On July 13, 2015 the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed entitled The Fading U.S. Nuclear Deterrent by Robert Monroe, a retired Navy vice admiral and  former director of the Defense Nuclear Agency. The op-ed’s byline is “The next president must restore America’s aging arsenal to face a world of new atomic threats.” Among other things Monroe argues for “an entirely new nuclear-weapons stockpile, including specialized low-yield advanced weapons” and that “military force must be used if necessary” to prevent others from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Jim Doyle submitted the following to The Wall Street Journal seeking to challenge the op-ed’s inaccuracies, which the Journal rejected. Jim is the nonproliferation expert fired by the Los Alamos Lab after writing a study arguing for nuclear weapons abolition. He is also a crucial member of Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Steering Committee.

Response to the Inaccurate Wall St. Journal Op-Ed “The Faded U.S. Nuclear Deterrent”

 ”The Fading U.S. Nuclear Deterrent,” By Robert R. Monroe is loaded with factual inaccuracies and bad advice for America’s national security policymakers.  As a consequence, Mr. Monroe’s essay is political theater, void of any logical strategic thinking.  Unfortunately, Mr. Monroe targets a vulnerability we all share – fear.   But America should not scare itself into making bad decisions with our finite national defense resources.

Now and for the foreseeable future our nuclear forces are in no danger of failing to provide deterrence against nuclear attack.  Increasingly however, the United States and its allies face a growing panoply of threats including radical Islam, cyber attacks and the consequences of environmental degradation that are immune to nuclear firepower.  US national security strategy must make balanced investments in defensive capabilities that can address the full spectrum of threats.  Contrary to what Mr. Monroe advocates, defense investments based on a nostalgic preoccupation with the meaningless concept of “nuclear superiority” will weaken America over time and increase our vulnerability to the most likely threats.

Mr. Monroe claims that the “U.S. began a debilitating nuclear freeze” at the end of the Cold War.  This is pure disinformation.  During the 20 years from 1990-2010 the US completed deployment of the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile and the B-2 stealth strategic nuclear bomber and rebuilt the entire Minuteman III land-based nuclear missile force.  Additional upgrades to nuclear command and control and warhead accuracy provided the US with the world’s most capable nuclear force.  It remains that way today.

During this same timeframe Russia’s nuclear capabilities declined precipitously. By 2006, it had 55 percent fewer intercontinental ballistic missiles, 39 percent fewer strategic bombers, and 80 percent fewer ballistic-missile submarines compared to 1990. The Russian nuclear arsenal continued its decline until approximately 2010 when its nuclear modernization programs began to come on line and initiate restoration of nuclear capabilities that had been maintained by the Soviet Union.  China’s nuclear forces with fewer than 250 deployed nuclear warheads remain small compared to the US and Russia which each possess more than 1,500 deployed warheads.

Ironically, nuclear superiority over the last 25 years has not provided America with the strategic advantages implied by Mr. Monroe.  Nuclear weapons did not help secure any meaningful victory in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or Syria, did not prevent the rise of Al Qaida, ISIS and Boko Harem or deter Russia’s actions in Georgia and Ukraine.  Nuclear weapons did not check China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, or thwart the DPRK’s acquisition and testing of nuclear weapons.  Nuclear weapons cannot give their possessors the ability to prevent or defeat these threats.  Other non-nuclear military, diplomatic and strategic capabilities are required.

Mr. Monroe urges us to dismiss President Obama’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons as an “impossible vision” that is “terribly damaging” to America.  Perhaps he is comfortable with successive generations of Americans living with the threat of nuclear holocaust for time immemorial.  Fortunately, he is in a minority that believes nuclear deterrence can work forever without fail.  Science and rationality tell us it cannot.

The most alarming of Mr. Monroe’s fantasies is his description of nuclear deterrence: “You threaten your adversary with intolerable consequences if he does not comply with your demands. Then, through reinforcing actions, you convince him that you have the will and capability to carry out your threat.” Your threat, of course is mutual nuclear suicide.  These sound like the delusions of General Jack Ripper from the film Dr. Strangelove, or the motto of so many failed empires that have tried to rule the world.

