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  • Bulletin #188: Study Group summer intensive action and training program announced, 1 Apr 2014
    poorly understood Over an 11 week period participants will receive group training and individual mentoring while conducting specific projects for the Los Alamos Study Group and allied organizations in New Mexico and elsewhere Each project will make a significant difference and advance prospects for success in nuclear disarmament climate protection energy transition and closely related issues Some projects will have a research and communication focus others an outreach networking and capacity building focus We have a suite of projects in mind but will not describe them here Which projects we tackle will depend on the skills interests and experience of the participants Most but not all projects will have a New Mexico component or emphasis This will be a total immersion experience addressing serious issues While it won t be a holiday there will be an emphasis on teamwork camaraderie and on building and deepening connections with allied organizations and the Los Alamos Study Group community There will be plenty of time to discuss and reflect individually on the issues we are addressing and our personal responses to them Evenings and an average of one weekend day each week will be free Work time not including the mutual work we will do to support the summer s community of activist scholars will average about 50 hours per week After the program most participants will no doubt return to academic studies or to their careers and other responsibilities enriched we hope by their experience with us Some may remain with us or with allied organizations The program is open to all adult ages 18 or older We are aiming for a diversity of ages skills and backgrounds Prior detailed issue knowledge is helpful but not required Participants will receive room board and for U S citizens or work visa holders a

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin188.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin #187: Obama seeks more warhead money than Reagan; nuke pension subsidies; MOX dying?; plutonium pit infrastructure, 12 Mar 2014
    geological disposal of surplus plutonium including at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPP or in boreholes In a welcome development that has been years in the making the Administration proposes to put the two thirds built 8 B Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility MFFF construction at the Savannah River Site SRS near Aiken South Carolina on cold standby and with it the circa 30 B Mixed Oxide MOX plutonium disposal program of which MFFF is the central indispensable facility The mostly finished 414 M Waste Solidification Building WSB which is or was to receive waste from MFFF was placed on cold standby late last year The Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility PDCF which was to process pits into plutonium feedstock for MFFF was previously canceled in February of 2012 after the expenditure of several hundred million dollars on various failed designs NNSA realized the facility was not actually needed to process pits Despite present vociferous objections from the South Carolina delegation the MOX program is now likely to be terminated At least some of the future appropriations previously planned for the MOX program would in that case be available to cover cost overruns elsewhere in NNSA i e in warhead programs and construction Should the MOX program die and it certainly should for any number of reasons as we have been saying since the program was a twinkle in the eye of former Rep Spratt something else will need to be done with 43 3 metric tons MT of plutonium currently declared surplus as well as the future declarations which need to follow This 43 3 MT is mostly stored at the Pantex plant near Amarillo and at SRS See Table 3 p 14 in The United States Plutonium Balance 1944 2009 Jun 26 2012 As some of our colleagues finally said in 2012 it s time to bury plutonium Nuclear proliferation Time to bury plutonium Nature 485 pp 167 168 There is no rush to bury it provided it remains safely guarded The marginal cost of protecting this particular plutonium over and above the cost of protecting non surplus plutonium weapons and high level waste at these sites is in general very low Sooner or later it must be disposed however and burial with various degrees of preprocessing is now the prime path Multiple disposal alternatives are theoretically possible Russian agreement is necessary Some of these alternatives would take this additional plutonium to WIPP WIPP as many of you know is authorized to dispose of transuranic waste from the U S nuclear weapons program which this would be Besides WIPP another disposal scenario under active consideration would use deep boreholes a technology that has matured greatly in the past two decades WIPP suffered two significant accidents in February shutting down disposal operations for an indeterminate time Seventeen workers have been contaminated Subterranean cleanup of salt tunnels could be slow and it is clear that new equipment and procedures are needed But we do not think these travails are in any way fatal to WIPP s important mission We at the Study Group have always judged MOX to be an unsound disposition pathway and have lobbied for its termination Now all reasonable disposal paths should be investigated and vetted through open public processes and of course discussed with Russia Some of these options involve the WIPP site which looks to us like a very good place to put more plutonium waste with or without various means of immobilization Essentially twenty years and billions of dollars have been wasted on MOX for the usual reasons Arms control and nuclear security NGOs and their funders closely allied with the Clinton Administration played a central role in this waste and delay To their credit other NGOs argued strenuously and made compelling cases that this disposition pathway was grossly