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  • The Year's End Brings Real Disarmament That You Can Touch and Feel, Foreign Policy in Focus, Russ Wellen, Dec 21, 2011
    Even stranger this fake counting rule frees up a large pool of warhead spaces under the treaty limit that enable each country to deploy many more warheads than would otherwise be the case Indeed the New START Treaty is not so much a nuclear reductions treaty as it is a verification and confidence building treaty Confidence building is nice and all But it s been 62 years since both the United States and the former Soviet Union and then Russia have possessed nuclear weapons 25 years since the pivotal Reykjavík nuclear summit and 20 years since the end of the Cold War We re still just trying to build confidence Meanwhile what does disarmament look like when it s not just pecking at the inside of its egg struggling to emerge Regular readers of Focal Points know that we track the progress of the Los Alamos Study Group a disarmament organization that monitors the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory the heart of the Manhattan Project during World War II and is today managed by a Bechtel led consortium for the National Nuclear Security Administration In recent years the mission of the Los Alamos Study Group LASG has been to halt the progress of a Soviet era sounding project called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility CMRR intended in the words of the Los Alamos National Laboratory itself to perform analytical chemistry materials characterization and metallurgy research and development for the production of nuclear pits Upon first hearing the phrase a nuclear pit might sound like a dump for nuclear waste and old warheads But as in the pit of a fruit it s an origin of life where the chain reaction occurs in a nuclear warhead You can be forgiven if you re surprised that in light of President Obama s renowned Prague disarmament speech and New START however watered down we re still creating these obscure objects of destruction Especially considering that 14 000 pits have been recovered from warheads that have been retired Physicist and nuclear policy authority Frank von Hippel recently testified in a lawsuit that the LASG filed against the National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA The need for large scale pit production has vanished In 2003 the NNSA was arguing that the United States needed the capability to produce 125 to 450 pits per year by 2020 to replace the pits in the US weapon stockpile that would be 30 to 40 years old by then But in 2006 we learned that US pits were so well made that according to a Congressionally mandated review of pit aging Most primary types have credible minimum lifetimes in excess of 100 years Of course that s as much bad news these infernal engines will be around for another century unless they re dismantled as good news Meanwhile the CMRR project is now expected to cost between 4 and 6 billion In order to halt or at least stall it the LASG filed a case against the NNSA seeking

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/FPIF_21Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Budget bill approved by House cuts spending for nuke lab, prohibits construction, Associated Press, Dec 16, 2011
    requested It also notes that no construction activities are funded for the project this year and calls for a new report on the country s capability for manufacturing so called pits or the cores that power nuclear weapons Watchdogs hailed the budget action as a sign Congress was backing it s calls for the National Nuclear Security Administration to slow down on plans to build the facility We are very pleased that Congress has substantially agreed with our analysis regarding the need to delay this project and has also endorsed our call to re examine alternatives for managing pit production Greg Mello head of the Los Alamos Study Group said in a statement His group has filed two lawsuits seeking to force NNSA to study alternatives to CMRR Lab officials say the proposed new lab called the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility or CMRR is needed to replace a 1940s era facility that is beyond renovation yet crucial to supporting its mission as the primary center for maintaining and developing the country s stockpile of nuclear weapons Although the facility has been in the planning stages for years increased scrutiny has been placed on the lab in recent years as

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/AP_16Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Appropriations bill slashes funding for new plutonium lab at Los Alamos, disallows construction, in FY2012, press release Dec 16, 2011
    three months of passage of this legislation p 69 In other words NNSA s prior approach to pit manufacturing must now be reexamined presumably in light of alternatives Study Group Director Greg Mello The decision to cut back spending on the proposed additional plutonium facility at Los Alamos and to delay construction for at least one year is now a consensus in Congress It has bicameral bipartisan support in all four relevant committees and will pass both houses We are very pleased that Congress has substantially agreed with our analysis regarding the need to delay this project and has also endorsed our call to reexamine alternatives for managing pit production We have listed a number of possible alternatives and look forward to discussing them with NNSA and Congress We believe no new facilities are needed NNSA should now pause design of this project already a mega boondoggle which would save taxpayers over 100 million this year alone and many billions of dollars later should it ever be built and operated NNSA could legally use some of its CMRR line item funding to pursue the study of reasonable CMRR alternatives as the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA requires which NNSA has never done Those alternatives must include a No Action alternative to CMRR NF which again illegally NNSA has never examined NNSA has already squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on this project and it should stop now It is important that all the relevant committees have shown a preference for fulling funding UPF instead of CMRR and have targeted virtually all their proposed cuts to NNSA s infrastructure modernization programs on CMRR The Army Corps of Engineers has warned NNSA in a closely held report that attempting to construct both these projects simultaneously risks turning both projects into fiascoes These

