Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
January/February 2012 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
by Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' January/February 2012 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
SANE Act to Cut Nuke Spending
As we go to press, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) is introducing an important new bill, called the SANE (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures) Act.
The bill, co-sponsored by Markey and 34 other Members of Congress (including 7 from California), calls for canceling, freezing, or reducing more than a dozen costly nuclear programs for a savings of about $100 billion over 10 years.
The SANE Act, if passed, would eliminate several Dept. of Energy projects that Tri-Valley CAREs has worked hard to cut. The bill would zero out all funding for the CMRR-nuclear facility, the Uranium Processing Facility, and the MOX (mixed oxide plutonium fuel) plant. It would further eliminate the DOE's B61 and W78 Life Extension Programs.
At the Dept. of Defense, the SANE Act calls for a reduction in ballistic missile submarines, land-based missiles, and aircraft bombers - the three legs of the nuclear triad.
The SANE Act is a step in the right direction for nuclear policy, and Tri-Valley CAREs is honored that Rep. Markey listed our group as a participating NGO in the efforts to cut the nuclear weapons budget.
Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) announced he will soon introduce a 2012 version of a bill he first introduced last year to mandate increased spending to "modernize" U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
And, in previewing the Defense Dept.'s 2013 budget request, Secretary Leon Panetta recently said the U.S. will delay production of its next generation nuclear submarine, although he stopped short of announcing any truly deep funding cuts that would go beyond stemming planned increases to the Pentagon budget.
2012 is shaping up as a pivotal year for nuclear issues!
By Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' January/February 2012 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
What to Look for in the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for Nuclear Weapons
The fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request for nuclear weapons will be released on February 13, one week late and several days beyond our print deadline. Fortunately, your team of "watchdogs" at Tri-Valley CAREs has been ever-vigilant, conducting dozens of meetings and interviews with the Dept. of Energy (DOE) and others regarding the costs associated with U.S. nuclear weapons programs.
Based on our research, here are some key items to look for in the DOE FY13 budget request to Congress for nuclear weapons. And, while prediction is an inexact science, we think there will be some good news for those of us who advocate for reduced spending on nuclear weapons programs.
Tri-Valley CAREs and scores of like-minded groups across the country have spent years opposing the DOE's plan to construct and operate a new plutonium bomb factory, called the CMRR-nuclear facility, at the Los Alamos Lab in NM. Many of you have written letters, made phone calls and met with Members of Congress to stop this project. Look for the FY13 budget request for the CMRR-nuclear facility to be severely cut, if not eliminated.
If our prediction is correct, this will be a major victory. Moreover, the latest word is that DOE will not try to move forward with the CMRR-nuclear facility project until around 2022.
On the other side of the same coin is the oversized Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) that DOE wants to construct and operate at Y-12 in TN. Look for the budget request to speed up the construction schedule for the UPF.
Tri-Valley CAREs and many other groups will continue to oppose the UPF, as currently envisioned, because it is wrongly sized and missioned to enable increased production of new uranium "secondaries" for new nuclear weapons. Instead, the UPF mission should be focused on dismantling nuclear weapons secondaries and, as a nonproliferation step, downblending the highly enriched uranium so that it can't be used in nuclear bombs again. So, look for Tri-Valley CAREs to issue an action alert on the UPF budget this spring.
Also rumored to be in for a trim in the FY2013 budget request is the DOE's mixed oxide plutonium fuel (MOX) program at the Savannah River Site in SC. Look for the budget request to zero out funding for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility (PDCF) intended to convert plutonium from a metal form into an oxide.
The PDCF had been DOE's preferred method for providing the plutonium oxide that the MOX facility would then blend with uranium into fuel rods for nuclear power plants. If, indeed, the PDCF is knocked out of the budget request, look for DOE to shop for new furnaces (and use the existing ARIES one at Los Alamos) in an attempt to get around its loss of the PDCF. And, look for action alerts from Tri-Valley CAREs and allied groups calling on Congress to cancel the entire MOX program.
Another set of nuclear weapons programs that Tri-Valley CAREs "watchdogs" are the so-called Life Extension Programs (LEPs) wherein nuclear weapons are not just refurbished but given new military capabilities, thereby blurring the distinction between "new" and "existing" weapons. Look for the scope of the B61-12 LEP to be reduced (good news), although its out year costs will rise about a billion dollars, from around $4.5 to $5.5 billion (not good news).
More information on the estimated costs for the B61-12 LEP should become available later in 2012 as the DOE completes its official cost study. Look for Tri-Valley CAREs to continue to oppose any plan to "mix and match" parts from different versions of the B61 to create a B61-12 "Frankenbomb" in this LEP.
