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NukeWatch NM Heads to Washington to Press Congress, Obama Officials

To Stop U.S. Nuclear Weapons “Trillion Dollar Trainwreck” –

LANL Whistleblower Chuck Montaño to Be Honored

 

Three members of Nuclear Watch New Mexico will visit Washington, DC from April 17 to April 20 to oppose U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons projects, which they say will lead to a “trillion dollar trainwreck” through out-of control spending, more radioactive waste generation, and weapons proliferation. The group will meet with the New Mexican congressional delegation, committee staffers, and administration officials with responsibility for U. S. nuclear policies to press for new funding priorities.

The Nuclear Watch NM delegation will be working with more than 50 colleagues from two dozen other states who are participating in the 28th annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability “DC Days.” They will distribute copies of the ANA’s new report “Trillion Dollar Trainwreck” a detailed analysis of the Obama Administration’s latest plans to spend more money on nuclear weapons without truly enhancing U.S. security.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch director and president of the ANA Board of Directors, said, “Massive spending on nuclear weapons ‘modernization’ creates potential catastrophic risks for U.S. taxpayers, the environment and world peace. We will press policy-makers to cut programs that fund dangerous DOE boondoggles. The money saved should be redirected to dismantling weapons and cleaning up the legacy of nuclear weapons research, testing and production.”

NukeWatch NM Steering Committee member Chuck Montaño will receive recognition during DC Days from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) at a reception on April 19, 2015, at the Hart Senate Office Building. He, along with California’s senior U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith (D.-WA), will be among those honored by ANA for their efforts to hold the nuclear weapons military-industrial complex accountable. Montaño is being recognized for his advocacy confronting whistleblower and employee abuse, managerial malfeasance and fraudulent activity, all of which he documents in his recently released book detailing the chain of events that led to him becoming a federally protected whistleblower.

Montaño commented that he wrote Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths, “so people can appreciate the Lab’s full impact and legacy, not just what institutional leaders want the public to remember. There are important events I document for posterity, which may otherwise be hidden or erased from memory, and I didn’t want that to happen.”

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch director, said, “I am very proud of Chuck Montaño, especially since he’s a Nuke Watch Steering Committee member as well. We depend on people like him with the inside story to help keep the Lab safe for communities and workers alike. It’s gratifying to see that the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and its many member organizations appreciate his efforts.”

Mr. Montaño, a lifelong Santa Fe area resident, was employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 32 years, until his forced retirement from the lab in 2010. He is also the former Director of Fraud and Special Audits for the Office of the New Mexico State Auditor.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) is a network of three-dozen local, regional and national organizations representing the concerns of communities downwind and downstream from U.S. nuclear weapons production and radioactive waste disposal sites.

 

# # #

 

Chuck Montaño’s book Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths

is available at www.losalamosdiary.com

 

 

 

 

Watchdogs File Second FOIA Request for Los Alamos and Sandia Labs Evaluations,

Demand Expedited Release to E-FOIA Reading Room

 

Santa Fe, NM – Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed a second request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2015 Performance Evaluation Reports for the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. Nuclear Watch filed its first request on December 22, 2015, which has still not been fulfilled despite the law’s statutory requirement that FOIA requests be honored within 20 working days. Because of that, Nuclear Watch is demanding expedited processing and posting of these reports to an electronic FOIA reading room, as required by the 1996 E-FOIA amendments.

In 2009 the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began to withhold Performance Evaluation Reports without explanation. Accordingly, Nuclear Watch filed a FOIA request for the FY 2009 Los Alamos Lab Performance Evaluation Report that NNSA denied. Nuclear Watch appealed that decision to the Department of Energy’s Office of Hearings and Appeals, which upheld the denial on the basis that the reports contained proprietary information, contrary to the openness and transparency of previous years.

Since that time, the NNSA’s nuclear weapons complex has been rocked by constant cost overruns, security scandals, illegal lobbying and the closure of the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a faulty radioactive waste drum from LANL ruptured and contaminated workers. It is Nuclear Watch’s belief that American taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent on substandard performance by nuclear weapons contractors such as Bechtel, the University of California and Lockheed Martin.

In January 2012 Nuclear Watch filed a FOIA request for the FY 2011 Performance Evaluation Reports of all eight NNSA sites, which the agency again denied. However, rather than fruitlessly appealing to the DOE Office of Hearings and Appeals, the organization filed a lawsuit on March 28, 2012, and began to receive the PERs six days later. Since then the NNSA has publicly released its FY 2012, 2013 and 2014 PERs without having to be compelled by FOIA requests or citizen lawsuits.

However, the National Nuclear Security Administration has not released its FY 2015 Performance Evaluation Reports, which we know have been completed at least for the Los Alamos Lab. On December 17, 2015, LANL Director Charlie McMillan reported to his employees that the Los Alamos National Security, LLC management and operations contract would be put out to bid because of substandard performance as documented by the Performance Evaluation Report.

