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Citizens Watch Newsletter April-May 2006

Livermore Lab Bids for Second Bio-Weapon Agent Facility

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April/May 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

While Tri-Valley CAREs? lawsuit continues to prevent operation of an advanced bio-warfare research facility at Livermore Lab?s main site that would spray live anthrax and plague, we have discovered that the Lab is bidding for a separate, new contract to build a second bio-facility. This facility would experiment with Ebola and other diseases for which there are no known cures or antidotes.

The University of California (UC), which manages Livermore Lab for the Dept. of Energy, has quietly answered a Dept. of Homeland Security request for ?expressions of interest? by parties that would like to house a multi-lab 50,000 square foot biological and agricultural defense facility.

The facility will require a minimum of 30 acres for work on ?high consequence zoonotic disease countermeasures research,? according to the Dept. of Homeland Security. The Bush Administration requested $23 million to design and initiate site selection for a facility that meets this description.

The proposed facility will be an integrated human, foreign animal, and zoonotic disease research, development and testing area. Lab space may include both biosafety level 3 (BSL-3, the same containment level as the Livermore Lab facility that has been the subject of our lawsuit since 2003) and biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) containment. Biosafety level 4 is the highest level of containment, reserved for the deadliest agents for which there is no prevention or cure.

The UC Regents are partnering with Livermore Lab on this project, and they hope to build the major portion of the new bio-facility at Livermore Lab?s high explosive testing range, called Site 300, in Tracy.

By the end of 2006, Homeland Security will select a short list of sites that they will study in more careful detail in an Environmental Impact Statement. This short list will incorporate a number of criteria, including community acceptance. Community opposition will also be considered in the site selection process. Thus, it is clear to us that if we remain silent, the government could once again attempt to mix bugs and bombs at its classified nuclear weapons labs, causing danger to both local communities and the international Biological Weapons Convention.

Tri-Valley CAREs is also concerned by the rapidly encroaching residential population, with new housing developments being built nearby. The City of Tracy recently annexed land that had previously separated the City from Site 300.

According to Homeland Security, the new bio-facility may replace the aging Plum Island lab that was built in the 1950?s in New York. Originally Plum Island belonged to the Dept. of Agriculture, but it was transferred to Homeland Security in 2002. Among its capabilities, Plum Island studies deadly diseases in livestock like cattle, sheep and swine. In addition to the UC-Livermore Lab bid, various institutions in thirteen other states submitted applications to house this facility.

A notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released in the fall. At that time Homeland Security will announce whether Site 300 is one of its top choices. If so, the public will be able to comment on the proposal during the environmental review process.

However, it is unwise to just sit and wait. We invite you to join Tri-Valley CAREs at upcoming UC Regents meetings. Help us tell UC that a nuclear weapons lab is not an appropriate location for bio-war research. All voices are welcome, and if you are a UC student, teacher or graduate ? so much the better! Call our office and ask for Loulena or Tara.

And now, your daily dose of relevant irony: As the U.S. spends billions to research bio-warfare agents, the Washington Post is reporting on just how bogus those Bush Administration claims to have found mobile biological weapons labs in Iraq really were. On May 29, 2003, Bush said: ?We have found the weapons of mass destruction.? But two days before, a Pentagon-sponsored team sent to Iraq concluded that the trailers were in fact ?the biggest sand toilets in the world.? One team member said: ?Within the first four hours, it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs.? The Bush Administration failed to make the team?s findings public.


DOE to Remove Lab Plutonium in 8 Years; May Double it First

by Marylia Kelley & Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April/May 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

WARNING: The article you hold in your hands contains some good news and some bad. There is lots of work to be done. Please continue reading at the risk of taking positive action to protect the Bay Area and the planet.

In a House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing in April, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced that it will remove all nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium from Livermore Lab ?by the end of 2014.? According to various accounts, Livermore Lab currently has enough plutonium on hand to make more than 100 nuclear bombs.

The decision to remove nuclear material from Livermore follows long-standing charges by Tri-Valley CAREs and others that the plutonium stored at the Lab is unsafe and vulnerable to catastrophic release in the event of a major earthquake or terrorist attack. For years, we have advocated halting all operations with special nuclear material at Livermore, a crowded 1.3 square mile weapons lab located in densely populated neighborhoods and less than 200 feet from an active earthquake fault zone.

