Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
Winter 2013 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
Watchdogs Release Secret Warhead Memo
by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
The U.S. Navy does not support nor will it pay for a Feasibility Study to build a new warhead to be used interchangeably on Navy subs and land-based missiles that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory proposes to design, according to a secret memorandum released by two nuclear weapons watchdog organizations.
The memo, obtained by Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch New Mexico, outlines the Navy's decision not to move forward with a proliferation-provocative new weapon concept involving a massive redesign of both the W78 warhead that sits atop the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and the Navy's W88 warhead that tops Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles, using elements of both nuclear weapons combined with the plutonium pit (core) of a third warhead type, the W87, to create the new W78/88-1 "common platform" warhead.
"The proposal for the W78/88-1 reveals that Livermore Lab is putting its desire to flex its weapons design muscles ahead of tax-payer accountability and the more modest requirement of the existing stockpile to be maintained safely and reliably until the weapons are retired," noted Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director.
"Straying from the fully-tested, 'pedigreed' designs to a novel concept using mix and match parts from three distinct warheads could, ironically, degrade the reliability of the arsenal in the name of improving it," stated Jay Coghlan, the Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
Both groups applauded the Navy's position. "We are pleased to see the Secretary of the Navy put a roadblock in front of this adventurous weapons design program," say the watchdogs.
The leaked memo, titled "Navy Perspectives of the W78/88-1 Life Extension Program Phase 6.2, 'Analysis of Alternatives/Feasibility Study,'" states, "While the Dept. of the Navy (DON) recognizes the objectives the Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) is attempting to achieve with this LEP [Life Extension Program], we do not support commencing the effort at this time..."
The memo, dated September 27, 2012, elucidates several reasons the Navy is declining to participate in the Phase 6.2 study, which had been slated to begin later in 2013.
The Navy states that a Life Extension Program for its W88 warhead need not commence "until Fiscal Year 2020 for an initial operational capability scheduled for FY2028." The Navy further notes that, therefore, it is not funded for the W78/88-1 LEP and that the Dept. of the Navy estimates participation in the near-term Phase 6.2 study at "approximately $43 million."
The Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which owns the nuclear weapons labs and production complex, has already spent more than $100 million over two years on the initial effort, called a Phase 6.1 options study. The budget request for Fiscal Year 2013 included an additional $76.6 million, which is currently being funded under a Continuing Resolution that ends in March.
The FY2012 NNSA "Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan" estimated spending for a simpler LEP for the W78 at nearly $5 billion. The more extreme W78/88-1 LEP option is expected to cost far in excess of that amount, and could easily double or triple in price.
The leaked memo continues: "Additionally, the uncertainty of the NNSA's ability to execute its currently programmed work... raises questions as to the feasibility of effectively accomplishing this new emergent work."
The watchdog groups note that, indeed, the NNSA has a long history of mismanagement, program delays and cost overruns that triple (and more) a nuclear weapons project's original estimate. One recent example is the National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab, a $1 billion project that has already cost $8 billion for construction and related R&D and has not achieved ignition. Another example is the cost of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement - Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos Lab, initially estimated at under $700 million but rising to nearly $6 billion before the Obama Administration stepped in and delayed the project for 5-years or more.
The Navy memo further suggests the W78/88-1 LEP moving forward now may put the nuclear cart before the horse since the Nuclear Weapons Council's stockpile strategic planning process has not been completed and "its conclusions may recommend against the concept [i.e., a 'common platform' warhead]."
The pathway to the Navy's refusal to participate in the W78/88-1 LEP began in July 2010 when the NNSA designated Livermore the lead nuclear weapons design lab for the Life Extension Program for the W78, which was originally a Los Alamos Lab design. A team of about thirty Livermore Lab physicists, engineers and chemists put together the Phase 6.1 options study to "life extend" the W78 warhead, and they did not resist the chance to push for an exotic new weapon design that would fill their coffers for many years.
According to Livermore Lab's magazine, the weaponeers considered refurbishing the existing design for the W78, but preferred, instead, to undertake the more complex and novel concept of reusing components from other stockpiled designs to create a new W78/88-1 that could be placed on either Air Force ICBMs or Navy subs.
As its Phase 6.1 study drew to a close, the Livermore Lab managers presented their recommended option to the "Project Officers Group" of the Nuclear Weapons Council. As the Navy memo documents, Livermore's preferred option was to move forward with Phase 6.2 in the design of the new "common platform" W78/88-1 warhead.
Clearly, the Navy does not concur. The memo concludes: "We support delaying this study effort until the mid 2020s as Commander, USSTRATCOM notionally suggested in his July 13, 2012 briefing to the NWC."
Tri-Valley CAREs further recommends that Congress discontinue all funding for the W78/88-1 warhead and, instead, instruct the NNSA and Livermore Lab to go back to the drawing board and avoid any proliferation-provocative, needlessly costly new designs.