These reports have been of keen media interest. After its FOIA request was not honored the Albuquerque Journal recently editorialized:

Money to run the labs comes from U.S. taxpayers, who deserve to know how it is being spent and if contractors are doing their jobs in a timely and efficient manner. Past shoddy attention to detail by NNSA contractors and lackadaisical oversight by the U.S. Department of Energy are some of the reasons why the evaluations are critical to protecting national security. The potential search for new contractors makes the evaluations especially critical. They should be made public post haste.

Similarly a respected journalist with the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that his FOIA request was left unfulfilled, and noted that, “The performance reports contain valuable information on how the NNSA contractors are carrying out their missions involving billions of taxpayer dollars annually.” In addition, at least two other nonprofit watchdog organizations, the Oak Ridge Environmental and Peace Alliance and SRS Watch, have FOIAed for NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports without success.

These multiple requests by different entities are particularly important because according to the Department of Justice the 1996 E-FOIA amendments

create a new category of records that will be required to receive “reading room” treatment — a category consisting of any records processed and disclosed in response to a FOIA request that “the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records… Second, the amendments will require agencies to use electronic information technology to enhance the availability of their reading room records… To meet this new requirement through on-line access, agencies should have Internet or World Wide Web sites prepared to serve this “electronic reading room” function.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico director, commented, “It is unconscionable that the National Nuclear Security Administration withholds information from the American taxpayer on how fat contractors who constantly bust budgets are paid, especially when these same contractors always have their hands out for yet more taxpayer money for nuclear weapons forever. The question is, what do NNSA and its contractors have to hide? To answer that, Nuclear Watch will not only demand that the Performance Evaluation Report be publicly released, but that from this point on the reports be automatically posted to an electronic FOIA reading room as the law requires. The American taxpayer should not have to fight this battle year after year just to keep greedy nuclear weapons contractors accountable.”

# # #

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s second Freedom of Information Act request for the Los Alamos and Sandia Performance Evaluation Reports is available at

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NWNM-FOIA-FY15-PERs-4-6-16.pdf

 

The Albuquerque Journal March 24, 2016 editorial “Tardy posting of NNSA evaluations unacceptable” is available at

http://www.abqjournal.com/745237/opinion/tardy-posting-of-nnsa-evaluations-unacceptable.html

 

Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Frank Munger’s blog post is available at

http://knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/2016/03/14/what-to-think/

 

The Department of Justice quote is from FOIA Update, Vol. XVII, No. 4 1996

https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-update-congress-enacts-foia-amendments

 

NNSA’s Performance Evaluation Reports from 2007 to 2014 are available at

http://www.nukewatch.org/PERs-PEPs.html

 

For immediate release March 30, 2016

Contacts:       Jay Coghlan, 505.989.7342,  jay[at]nukewatch.org

Scott Kovac, 505.989.7342, scott[at]nukewatch.org

 

Watchdogs Denounce New Consent Order on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

 

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued a new draft Consent Order that in theory will govern cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Instead, the new Consent Order is a giveaway to the Department of Energy and the Lab who are intent on creating yet more radioactive waste from expanded nuclear weapons production.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs. But yet the Environment Department fails New Mexicans by failing to enforce cleanup at Los Alamos.”

While announcing the new Consent Order NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn claimed that the old Consent Order process did not work. Nuclear Watch agrees that the old Consent Order failed, but that’s because Secretary Flynn granted more than 150 milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating it.

LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup has been cut to $189 million for FY 2017, with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguard improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).

The original 2005 Consent Order 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 also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. Instead, the Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

A few of the serious deficiencies of the new draft Consent Order are:

[Quotes are from the new draft Consent Order followed by page numbers]

•     “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 27. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…”  P. 31. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department.

•    “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 28. Therefore the new Consent Order will be held hostage to DOE’s budget, which recently cut LANL’s cleanup funding. This is directly opposite to the intent of the original Consent Order, which was to compel DOE and LANL to get increased funding for accelerated cleanup.

•     “… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 29. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.

•     “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 33. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 34. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

•     The new draft Consent Order explicitly states that public participation requirements do NOT apply to future modifications of the Order. P. 24. This is the opposite of what the original Consent Order required, which made a point of incorporating the public process requirements of federal environmental law. Nuclear Watch New Mexico maintains that full public participation requirements apply to the new Consent Order as well, including its very formulation as a modification of the old Consent Order. That full public participation process requires a public hearing if there are unresolved issues, which NMED has preemptively rejected, a position that may be of questionable legality.

On January 20, 2016, Nuclear Watch New Mexico formally notified LANL and DOE that it intends to sue them for failing to meet compliance milestones in the old Consent Order. We still expect to take that action sometime after the required 60 day notice period, as in our view this new Consent Order does nothing to remedy those violations.