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/press_release_16Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Defense authorization bill would slash FY2012 funding for new plutonium lab at Los Alamos, press release, Dec 14, 2011
    NNSA Weapons Activities Both armed services committees also had previously proposed full funding for the CMRR project The House version of this legislation would have barred expenditures for retiring dismantling or eliminating any non deployed nuclear weapon until the CMRR project and the Uranium Processing Facility UPF in Tennessee were both completed and operational and the Secretary of Energy had certified that CMRR and the LANL main plutonium facility PF 4 could produce 80 new warhead cores pits per year This provision Section 1045 pp 695ff in the conference report has been changed to a general reporting requirement that does not reference CMRR or UPF The bill now features a requirement to search for redundancies and inefficiencies in the nuclear warhead complex Section 3123 pp 1028ff Nationwide CMRR and the neighboring TA 55 Reinvestment Project TRP designed to upgrade PF 4 and make it safer were the only NNSA Weapons Activities construction projects proposed for cuts from the requested amounts TRP was cut from 19 4 M to 10 0 M a relatively small sum which can be covered from operating expenses The proposed CMRR cut is 90 of the total proposed cut in new NNSA construction matching the approach of the House Appropriations Committee earlier in the year As that Committee noted at the time a 100 M cut from proposed CMRR spending would take away the funds needed to begin CMRR NF construction in FY2012 which they explicitly had no intention of allowing Study Group Director Greg Mello While there is plenty to be concerned about in this bill we are pleased that the defense conferees have chosen the unjustified provocative CMRR NF project for a significant cut reversing their earlier full endorsement It is past time for NNSA to pause the project for reconsideration which would save

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/press_release_14Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Overdose. Is LANL exposing the public to excessive risk? SF Reporter, Dec 7, 2011
    to a whopping 1 795 rems usually from inhalation of radioactive particles That high dose is actually the estimated exposure to a person over a 50 year lifespan Kim Kearfott a professor of radiology at the University of Michigan explains The good news is this number is not as bad as it looks Kearfott says The bad news is that person would be radioactive for a long time the reality is if you inhale plutonium it s exposing you every year for the rest of your life In that hypothetical scenario the exposed person would have about a 36 rem dose per year for 50 years and a corresponding increased cancer risk Each year the exposed person s risk of cancer would increase by about 2 percent The 25 rem dose that the federal government recommends nuclear facilities not exceed presents a 1 percent increase in the exposed person s chance of getting cancer Kearfott says It s also the threshold above which an exposed person s blood will start to show changes such as increased white blood cell count By contrast the maximum dose a nuclear facility worker should be exposed to over the course of a year is five rems Twenty five rems is a fairly high number nuclear engineer John Till says Till is the president of Risk Assessment Corporation a private company that like the DNFSB estimates radiation exposure doses to the public caused by radioactive materials It s higher than we allow people to get normally when they re working during the year Till says On the other hand it s set so that the likelihood of a health defect occurring from that exposure is fairly small LANL has more facilities that exceed the 25 rem guideline than any other NNSA site DNFSB Chairman Peter Winokur said at the meeting One facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina also exceeds radiation dose guidelines under some hypothetical accident scenarios But the guideline is only a recommendation not an enforceable regulation Last spring US Energy Secretary Steven Chu rejected the DNFSB s recommendation to formalize the radiation dose guideline into a regulation But the DNFSB itself has only an advisory role and no regulatory power as Board Member John Mansfield pointed out at the meeting LANL Director for Business and Operations Carl Beard said he felt the lab s operations are safer now than they ve ever been adding that the safety goals of LANL and the DNFSB are very well aligned although we do discuss semantics and issues You re your own regulator so you re the ones determining when these facilities are safe to operate Mansfield told LANL and NNSA representatives We re just trying to understand your interpretation of this nuclear safety management rule The high estimated radiation dose for Area G is partly due to the volume of radioactive material stored there approximately 10 8 million cubic feet of waste The plutonium facility for its part needs new ventilation and fire

