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  • Feds say LANL barrel may be cause of WIPP leak, SFNM, 16 May 2014
    plant 26 miles from Carlsbad but this does not solve the mystery said Don Hancock director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program and administrator of the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque My general reaction is that they are getting closer to identifying the container or containers that are problems but it doesn t tell us why they re problems There s still a lot more that we don t know Hancock said in a phone interview He said the photographic evidence was not necessarily consistent with one theory that an absorbent material similar to kitty litter had caused the leak Jim Conca a geochemist who posited the kitty litter theory said he considered it unlikely that something else triggered the problems at WIPP which is America s only permanent underground repository for waste from nuclear weapons Conca described what he believed was a subtle breakdown of the absorbent material It s not like an explosion like a bomb kind of thing It s more of a slow burn like charcoal briquettes said Conca of Richland Wash He worked for years at Los Alamos National Laboratory Conca also has experience with operations at WIPP and the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that once was to be a nuclear waste repository Teams at WIPP have been focusing on a particular storage area where a plant spokesman said there were signs of a disturbance Wearing protective clothing and using breathing apparatuses they began their underground search for the contamination and its cause in early April The leak occurred Feb 14 but safety precautions mandated that the mine shafts have two means of egress and that workers could enter the repository without undue risk Charlie McMillan director of LANL sent a message to his employees after learning that the damaged container was

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_16May2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Audit cites problems at LANL, Sandia, ABQ Journal, 6 Apr 2014
    official NNSA records management systems design drawings for neutron generators used in 16 of 36 weapons that were reviewed The inspector general s auditors couldn t find the drawings either Although Sandia officials said the drawings might be somewhere else the retrieval of such drawings could be a very time consuming process the report says Sandia spokesman Jim Danneskiold said Sandia did find all but one of the drawings which had been misnumbered and all of the product definitions for the neutron generators LANL got good marks in this area There as built definitions were easily identified the report says It notes that auditors at Los Alamos sampled 24 plutonium pits devices used to trigger nuclear bombs and the definitions and drawings for all of them were located LANL allowed changes to classified nuclear weapons drawings without using a documented and approved change notice the report states In one case lab officials told us they assumed the changes were needed the auditors said NNSA later informed the auditors the change had been needed to correct an error LANL also didn t limit access to weapons drawings as required and circumvented a control over changes after a weapons design drawing had been approved The Los Alamos lab gave 30 nuclear weapons designers the ability to make changes to drawings whether they were assigned to a particular weapons project or not Lab officials said they didn t limit designer access because they believed they had internal processes that were more efficient without raising risk issues By making changes to released drawings after the drawings have been extensively reviewed and approved NNSA is at increased risk of unauthorized and inappropriate changes to nuclear weapons design information the report asserts Sandia meanwhile earned kudos for its control of weapons drawings Once a drawing has been approved at Sandia it is in read only status and can t be changed after release Sandia s practices effectively decreased the risk of unauthorized changes to nuclear weapons drawings At the Pantex plant in Texas officials couldn t locate the as built product definitions for 14 of 36 nuclear weapons that the auditors selected from the current stockpile for review Of 22 weapons for which Pantex did have as built definitions the plant couldn t find the drawings of 13 Parts problems The auditors also were concerned about the use of non conforming weapons parts failures to obtain engineering evaluations to support waivers from parts specifications and lack of a fully implemented supplier quality management program The report says that of 30 specification exception releases for parts sampled at LANL 19 did not have the required technical justification As such officials lacked assurance that the component was suitable for use in a nuclear weapon LANL officials said the lab s quality reviewers likely knew the engineers involved and relied on their professional opinion Only seven of 56 exception releases reviewed at Sandia didn t have proper evaluations The report said Sandia implemented corrections in this area in 2009

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/ABQJRNL_6Apr2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Study Group formally drops CMRR-NF lawsuit, NSDM, 28 Mar 2014
    an environmental review of the planned facility required by the National Environmental Policy Act but the lawsuit has been dormant as the agency deferred work on the facility That particular NEPA litigation is not needed any more Study Group Director Greg Mello said in a March 21 statement We will decide on any future litigation depending on what is proposed next if anything and with what quality of environmental compliance