# # #

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The 45-day public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 16, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico Action Alert 

NM Environment Department Plans to Unveil Revised Los Alamos Cleanup Agreement

March 30, 2016, 1PM, Sandia Resort

Public Comment Is Invited

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads

NM Environment Department and officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory plan to roll out a draft of the revised Consent Order, which is the agreement for fence-to-fence cleanup of legacy Cold War waste from nuclear weapons production and research. The last compliance date of the original agreement was December 6, 2015, and although much investigation was completed, much more work is still needed.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes

  • A new schedule is mostly what is needed
  • Lack of budget cannot be an excuse for lack of cleanup
  • Particular items to keep – meaningful public comment and a final date

But we suspect big changes and not all for the better protection of Northern NM.

 

Your voice will be important! Please join us!

 

Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board Meeting

March 30, 2016

1:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Sandia Resort, Ballroom A

30 Rainbow Road

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113

DRAFT AGENDA

 

Time                         Action                                                                                     Presenter

1:00 p.m.             Call to Order                                                                         Lee Bishop, DDFO

Welcome and Introductions Doug Sayre, Chair

Approval of Agenda

Approval of Minutes of January 27, 2016

1:20 p.m.             Old Business

a. Written Reports – See Packet Enclosures (5 minutes)

b. Other items

1:30 p.m.             New Business

1:35 p.m.             Update from Deputy Designated Federal Officer(s)

Lee Bishop/Michael Gardipe

 

1:45 p.m.             Presentation on Revisions to Consent Order,

Upon Opening of Public Comment Period

NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn

 

3:00 p.m.             Break

 

3:20 p.m.             Presentation Continues

 

4:00 p.m.             Public Comment Period

 

4:15 p.m.             Update on FY 17/18 EM Budget                                     Genna Hackett

 

4:45 p.m.             Consideration and Action on Draft Recommendation 2016-02, Doug Sayre

“FY 2018 Budget Priorities”

 

5:00 p.m.             Wrap-up Comments from NNMCAB Members

a. Were your questions answered regarding the presentations?

b. Requests for future presentations or information

c. Proposed Recommendations

 

5:15 p.m.             Adjourn                                                                         Michael Gardipe

 

For more information:

 

This NNMCAB Agenda-

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/03/f30/March_30_16_Draft_Agenda_R7.pdf

 

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads

New Cleanup Agreement Requires New Schedule and That Is About All

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2204

 

Baseless Claims?

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2186

 

Nuclear Watch NM Gives Notice of Intent to Sue Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2177

 

NukeWatch Calls for Public Seats at the Table in LANL Cleanup Negotiations

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2140

 

Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

903 W. Alameda, #325

Santa Fe, NM 87501

505.989.7342 – phone and fax

info(at)nukewatch.org

www.nukewatch.org

 

Complicated geology under Los Alamos shows what a bad location this is for a permanent radioactive dump

 

 

STAND AGAINST THE RUSH TO RE-OPEN AN UNSAFE WIPP 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it intends to re-open the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in December 2016. The nation’s only deep geologic repository, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, has been shut down since February 2014 because of two events – an underground fire and a radiation release.

DOE is in a rush to re-open WIPP even though the facility cannot meet the previous operational and safety standards, let alone more stringent requirements that are necessary to prevent future accidents. The WIPP underground remains contaminated, so operations have to be greatly changed, including workers being dressed in “ebola suits.” Ventilation will not be restored to the pre-2014 levels until 2021 or later – the new system is not designed and how much it will cost is unknown.

The transuranic (plutonium-contaminated) waste from manufacturing nuclear bombs can be in safe storage at the generator sites, so there is no emergency requiring the rush to re-open.

DOE is rushing to re-open WIPP and ALSO wants to expand WIPP to other missions that are prohibited by law, including:

  • Greater-Than-Class C waste from dozens of commercial power plants;
  • High-level waste from Hanford, WA;
  • Commercial waste from West Valley, NY;
  • Surplus weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site, SC.

DOE also is proceeding with finding a “volunteer” site for the nation’s high-level defense waste, and some officials in southeastern New Mexico say publicly that WIPP should be that repository!

The 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act explicitly PROHIBITS all high-level waste, all spent nuclear fuel, and all commercial waste. But DOE wants to ignore the law!

Those prohibitions resulted from many New Mexicans demanding them!

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Contact Senators Udall and Heinrich (and other elected officials) and ask them to stop the rush to re-open an unsafe WIPP. Ask them to require DOE to drop the expansion proposals and commit that WIPP will not be considered for high-level waste. Ask them to have Congress reiterate that the WIPP law is not being changed to allow those expansions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Southwest Research and Information Center, www.sric.org, 505-262-1862

Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, contactus@cardnm.org, 505-242-5511

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, www.nuclearactive.org, 505-986-1973

Nuclear Watch New Mexico, www.nukewatch.org, 505-989-7342

 

Here is a sample letter to use as-is or to modify. You can use the electronic message system at the Senators’ offices.

