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  • Forty-four countries call for explicit nuclear weapons ban at third major diplomatic conference, press release, 10 Dec 2014
    some forty four countries expressed explicit support for a treaty to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons 2 His Holiness Pope Francis sent a special message to the assembled diplomats calling for a ban on nuclear weapons Negotiations for such a ban would be as many foreign ministries said open to all and blockable by none Many states expressed impatience with the lack of disarmament progress Many states rejected in one way or another the permanent validity of security doctrines based on nuclear deterrence Virtually all states expressed revulsion at the disproportionate and indiscriminate effects of nuclear weapons in one way or another which technical and legal experts had reviewed for the assembled diplomats The Chair s official summary of the meeting is here In its unexpected pledge read out at the very end of the conference Austria promised to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal The conference was attended by about 800 diplomats and 200 experts and activists from civil society It was held at the former Habsburg palace where Austrian Prince Metternich once led negotiations to draw the boundaries of states at the end of the Napoleonic Wars This conference followed and built upon prior diplomatic and civil society meetings in Oslo 2013 and Nayarit Mexico February 2014 The Vienna Conference was immediately proceeded by a 600 person civil society forum organized by the Austrian branch of ICAN ICAN is a campaign coordinating umbrella for the efforts of 360 organizations in 93 countries all of whom seek a prohibition on research production stockpiling transfer and use of nuclear weapons The Los Alamos Study Group is an active member of ICAN Our colleague Dr Rebecca Johnson has penned two useful background articles of interest Gathering

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_10Dec2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Newspaper’s Exposeˊ: Los Alamos Lab’s Incompetence, Illegal Actions Led to Contamination and Shutdown of WIPP, press backgrounder, 18 Nov 2014
    in failed projects and accidents including both the WIPP contamination incident and the failed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF not to mention others LANS experienced no financial consequences for wasting 500 million on designs for CMRR NF a facility which both LANS and DOE now admit was never necessary After a lawsuit was filed by the Los Alamos Study Group the ever expanding project was held up for a year by the need to rewrite its environmental impact statement EIS prior to groundbreaking over which time the alleged necessity of the project evaporated The project was formally canceled in August of this year Congressional and executive branch endorsement of the project were based on faulty design and fallacious cost estimates developed by LANS Also during this period LANL s two key nuclear materials facilities PF 4 for plutonium operations and the Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility WETF have been partly or wholly shut down because of repeated systemic violations of DOE safety rules High mass plutonium operations have been interrupted for a year and a half at PF 4 WETF has been shut down for 4 years so far Another recent serious blow to management was exposed in a stunning scoop by Todd Jacobson at the Nuclear Security Deterrence Monitor DOE has or will soon decertify LANL s accounting system for capital projects Until the problems are corrected DOE will not allow LANL to proceed with any capital project past its initial stages In 2012 and 2013 two different DOE contracting officers each recommended not extending the LANS management and operating M O contract an extra year because of poor operational performance See this page for evaluations of all warhead complex M O contractors 2014 results are pending Acting Administrator Neile Miller overrode the 2012 do not extend recommendation shortly before her departure from government Acting Administrator Bruce Held upheld the second one in 2013 It remains to be seen what will happen this year Study Group director Greg Mello First of all the Valentine s Day contamination incident was baked in the cake by LANS WIPP operations had nothing to do with it The WIPP operators were the victims of LANS actions which amounted in part to culpable negligence and in part to knowing violations of hazardous waste and other safety laws How much of each is yet to be established Criminal investigation is warranted LANS corporate managers DOE and Congress need to remember that LANL is primarily a high hazard nuclear facility This can t be an afterthought A high hazard identity needs to be firmly in place It isn t Too many people especially LANS which seeks income profit and political power want LANL to be far more than it can ever be Safety is just not just one goal among many at LANL but the sine qua non of everything If safety isn t first class you will have an unstable operation that is prone to shutdowns accidents or both That s what