Turning our attention to one of Livermore Lab's infamous boondoggles, we predict that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) will, again, be a big ticket item in the DOE budget request.
The DOE was supposed to achieve thermonuclear ignition at NIF in 2003, then 2010 and now 2012. The NIF has cost around $7 billion, if one counts construction and R&D costs. And, ignition is highly unlikely to occur in 2012.
Will there be a spike in the FY13 budget request as DOE scrambles to obscure NIF's failure? And, more importantly, will Congress wise up and cut its funding in the appropriations process that will take place during the spring and summer of 2012? Look for Tri-Valley CAREs' action alerts on the NIF budget and technical deficiencies this spring.
Another Livermore Lab item worth checking in the budget request is the plutonium facility in the so-called "Superblock."
You may recall that Livermore Lab failed a security drill in 2008 when mock terrorists were able to access its nuclear material and create a "radiological device." Further, the mock attackers were also able to steal nuclear material and leave the Livermore site. Since then, the DOE has been removing nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium from the Lab for storage in more secure locations.
However, with the CMRR-nuclear facility being put on hold for a decade or more, we hear that there is renewed interest in keeping the Livermore Lab facility open for plutonium bomb core work. Look for Tri-Valley CAREs to oppose (and reverse!) this dangerous, wrong-way turn of events even as we continue to oppose the CMRR-nuclear facility.
We hope we have whetted your appetite to find out what's in the Obama Administration's FY2013 nuclear weapons budget request. The multi-volume document should be posted on the web at doe.gov soon after it is transmitted to Congress.
Moreover, Tri-Valley CAREs will produce, as we do each year, a concise, reader-friendly analysis of the budget request for nuclear weapons activities. Look for its publication soon!
In sum, we invite you to celebrate the (expected) victories in the budget request with us. And, know, too, that further cuts are possible as it wends its way through Congress. Indeed, check the article on page 1 to see some of what Tri-Valley CAREs is working on with Rep. Ed Markey and colleagues! Onward, together...
By Scott Yundt from Tri-Valley CAREs' January/February 2012 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
Court Bows to DOE on Bio-warfare Research
In a disappointing decision, issued on February 7, 2012, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Tri-Valley CAREs' challenge to Livermore Lab's BSL-3 advanced bio-warfare agent research facility.
The Livermore BSL-3 conducts experiment with genetically modified and aerosolized (sprayed) lethal pathogens, such as live anthrax, plague, SARS, West Nile Virus and dozens more. It is authorized to store and use up to 50 liters of these deadly pathogens. Seven million residents live within a 50-mile radius.
How we got here
In 2006, Tri-Valley CAREs prevailed in this same 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, when the Court determined that the DOE's environmental review had failed to analyze both the threat of terrorism and the potential health and environmental impacts that might follow an attack on the BSL-3.
In response to that decision, DOE issued a Final Revised Environmental Assessment, or FREA. The FREA, like its predecessor document, concluded that the threat of a terrorist attack posed "no significant impact" to the environment and that, therefore, a full Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings were not necessary.
It was at this point in 2008 that Livermore Lab began operating the new bio-warfare research facility, and Tri-Valley CAREs filed its second lawsuit in the lower-level District Court to uphold the higher, Appellate Court's 2006 decision.
The District Court concluded that the DOE need not undertake additional analysis. Tri-Valley CAREs appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit in 2010. Unfortunately, the 9th Circuit ruled for the DOE.
Scott Yundt, Staff Attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs, said, "While I am surprised and disappointed that the 9th Circuit Court did not rule in Tri-Valley CAREs' favor, our activities to challenge the necessity and safety of this research will continue."
Yundt continued, "I commend all the years of commitment, support and good work that our members and staff have undertaken. That work has resulted in important public discourse about U.S. biodefense policy, it has slowed the development of DOE's dangerous bio-warfare research, and it has resulted in additional safety precautions being added to the Livermore BSL-3, including a second bank of HEPA air filters."
"The big losers are public health and public participation in government decision making," said named plaintiff and Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "Here at Tri-Valley CAREs, we have a moral responsibility as well as a legal one to act to protect worker and community health. Our members are threatened by a release of deadly pathogens. That has not changed with the 9th Circuit Court's unfortunate decision."
Kelley vowed, "We will continue in the public and political arenas to challenge this dangerous Livermore facility as well as the DOE's planned expansion of its biological weapons agent research to a similar facility at the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico."