Senator Udall’s electronic message system: https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=contact

Senator Heinrich’s electronic message system: https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/contact/write-martin

 

Senator Tom Udall                                                            Senator Martin Heinrich

531 Hart Senate Office Building                                    303 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                                Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich:

I am very concerned about the Department of Energy (DOE) rushing to re-open WIPP this year despite unresolved public and worker safety issues and because of the many proposals to expand WIPP, if it is re-opened.

The WIPP underground remains contaminated, so operations have to be greatly changed, including workers being dressed in “ebola suits.” Ventilation will not be restored to the pre-2014 levels until 2021 or later – the new system is not designed and how much it will cost is unknown.

The transuranic (plutonium-contaminated) waste from manufacturing nuclear bombs can be in safe storage at generator sites, so there’s no emergency requiring the rush to re-open.

DOE recently announced that it wants to expand WIPP for commercial Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste from nuclear reactors and for tons of weapons-grade plutonium. DOE also wants to have a defense high-level waste repository and some people want to “volunteer” WIPP!

There is time for my requests to be fulfilled.  Please:

* Tell DOE to improve the ventilation and other safety requirements before WIPP re-opens

* Insist that DOE drop the expansion proposals

* Require DOE to affirm that WIPP will not be considered for the defense high-level waste repository

* Obtain additional congressional assurances that the WIPP law is not going to be changed to allow the proposed expansions.

WIPP is a public health and safety issue now and for many generations to come!

 

Thank you.

 

_______________________________________

Name

 

___________________________________________________________NM________________

Address                                                                        City                                   State                        Zip

 

 

WIPP site map

 

 

 

 

 

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads:

Treat All Los Alamos Lab Radioactive Wastes Consistently

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s role and responsibility includes gathering information regarding the hazards to the public and workers posed by the management of transuranic (TRU) wastes at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), as well as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plans to address those hazards. The Board will examine DOE’s actions taken or inadequacies addressed in the current safety policies of the various facilities that manage or store TRU wastes at LANL. The Board is also interested in understanding actions taken to improve TRU waste management at LANL after the improper handling and treatment of TRU wastes that resulted in a ruptured barrel that shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

 

The Problem

Transuranic elements have atomic numbers greater than that of uranium, which is 92. Elements within TRU are typically man-made, such as several isotopes of plutonium and americium-241. Because of the elements’ longer half-lives, TRU is disposed of more cautiously than low level radioactive waste. At LANL it is a byproduct of weapons production and nuclear research. TRU is defined by the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act as “waste containing more than 100 nanocuries of alpha-emitting transuranic isotopes per gram of waste with half-lives greater than 20 years…”

Most TRU wastes contain plutonium, which is a radioactive element. Plutonium is usually measured in terms of its radioactivity (curies or becquerels). Both the curie (Ci) and the becquerel (Bq) indicate how much a radioactive material decays every second. The half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,100 years. Plutonium-239 and plutonium-238 are alpha particle emitters. Plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 are produced in nuclear power plants when uranium-238 captures neutrons. Plutonium is used to produce plutonium pits, which are the primary triggers of nuclear weapons.

If plutonium is inhaled, some of it may get trapped in the lungs. Some of the trapped plutonium may move to other parts of the body, mainly bones and liver. The amount of plutonium that stays in the lungs depends on the solubility of the plutonium that is in the air. If plutonium were inhaled today, much of the plutonium would still be in the body 30 to 50 years later. The types of cancers most likely to develop are cancers of the lung, bones, and liver.

 

TRU Waste Removal at Los Alamos

The Board has expressed concern with the 57 possibly dangerous drums, similar to the one that shut down WIPP, that are awaiting re-packaging at LANL. These 57 drums now stored aboveground in Area G equal 13.8 cubic meters (m3) of TRU and are part of the last of the 3706 Campaign. In January 2012, DOE/LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) announced the Framework Agreement, which is a non-binding agreement that outlined commitments to prioritize the disposition of 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste from LANL to WIPP by June 2014. To date, approximately 383 m3 of the Campaign remain unshipped.

In December 2012, DOE/LANL provided a schedule for disposition of some of the below-ground TRU waste requiring retrieval at Area G. DOE/LANL committed to disposition of six below-ground categories of TRU wastes no later than September 30, 2018. These six categories were identified as (1) Pit 9; (2) Trenches A-D; (3) Corrugated Metal Pipes; (4) Hot Cell Liners; (5) Tritium Packages; and (6) the 17th Remote-Handled Canister. DOE/LANL agreed to meet milestones to disposition 250 m3 by September 30, 2015; 1,000 m3 by September 30, 2016; 1,750 m3 by September 30, 2017; and 2,395 m3 by September 30, 2018. This total of 5,395 m3 remains in the ground awaiting retrieval and disposition.

There is a seventh below-ground category, called the 33 Shafts, for which DOE agreed to complete: (1) a determination as to whether this category contains TRU waste that requires retrieval and removal; and (2) and opportunity for formal public comment under the National Environmental Policy Act regarding retrieval by no later than September 30, 2015. This is yet to be completed.

