do what it did here in Los Alamos—prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement after making major changes to a proposed nuclear weapons facility.”

“The cart and horse problem continues to bedevil this project,” Hutchison noted. “It cost us half a billion dollars in the space/fit fiasco, where not all planned uranium processing equipment could fit into the designed building, and for which no one has been held accountable. Now we have federal officials saying they are not going to do the environmental analysis until they have spent more hundreds of millions of dollars on the second go around for “conceptual” project design—even though new seismic hazard maps may show it is unsafe to build the plant where they want to. It’s a great plan if your goal is to hand out taxpayer dollars to giant defense contractors. But if you are trying to complete a project in a sensible and timely way, it’s completely backwards.”

NNSA did not indicate when the Supplement Analysis would be complete. The Oak Ridge Peace and Environmental Alliance and Nuclear Watch New Mexico will be closely monitoring the UPF process as it unfolds.

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NNSA’s admission that it is preparing a Supplement Analysis is reported at

http://knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/2015/03/04/nnsa-says-it-is-preparing-supplement-analysis/

 

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

GROUPS JOIN TO DEMAND ANSWERS ABOUT BOMB PLANT PLANS

For immediate release: March 2, 2015

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (Oak Ridge, TN) and Nuclear Watch New Mexico (Santa Fe, NM) today filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Department of Energy (DOE) to come clean about its plans for a new, multi-billion dollar nuclear bomb plant proposed for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) is a highly troubled project that has exploded in estimated costs from an original $600 million to as high as $19 billion. Since then, in order to attempt to cap project spending at $6.5 billion, DOE has reduced the scope of the UPF by eliminating dismantlement operations and assuming a mission of production-only for nuclear weapons. After a half-billion dollar design mistake for which no one has been held accountable, DOE has abandoned its previous “big box” concept for the UPF in favor of a modular approach that includes the continuing use of unsafe, aging facilities previously slated for demolition. Despite these major changes, DOE has indicated it does not plan to update the legally required environmental review process it completed in 2011, but which must now address potential impacts of the new plan.

The groups’ FOIA request asks the government to release its Supplement Analysis—a study required by law when a federal agency makes a substantial change to its formally recorded Record of Decision. A Supplement Analysis is used to determine whether the agency needs to prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement, a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, or no new environmental analysis. The law requires DOE to make the Supplement Analysis publicly available, and the document would likely provide much valuable and up-to-date information on the UPF project. Alternatively, DOE may be legally vulnerable if no Supplement Analysis has been prepared.

Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, stressed that his organization is determined to hold the DOE publicly accountable over its plans for Oak Ridge and Y-12. “We live here. We are the ones placed at risk when people in Washington make decisions to keep building nuclear bombs in buildings that do not meet safety codes or even weakened seismic standards. At the very least, we deserve an explanation. We’ve previously asked DOE politely and got no answer. So now we are resorting to a FOIA request and subsequent steps as needed.”

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, noted, “We had a similar situation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, when the government changed plans for a new multi-billion dollar plutonium facility. In our case, DOE responded to citizen pressure and prepared a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. We believe the same is legally required for the Uranium Processing Facility.”

The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to respond to FOIA requests within twenty working days. OREPA and Nuclear Watch NM have requested expedited processing of their request as provided for by the Freedom of Information Act.

Ralph Hutchison added, “We think informing Congress and the public of the status of the UPF’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act is urgently needed because of the project’s substantial changes and the thirty percent increase in funding. Determination of UPF’s NEPA status and updated public review could help prevent further waste of taxpayers’ money after more than a half-billion dollars has already been squandered.”

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OREPA’s and Nuclear Watch NM’s FOIA request is available at:

http://orepa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/OREPA-NWNM-FOIA.pdf

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