cost ineffective and had other major flaws It hasn t worked out and it won t Among the options we believe worthy of renewed consideration is the direct disposal of non immobilized plutonium including demilitarized pits at WIPP In the case of pits these could be shipped directly from Pantex where demilitarization could take place without opening the pits There are a couple of dozen ways physical chemical and mechanical to ensure a pit could never again be used in a warhead One example is to place pits in malleable sealed metal envelopes and crush them with admixed chemicals to further decrease the likelihood of inadvertent criticality and or to greatly reduce the ease of future use Approaches involving immobilization in an inert matrix e g glass ceramic are possible as well although they would cost billions of dollars and be subject to all the risks we have seen in large NNSA nuclear construction projects cf Nuclear Waste Washington has ignored a cheaper way to dispose of its plutonium until now Douglas Birch and R Jeffrey Smith Center for Public Integrity June 27 2014 This is not the place or time to discuss these complex issues at length We wanted you our members to understand that the Los Alamos Study Group supports the study of disposal of much more plutonium at WIPP than is currently envisioned including forms of direct disposal that do not involve expensive and risky immobilization and which minimize transportation as well It may be that lack of immobilization would be a show stopper for Russia but we don t know that We believe WIPP is geologically inappropriate for spent nuclear fuel or high level waste or for any radioactive waste which is thermally hot But WIPP already has tons of plutonium emplaced with more tons on the way and we do not see why increasing the mass of plutonium disposed should be an inherently bad thing from any perspective 4 Plutonium pit infrastructure module plan undercut by major congressional study In late February the Congressional Research Service CRS concluded a nearly year long review of pit production options U S Nuclear Weapon Pit Production Options for Congress Jonathan E Medalia CRS

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin187.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin #186: Please call your senators and ask them to intervene to halt dangerous U.S. rhetoric vis-à-vis Ukraine, 3 Mar 2014
    talking to U S Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt about who to install in the new government and F the E U Veteran reporter Robert Parry summarizes Yats is the guy Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online He s got the economic experience the governing experience He s the guy you know By Yats Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk who had served as head of the central bank foreign minister and economic minister and who was committed to harsh austerity As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen McCain cheered the demonstrators on the street protests turned violent Police clashed with neo Nazi bands the ideological descendants of Bandera s anti Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting Yanukovych agreed to a E U brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down The neo Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives With these neo Nazis providing security the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych s arrest for mass murder Nuland s choice Yatsenyuk emerged as interim prime minister We are not just concerned about Ukraine but also about the influence of neoconservative thought and action in this Administration and ones to follow Parry s summary of the situation quoted here is worthy of a close read in its entirety See also Neocons and the Ukraine Coup Robert Parry Consortium News 24 February 14 The rhetoric that asks if a U S president is tough enough in this or any given foreign policy crisis is a marker of danger This is neoconservative talk no matter where it appears Tough sooner or later is going to mean war whether by calculation or miscalculation Many of the neoconservatives whom Obama has kept in his administration a phenomenon we see in nuclear weapons management as well and allowed so much slack to pursue their goals are not at all satisfied with the self and other destructive wars they started They aren t done They want regime change in Damascus Tehran and wherever else will help establish U S hegemony over crucial oil and gas resources and pipeline routes In the case of Ukraine there is also a considerable amount of Cold War thought afoot that says Russia should be weakened as much as possible Without Ukraine Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire said Zbigniew Brzezinski from The Grand Chessboard American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives quoted in The New Great Game Why Ukraine Matters to So Many Other Nations 2 27 14 Business Week This is crazy stuff James Kunstler s take seems about right John Kerry A haircut in search of a brain We hope you will call or

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin186.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin #185: Movement to ban nuclear weapons gains ground; events; more, 19 Feb 2014