Alerts 4 U
Thursday, February 16
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM - 9 PM
2582 Old First St., Livermore
RSVP (925) 443-7148
Get active. Get energized. Make a difference. Our February meeting will have up to the minute information on the nuclear weapons budget (to be released on 2/13/12) and what it all means. We will also discuss the Superfund cleanup of toxic and radioactive waste at Livermore Lab, our upcoming community meeting, the Court's bad bio-decision - and more. Join us.
Thursday, February 23
Community Meeting in Tracy
"Nuclear Weapons, Pollution & YOU"
7:30 PM - 9 PM
Tracy Transit Center, Room 105, on 6th St. & Central Ave., located near the Grand Theater
RSVP (925) 443-7148
Tri-Valley CAREs is sponsoring this special meeting to explore polluting activities at the Livermore Lab's "Site 300" high explosives testing range in Tracy. (See enclosed flier and factsheet.)
Friday, February 24
Protest at Vandenberg Air Force Base
Special Bus - Bay Area to VAFB
Fare scholarships available
The Defense Dept. test launches Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which are intended to be armed with nuclear warheads, from VAFB on the CA coast near Lompoc to the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands. There will be a protest at the gates at 11:30 PM, just before the midnight ICBM launch, sponsored by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United for Peace & Justice, Tri-Valley CAREs and other groups. Father Louie Vitale will be the keynote speaker.
To make the protest more accessible to Bay Area activists, MacGregor has chartered a "Green Tortoise" bus to the gates of VAFB and back, complete with bunk beds, a bathroom and a kitchenette! (Reservations required.) The bus will leave the West Oakland BART station at 5pm on Friday 2/24 and make pick-ups in San Jose, Palo Alto and Monterrey. The return trip will get you back early Saturday morning. (Get details from MacGregor Eddy or from Tri-Valley CAREs.)
Thursday, March 1
Letter to the Editor writing party
5:30 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details
Come and write a letter to your favorite newspaper in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. We have 2 suggested topics for March: The anniversary of the 3/11 Fukushima disaster; and, U.S. spending on nuclear weapons. We will offer a short briefing and handouts on each topic.
Wednesday, March 7
Tri-Valley anti-war vigil
7 PM, 603 Main St., Pleasanton
Reflect on the human and economic costs of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This will be the 40th monthly candlelight vigil hosted by P4P. Rain or shine.
Saturday, March 11
Anniversary of the Fukushima
nuclear power plant tragedy
7:00 PM, at ILWU Local 34
801 2nd St. / King St. (by AT&T Park) SF
(415) 867-0628 or (917) 774-4079
This very special program will remember the workers and community at the Fukushima nuclear power plant with original music, poetry and presentations. The event is sponsored by No Nukes Action to "stop the madness" in solidarity with all who have been exposed to radiation from dangerous nuclear technology. Call for details.
By Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' January/February 2012 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
Thanks to Our Members and Friends
As we move forward into the New Year, I want to take a moment to reflect on all that we accomplished together in 2011 - and to say thank you!g decision, issued on February 7, 2012, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Tri-Valley CAREs' challenge to Livermore Lab's BSL-3 advanced bio-warfare agent research facility.
Tri-Valley CAREs began the year focused on "walking back" the increased nuclear weapons funding that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) had extracted from President Obama as the political price to ratify the New START agreement. Working together, we reduced the nuclear weapons budget despite the "deal." In fact, the year ended with several hundred million dollars in cuts. Moreover, we expect our work to yield additional cuts when the new budget request is revealed February 13.
We also submitted technical comments on a wide array of nuclear weapons projects last year. We opposed a new plutonium factory at Los Alamos, an overblown uranium plant at Y-12, business as usual at the Nevada Test Site, increases in radioactivity at Livermore Lab and a failure to include the Sandia, Livermore site in an environmental impact statement (did they really think we wouldn't notice?).
Tri-Valley CAREs brought its staff, board and youth to Washington to speak truth to power to the Administration and Congress. In the wake of the tragedy at Fukushima, we illuminated the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons - and called for the elimination of both.
We took action in the courts to uphold the National Environmental Policy Act and the Freedom of Information Act. We mobilized the community to improve the cleanup of toxic and radioactive pollution at Livermore Lab. Working with colleagues, we brought hundreds of people to demonstrate against nuclear weapons at the Laboratory gates - and more.
In each of these achievements, YOU were there. Your participation as a member, volunteer or donor made all of our 2011 successes possible.
Hundreds of you offered valuable time and skills. More than 650 of you gave individual financial gifts, ranging from a few dollars to several thousand. Every donation matters, and we are blessed by your partnership.
I thank you - and look forward to our work together in 2012.