Mr. Monroe also claims “for the past two decades nuclear deterrence has been missing from the U.S. toolbox.”  Bullocks.  Nuclear deterrence is a condition that obtains when any nation has the ability to threaten nuclear attack or devastating nuclear retaliation. It has never been absent from US strategy since the deployment of nuclear weapons in 1945. The delusion to which Mr. Monroe ascribes is that nuclear weapons somehow allow us to reliably influence the decisions of our adversaries.  They can never provide this capability.

Mr. Monroe advocates the production and testing of “an entirely new nuclear-weapons stockpile, including specialized low-yield advanced weapons.”  Such a course of action will not give America the ability to achieve the outcomes it desires in the world.  It will most likely encourage other nations to accelerate plans to increase their nuclear arsenals and acquire similar capabilities as some are now doing.

America’s nuclear deterrent is not rusting away but as former US statesmen Schultz, Kissinger, Perry and Nunn have repeatedly warned in these pages “nuclear deterrence is becoming decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous.” For now American must and is maintaining a more-than-sufficient nuclear deterrent.  But developing and testing new types of nuclear bombs and engaging in a new nuclear arms race will not make that deterrent more effective against the full range of threats nor less hazardous.  The world’s nuclear weapons addiction leads only to disaster.  America, with it partners and allies, needs to lead the way to a better system for international stability and development.

James E. Doyle

 

The Center for Public Integrity has come out with a hard-hitting article about illegal lobbying by the world’s biggest defense contractor Lockheed Martin to extend its management contract of the Sandia Labs. Sandia contracted former congresswoman Heather Wilson for consulting services that had no written work requirements, although she denies engaging in illegal lobbying activity. Notably, Wilson was the groomed successor to the powerful Republican senator Pete Domenici (“St. Pete” to the labs for the money be brought them), but was defeated by Tom Udall in the 2007 race for the Senate after Domenici retired. Ironically, the “liberal” Udall now functions as the new Pete Domenici from the same budget seat in the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. My point is how deeply in bed the New Mexican congressional delegation is with the nuclear weapons industry in this state, no matter which political party they come from.

But this business about Lockheed Martin engaging in illegal lobbying to extend its Sandia contract takes it to a whole new level. We believe this is a story that won’t go away – - more developments are bound to come. Looking ahead, because of its illegal activities Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s position is that Lockheed Martin should be barred from competing for the Sandia Labs contract when the National Nuclear Security Administration next puts it out for bid, currently scheduled for next year.

The Center for Public Integrity’s must-read article is at

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/07/08/17628/nuclear-weapons-lab-lobbied-federal-funds-block-competition-lucrative-c

excerpts:

““Given the specific prohibitions against such activity, we could not comprehend the logic of using Federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition,” [DOE Inspector General] Friedman said in the report….

In 2009, the report explains, Sandia Corp. hired a consulting firm headed by former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico, and two unnamed former employees of the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, at least one of whom previously had oversight authority at the lab. Wilson’s company, Heather Wilson, LLC, provided explicit directions about how to influence the most crucial decision-makers in the contract-award process, according to the IG report.” – End -

A few comments on the article follow, notably begun by Heather Wilson herself, followed by yours truly and Jim Doyle.

Heather Wilson ·

Rapid City, South Dakota

For your readers, this is what I said to the reporter of this story: “The full report confirms what I have said all along. I was not a lobbyist for Sandia and I did not contact any federal official — Congressional or Executive — to try to extend the Sandia contract. I was not a member of the “Sandia Contract Strategy Team” that is criticized in the report. Interestingly, someone’s notes from a conversation with me contained in this full report confirm that I advised that contract extension activities should be done by Lockheed Martin, not Sandia. That is the same position taken by the Department of Energy Inspector General.
Jay Coghlan ·

Executive Director at Nuclear Watch New Mexico

I am not contesting what former Congresswoman Wilson says below. But it should be noted that Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a FOIA request and got her contract with the Sandia Labs. It makes clear that she entered into that contract with Sandia Labs while still serving in congressional office, and started getting paid $10,000 a month the day after she left office. See http://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/HeatherWilson-Sandia contract-invoices.pdf

Ms. Wilson then went on to get a similar contract with the Los Alamos Lab. The DOE IG reported that both contracts had no written work requirements. Pretty sweet work if you can get it, $20K a month, and for what?