    was quite right Significant new taxes are unlikely Even greater than planned new debt to fund government is also politically blocked and very likely economically blocked as well Cuts to military programs sufficient to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in nuclear modernization are also quite unlikely Domestic discretionary government programs are already pared to the bone It is difficult to see how to pay for 1 trillion in stockpile costs over 30 years and pay for other huge military purchases as well without cutting mandatory programs Such massive investment in nuclear rearmament is as a Vatican spokesperson put it incompatible with the peace we seek for the twenty first century Indeed It could only come as part of an overall militarization of our society that would privilege these and other world dominance seeking programs at the expense not just of our tattered social safety net but also other critical security priorities such as a sustainable U S energy infrastructure and world and nation saving climate leadership Without an emergency change of direction away from U S empire we can be absolutely certain there will be no economically viable future for this country no viable social contract and no peace no peace at all not in our lifetimes or our children s lifetimes or ever Instead there will be perpetual war of varying intensity To a considerable extent such war has already started with the U S by far the most engaged combatant There is in fighting within the nuclear weapons community right now over which projects to save which to delay which to downscale and which to cannibalize given the cost overruns in all of them The proposed W78 88 interoperable warhead is being canceled delayed is just a euphemism as we reported in early December and in the words of one important government actor to me this month the Administration s latest nuclear modernization plan is in the trash can More program cancelations will be discussed in the next Bulletin More significantly for the long run there is a struggle within the military and DoD over how much money to allocate to nuclear weapons from the defense budget overall given the negotiated security programs caps of last fall s Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and the underlying Budget Control Act of 2011 The coming surge of procurements for nuclear delivery systems brand new ballistic missile submarines long range stealth bombers and new generation cruise missiles will be competing with the massive F 35 Joint Strike fighter program the rest of the Navy s ship building program and every other defense need It already appears that a new land based ballistic missile is a strong candidate for deferment as the Air Force faces fiscal exhaustion Lo and behold a useful summary of just this very thing has appeared overnight We will write about all this in greater detail on a later occasion but already conservative groups like Cato The End of Overkill Reassessing U S Nuclear Weapons Policy Sep 2013 and the American Enterprise Institute see slide 17 here are talking about eliminating the entire land based missile fleet and in Koch brothers funded Cato s case the entire bomber based nuclear arsenal as well Nuclear advocates like Huessy are meanwhile scrubbing nuclear modernization plans looking for fat to trim in a rather desperate effort to modernize the whole stockpile Leaving details aside for now the central political issue in all this is very simple the military and other security functions of government including nuclear weapons cannot be allowed to grow further and must be shrunk This is the message we want you to publicly take to our elected representatives and trumpet in any way you can It is a simple message and there are copious resources on the web which you can make your own with a modicum of study We want you to do this with others in organizations to which you belong or may join In most cases thoughtful creative stridency is very likely needed to re set the meaning and norms of civility in the face of their continual abuse by the powerful You might enjoy and expand upon the many reasons the sheep went so politely to the slaughter We are engaged in a life and death struggle for human dignity even for the survival of our communities in the face of economic social ecological and climatological crises The ignored gravity of our civilizational crisis and the majesty of a wholehearted response It is no exaggeration to say that we are engaged in a struggle for the continuation of complex life on earth We cannot afford the economic cost of our ruinously expensive military the political cost of privileging it or the intellectual and moral cost of reinforcing over militarized violent concepts of national security That is the path of collapse Our military is too expensive That is the simple message which all of us must take to our elected leaders Cut defense Fund what is actually needed in our society One need know nothing of nuclear weapons to advocate for such a simple reordering of priorities One s potential allies include most people and most organizations and businesses in the country Our greatest enemy is perhaps the false hope so long implanted by advertising and propaganda that it is by now almost unconscious that we can have it all that economic growth will feed all the pigs as well as all the children and so we need not substantially re order our priorities Amongst some of our neighbors in Albuquerque a popular parody of our politics and society and of the great con that quiets the masses while they are fleeced and their families futures destroyed is the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins and the two movies derived from them As President Snow Donald Sutherland says in the first movie Why do you think we have a winner in the Hunger Games Seneca Hope A little hope is effective A lot

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin185.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin #184: Thank you; short update; and 25th anniversary! 6 Feb 2014