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NSDM_28Mar2014a.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Former LLNL Director: '3+2' warhead strategy unlikely to be realized, NSDM, 28 Mar 2014
    is what they did on the W76 Could Air Force Live Without W78 Such an approach would decrease the incentive for the Air Force to pursue an interoperable warhead for the W78 and could lead to its retirement if the Air Force concludes it can live with the W87 as its only ICBM warhead I really think 3 2 is the right thing to do I really do Albright said I just don t think it s going to happen I think there is a reasonable chance that we should be prepared for He said that safety and security features planned for future warheads could also take a backseat to budgetary concerns I think the answer will come back and say we ve lived for 50 years without these Tell me why I need to spend money in this budget environment right now he said Trying and failing on the strategy could have a serious impact on the scientific and technical workforce at the labs he said I m going to take my workforce and for 12 to 15 years have them no longer doing the science I think they should be doing as lab director or we re not going to be investing in high performance computing that I think we ought to be investing in Then I think it s a really interesting question whether or not we ought to whether it s worth the sacrifice he said Because for me it s not about the weapons it s about the workforce and the capabilities The Labs as Maytag Repairmen Whether the 3 2 strategy succeeds or fails Albright suggested the nation s nuclear weapons laboratories and their workforce face a grim future with a large gap in warhead work looming and he argued that new weapons designs

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NSDM_28Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Funding for NNSA weapons program projected to reach $10B by FY19, NSDM, 21 Mar 2014
    W78 W88 interoperable warhead is being delayed by five years a First Production Unit is not scheduled to be completed until FY 2030 and no funding is being requested for work on that warhead and the cruise missile warhead is being delayed by three years However the Administration is requesting 9 4 million in FY 2015 to continue studying the refurbishment of the warhead and said it will evaluate the option to fund an earlier FPU First Production Unit if circumstances dictate Currently the first cruise missile warhead FPU is scheduled to be completed in FY 2027 three years later than previously planned The Administration noted that it has narrowed the range of plutonium pits it might use in the cruise missile warhead to two the W80 and W84 Using pits from the B61 is no longer being considered according to the budget request Pit Production Capability Milestone Delayed The Administration is also delaying a major milestone in pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory according to the budget documents The NNSA is now projected to achieve a capacity to manufacture 30 pits by FY 2026 a five year delay from previous budget projections There is also no mention in the budget documents of reaching the capacity to produce 50 to 80 pits per year which is the ultimate goal currently required by the Pentagon The NNSA did not provide any reason for the delay and did not respond to a request for comment but Greg Mello the Director of the Los Alamos Study Group suggested that the delay could have been connected to delays in the W78 W88 interoperable warhead program and the cruise missile warhead With increasing scope there is no technical or managerial basis for near term pit manufacturing Mello said The supposed need for near term pit manufacturing capacity was an artifact of fallacious fiscal assumptions No New Construction Money for Modular Pu Strategy The Administration is also requesting no money for construction of a new plutonium capability at Los Alamos National Laboratory though it is embarking on the first part of a strategy to revitalize the lab s plutonium capability in the wake of the deferment of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility The budget request includes money for the first phase of the plutonium strategy to install additional equipment in the lab s existing facility the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building The NNSA will also begin to plan how the lab s Plutonium Facility can be reconfigured to house more of the capabilities that had been planned for CMRRNF which is the second phase of the strategy The NNSA will also broaden the analysis of its analytic chemistry and materials characterization capabilities Construction on new modules for plutonium work an idea conceived after CMRR NF was deferred won t begin for several more years NNSA weapons program chief Don Cook said earlier this month The modules are part of the third phase and until we know how many of them are needed