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/SFReporter_7Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • "Gateway to a Bleak & Hopeless World," Russ Wellen, Foreign Policy in Focus, Dec 7, 2011
    along a fault line and near an active volcano Savings 2 9 billion Greg Mello is the executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group which is leading the charge to block the CMRR NF via the courts The LASG is both appealing the dismissal of its case which sought a new Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act to address those seismic concerns and is filing a second lawsuit to the same end Not long after singling out the CMRR NF for condemnation the Times provided Mello with space for an op ed of his own He points out that the present plutonium facility at Los Alamos which has about twice the space inside as the proposed one already has a high capacity manufacturing line that takes up just a third of the building Why does the nuclear administration need to produce more pits let alone at a faster rate Scientists agree that the existing stock of pits will last a century or so without replacement Then the American Conservative ran a story about the CMRR NF Kelley Beaucar Vlahos reports It hasn t been built yet in fact the designs aren t even finished after 10 years But the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF has been soaking up taxpayer money all the same as the scope of the project has metastasized The country doesn t have money to pour into an unnecessary giant boondoggle that has grown beyond all original expectations charges Greg Mello executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group There is no doubt that the budget cutting imperative is clashing with the old way of doing business on Capitol Hill as pet projects and earmarks come under more scrutiny than ever That includes CMRR NF which has never been the subject of a public congressional hearing or passionate floor speech much less a heated debate on cable TV or talk radio but has been controversial nonetheless Finally some good news as relayed in the latest LASG newsletter Today the U S Court of Appeals for the Tenth Judicial District ruled in favor of the Los Alamos Study Group on a motion by the Department of Justice DOJ requesting dismissal of the Study Group s appeal of a May 2011 decision by a New Mexico federal district court which allowed the National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA and the Department of Energy DOE to continue working toward building the CMRR NF The Study Group had claimed and still claims in this appeal and in a second lawsuit filed in New Mexico federal court that NNSA and DOE have never written an applicable environmental impact statement EIS for the facility that the agencies involved are violating the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA and that the project is proceeding illegally and must be halted while an applicable EIS is written In a separate positive ruling yesterday for Study Group in their second NEPA case in New Mexico federal court the court denied DOJ

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/FPIF_7Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Debate over $6B Los Alamos nuke lab, Dec 5, 2011
    ensure the planned building could withstand an earthquake of up to 7 3 magnitude Most seismic experts agree that would be a worst case scenario for the area But many people who live near the lab and have seen it twice threatened by massive wildfires in 10 years see no reason for taking the chance The Department of Energy has learned nothing from the Fukushima disaster said David McCoy director of the environmental and nuclear watchdog group Citizens Action New Mexico at a recent oversight hearing That s become a common refrain since last year s earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a meltdown at one of its nuclear plants The major lesson of Fukushima is ignored by NNSA Don t build dangerous facilities in unsafe natural settings Mapped fault lines in the Los Alamos National Laboratory area Credit Dept of Energy Lab officials say CMRR is needed to replace a 1940s era facility that is beyond renovation yet crucial to supporting its mission as the primary center for maintaining and developing the country s stockpile of nuclear weapons While much of the work is classified they insist the lab s mission is to do analytical work to support the nearby Plutonium Facility or PF 4 which is the only building in the country equipped for making the pits that power nuclear weapons Watchdog groups however call it an effort by the DOE and NNSA to escalate the production of new nuclear weapons and turn what has largely been a research facility into a bomb factory And they are not giving up their efforts to halt the project The Los Alamos Study Group headed by Greg Mello one of a number of area activists who have made a career out of monitoring LANL has two lawsuits challenging the project and what he says is the federal government s refusal to look at alternatives despite the increased seismic threats uncovered in 2007 that have sent the price tag soaring Mello spends his days poring over every available public document on Los Alamos and the nation s nuclear program And he makes frequent trips to Washington to lobby against funding for CMRR which he says is an unnecessary attempt to open the door for an overall expansion in intensity and scale of the nation s nuclear weapons program At just about every public hearing related to the labs Mello lines up with a regular group of aging hippies retired scientists former lab employees residents of nearby pueblos as well as housewives and grandmothers from Santa Fe and other neighboring communities to oppose CMRR and anything and everything related to an expansion or continuation of the nuclear mission at Los Alamos While much of the public outcry over Los Alamos in recent years has focused on lagging cleanup efforts of radioactive waste and hazardous runoff into the canyons that drain into the Rio Grande earthquake danger and the potential for catastrophic releases of radiation from existing facilities was front and center at a

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/AP_5Dec2011.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Tenth Circuit Allows Appeal of NM Decision that Allowed Los Alamos Plutonium Facility to Proceed, Nov 29, 2011
    Group s appeal of a May 2011 decision by a New Mexico federal district court which allowed the National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA and the Department of Energy DOE to continue working toward building a 4 6 billion plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory LANL The Study Group had claimed and still claims in this appeal and in a second lawsuit filed in New Mexico federal court that NNSA and DOE have never written an applicable environmental impact statement EIS for the facility called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF that the agencies involved are violating the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA and that the project is proceeding illegally and must be halted while an applicable EIS is written This is good news very positive for us said Study Group director Greg Mello The Tenth Circuit has decided to hear our appeal and the federal agencies which we believe are grossly violating NEPA must now explain themselves before a panel of senior judges in Denver In a separate positive ruling pdf yesterday for Study Group in their second NEPA case in New Mexico federal court the court denied DOJ s attempt to transfer the new case to the Honorable Judith Herrera who had ruled against the Study Group in the first case the case now under appeal Mello Congress passed NEPA to require federal agencies to take a hard look at alternatives to projects that will endanger the environment That hard look has never happened in this case The project has ballooned to ten or fifteen times the original cost estimates is going to be delayed at least 14 years the nuclear stockpile has declined by half the original raison d etre for the project has largely evaporated and yet there are no possible alternatives

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2011/press_release_29Nov2011.html (2016-02-16)
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