    in academia have generously given of their time and insight of their floor space or futon space a very big deal in Washington DC have helped us raise money or have helped in other ways One organization no longer extant but whose work continues to reverberate donated its remaining funds to the Study Group early this year a very moving gift which has helped tremendously Government officials have generously given of their time perspectives and attention We anticipate that with careful work these investments will bear further fruit in 2014 We cannot make that happen alone of course but we are not alone far from it Please work with us We hope 2014 will be a wonderful one for you and your family 2 Counterpunch selects us as one of their favorite groups again Counterpunch chose us as one of their favorite groups of 2013 as they also did in 2011 We are honored All of you who helped last year can take some pride in this Counterpunch is a terrific zine by the way in our view Check it out and if you like what you see subscribe 3 Please ask Judge Thapar for leniency in the case of the Transform Now Plowshares three Please write Judge Thapar in Kentucky who is scheduled to complete the sentencing hearing for our colleagues Sister Megan Rice Michael Walli and Gregory Boertrje Obed on February 18 Their January 28 sentencing hearing was halted due to a surprising snowfall that forced the closure of the federal courthouse in Knoxville TN quoting from the account given in the January 31 Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor We usually don t endorse petitions but there are always exceptions and this is one Before snowfall halted the hearing Judge Thapar had ordered the Transform Now Plowshares three to pay 52 953 to the government the full federally estimated cost of the damage inflicted by cutting four fences walking undetected into the deadly force zone of the Y 12 facility painting a Biblical admonition to peace on the three foot thick concrete wall of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility HEUF and hammering on it throwing human blood on the same building and celebrating Mass while awaiting arrest Since the security systems at the site were already deeply compromised extra guards were brought in to deal with the crisis and this too is being billed to the invading protestors The three had volunteered to fix everything themselves but this was rejected The damage they did to the reputation of the contractors involved and to the nuclear weapons enterprise can t be repaired that easily This nonviolent action probably has been the single most impactful activist intervention in nuclear weapons in the U S since the closure of the Rocky Flats Plant in 1989 The Washington Post did a wonderful portrait of the three and their crimes last spring which is highly recommended The Prophets of Oak Ridge Apr 29 2013 These dangerous felons have been in prison for

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin184.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin#183: Please contribute if you haven't yet this year, 28 Dec 2013
    pit production at LANL every way we know how including in the courts got that DOE work internationally with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons ICAN and other international allies convene public and private gatherings and respond to requests recruit and train interns bring forth more on interrelated climate energy security and economic issues and work with other organizations on those keep up to date information flowing to our members and the other organizations and government offices which use our work and our web site Third and at the risk of sounding like a broken record the nuclear weapons enterprise is in serious trouble now Its problems cannot be solved by rearranging the management deck chairs This means that the battle for what happens next has come to us and we have to show up So for goodness sake if you can see your way to do so please join with us now Just how far this enterprise fails and just how much weight is taken from New Mexico s back in particular depends in substantial part on citizen involvement A little will go a long way because the weapons complex has become wobbly But so has everything and that s why we have to push now Fourth two days ago President Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act NDAA which modifies the previous year s NDAA to essentially require pending Pentagon approval at least two underground pit factory modules and associated tunnels at LANL if the earlier plan for a Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF isn t built No money is provided Last year s NDAA was more or less ignored on this topic as we mentioned in Bulletin 182 We hope for a similar outcome this year There is a

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin183.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin #182: Critical Fundraising Reminder, & Important News, 23 Dec 2013
    constant dollar terms in New Mexico history Compare the costs of New Mexico s most iconic construction projects inflated to today s dollars using mostly industry standard generic construction cost inflators Elephant Butte Dam 240 million M Cochiti Dam 372 M and the Big I interchange 417 M For that matter try comparing a 2 B modular addition at LANL with the Golden Gate Bridge 918 M or Hoover Dam 1 45 B For more on methodology look here scroll down the page to see the table which has been brought up to date for the above examples 3 Congressional Budget Office CBO releases important nuclear weapons cost report Obama s nuclear weapons plans are likely to cost 355 billion over the next 10 years and get more expensive after that In its Projected Costs of U S Nuclear Forces 2014 to 2023 12 19 13 CBO estimated that Obama s present nuclear weapons plans in the Department of Defense DoD for delivery systems and Department of Energy DOE for warheads and sustaining costs including modernization of warheads and delivery systems as well as command control communications and early warning were likely to cost 355 B over the years 2014 to 2023 By 2023 currently planned modernization programs would still be ramping up and annual modernization expenses during the remainder of the 2020s would be about four 4 times the 2014 amount or about 15 B per year in addition to sustainment and operations This study is the most authoritative study of nuclear weapons costs in recent years It s succinct makes many of the most important points and so there is no need to summarize or parse it here For a summary here s the Reuters article about it Needless to say we can be confident the U S will not complete its current three decade modernization plan for nuclear weapons a plan that with sustainment and operations included might well cost extrapolating from