Livermore Lab at the Crossroad: Nuclear Bomb Cores or Cleanup?
by Scott Yundt and Tara Dorabji from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
On Wednesday, January 30, Tri-Valley CAREs invites you to a time-critical community forum featuring environmental, legal and nuclear weapons experts from New Mexico and California. We will discuss, and organize to prevent, the potentially illegal transport of plutonium bomb cores from Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico to Livermore Lab.
These bomb cores are part of the government's "Life Extension Programs" for U.S. nuclear bombs and warheads. After arriving by truck at Livermore Lab, the plutonium cores will undergo a series of tests, including vibration, thermal and drop tests, to determine how the bomb cores will perform in a "storage, transportation or use environment." Then the plutonium bombs will be put back on trucks and sent on the highway again to Los Alamos.
According to various officials we interviewed, the Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration has yet to complete any detailed written plan, and so the number of bomb cores that will be put on the road is not known. One official told Tri-Valley CAREs the plutonium bomb core shipments could go back and forth through New Mexico, Arizona and California "around six times a year." The number could vary greatly, however, depending on the nuclear weapon "campaigns" going on that year. There has been no stringent environmental review of the hazards, which could be extreme.
On September 30, 2012, Livermore Lab's security status was downgraded from a Category I/II facility to the lower threshold of a Category III facility, meaning it is no longer authorized to handle, test or store bomb-usable quantities of plutonium, including these plutonium bomb cores.
This important forum will educate participants about the dangers posed by plutonium bomb cores and develop community-wide strategies for challenging this plan now, before it is set in stone and the trucks are on the highway. As a first step, Tri-Valley CAREs has begun collecting signatures on a petition to show community opposition to the plan (see insert in English and Spanish). Many hundreds of petitions have been collected, but more are needed. Please sign, gather as many signatures as you can and mail them back to us - or bring the petitions to the forum.
The event will feature Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and our Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. Coghlan has worked on issues involving Los Alamos Lab, nuclear weapons and the environment for 22 years. Kelley has spent 30 years at the helm of Tri-Valley CAREs, focusing on Livermore Lab, its role in the nuclear weapons complex and its impacts on community and worker health and the environment. Together, they will share information from numerous meetings with decision-makers in Washington, DC and their perspectives on this bomb plan as a New Mexican and Californian.
There is growing concern among national, regional and local organizations across the country over the transport of plutonium bomb cores to Livermore Lab. Recently, 46 groups signed a letter to DOE Headquarters opposing this dangerous plan and recommending safer alternatives.
Livermore Lab stands at a crossroad. Without the large quantities of plutonium and security infrastructure it once had, its nuclear weapons R&D capabilities are necessarily limited. Thus, the Lab faces two options. It can appease the weapons designers, give security variances (potentially violating environmental and safety laws) and test plutonium bomb cores on-site, or forge a new path, focused on environmental justice, cleanup of poisons already dumped into our environment and long-term, safer, unclassified civilian science missions.
Your voice is crucial in determining which future will happen. Public pressure is one of the few ways we the people can influence nuclear weapons policy decisions. This is why we believe it is crucial that the community come together now. Together, we will build opposition to this poorly thought out plutonium bomb plan - and develop our collective vision for a better future.
According to Kelley, "People are understandably outraged that the DOE is moving forward with plans to bring deadly plutonium bomb cores to Livermore. This forum is a chance for the community to ask questions, learn more, and make its voices heard."
The forum will also feature Tri-Valley CAREs Staff Attorney, Scott Yundt, on the legal questions posed by the plutonium plan, and Peter Strauss, an environmental scientist and technical advisor on the Superfund cleanup of toxic and radioactive contamination at Livermore Lab. There will also be Spanish translation available, refreshments and plenty of time for community discussion.
The forum, presented free of charge, takes place from 7-9 pm on Wed., Jan. 30 at the Livermore main library. We sincerely hope you can join us for this timely and important topic. For more information, please see the enclosed flier, contact Tri-Valley CAREs at 925-443-7148 or check www.trivalleycares.org.
Print Bites: All the News that Fits to Print
by Scott Yundt and Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
Energy Departures. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Tom D'Agostino, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) chief, have both stepped down. The two men left amid heavy criticism, Chu for investing taxpayer dollars in the now failed Solyndra solar company and D'Agostino for systemic management problems and a security failure that allowed for infiltration, and an extended stay, by protestors at the Y-12 facility in Tennessee. No successor has been named for Chu. D'Agostino will be succeeded on an interim basis by Ms. Neile Miller, the current NNSA principle deputy administrator. Permanent appointments for both positions will be made by President Obama and require Senate confirmation. Check back for updates.