Plutonium safety problems at Livermore were a focus of the 12 Tri-Valley CAREs members who conducted 100 meetings with DOE officials, members of Congress and other decision-makers during a trip to Washington DC in March. ?We applaud the decision to remove plutonium and highly enriched uranium from Livermore Lab even as we realize the devil will be in the details,? noted Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs? Executive Director who lives down the street from the Lab. Additionally, Kelley said, ?To wait 8 years makes no sense. We will press for a more speedy removal and for appropriate packaging to safeguard workers and communities from the handling and transportation hazards posed by these deadly materials.?

Double the Plutonium?

?It should not be forgotten that this is the very same agency that published a formal Record of Decision in the Federal Register on Nov. 29, 2005 doubling the storage limit for plutonium at Livermore Lab,? remarked Tri-Valley CAREs? Staff Attorney Loulena Miles. That decision raised the Lab?s plutonium limit from 1,540 pounds to 3,080 pounds, enough for about 300 nuclear bombs. When DOE and Livermore Lab officials were asked by Tri-Valley CAREs and reporters, the answers came out the same ? the government is holding open its option to increase the plutonium at Livermore Lab before 2014.

When the SF Chronicle's Keay Davidson posed the question of doubling Livermore's plutonium, Lab spokesperson Susan Houghton declined to rule it out. Instead, she demurred, ?It?s too soon to say exactly what present plans are.?

Responded Miles, ?The DOE?s Record of Decision must be reversed so that the government won?t have a stated policy to remove plutonium while it is trucking in more than a thousand additional pounds of the deadly material, putting workers and the local community at needless risk.?

Moreover, DOE should rethink its decision to bring ?gatling guns? to the Lab. Tri-Valley CAREs and other community members have objected to the February 2006 decision to equip Livermore Lab with multiple high-tech military weapons, each of which can simultaneously fire 7.62mm bullets from six barrels at up to 4,000 rounds per minute for a range of about one mile.

The kill-zone for these military weapons extends to thousands of workers and to additional thousands of community members. The one-mile zone around Livermore Lab includes a broad swath of densely packed homes and apartment buildings, two children?s parks, little league fields, a community swim center, an ACE train station, a business park, Sandia Lab, eateries and nearby elementary schools.

The head of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, Linton Brooks, told reporters on February 3rd that these new military weapons would enhance Livermore Lab?s ability to guard its large cache of radioactive plutonium. We believe that the government should, instead, remove the plutonium and highly enriched uranium to a more secure and remote facility in the near term.

Further, Tri-Valley CAREs calls on DOE to immediately begin a public process that will incorporate input from communities at all potential storage sites in determining the safest and most logical path forward.

Nukes Forever and a Plutonium Mega-Plex?

The DOE?s testimony was not limited to the announcement it would remove bomb usable quantities of special nuclear material out of Livermore by 2014. Most of it was, in fact, devoted to the agency?s grandiose scheme to build a whole new, industrial-scale nuclear weapons design and production complex of the future, including plans for a new plutonium mega-plex that would dwarf present facilities, to be built at an as yet undisclosed location.

The DOE vision is truly ?nukes forever,? and could involve production of more than 100 new nuclear weapons each year, with another new bomb design coming out of the weapons labs every five years.

The engine that drives this plan is the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Tri-Valley CAREs is adamantly opposed to DOE?s plan to ?transform? (DOE's own term) the weapons complex with massive new bomb-building capabilities. (See, for example, our report on RRW at http://www.trivalleycares.org/TVC_RRW_FNL.pdf.)

?Plutonium and highly enriched uranium should be removed from Livermore Lab solely as a security measure,? said Kelley. ?We reject the notion that DOE ought to build a huge plutonium mega-plex elsewhere in order to re-design and rebuild every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The RRW program is a recipe for nuclear proliferation, not safety,? Kelley concluded.

?We also want to ensure that removal of plutonium from Livermore Lab will not be used as an excuse to expand plutonium activities presently at the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico,? said Tri-Valley CAREs Outreach Director Tara Dorabji. ?In Washington, we called on Congress to stop plutonium work at Livermore while simultaneously reining in DOE?s proposed plutonium pit work at Los Alamos.?

Dorabji continued, ?As long as plutonium experiments continue unabated throughout the nuclear weapons complex, we as a country will never be able to address the waste issue. Consolidation of nuclear material is a plausible solution only if the further design and development of nuclear weapons ceases at all sites.?

We urgently call on all our members and friends to join us in stopping plutonium and new nuclear weapons ? here at Livermore Lab and throughout the nuclear weapons complex. If we act together, we can succeed. Come to our May 18th meeting, donate money to the cause, circulate the plutonium petition (available on our website) or call us to discuss other ways to get involved.