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_backgrounder_18Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Whither LANL? Public discussion Tuesday night in Los Alamos, press release, 19 Sep 2014
    duplicative missions and unique capabilities for current and future energy and national security challenges CRENEL will evaluate the size of the labs whether consolidation or realignment are appropriate whether universities or other technology centers would be better for some of their work as well as how to improve lab directed research and development LDRD The Los Alamos Study Group has been engaged with these and related issues for 25 years The Study Group began with public discussions on this topic at Fuller Lodge in October 1989 In addition to its own work the Study Group has consulted on laboratory missions and management through the years for organizations in Livermore CA and Santa Fe The Study Group regularly advises congressional committees executive branch officials and others in Washington on laboratory issues In addition to the general public the Study Group is inviting officials from the Los Alamos Site Office and LANL as well members of the New Mexico congressional delegation and the Governor s office to attend and take part in the moderated discussion There will be plenty of time for comments and discussion from the audience The questions before the CRENEL and Congress include these among others Should there be two nuclear weapons physics labs and if so at what scale and with what missions To what degree should LANL and LLNL undertake non nuclear weapons missions and if so what missions where and who will pay for them Should SNL California be combined with a residual LLNL Should LANL construct new plutonium chemistry and research facilities to replace those at LLNL Should NNSA labs undertake national competitiveness or industrial innovation missions If so where and how Should the NNSA lab contracts be re structured e g separated further and if so how Which facilities at LANL and LLNL should

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_19Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • $4.3 Billion in Additional Construction, Equipment Proposed for Los Alamos Plutonium Factory, press release, 28 Aug 2014
    construction of two underground lab modules which under the plan would achieve full operating capability no later than 2027 trade press article NWC letter So called pre conceptual module design will begin next fiscal year i e on October 1 in preparation for so called Critical Decision CD 0 which formally establishes a project for which NNSA can request line item funding 9 It is not yet clear whether there will be a new funding line item requested for modules in February of next year as part of the President s fiscal year FY 2016 budget request On August 15 the Congressional Research Service CRS reported that NNSA s new pit strategy included handling up to 400 grams g of weapons grade plutonium WgPu in RLUOB a building originally designed to handle only up to 6 g a limit which was subsequently administratively increased to 26 g RLUOB was designed to an old 1995 seismic standard that was known to be grossly insufficient at the time as a result of LANL s extensive post 1995 research and analysis As a result RLUOB does not meet today s building codes NNSA believes that the maximum emissions of plutonium that could occur from RLUOB as a result of seismic collapse and subsequent fire would not exceed DOE standards Study Group director Greg Mello Nothing makes sense here If pits were needed LANL could make them today that is if its existing plutonium facility weren t shut down because of serious safety problems and lack of investment But pits aren t needed until at the earliest 2065 By 2035 we will have spent a trillion dollars to modernize today s huge arsenal assuming we keep it all We won t After wasting 500 million on the CMRR fiasco NNSA now wants to convert idle new labs in a building that doesn t meet building codes into a nuclear facility thumbing its nose at its own safety regulations again Why do this NNSA already manages underutilized labs in Livermore and Savannah River which could pick up any slack required The scale of the proposed investment on top of the billions that have already been spent on pit production at LANL makes it clear this is not a strategy for merely maintaining warheads This is about building new kinds of warheads thousands of them 50 to 80 per year with even greater surge capacity We will do whatever it takes to make sure new warhead factories and new weapons are not built We will rise up forcefully because among many other reasons this proposal would mean economic and cultural decline for the Santa Fe metro area for New Mexico and for the country ENDS 1 Modules are thus expected to cost 200 000 per net sq ft of useful space considerably more than the 152 000 sq ft estimated for the cancelled Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF 2 RLUOB is already one of the most expensive construction projects in New Mexico