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NSDM_21Mar2014a.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Los Alamos TRU to be stored at Waste Control Specialists, WCM, 21 Mar 2014
    material The campaign had been in its final stages when WIPP shut down indefinitely last month due to two incidents a salt truck fire and a radiation release DOE officials have promised to meet the June deadline The LANL waste will be staged so that it can be disposed of as soon as WIPP resumes waste receipt operations J R Stroble DOE s Director of the National Transuranic Program said in a statement These shipments will be managed just like other WIPP shipments The Department will continue to evaluate potential alternatives for other DOE transuranic waste generating sites until WIPP is fully operational This week WIPP contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership said it would subcontract with WCS to stage the waste at the commercial low level waste disposal facility about 75 miles from WIPP A letter contract was awarded on Monday not to exceed 500 000 It anticipates a definitized contract in the near future which will have more specific terms It is DOE s intent that NWP acquire temporary staging only until WIPP resumes operations the DOE spokesperson said NWP spokesman Donavan Mager said in a written response The terms and conditions are still be negotiated as part of a final contract to be completed by the end of March WCS Will Place Waste in Covered Facility The LANL waste will be placed in an indoor covered storage facility at WCS The WCS workforce is well trained and experienced in handling this type of waste WCS President Rod Baltzer said in a statement We will inspect all incoming canisters to insure that they are sealed and there has been no breach WCS has a sophisticated inspection and monitoring system in the buildings where the canisters will be stored to insure the safety of our employees and the environment Baltzer also emphasized that WCS has never had a wildfire and that the storage facilities have a sprinkler system and there is a fire truck on site State Applauds the Move New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn applauded the move Governor Susana Martinez has worked aggressively and effectively with the federal government to make sure they fulfill their promise of removing the above ground transuranic waste at Los Alamos and storing it in a safe and appropriate manner Flynn said in a statement She continues to work them to accomplish this goal on schedule which is critical in light of the rapidly approaching fire season It s up to experts at DOE to determine what steps they need to take to do this job safely and properly and up to New Mexico and Texas to ensure this is done within the confines of our regulatory requirements We are very encouraged by DOE s effort to keep the 3706 campaign on track even under these difficult circumstances The Problems With This Plan are Legion But the WCS option was met with skepticism by Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group an activist organization The problems with this plan are legion Mello

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/WCM_21Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Nuclear waste from state lab may go to Texas, SFNM, 20 Mar 2014
    system and in the event of an emergency WCS has its own firetruck on site But not everyone applauded the plan Watchdog Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group says shipping the waste twice increases the chance of an accident because it has to be loaded and unloaded twice And he notes that there is essentially no danger of wildfire the surrounding vegetation having been burned The West Texas site has in the past taken some less toxic waste from Los Alamos but WIPP is the nation s only permanent repository for low level radioactive waste from nuclear weapons facilities Waste Control Specialists is licensed to take radioactive materials such as uranium plutonium and thorium from commercial power plants academic institutions and medical schools as well as some Energy Department waste It is also the burial ground for dirt from a Hudson River Superfund site that s tainted with PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls Chuck McDonald a spokesman for the plant said federal officials are working with regulators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to make sure that storing the Los Alamos waste is allowable under its permits The state of New Mexico pressured Los Alamos to get the waste off its campus in the Northern New Mexico mountains following a massive 2011 wildfire that lapped at the edges of lab property The waste from decades of bomb building has been stored outside on a mesa Following the WIPP shutdown the state and Sen Tom Udall D N M emphasized that the deadline was non negotiable Removing waste from the mesa in Los Alamos before fire season is critical to ensure safety in the greater Los Alamos community Udall said in a statement Thursday I m pleased we have a temporary solution that will ensure there will not be

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_20Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Nukes Now, Counterpunch, 6 Mar 2014
    on nukes 8 608 billion dollars not counting administrative costs see graph below The Los Alamos Study Group crunched the numbers for us Next year s request tops this year s by 7 Should the President s new Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative be approved yet 504 million more would be available for warhead spending The OGSI is 56 billion over and above the spending agreed to in the December 2013 two year budget unlikely to pass given that it s an election year would be paid for by increased taxes on the retirement funds of the rich and reduced spending in politically dicey areas like crop insurance Increased lucre for the nuclear weapons complex maintains Obama s inconsistency on the Bomb He wrote his senior thesis at Columbia on the arms race and the nuclear freeze campaign Two months after his first inauguration he uttered these words in Prague So today I state clearly and with conviction America s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons The Pentagon s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review promised to avoid new military missions or new military capabilities for nuclear weapons don t laugh you d be surprised how imaginative those guys can be 2011 was even better Obama signed the New START Treaty It limits the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1550 a 30 decrease from the previous START Treaty signed in 2002 New START also lowered limits on the number of launch platforms ICBMs ballistic missile launching subs and nuke equipped bombers At the same time his State Department refuses under first Hilary Clinton and now John Kerry to present the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification out of timidity over expected resistance never mind that the US has essentially figured

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/Counterpunch_6Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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