Still At It

from Tri-Valley CAREs' April/May 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

An Analysis of the Department of Energy?s Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Request for Nuclear Weapons Activities

Below are snippets from a new report by Dr. Robert Civiak, a former budget examiner with the Office of Management and Budget. Find the full report here on our website or call us to obtain a paper copy.

"The budget requests $6.4 billion for Nuclear Weapons Activities - $38 million more than the 2006 appropriation. The Administration?s request supports a vast research and manufacturing enterprise focused on upgrading existing U.S. nuclear weapons and designing new ones. Beyond being an appalling waste of Federal funds, this massive nuclear weapons development effort belies commitments the United States has under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons...

The Reliable Replacement Warhead program will likely be the most controversial issue in this year?s nuclear weapons budget... The FY 2007 budget requests $27.7 million. That relatively small funding request belies the importance [DOE] places on the RRW. There are nearly 100 references to 'Replacement Warhead' or to 'RRW' in the DOE budget documents... Overall, the 2007 request may already contain $300 million or more in RRW-related activities..."


Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April/May 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch
  • Nuke Iran? According to an April article, written by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, the Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. One of the military?s initial plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11. Hersh?s article is on the web at: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060417fa_fact.

  • UN Backs Western Shoshone. In an historic and strongly worded decision this March by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the U.S. was urged to ?freeze,? ?desist? and ?stop? actions being taken or threatened against the Western Shoshone Nation. The UN stressed the ?nature and urgency? of the Shoshone situation, informing the U.S. that it warrants immediate attention under the Committee?s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure. Included in the actions the U.S. is urged to stop are the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump and activities at the Nevada Test Site. The Western Shoshone rights to the land?which they continue to use, care for, and occupy?were recognized by the U.S. in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley.

  • U.S. Offers ?Divine Strake.? The U.S. plans to detonate a 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil explosive on June 2 at the Nevada Test Site. The test is called ?Divine Strake.? While not nuclear in composition, the test's purpose, says gov't documents, is to ?simulate a low-yield nuclear weapon.? The State of Nevada has recently demanded more information on the test?s possible environmental impacts. If "Divine Strake" is not postponed or canceled, the Western Shoshone and others are planning an action at the test site on May 28. For info, call Citizen Alert at (702) 796-5662. If you are interested in doing a solidarity vigil at Bechtel HQ in San Francisco, call Tri-Valley CAREs at (925) 443-7148. Bechtel manages the test site.

  • Council Supports Cleanup. Tracy?s City Council voted in April to write a letter asking the Dept. of Energy to fully cleanup the ?Pit 7 Complex? at Livermore Lab?s Site 300 bomb testing facility near Tracy. The Council?s letter recommends excavating unlined dump sites and removing radioactive wastes. The DOE?s current cleanup plan includes leaving remaining wastes in unlined trenches, called pits. The DOE hopes to divert future rainwater from entering the pits and mixing with the wastes. However, contaminants, including depleted uranium, tritium and perchlorate, have already leached out of unlined pits and into the groundwater. A two mile-long radioactive plume continues to migrate slowly toward Tracy. (See the Citizen's Alerts section at left for information about a May 15 public workshop in Tracy on Site 300.)

  • On the Nuclear Cross. On Good Friday, 57 people were arrested outside the gates of the Livermore Lab while offering their creative, nonviolent presence to ?dismantle our terror" ? the theme chosen for the action. About 300 people attended the early morning event. During the service, Jerry Levin from the Christian Peacemaker Teams read from a statement Mordechai Vanunu wrote especially for the occasion. Vanunu, a man who survived 18 years in an Israeli prison for exposing that country?s secret nuclear weapons program, said, ?So the message of Good Friday as I have learned it is this. It is better to die on the cross rather than use atomic weapons. Nuclear Weapons are not for human hands. They are not for any flag or any ideology.?

  • Nonviolence Education. In March, six UC Berkeley students embarked on a four-day march from Livermore Lab to the Berkeley campus to raise awareness and deepen understanding of nonviolence. The walkers stopped at various locations including high schools, elementary schools, community colleges, the Martin Luther King Freedom Center and Tri-Valley CAREs' office. The walkers decided to initiate the march at the Livermore Lab, managed by the University of California, because it is a symbol of ?violence education.? At the Westgate entrance to the Lab, the peace walkers placed two sunflowers on the fence?one that traveled from Los Alamos, the other from the Nevada Test Site.


Citizen's Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' April/May 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

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