 

 

 

The 41,000 Cubic Meter TRU Elephant in the Room

Area G opened in 1957. On a volume basis, most of the waste has been placed in unlined pits. Before the mid-1990s, the waste was typically packaged in drums, plastic bags, and cardboard boxes that were then placed into the pits in lifts. Each layer of waste was covered with crushed tuff and compacted using heavy equipment to effectively fill void spaces within the waste and provided an even, consolidated surface for the disposal of more waste. This waste is in addition to the below-ground TRU waste mentioned previously. The pits and shafts at Area G range in depth from 20 to 65 feet.

The LANL- created 2011 Corrective Measures Evaluation (Rev 3) gives estimates on the waste buried at at Area G, for which current plans call to leave in the ground forever -

· Total excavated volume – 1,654,535 yd3 (1,264,982 m3)

· Total waste volume in pits and shafts – 902,815 yd3 (690,251 m3)

· Total TRU – 54,536 yd3 (41,675 m3)

· Total Mixed Low Level Radioactive Waste – 844,388 yd3 (645,580 m3)

 

Many soil samples collected around the perimeter of Area G contain detectable amounts of americium-241, plutonium-238, and plutonium-239/240. The highest levels were detected in soil samples primarily located on the perimeter of the eastern side of Area G near the Transuranic Waste Inspection Project domes.

LANL recommends only constructing an evapotranspiration (ET) cover over the pits and shafts to provide a barrier to waste and contaminated soils. The ET cover would provide a medium to hold infiltrated water until it is removed by evaporation from the surface and transpiration through vegetation. The alternative also includes constructing and operating a soil-vapor extraction (SVE) system to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in an attempt to prevent the downward migration of these VOCs to the groundwater.

Area G is located above the “sole source” (a legal term designating that extra protection is merited) regional aquifer that provides drinking water for Espanola, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos. The waste site sits in an active seismic zone between the Rio Grande Rift and the dormant Jemez supervolcano.

 

The Amazing Disappearing Trick

Federal regulations require that disposal systems for spent nuclear fuel or high-level or transuranic radioactive wastes are designed to provide a reasonable expectation, based upon performance assessments, that the cumulative releases of radionuclides to the accessible environment for 10,000 years after disposal from all significant processes and events that may affect the disposal system shall not exceed certain levels. (40 CFR §191.13 Containment Requirements)

However, most of the estimated TRU waste in Area G was disposed of before 1970. DOE guidance states that TRU regulations do not apply to disposal that occurred prior to promulgation of the regulations. The 1985 version of the regulations states that the standards do not apply to waste disposed prior to the effective date of the rule. This excludes from the regulations waste that is colloquially known as “pre-1970 TRU waste”, “suspect buried transuranic waste”, and possibly by other names, if the waste is left in place. If the waste is exhumed, the waste becomes subject to the currently applicable regulations. (DOE G 435.1 Chapter III – Transuranic Waste Requirements)

With little public notice, DOE officially approved Area G as a Low Level Radioactive Waste (LLW) disposal facility in 2010, after 100’s of thousands of cubic meters of LLW had already been disposed. But to dispose of LLW at Area G, DOE Order 435.1 required the Laboratory to have an approved performance assessment (PA)/composite analysis (CA). DOE claimed that the Area G PA demonstrated that a reasonable expectation existed that the potential releases from the facility will not exceed performance objectives established in DOE Order 435.1 during a 1000-yr period after closure. The Area G CA only accounted for all other sources of radioactive material that were planned to remain on-site at the Laboratory that may interact with the LLW disposal facility and contribute to the dose projected to a member of the public from Area G. (LANL Environmental Report 2013 2-11) The TRU in Area G was assessed in the composite analysis only to investigate its effects on the LLW, and was not assessed as waste in its own right.

 

Request for 10,000-year Assessment for Area G

The TRU waste (limited up to a total of 176,000 m3) buried 2100 feet underground in WIPP has a Performance Assessment of 10,000 years. The estimated 41,675 m3 of TRU buried 65 feet, or less, underground in Area G at LANL has a Performance Assessment of 1,000 years.

If DOE’s remediation goals are to genuinely protect public health and the environment from long-term risks, then DOE must excavate the TRU wastes in Area G for disposal at WIPP. In any event, DOE should perform a 10,000-year (not 1,000) performance assessment on ALL TRU wastes buried at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including pre-1970 TRU wastes.

 

Radioactive waste disposal practices at Los Alamos National Laboratory

 

Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads

New Cleanup Agreement Requires New Schedule and That Is About All

Following protracted negotiations, threatened litigation, and claims of imminent and substantial endangerment, the New Mexican Environment Department (NMED), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) contractor agreed to sign the original Consent Order in March 2005. Its promise was fence-to-fence cleanup of Cold War legacy waste at Los Alamos. The 2005 Consent Order was designed as a plan-to-make-a-plan, with investigations followed by cleanup and with hundreds of specific milestones. The intent was to convince DOE to increase funding for LANL cleanup by making a complete cleanup schedule subject to enforcement. The original CO had a “final compliance date” scheduled for December 6, 2015.