The Los Alamos and Sandia Labs had to pay back the government the ~$425,000 they paid Wilson, but as far we know she kept the money. Perhaps she didn’t do anything technically illegal, but it sure doesn’t pass the smell test. Especially when she ran for the U.S. Senate as a strong supporter of the nuclear weapons labs that had paid her. She has also served on the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance Structure of the National Nuclear Security Administration that made recommendations favorable to the labs. We think she should have resigned from that panel when her conflicts-of-interest were revealed.

That is history. The more profound question now is should Lockheed Martin be allowed to bid for the Sandia contract next year when it has clearly engaged in illegal lobbying activity? Nuclear Watch New Mexico thinks not.

Jay Coghlan
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
www.nukewatch.org

Jim Doyle ·

Works at Self-Employed

I certainly have to object to the reported view of Sandia’s Lockheed-Martin management that it is “not merely in the corporation’s best interest, but in the country’s for Lockheed-Martin, Sandia, and the nation to work together towards influencing DOE to retain the Lockheed-Martin team.” Why would it be to the nation’s best interest to retain a contractor that allowed costs for it largest project, the B-61 nuclear bomb refurbishment, to skyrocket from an estimated $4 billion in 2010 to more than $8 billion today? I do not call this good management. The nation deserves better.

 

[Jim’s self-description as self-employed is an understatement. He is a former Los Alamos Lab nonproliferation expert who authored a study arguing for nuclear weapons abolition, which ultimately led to his firing.  He is now self-employed as an independent nuclear weapons nonproliferation expert, and among many other things serves on Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Steering Committee.]

 

 

Peace Farm

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

For immediate release June 30, 2015

Contacts: Cletus (Jerry) Stein, Board President, Peace Farm, 806.351.2744, cletus@arn.net

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, NWNM, 505.989.7342, jay@nukewatch.org

Watchdog Groups Seek Info

On Alleged Rat Shootings in Nuclear Weapons Facilities

Amarillo, TX – Today, the Peace Farm and Nuclear Watch New Mexico have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and sent a letter to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R.-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The two groups are seeking additional information concerning a startling remark he made in a June 23, 2015 speech entitled “A Strategy for America.” In that speech, he argued for “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and its supporting research and production complex. Along with new nuclear-armed missiles, subs and bombers, this modernization is expected to cost taxpayers a trillion dollars over the next 30 years. As an example of why it is needed, Thornberry said

We have lost people, engineers in the nuclear complex, who go work in the energy industry, partly because they had to, well, shoot rats off of their lunch in some of the facilities that they were working in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLdCpbe8IZ0, beginning minute 45:49

On the same day the trade newspaper Defense Daily quoted Thornberry as saying

 Nuclear engineers no longer consider national laboratories “desirable” places to work, ”partly because they had to shoot rats off their lunch in some of the facilities that they were working in.” (Quotation marks indicate the newspaper’s direct quotes of Thornberry) http://www.defensedaily.com/hasc-chair-increase-u-s-defense-spending-to-counter-russian-nuke-modernization/

 Rep. Mac Thornberry represents the 13th congressional district in the Texas Panhandle. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) site for the final assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons, the Pantex Plant, is located in that district, 17 miles northeast of Amarillo. A local watchdog and peace group, The Peace Farm, has long monitored nuclear weapons programs at Pantex.

The Peace Farm’s Board President Cletus (Jerry) Stein, who lives in the 13th district, commented, “I am surprised to hear what my congressman House Armed Services Chairman Thornberry has reported. The Peace Farm wants to know who is doing the rat shooting and where this occurs. Does this possibly mean that employees are carrying personal firearms and weapons at some of the nation’s most sensitive nuclear weapons facilities? Is this shooting taking place near explosives and nuclear materials? Is this occurring at Pantex? Mr. Thornberry’s remarks raise a number of serious safety and security questions that we are keen to have answered.”

Nuclear weapons modernization begins with very expensive “Life Extension Programs” for each type of nuclear weapon in the planned stockpile, performed at Pantex and the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, TN. Thornberry is on record stating that Life Extension Programs and not dismantlements are the priority at Pantex. An estimated 2,500 nuclear weapons are in the queue for disassembly, and dismantlements are proven to enhance security and permanently save taxpayers money. A December 2013 Government Accountability Office study found that the Navy saved $190 million through accelerated dismantlements, which eliminated the need to build a new safe and secure storage facility.

