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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consent Order Stipulated Penalty Documents for Federal Fiscal Year 2015

LANL Consent Order Extensions as of Jan 6 2015

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

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

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

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

 

 

 
WIPP TAT 15Mar 350 degrees

DOE releases Investigation of Incident at WIPP by Technical Assessment Team

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

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

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

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

 

The following key judgments led to and support that conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

More to come as we continue to study the report.

Read the TAT Fact Sheet here.

Read the full report here.

 

 

The New Mexican

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

Letters to the editor, March 10, 2015

Department of Energy waste needs to be cleaned up

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

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

Sasha Pyle

Santa Fe

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

 

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

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

Tom Udall’s Unlikely Alliance With the Chemical Industry

By MARCH 6, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

NM Senator Tom Udall

NM Senator Martin Heinrich

NM Congressional Representative Ben Ray Lujan

 

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

For immediate release.  March 4, 2015

Watchdog Groups Praise NNSA Decision to Obey the Law,

Prepare Supplement Analysis on Bomb Plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

 

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

GROUPS JOIN TO DEMAND ANSWERS ABOUT BOMB PLANT PLANS

For immediate release: March 2, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

Feb 272015
 

The New Mexican
Feb. 26, 2015
Letter to the Editor

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/letters-to-the-editor-feb/article_74b054a2-432f-5f0e-8fb1-ec972291a10f.html

Udall’s stand

A recent New Mexican article (“Udall weighs in on LANL’s next mission: Pits,” Feb. 22) quotes Sen. Tom Udall, “As long as we have nuclear weapons, they have to have pits, and Los Alamos does that.” He then goes on to hope that future international agreements would lower the need for plutonium “pit” cores of nuclear weapons.

Udall explicitly supported a huge new plutonium facility at LANL for expanded pit production, and a “life extension program” for an existing nuclear weapon that is creating the world’s first nuclear smart bomb. Expanded plutonium pit production is for future life extension programs that seek to not only indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons, but also give them new military capabilities, despite U.S. government denials. Udall can’t have it both ways, wishing for future limits on plutonium pit production while supporting the very programs and facilities that will expand production. He needs to stand up, pick one or the other, and make clear whether he is working for a world free of nuclear weapons or not.

Jay Coghlan
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Santa Fe.

 

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 2, 2015
Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342

DOE Nuclear Weapons Budget Up 10%, Equals Cold War Record
Huge Startup for Nuclear Cruise Missile Warhead
$4 Billion Slated for LANL Plutonium Pit Production Facilities
Cleanup and Dismantlement Funding Remain Flat


Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts October 1, 2015.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, and has perennially been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayers’ money. Despite that, the Obama Administration is giving NNSA nuclear weapons programs a 10.5% jump in funding to $8.85 billion. (1) This is statistically equal to the Cold War high point in 1985 under President Reagan’s military buildup. (2) Moreover, the NNSA’s nuclear weapons budget is slated to rise to $9.8 billion by 2020, nearly double that of the Cold War average. All of this is the beginning of the planned one trillion dollar modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons forces over the next 30 years.

The large increases in NNSA budgets are due to 1) aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that seek to indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities; and 2) new production plants for these rebuilt nuclear weapons, expected to be operational until ~2075. As an example of the former, the current $12 billion B61 Life Extension Program will create the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb, and will soon begin production at existing facilities.

NNSA’s FY 2016 budget launches a whole new Life Extension Program for a nuclear warhead for a new air-launched cruise missile. (3) Requested FY 2016 funding is $195 million, a 20-fold increase from $9 million for conceptual studies in FY 2015. This program is slated to rise to $459 million in annual appropriations by FY 2020. This nuclear warhead has been scheduled before Pentagon development of the new air-launched cruise missile itself, in effect putting the cart before the horse. This costly program is arguably redundant as well, given that rebuilt B61 nuclear bombs will be delivered on future super-stealthy fighters advertised as capable of penetrating any adversary’s air defenses. Finally, a nuclear-armed cruise missile is destabilizing from an arms control perspective because they can fly below radar, delivering the proverbial bolt from the blue.