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_28Aug2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • DNFSB Letter Highlights Continuing Dangers at Nation’s Nuclear Weapons Facilities, press release, 11 Aug 2014
    at a desk in CMR has more risk of death per workday than the most dangerous occupations in America like logging and fisheries It is time to pack up and expeditiously move out whatever remaining work is truly necessary After that NNSA should shut down that building pending demolition and cleanup We know of no good reason to stay in that building until 2019 which is the current plan DNFSB points out that LANL s nuclear criticality safety program has been recognized by NNSA as inadequate since 2005 As a result of numerous inadequacies a severe staffing shortage and a pattern of an increasing number of criticality safety violations observed last spring program work as opposed to necessary maintenance and safety work at PF 4 was shut down on June 27 last year Work has not yet fully restarted and there is no path forward to address some of the outstanding problems The letter touches upon other unresolved dangers at LANL and at other sites None of the issues are new but the letter helpfully communicates DNFSB s highest nuclear safety priorities to Administrator Klotz Mello The truck fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPP which occurred after repeated DNFSB warnings about inadequate maintenance and other accident precursors which was shortly followed by a serious contamination incident from a bursting LANL drum that will keep WIPP closed for anywhere from 18 months to five years should chasten those who have pooh poohed safety in recent years A strong nuclear safety culture is not only important in its own right but is essential to keeping a facility operating Excellent safety is also necessary to attract and retain highly skilled workers There are many signs of trouble at LANL in particular The plutonium facility has been partially shut down for more than a year Criticality safety problems have not been corrected for nine years so far with no clear end in sight Over recent years criticality expertise has been partially cobbled together from feds on temporary assignment and from subcontractors which are not sustainable approaches Seismic and other upgrades have been slow The tritium facility has been shut down for four years for a cascading series of reasons Area G has ongoing safety problems CMR has never been made safe in over two decades The new Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building RLUOB was not built to seismic building code standards Under LANL supervision incompatible substances were mixed into more than 500 drums one of which burst at WIPP contaminating much of that facility as well as 22 workers These are all indicators that something is wrong with nuclear safety culture at LANL something that goes beyond routine operational errors It is most definitely a management problem Recall that LANL Director Nanos in close cooperation with NNSA shut down all of LANL in July of 2004 for security and safety reasons gradually restarting programs only after a security and safety audit and improvements Principal Deputy NNSA Administrator Jerry Paul later testified

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_11Aug2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • "New Mexico TRU," press release, 2 Jun 2014
    are now attempting several What we are saying is that the problems at LANL and WIPP are not occurring in isolation Simpler solutions with less elaborate supply chains and simpler lines of responsibility and above all with downscaled ambitions for programs of inconspicuous merit are now in order A pause will help NNSA and DOE make this necessary transition Selected Background We have not attempted to compile even a ballpark quantity for this press release from DOE s disparate sources but we believe LANL has easily one thousand cubic meters of TRU waste on site in its nuclear facilities above ground at its main waste storage and disposal site Technical Area 54 Area G and below ground marked for retrieval also at Area G Not all this TRU waste is in the 3706 TRU Waste Campaign or subject to the Framework Agreement This does not include LANL s considerable vault holdings of plutonium that are not waste but have been declared unnecessary by LANL see for example p 11 of CMRR Background Briefing to Senate Foreign Relations Staff Craig Leasure Jun 19 2012 for its programs and or declared surplus to U S national security needs by DOE In 2009 LANL held in addition to plutonium in waste 4 0 metric tons of Pu 239 of which 1 2 metric tons has been declared surplus The United States Plutonium Balance 1944 2009 DOE June 2012 p 14 LANL s TRU waste comes in a variety of forms some of which require careful characterization treatment and repackaging Errors and supervisory failures in the process of treating and repackaging legacy TRU waste led to the WIPP shutdown and the internal contamination of 22 WIPP workers Care and additional focus are evidently needed Many people do not know that hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of nuclear and chemical waste not slated for retrieval or cleanup including large quantities of TRU waste remain in shallow burial at LANL in Material Disposal Areas MDAs including MDAs C G and other sites MDAs G and L have extensive chemical contamination plumes in the unsaturated subsurface The TRU inventory in disposed waste at Area G exceeds 2 5 million curies see p 7 in Shepard et al Accelerating the Disposition of Transuranic Waste from LANL LA UR 09 00255 March 2009 where the authors tell us 33 shafts containing 2 500 curies comprise less than 0 1 of TRU isotopes disposed at Area G LANL continues to permanently bury some of its so called low level radioactive waste LLW at Area G including some highly radioactive waste such as graphite accelerator beam stops Perhaps 21 million cubic feet of various kinds of toxic waste have been buried at LANL Our own summaries are dated but instructive and broadly comparable the disposal rate amounts to roughly 174 drums worth per day over the history of LANL In 2000 LLW disposal area expansion was expected to provide an additional 57 million cubic feet of capacity at LANL No