these CBO results 1 trillion even if it were well managed and otherwise feasible It is however not well managed and there are no signs it will ever be Neither is it feasible as we have often said e g here here and here even if it were desirable 4 Trade press launch indeed scrubbed for first interoperable warhead A December 20 article in the Nuclear Weapons Materials Monitor confirmed a major setback in the administration s plan to make a new interoperable warhead adaptable to both land based and submarine based U S ballistic missiles The Obama Administration appears set to indefinitely defer work on the W78 W88 life extension program which was to be the first interoperable warhead that could be launched from missile silos or nuclear submarines NW M Monitor has learned While the Administration has not finalized its Fiscal Year 2015 budget plans Congressional staff and officials with knowledge of the program have confirmed that the W78 W88 refurbishment is on the chopping block due to budgetary pressures facing the National Nuclear Security Administration As we said in Bulletin 180 it s hard to imagine the current warhead modernization paradigm the 3 2 plan the 3 referring to interoperable warheads surviving this setback Since Bulletin 180 we have further confirmed this news from reliable government sources Further we know of no technical or aging reason why replacement of either the W78 or W88 would be warranted 5 Forget new facilities LANL s existing main plutonium facility has been mostly shut down since June over poor safety management problems may take years to fix On June 27 of this year after struggling to achieve compliance with criticality safety rules since at least 2005 and with an increasing tempo of violations over the first months of this year Los Alamos National Laboratory LANL halted all programmatic activities at its main plutonium facility Building PF 4 See Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board DNFSB Weekly Site Report for week ending June 28 2013 and Los Alamos pauses plutonium work at PF 4 amid concerns Nuclear Weapons Materials Monitor Jun 28 2013 According to details provided in a December 6 letter from DOE to the DNFSB and summarized by Todd Jacobson in the Nuclear Weapons Materials Monitor Lab creeping toward criticality restart Dec 20 2013 DOE believes LANL s criticality safety program may take years to repair As a result of several egregious long term criticality safety violations that came to light in October of 2007 causing an immediate halt to all work with plutonium at PF 4 we at the Study Group made a search through DNFSB and DOE records for the post 2001 history of criticality problems at the facility We found a lot See our press release Los Alamos Plutonium Work Halted to Resolve Uncertainties over Nuclear Criticality Safety Oct 9 2007 and this raw compendium of criticality issues at LANL through September 2007 Criticality events occurred at LANL in 1945 1946 and 1958 Each one killed a person See also A Review of Criticality Accidents 2000 Revision LANL LA 13638 May 2000 McLaughlin et al So now finally DOE says it will conduct a causal analysis of why the decline of criticality safety staffing and inadequate criticality safety performance persisted for so long before NNSA and LANL took definitive action to address the situation As DOE s status report puts it among the root causes is a lack of management commitment No kidding Key criticality safety personnel have now quit LANL with the result in DOE s words that l osses in personnel and corporate knowledge continue to challenge the viability of the criticality safety management program This little glimpse into how LANS is managing its multibillion dollar plutonium program at LANL should be an eye opener for Congress as well as DOE The biggest take message is that a supposed lack of new facilities is not the problem Mission its lack of clarity and lack of need and management are the problems A former top federal manager with intimate knowledge of

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin182.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin #181:The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) unfolding fiascos: a teachable moment?, 18 Dec 2013
    the Joint Chiefs of Staff If the U S nuclear warhead complex were a federal rather than a for profit enterprise with all present employees becoming federal civil servants well paid in today s economy to be sure 2 billion could be liberated each year about 25 cents of every dollar spent Were the obese physics labs put on the diet they so badly need another billion could be saved If in addition to this needless modernization programs were set aside in favor of more conservative maintenance programs the savings would amount to roughly half the money being spent today If these savings were re invested in community and state energy programs this is the Department of Energy after all the economic benefit to states would far surpass present conditions Lab cutbacks would affect only California and New Mexico and could be managed on a voluntary basis via early retirement and other incentives such as salary subsidies for work in targeted e g renewable energy industries These states would greatly benefit The primary barriers to these transformations are the huge sweetheart contracts given to the handful of for profit corporations that run the weapons complex up to 39 billion in the case of Los Alamos in today s dollars the incredibly high salaries paid to senior managers at the labs especially and the pervasive ideology that whatever it is and especially if it s science contractors can do it better That just isn t true and that philosophy is not applied to many of the best federal science programs both in the defense world e g the Naval Research Laboratory and civilian science e g the National Institutes of Health For the most part these potential great savings and community benefits are prior to any changes in actual nuclear weapons

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