On the flip side of production, the Obama Administration’s funding request for dismantlements is $48 million, less than 4% of the funding for all Life Extension Programs to rebuild nuclear weapons. Obama’s request itself is an improvement from last year, when the Administration asked for only $30 million, a 45% cut compared to the year before. Congress refused to go along with that, earmarking $50 million for dismantlements in FY 2015. Besides providing a good example to the rest of the world, nuclear weapons dismantlements deliver real savings to the American taxpayer by eliminating otherwise permanent security costs.

Concerning new production facilities, NNSA is asking for a 28% increase to $430 million for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN. The UPF is to produce up to 80 “secondaries” each year, the components that give weapons thermonuclear capabilities capable of killing millions. The previous “big box” design for the UPF was canceled after out-of-control costs rose as high as $19 billion by one Pentagon estimate. UPF also had a half-billion dollar design mistake for which no one has been held accountable, in which all planned equipment could not fit within the building’s footprint. Because of all this, the UPF’s mission has been downscoped to production only, eliminating dismantlements, in order to help contain costs, currently capped at $6.5 billion. Again, dismantlements seem dispensable to the Obama Administration.

NNSA also plans to begin spending $2 billion to upgrade existing facilities for the expanded production of the plutonium pit cores of nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), beginning with $155.6 million in FY 2016. The controversial CMRR “Nuclear Facility” is formally canceled. In its place, up to $675 million is planned to be spent on additional equipment for the already built Radiological Laboratory to quadruple the amount of plutonium that can be handled there, and up to $1.4 billion to upgrade PF-4, LANL’s existing main plutonium facility.

In addition, “The third step of the plutonium strategy extends the lifetime of PF-4 and supports increases in pit production capacity beyond 30 pits per year by proposing to build new modular facilities and move selected processes into new space… The NNSA is planning to construct not less than two modular structures that will achieve full operating capability not later than 2027.” Although still far from final design, those modular facilities will likely cost a billion dollars each. Given the usual cost overruns, eventual costs may meet or exceed the CMRR’s estimated cost of $6.5 billion when it included the Nuclear Facility.

In New Mexico-related news, the DOE budget request for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is decreased by $76 million to $248 million. Of that, $87 million is for “base activities” while WIPP is shut down because of a radiation release in February 2104. The rest of funding is for “Recovery Activities” to resume underground disposal by March 2016 of radioactive wastes that were already stored above ground at WIPP when the accident happened. Meanwhile, plutonium-contaminated wastes across the country already prepared for shipment to WIPP will have to wait. Total costs to reopen WIPP remain unknown.

Inflation-adjusted funding for cleanup across the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex remains flat at $5.5 billion, even though estimated cleanup costs of the massive widespread contamination continue to climb. The funding request for cleanup at Los Alamos Lab is flat at $185 million. It includes repackaging radioactive waste drums stored at LANL that are similar to the one that ruptured and contaminated WIPP. It will also fund investigation and corrective measures for the large chromium plume in our groundwater aquifer, with an emphasis on preventing it from crossing the boundary of neighboring San Ildefonso Pueblo. Current contamination maps show the plume stopping at exactly the boundary, which is nearly impossible.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “Thousands of nuclear weapons rebuilt at enormous costs won’t protect us from ISIS, a dirty bomb in Manhattan, Ebola or climate change. NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs should be cut to help pay for the expansion of nonproliferation programs that actually enhance national security, cleanup programs that protect the environment while creating jobs, and dismantlement programs that get rid of nuclear weapons forever and save taxpayers money.”

# # #


The NNSA’s FY 2016 Congressional Budget Request is available at
http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/02/f19/FY2016BudgetVolume1%20_1.pdf

Notes:

(1)  As topline numbers, NNSA’s budget category “Total Weapons Activities” increase from $8.23 billion in FY 2015 to $8.85 billion in FY 2016, or 7.5%. However, the true increase is masked by the fact that two counterproliferation programs formerly within NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are moved to Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Once that is factored in the real increase for NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs is 10.5%

(2) The FY 2016 DOE nuclear weapons request is calculated as statistically equal to the Cold War record using data from Atomic Audit, Brookings Institute, 1998, Stephen Schwartz editor, Table A-2. It gives 5.494 billion in 1996 dollars as the cost for DOE nuclear weapons research, production and testing programs in 1985, the height of the Cold War military build up under Ronald Reagan. Adjusted for inflation that is $8.99 billion in 2015 dollars.