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_2Jun2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Federal Safety Board Cautions DOE on LANL Plutonium Facility, press release, 20 May 2014
    These must be designed costs developed for them funds reprogrammed or requested and appropriated and then the work must be successfully done DOE still has several tens of millions of dollars in unspent funds from prior years in its indefinitely deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF project reprogramming background here which was to be built adjacent to PF 4 as well as unspent funds from prior years in other accounts The Los Alamos Study Group meets with the Board approximately four times each year Over the past several years one of the Study Group s main concerns has been closure of long standing safety issues at PF 4 The Study Group has urged the rapid and complete resolution of outstanding structural and operational issues Board members and staff have assured us that the kinds of structural upgrades now being contemplated at PF 4 are practical and affordable Some further background on the PF 4 seismic issue can be found here Please contact this office for further information and background LANL s understanding of its significant seismic risk at TA 55 reached maturity over the 1997 to 2007 decade Our 1997 paper based on then recent LANL studies sans maps is here On the second issue arising today the DNFSB is also concerned about re starting higher risk operations at PF 4 without first complying with DOE s own safety rules concerning criticality safety which LANL is currently planning to do In his letter to Administrator Klotz Dr Winokur said On June 27 2013 the LANL Director paused programmatic operations in the Plutonium Facility in part to enable laboratory management to address nuclear criticality safety concerns identified by both internal and external assessments During this pause NNSA briefed the Board on a strategy to develop criticality safety evaluations CSE for higher risk operations prior to resumption The Board is aware that this plan has evolved such that the LANL Director intends to resume many higher risk operations without first developing compliant CSEs Department of Energy directives and industry consensus standards require that CSEs unambiguously demonstrate how fissionable material operations will remain subcritical under both normal and credible abnormal conditions These CSEs identify controls to ensure safe operation Therefore pursuant to 42 U S C 2286b d the Board requests a briefing from NNSA within 14 days on how the NNSA will ensure that adequate controls will be identified as the laboratory resumes higher risk operations in the Plutonium Facility Recently plutonium waste drums from LANL were discovered to have been filled with incompatible materials causing an unplanned chemical reaction in one or more drums with considerable release of heat bursting of at least one drum and expulsion of plutonium contamination of underground facilities at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPP plutonium uptake by twenty two workers and shutdown of WIPP potentially for as long as three years Potentially unstable transuranic waste from LANL has already been shipped to Waste Control Specialists in Andrews TX where it now

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_20May2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Feds Postpone Plutonium Warhead Factory in Los Alamos, press release, 21 Mar 2014
    Environmental Policy Act NEPA announced today that the group will drop its current litigation against the project This litigation has been in abeyance as NNSA plans have shifted That particular NEPA litigation is not needed any more said Study Group director Greg Mello We will decide on any future litigation depending on what is proposed next if anything and with what quality of environmental compliance We believe NNSA has been on a learning curve with respect to its plutonium needs and facility plans as well as its construction plans generally We believe no new facilities are needed We hope no further litigation is necessary Background Over the past 26 years DOE has had a number of plans to build new facilities for the manufacture of the plutonium pits that comprise the fissile cores of the first primary nuclear explosive in thermonuclear warheads Beginning in the 1950s pits were manufactured at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver Rocky Flats was closed by a joint EPA FBI raid in June 1989 and never reopened Nearly all pits in today s deployed warheads and bombs were made at Rocky Flats from 1980 to 1989 which means nearly all of them are at most 34 years old this year There are more than 14 000 surplus pits stored at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant near Amarillo TX of which thousands are potentially reusable 11 Over this period there have been approximately eight pit manufacturing infrastructure plans none were completed for a variety of reasons 12 Looking past the unique details of each proposal and why each proposal was set aside a constant factor has been the continuing weak justification for large scale pit production capacity itself The perceived need and urgency to augment pit production capacity has diminished over time as the stockpile has contracted as studies of pit longevity have borne fruit finding that pits have very long working lives and as proposals for new design warheads requiring new pits have been postponed or canceled Requirements for pit manufacturing capacity reached a post Cold War peak in 2003 when the proposed Modern Pit Facility was said to require a capacity of between 125 450 pits year and be in full production by 2021 13 At that time the minimum pit lifetime was jointly estimated by Los Alamos National Laboratory LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory LLNL to be 45 60 years 14 This large capacity was in part driven by the Bush Administration s plans to field a family of new Reliable Replacement Warheads RRW That Administration s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review envisioned replacing the U S stockpile with new warheads more germane it was thought to post Cold War military requirements Congress rejected the RRW plan in early 2009 15 In 2006 the distinguished JASON group of defense scientists reviewing the accumulating results of pit surveillance long term plutonium studies and the accelerated pit aging experiments summarized the consensus view of LANL and LLNL that most pits would last at least 85

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_21Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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