However, in 2012, NMED signed a “Framework Agreement” with DOE that prioritized the transfer of 3,706 cubic meters of aboveground, “transuranic” (TRU) nuclear bomb production wastes from LANL to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico. This put Consent Order cleanup on the back burner. Approximately 150 milestone extensions of the 2005 CO were granted to LANL by NMED. In February 2014, WIPP was shut down by improper packaging at LANL of a drum of this waste. Dealing with the remaining “suspect” drums (packaged at the same time) at LANL is a major priority lately instead of cleanup. This has kept the Consent Order cleanup on the back burner.

 

  • Just change the schedule

So NMED and LANL could pick a new final cleanup date, say 2030, and work backwards. Or start by adding 4 or 5 years to the old schedule for some reports and work it out from there. The point is to keep the original 2005 Consent Order language, which is very protective of the health and environment of Northern New Mexico, and just change the schedule dates. However the work is rescheduled, all the work items in the old Compliance Schedule Tables need to be addressed in new Compliance Schedule Tables with new dates given for all the work.

Recent public presentations by NMED implied that cleanup milestones in a revised CO would be assigned annually based on the anticipated budget. This would leave hundreds of cleanup items with no target date for completion and would leave cleanup at the mercy of Congressional budget winds. Any cleanup item not on the list for any given year could be outside the scope of enforcement. LANL could be in the position to not put items on the annual list and to delay cleanup forever.

If the schedule must be rearranged into some sort of “Campaign Mode” in an attempt to make cleanup more “efficient”, completion dates must be kept for every step. Every item in the Campaign must remain enforceable with concrete milestones including a final compliance date. All other items not in a Campaign must remain scheduled.

 

  • Lack of budget cannot be an excuse for lack of cleanup

Taking cleanup dollar crumbs and sprinkling them annually over some perceived priority cleanup items is the least efficient way to address the fence-to-fence cleanup of Cold War wastes at Los Alamos. Cleanup of the 70 years worth of contamination will never again be cheaper than it is this year. It is imperative that ambitious schedule be made and that it be kept.

Every day of delay means another day of Cold War radioactive and hazardous wastes leaking into the environment of Northern New Mexico.

  • Particular items to keep –  meaningful public comment and a final date

NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn stated publicly (starting at 8:00 min) that the need for a final cleanup date at Los Alamos is critical to Congress for funding. He presented a map that showed that Los Alamos National Laboratory was the only DOE weapons site without final cleanup date. (Slide 4) Instead, cleanup at LANL is listed as “TBD” (To Be Determined).

The final compliance date for the last work item must keep the Class 3 permit modification language. Please see our earlier blog for more information. This will ensure that the public can be heard at the end of the next CO and requires the opportunity for a public hearing.

There must be meaningful public input for the revised CO. NMED must give response to all comments.

A well-planned schedule with concrete milestones and final compliance dates would get the work done faster and cheaper. Course corrections with schedule adjustments will have to be made along the way. This would be expected for such a complex task. Having to adjust the schedule is no reason to throw it out. Any major rewrite of the 2005 Consent Order may only leave the future of NM less protected.

Not keeping up with changes in the 2005 Consent Order schedule is the main reason that the CO needs to be revised today. We currently find ourselves with cleanup of legacy wastes in such disarray that it seems that the only fix is to start over. But there is no reason not to just update the original 2005 schedule. Secretary Flynn has stated that the 2005 Consent Order is still in effect.

Today we could be looking at a known Consent Order with a new schedule. Instead we may end up with NMED and DOE renegotiating some untried document with unknown benefits and an unknown schedule.

Cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory is too important to leave as TBD.

 

DOE Cold War Sites Closure Dates map

Current Estimated Dates for Final Cleanup of Cold War Nuclear Weapons Sites

 

 

 

 

 

This article has some details on future expanded plutonium pit production and related facility upgrades and new construction at the Los Alamos Lab.

1) Brig. Gen. S.L. Davis, NNSA acting deputy administrator for defense programs, explicitly ties future underground “modules” to the 50 to 80 pits per year production rate. That is the most explicit statement I’ve seen so far on that.  The admission that they can do up to 30 pits per year without the modules is also useful.

2) NNSA and LANL all talk about the statutory requirement for expanded pit production (from the FY 2015 Defense Authorization Act). That came from the nuclear neocons in the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee (one of the staff guys that wrote that legislation is originally from Sandia Labs). They required expanded production regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile.  It is worth noting that after LANL finished producing 29 W88 pits in 2011 for the stockpile, there has been no further pit production scheduled, essentially because the existing stockpile doesn’t need it.