To help foster better public understanding of the need (or not) for a trillion dollar taxpayer investment in nuclear weapons modernization, and some of the stated rationales in support of that investment, the Peace Farm and Nuclear Watch New Mexico have filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Nuclear Security Administration. Nuclear Watch has extensive FOIA experience, and has twice won FOIA litigation in federal court. In this instance, the two groups are asking for documentation of where and when these reported rat shootings occurred, whether authorized personnel did the shooting, and if explosives and nuclear materials were within bullet range.

The two groups have also requested more information directly from Rep. Mac Thornberry, in his capacity as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

# # #

The joint Peace Farm – Nuclear Watch New Mexico Freedom of Information Act request is available at

http://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Peace-Farm-NWNM-FOIA-Request-RatShootings-Nuclear-Facilities.pdf

Their joint letter to Rep. Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is available at

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Peace-Farm-NukeWatch-Thornberry-Letter.pdf

 
Putin clearly cannot be trusted, but this article is very one sided. First, it is alarmist to say Putin is “adding” 40 ICBMs. Instead, Russia is replacing old ones and, as the article points out, staying within New START limits. Putin claims that these new ICBMs are more capable of penetrating missile defenses. But this is largely in response to George W. Bush unilaterally tearing up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a profoundly negative watershed in U.S. –Russian relations. And above all is continuous expansion of NATO to Russia’s border. The Russian military will be keenly aware that the life extension program for the B61 bomb that Tom Udall so ardently supports will create the world’s first nuclear smart bomb. This is contrary to U.S. claims that it only maintains stockpile safety and reliability and would never give existing nuclear weapons new military capabilities. The revamped bomb’s main mission is forward deployment in Europe against Russia.

The much-quoted ex-Sandia director Paul Robinson was prominent in undermining U.S. ratification of the long-sought-for Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by damning it with faint praise in 1999 congressional testimony. The CTBT failed, but the labs kept the quid pro quo money for so-called Stockpile Stewardship. There is hardly a nuke that Robinson doesn’t like. In the past, he argued for a “To Whom it May Concern” target list (fill in the blank) for U.S. nuclear weapons.

Finally, the 900 pound gorilla.  This article has no mention of U.S. plans to spend at least a trillion dollars over the next 30 years on “modernization” of nuclear forces. This will rebuild every existing type of nuclear weapon in the planned stockpile, and buy completely new missiles, subs and bombers to deliver them. That makes Putin look like a chump.

You bet that the for-profit, giant defense contractors running the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs (Bechtel and Lockheed Martin) and their politicians are closely watching deteriorating relations with Russia (which the U.S. has done so much to cause). They can hear the cash registers going ca-ching, ca-ching! Meanwhile, as schools and bridges are falling apart and the 70th anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings approach, the nuclear weapons labs are internally trumpeting “The Second Nuclear Age.”

Jay Coghlan,

NukeWatch Director

Putin’s plans to add nukes closely watched in New Mexico

By Michael Coleman / Journal Washington Bureau
PUBLISHED: Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 12:02 am

WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week that he plans to add 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to his country’s nuclear arsenal could have implications for New Mexico’s nuclear weapons laboratories and the spending debate on Capitol Hill.

Putin’s announcement was a blunt reminder of Russia’s nuclear might amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Relations between Russia and the West have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War with Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russia separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

“Over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of penetrating any, even the most technologically advanced, missile defense systems, will join the nuclear forces in the current year,” Putin said.

The declaration came at the opening of an arms show at a shooting range in Alabino, just west of Moscow. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Putin’s nuclear weapons declaration was troubling.

“Putin’s military aggression is disturbing on a number of fronts,” Udall told the Journal. “A nuclear conflict should never occur in today’s world, and the U.S. and Russia should continue to commit to our agreements to reduce these weapons and prevent proliferation to additional countries.”

Russia’s nuclear developments are likely to be closely watched by workers at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

“These developments do underscore the importance of the work at our national nuclear labs, which keep the nation’s arsenal safe, secure and reliable, and provide critical capabilities to track and prevent proliferation,” Udall said.
UDALL: This military aggression is “disturbing”

UDALL: This military aggression is “disturbing”

Last year, Russia added 38 ICBMs to its arsenal, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Modernizing its nuclear forces is a top priority for the Russian military, which needs to gradually decommission its aging Soviet-built ICBMs.