(3) Called the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon in the budget because heavy bombers can launch the nuclear-armed cruise missiles at a great distance from their intended targets.

 

 

 
Lanl budget chat clip

The Administration releases its  Congressional Budget Request this Monday, February 2, 2015.

Questions for the U.S. Department of Energy FY 2016 Nuclear Weapons and Cleanup Budget Request

From

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

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

The US nuclear weapons budget continues to spiral out of control. Look for double-digit increases in Department of Energy (DOE) weapons activities. Core nonproliferation programs will be cut because of funding for mixed-oxide fuel. Cleanup of radioactive and toxic pollution from weapons research, testing, production and waste disposal will fall further behind. The DOE budget for FY 2016 will illuminate the Obama Administration’s misplaced nuclear priorities.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a 28-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear sites, will be looking at the following issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

– Does the budget request boost funding for “modernization” programs that indefinitely maintain nuclear warheads? Such funding is contrary to the Obama Administration’s previously declared goal of a future world free of nuclear weapons.

– Does the budget reflect the Administration’s commitment to reduce funding (currently $335 million) on the multi-billion dollar Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge by downsizing it to the capacity needed to support stockpile surveillance, maintenance and limited life extension?

– Does the budget increase funds for nuclear weapons dismantlement capacity? Will cooperative programs with Russia be maintained?

– Is there increased funding for expanded production of plutonium bomb cores? Why is expanded production needed when expert studies find that existing plutonium pits are durable?

– Is more than $300 million provided for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore Lab that has repeatedly failed to achieve “ignition”? What is the funding level for uncontained plutonium shots although they will taint the NIF target chamber and optics with alpha radiation?

– Does the budget seek an increase for the B61 Life Extension Program (currently $643 million)?

– As DOE affirms that the $30-billion plutonium fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site is financially unsustainable, is the MOX plant construction again proposed for “cold standby” (~$200 million) or a level to barely allow it to survive (~300+ million)? Does the budget include the current validated base-line cost of MOX plant, a validated construction and operation schedule and names of nuclear utilities willing to use experimental MOX fuel?

– Does the budget include $0 for Yucca Mountain? No funding is consistent with past requests that terminate this technically flawed site that is strongly opposed by Nevada state officials and the public.

– Does the budget provide additional Environmental Management (EM) funding (currently $5 billion) to meet all legally mandated cleanup milestones? States say cleanup agreements at a dozen major sites are underfunded by hundreds of million dollars.

– How will DOE and its contractors pay fines for missing milestones? In the past three months, the states of New Mexico, Idaho, and Washington have issued fines of tens of millions of dollars, and fines loom in South Carolina. In which other states does DOE face fines and lawsuits for missing milestones?

– What is the high range for total life-cycle cleanup costs (LCC) for EM sites? Because of funding shortfalls, High Range LCC costs have increased from $308.5 billion in the FY 2013 Budget Request, to $330.9 billion in the FY 2014 Request, and were $328.4 billion in the FY 2015 Request.

– How much does the budget include for the shut down of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)? How much is for recovery and how much for waste emplacement (previously $220 million a year) even though no waste is being emplaced? How much additional funding is requested for the Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge because of the shutdown?

– Does the budget for Hanford (more than $2 billion) protect workers from toxic chemical exposures, provide an Operational Readiness Review of the nuclear safety of the Waste Treatment Plant, and fund construction of new double-shell tanks to replace the leaking ones?

– Does the budget increase funding (currently $28.5 million) for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to provide independent oversight of DOE projects because of the many cost overruns, schedule delays, safety culture issues and technical problems?

– Is the funding for design and licensing of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) enough to make them viable? As private financing is lacking, will DOE reaffirm that it will not finance SMR construction?

 

For further information, contact:

Jay Coghlan jay(at)nukewatch.org

 

Download the pdf and more contact info here.

 

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