3) Nevertheless, LANL is tooling up to produce W87 pits for the Interoperable Warhead, which has been delayed for at least 5 years and which the Navy doesn’t want.  So the whole thing is a house of cards.  The real question is whether the appropriators will fund expanded plutonium pit production, and specifically where Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) will stand on that. He’s on the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Jay Coghlan

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

http://www.abqjournal.com/721642/news/los-alamos-lab-would-get-2-1-billion-in-obamas-proposed-budget.html

Los Alamos lab would get $2.1 billion in proposed budget; officials discuss plans for making plutonium `pits’
By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 10:57am
Updated: Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 5:40pm

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Obama adminstration’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget for the Department of Energy, released Tuesday, allocates $2.1 billion for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

That’s down from $2.2 billion that the new budget document says was “enacted” for the current fiscal year but up from $1.9 billion in Department of Energy funding that was included in the administration’s request for last year.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said the new documents show an additional $200 million was added to the lab’s nuclear weapons program during FY 2016.

The budget, released Tuesday, also calls for $189 million for clean up of decades-worth of radioactive and hazardous materials at LANL, about the same as in recent years.

LANL is under a directive to resume production of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear weapons, as part of changes and upgrades to the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile.

Previous DOE documents have indicated that plans to add to new underground “modules” at Los Alamos for the plutonium work were planned, for a cost estimated at a whopping $2 billion or more.

The new budget request doesn’t advance the “module” idea, leaving the plans for pit production facilities open to interpretation. The budget request says that the “remaining mission need” can be met with other alternatives.

“A common interpretation from all this is that the administration has more time to think about it,” said Greg Mello of the anti-nuclear Los Alamos Study Group. “We think it’s great they should take the time to think more clearly… before plunking capital asset money on the table.”

LANL’s Radiological, Utility, and Office Building is now projected to be a $1.44 billion building. DOE recently endorsed plans to expand RLOUB’s plutonium handling capacity by more than 10 times to 400 grams, apparently as part of the pit production plan. Critics say the building was not built as a nuclear facility.

During a press briefing today (Wednesday, Feb. 10), a Journal reporter asked officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration about potential pit production facilities.

Brig. Gen. S.L. Davis, acting deputy administrator for defense programs, said, “Under the current capabilities we have in the projects we have going, we’re going to be able to do ten pits in 2024, 20 pits in 2025, and 30 pits in 2026.

“To get to the 50-80 pits dictated by statute we’d have to do additional construction. In the current budget, we have some money for design of a plutonium capability. We’re currently undergoing an analysis of alternatives to see if that would be, in fact, plutonium modules at Los Alamos or perhaps some other alternatives, but at this point there is no money for funding of the major construction item to do that in the current budget.”

NNSA administrator Frank Klotz, said that to make sure the agency has the capacity for plutonium operations, “we are undergoing several projects basically to move things out of the old chemical and metallurgy facility building by repurposing space” in the building known as Plutionium Facility-4 in and in RLUOB.

“We have some significant funding going to subprojects associated with that,” said Klotz. He said that in the fiscal year 2017 budget, there’s about $6 million “which will be used for the development of the conceptual design for an analysis alternatives for the additional capacity we need at Los Alamos to do pit manufacturing.”

“In the out years, we have put in $12 million per year for the plutonium modular approach,” Klotz said. “We recognize that is not nearly enough money to do that. However, until we go through the analysis alternatives and until we do our internal and external independent cost estimations and all of the environmental assessments and all the other things that needs to be done before we can come up with a realistic estimate in terms of what that we’ll be.

“We’ll be back in the FY 18 or 19 budget when we have done all that due diligence and have better figures for that.”

Nuke Watch’s Coghlan said of the overall DOE budget, with $9.3 billion for the weapons activities within the National Nuclear Security Administration: “Recall that President Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Instead, the last budget of his administrations sets an all time record for funding Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs. What this means at Los Alamos is that the Lab’s future is being increasingly tied to expanded production of plutonium pits, the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.”

 

For immediate release February 2, 2016

Watchdogs Call for Renewed Investigation of Corruption at Los Alamos Lab and Questionable Suicide of Former Deputy Director

Santa Fe, NM – Today three well-known whistleblowers sent a certified letter to Mr. Damon Martinez, the US Attorney for the District of New Mexico, asking him to reopen an investigation into fraud and corruption at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the questionable suicide in 2002 of the then-recently retired Lab Deputy Director. Mr. Damon is the top federal law enforcement official in New Mexico, and also serves as the Chair of the National Lab/Research University Working Group for US Attorneys. Therefore, he should be uniquely qualified to address the whistleblowers’ concerns.