No violation

Nuclear policy experts interviewed by the Journal this week said the addition of the nuclear weapons would not put Russia in violation of the 2010 New START agreement, in which the U.S. and Russia both agreed to nuclear weapons limits.

“Putin’s move is mainly symbolic, because 40 more ICBMs does not significantly affect the strategic balance and keeps Russia within the limits of the New START agreement,” said Gary Samore, who served for four years as President Barack Obama’s White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Rodney Wilson, director of nonproliferation programs at Sandia, referred the Journal‘s questions about implications for the New Mexico lab to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the labs.

An NNSA spokeswoman also declined to comment on the labs’ work related to Russian nuclear arms issues and instead referred the Journal‘s questions to the State Department or the White House.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed Putin’s pledge to build more nuclear weapons as “saber-rattling” and said it “does nothing to de-escalate conflict.”

“The United States has repeatedly stressed our commitment to the collective defense of our NATO allies,” Earnest told reporters at the White House this week. “That is a commitment that we are willing to back up with action, if necessary. And that stands in pretty stark contrast to the saber-rattling that we’ve seen from Mr. Putin.

“And you could also make a case – and I think with some credibility – that invoking the nuclear arsenal is even an escalation of that saber-rattling,” Earnest added. “That’s unnecessary and not constructive.”

The U.S. and the EU have slapped Russia with economic sanctions, and Washington and its NATO allies have pondered an array of measures in response to Russia’s moves toward Ukraine. The three Baltic members of the alliance – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have asked NATO to permanently deploy ground troops to their nations as a deterrent against an increasingly assertive Russia.

And Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak says he and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter have held talks about placing U.S. heavy army equipment in Poland. The uptick in Russia’s nuclear ambitions would seem to stymie President Barack Obama’s call for a nuclear-free world during a much heralded 2009 speech in Prague in which Obama vowed “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Asked whether there is a possibility of another U.S.-Russian arms race, Earnest suggested that Russia – hit hard by falling energy prices – may not be able to afford Putin’s latest nuclear pledge.

“There are legitimate questions that have been raised about whether or not Russia would be able to succeed in following through on many of the claims and threats that President Putin has had to offer,” Earnest said.

Work at labs

Paul Robinson, a former director of Sandia National Laboratories, said Putin’s announcement last week reinforces the importance of the work done at Sandia and Los Alamos, which are integral to the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.

Both labs are heavily involved in maintaining the nuclear stockpile, and working to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and materials around the world.
ROBINSON: Concerned about a new weapon

ROBINSON: Concerned about a new weapon

“Nuclear deterrence is just as important as it ever was, and to say we’re going to relax and we don’t have to worry about strategic war any more would be a huge mistake,” Robinson said in a Journal interview, adding that he is concerned about Russia’s reported work on developing a new tactical nuclear weapon that would emit low radiation and could be used in conventional warfare.

“I think it is time for us to worry about it,” said Robinson, who was an ambassador and chief negotiator during U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms talks in Geneva in the 1980s.

“Clearly, if these things are going to arise again to threaten our future, (the labs) would do almost anything they could in being a part to protect it.”

Steven Pifer, director of Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, said Putin’s announcement might trigger additional sympathy for nuclear weapons spending on Capitol Hill. Nuclear weapons budgets remain steady – including for work on the B61 Life Extension Project carried out at both New Mexico labs – but some in Congress are questioning the need for increases.

“My guess is that it might increase a little bit the push for doing more on the nuclear side, but I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact,” Pifer said.

“The more worrisome thing is, why does Putin feel the need to keep talking about nuclear weapons? I sincerely hope he does not see these things as weapons of coercion, because that could be potentially very dangerous. I hope there are sensible people around him who are explaining to him just exactly what one should do to manage nuclear weapons in a responsible way.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

WIPP Sold With a 10,000 Year Guarantee

WIPP CRA Meeting June 17 2015, Albuquerque, NM

 

10,000 years ago:

  • Jericho has been inhabited for a thousand years
  • Many megafauna go extinct, including the giant ground sloths, woolly rhinoceros, cave bear, and sabre-toothed cats (Mammoths survive in small groups for another 6500 years)
  • Cattle are domesticated and the plow is invented
  • In what is now northern Iraq, cultivation of barley and wheat begins.
  • Beer is first brewed.