Hearings on Nuke Plant? The San Onofre nuclear power plant in Orange County, California has been closed for the past year because thousands of nearly new tubes experienced rapid embrittlement, causing some to leak radioactive steam last January. The tubes had been replaced, along with a new steam generator, which used a different alloy for the tubing, increased the number of tubes and had changes in design for the support structure. Worse, Southern California Edison made all of those changes without applying for a design change in its license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a process that would have required public hearings. Activists argue that the tubing breakdowns were foreseeable, and had the operator notified NRC and undertaken public hearings, the problem tubes might have been addressed before leaking radioactivity. The NRC is reviewing the petition for public hearings now. We hope NRC will grant the hearings, and that they will take place before the agency has completed its internal review of the restart plan. Restart at San Onofre could happen as early as March 2013, though activists across the state are working to prevent it.
Radioactive Zippers? The Dept. of Energy (DOE) proposes to allow the sale of tons of scrap metal from government nuclear sites, which could be contaminated with radioactivity. If sold, the metal would be recycled and commingled into commercial products. DOE claims that allowing radioactive metal into commercial products will expose consumers to a "negligible individual dose" of additional radiation. But the DOE does not take into account all of the potential uses of this recycled metal, which could end up in belt buckles, hip-replacement joints, and eye glasses. Such items could increase the user's cancer risk more substantially, especially if the user is a pregnant woman, child or health-compromised individual. The proposal is under debate. We will keep you posted.
Win for Lab Retirees Health Care. A state appeals court overturned a 2008 trial court decision that dismissed the Livermore Lab Retirees lawsuit over losing their promised University of California (UC) healthcare plan and being forced to buy more expensive and weaker private plans. Their newly revived lawsuit can now proceed, and the workers are seeking reinstatement of UC health coverage for all Livermore retirees. In 2007, when Lab management changed from UC to a private partnership (the Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC), the University terminated the retiree's health insurance with the promise that they would receive equivalent coverage from the new manager. That promise proved false. The workers' efforts for justice proceed.
Slowing Nuclear Drawdown. New START ratification is scarcely two years old, yet a new report from the Federation of American Scientists finds that despite the treaty, both Russia and the U.S. have slowed the rate at which they are reducing their nuclear arsenals. The report notes that the drawdown has slowed since 2007 and both counties are now investing huge sums of money in new nuclear weapon systems that are designed to operate toward the end of the century. The U.S. stockpile of strategic and tactical nuclear warheads presently stands at roughly 4,650, down from more than 19,000 in 1991, and Russia has dropped from 30,000 warheads to about 4,500 over the same period. However, together the two countries still posses around 90% of the world's nuclear weapons. We agree with the Report's recommendation that Obama make nuclear arms reduction a more prominent and visible part of his policy agenda.
Debacle at Hanford. The Dept. of Energy has contracted with Bechtel National Inc. to build and operate the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Reservation along the banks of the Colombia River in Washington State. According to a new Government Accountability Office report and a leaked internal DOE memo, the WTP, slated to treat millions of gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste from the production of nuclear weapons, has hundreds of technical problems that could lead to serious safety breaches, ranging from hydrogen explosions to nuclear chain reactions. The potential consequences of continuing with these plans prematurely could be devastating, said Rep. Ed Markey in a recent letter urging DOE to put the project on hold. Additionally, WTP costs have ballooned from $4 billion to over $13 billion, and will likely continue to climb.
Return of Mobile Nukes? At the Air Force, the 1980's are back in vogue, and not in a good way. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. announced a study to modernize its fleet of nuclear tipped Minuteman III ICBMs. The report will reportedly include an analysis of reinvigorating mobile based systems, like either the "Midgetman" program of the mid-80s that sought to place small ICBMs on massive blast-resistant vehicles or the late-80's program that sought to place 50 missiles on moving rail cars. U.S. development of a mobile missile system would likely lead to an 21st Century arms race for "mobile-basing." Let's hope the Air Force realizes its plans are as passe as the Swatch and Val-speak and a whole lot more dangerous.
Alerts 4 U
from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
Wednesday, January 30
Community Forum: Livermore Lab at the Crossroad
7:00 - 9:00 PM, Livermore Library
Community Rooms A & B
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details
Join us for this very important community gathering.Click here to see a flier with more information
Thursday, February 7
Letter to the Editor writing party
5:30 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details
Write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. We will offer a short briefing and handouts on recent events to get your creative juices flowing.
Friday, February 8
Livermore Peace Vigil for Nuclear Abolition
7 AM- 8:30 AM, Livermore Lab Main Gate
Corner of East Ave. and Vasco Rd., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details
Join us for the first monthly peace vigil for nuclear disarmament. Click here to see the flier.
Thursday, February 21
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM - 9 PM, Livermore Library
Community Room A
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details
Tri-Valley CAREs monthly meetings are a great way to stay involved with the group. Help us to create a more peaceful and just world, learn about important issues facing us as a community and nation, and have fun doing it. Long-time and new members alike are welcome. Snacks and refreshments served.
Tri-Valley CAREs Turns 30!
by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' Winter 2013 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
I am thrilled to let you know that Tri-Valley CAREs will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2013!
And the two most important words I want to say to you are THANK YOU.
We offer a secure online donations through Network for Good. Tri-Valley CAREs is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please contribute today!