Glenn Walp and Steve Doran were hired in 2002 by LANL to investigate fraud at the Lab after it had been repeatedly rocked by security and corruption scandals. However, senior Lab officials summarily fired them without cause before they could complete their investigations. During their long careers in law enforcement they were respectively, among other things, Commissioner of Pennsylvania State Police and police chief of Idaho City, Idaho. The third whistleblower, Chuck Montaño, is a multi-credentialed auditor and investigator who worked at LANL for 32 years. He became a federally protected whistleblower after reporting accounting malpractice and abuses that he had witnessed for years, and for which Lab management retaliated against him.

In their letter to Mr. Martinez, the three whistleblowers state that their main concern is the need for law enforcement to fully investigate the claimed suicide in 2002 of LANL’s second-in-command, former Deputy Director of Operations Richard Burick. Specifically at issue was the gun found at the scene of his death, and the improbability of this particular type of handgun being left in the state and condition that it was found in if truly used in a suicide. Steve Doran, who is a highly qualified investigator, and other weapon experts have concluded that it is impossible that the gun in question would have landed where it did, with an open, undamaged chamber, had it been truly used in a suicide.

In the same period of time as Burick’s claimed suicide, the criminal investigation of major procurement fraud at LANL was derailed by the Lab’s hasty firing of Walp and Doran. This, in turn, prevented a congressional committee from learning the full scope of potential criminal activity. Since then, new information has emerged that possibly links the corruption to Burick’s suicide, which the three whistleblowers assert deserves serious investigation by federal law enforcement.

The whistleblowers are coming forth now with their letter to the US Attorney for New Mexico prompted in part by a recent article by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a respected national organization that investigates and publicizes government waste, fraud and abuse. The POGO article concluded that if there were ever to be full accountability at LANL, “a new investigation into Richard Burick’s alleged suicide would be a good place to start.”

Walp, Doran and Montaño are also motivated by the recent announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration that the LANL management contract will be competed in 2017. Their concern is that a full and complete investigation is needed in order to clean house and help ensure that one of the premier nuclear weapons labs, long plagued by scandal, is properly managed in the future, free of any possible reoccurrence of fraud and corruption. They believe that it is imperative that decision makers know the full extent of what transpired in order to know how best to proceed with the award of the new contract. Without a deeper understanding and accountability before the award is made, it is possible that the LANL management contract will end up in the hands of those largely responsible for the cover-up of past mismanagement at the Los Alamos Lab, or even worse the possible obstruction of justice that occurred.

Former Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Glenn Walp commented, “Unless the consortium contractors for the Los Alamos National Laboratory consciously and aggressively resolve their perpetual management and operational failings, the lab will remain a haven for crime, corruption and cover-ups; perhaps it is time to shut it down.”

Former Police Chief Steve Doran asserted, “Corruption at Los Alamos must be taken out at the roots and those responsible brought to justice. This will build a strong national laboratory system that can be both trusted and productive.”

Federally protected whistleblower Chuck Montaño added, “The Los Alamos Lab is a cash cow for the military-industrial complex, and because politicians are so beholden to these corporations, there’s zero accountability for the fraud, waste and abuse that keeps occurring in Los Alamos. We are seeking to end that by asking the US Attorney for New Mexico to intervene and go wherever the facts may take him. ”

# # #

 The Walp/Doran/Montaño letter to Mr. Damon Martinez, US Attorney for New Mexico, is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Letter-NM-US-Attorney-LANL-fraud.pdf

The Project on Government Oversight’s article Once Upon a Time in Los Alamos is available at http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/once-upon-a-time-los-alamos.html

Chuck Montaño’s book Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths chronicling his 32 years working at the Los Alamos Lab and becoming a federally protected whistleblower is available at http://losalamosdiary.com/index.html

Glenn Walp’s book Implosion at Los Alamos on his hiring and firing investigating corruption and fraud at the Los Alamos Lab is available at http://www.implosionatlosalamos.com/

Jan 252016
 

Baseless Claims?

In the January 20th, 2016 Albuquerque Journal article, Nuclear Watch to sue over LANL cleanup problems, by Mark Oswald, there is an interesting quote from New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Secretary, Ryan Flynn, in response to our notice of intent to sue DOE/LANL.

“Flynn said Wednesday, “These are nothing more than baseless claims being peddled by a radical group that insists on wasting everybody’s time with empty threats and manufactured disputes, which helps them grab headlines and juices their fundraising efforts.””

The main point in Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Notice of Intent to sue is based on the calendar. In particular, the mandatory final compliance report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order Compliance Schedule was to be submitted by December 6, 2015.

The report was not submitted by December 6, 2015.

It is now January 25, 2016, which is after December 6, 2015.

The final report is late – see calendar.

The federal law that was incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order, and the Consent Order itself, specify certain actions that must be taken when a deliverable does not meet its due date. For instance, DOE/LANL must request an extension. In the case of extending this final scheduled compliance deadline, there are “Class 3” permit modification requirements, like the opportunity for a public hearing, that are required.

Interestingly, because NukeWatch believes that the ball is DOE/LANL’s court to request an extension of time for the December 6, 2015 report, NMED is not named in our notice of intent to sue.

 

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