 

10,000 years from now:

  • Sea levels will rise 3 to 4 meters
  • Technological civilization could reach end of its lifespan
  • Humanity has a 95% probability of being extinct
  • Pioneer 10 will pass within 3.8 light years of Barnard’s Star
  • The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, for nuclear weapons waste, is planned to be protected until this time, with a “Permanent Marker” system designed to warn off visitors through both multiple languages (the six UN languages and Navajo) and through pictograms

 

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency officials are also guaranteeing that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeast New Mexico will not release larger amounts of radiation for 10,000 yrs from the time that WIPP closes. Before recent events, WIPP was to end operations in the 2030 to 2035 timeframe when the last underground waste panel was full of nuclear weapons generated transuranic waste. Then there will be a 5-10 year period where it will be filled in and closed.

This 10,000-year guarantee is reevaluated and recertified every 5 years during a Compliance Recertification Application (CRA) process. EPA, has a unique authority – included in the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act – regarding radiation. EPA could deny certification and close WIPP down.  EPA last recertified WIPP in November 2010. The recertification decision is not subject to judicial review.

The protection requirement focuses on the annual radiation dose to a person living on the surface just outside the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (LWA) boundary. In particular, the LWA requires that the “WIPP be constructed in such a manner as to provide a reasonable expectation that, for 10,000 years after disposal, undisturbed performance of the disposal system will not cause the annual committed effective dose equivalent (hereafter called “dose”) to exceed 15 millirems (mrem) (150 microsieverts) to any member of the public in the accessible environment.” (Pg. 55-1)

The difference this go ‘round is that a waste drum, improperly packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory, released radiation and contaminated 21 workers at WIPP in February 2014.  WIPP has been closed since then. Hundreds of similarly improperly packaged drums are still in the underground at WIPP.

But wait, due to the CRA cycle, input data for this CRA was cut off in December 2012. It is unclear how information from the 2014 accident will impact this CRA. What is WIPP but the sum of all its operations? But DOE claims that current operations will not cause any radiation releases for the 10,000 years after WIPP closes.

 

How can such a claim be made? DOE uses computer modeling to do a Performance Assessment (PA). DOE claims that the information can be boiled down to a simple chart. 

Figure PA- 83. CRA-2014 PA and CRA-2009 PABC Overall Mean CCDFs for Total Normalized Releases

I can’t explain it but I was assured that that the 2014 CRA showed that WIPP was safer for 10,000 years than the 2009 CRA showed. (The solid 2014 curve is farther away the notched “Release Limits” line than the dashed red 2009 curve.) Image that – WIPP allegedly got safer in the last 5 years.

 

I guess the good news is that DOE and EPA are thinking about 10,000 years. The bad news is that we have to. We cannot continue to generate this waste that is only safe into the future because some software deems it so. The existing radioactive waste should be monitored and stored as close to the generating site, as safely as possible, where it was generated.

The radioactive isotope of the transuranic waste in WIPP is mostly plutonium 239. Plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,000 yrs – more than twice the time addressed in this assessment.

 

Thanks to all who came out to the WIPP/EPA meetings last Wednesday, June 17.  And thanks for your concern in this important issue.

 

Read Olivier Uyttebrouck’s Albuquerque Journal Report on the afternoon session.

There is a video of the evening session comments.

All the Compliance Recertification Application documents are here

 

There is an opportunity to comment.

Please consider commenting that:

EPA must consider including all aspects of the Feb 2014 accident in this CRA.

EPA must forward all public comments to DOE for an official response.

EPA must re-inspect LANL before it can ship to WIPP.

EPA should re-inspect and approve all waste generating sites related to waste characterization before allowing WIPP to reopen.

Do not recertify WIPP until an independent qualified organization (independent of DOE, DOE con) provides an analysis that WIPP operation meets the intents and the promises made to New Mexico, is compliant with all statutory and regulatory requirements.

 

Please contact me if you have any questions.

 

 
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.

 

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