Reading Room

April 2008 Citizens' Watch Newsletter

TVC to Meet with Lawmakers in DC; Issue "Report Card"

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' - Citizens' Watch Newsletter

Tri-Valley CAREs will be in Washington, DC from April 13 through 16 this year to release a "Radioactive Report Card" grading U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons policies during the George W. Bush years and laying out a new and different agenda for the next administration to follow.

The group will also meet with Members of Congress and agency officials to press for an end to nuclear weapons development and to recommend new bomb funding be used instead for environmental cleanup and other programs being slashed by the Bush administration's final budget request.

"We will ask Congress to again cut the funding for the so-called 'Reliable Replacement Warhead,' a new H-bomb being developed at Livermore Lab," vowed Jedidjah de Vries, Tri-Valley CAREs' Outreach Director and a resident of Livermore. "Further, we will demand that no money be given to DOE's 'Bombplex' plan to revitalize the infrastructure of the nuclear weapons complex and build new bomb plants."

"I am traveling to DC to represent the voice of my community and of my generation," the 21 year-old de Vries continued. "Together, we will stop nuclear weapons and build a new future."

The Tri-Valley CAREs team will be working with colleagues from more than a dozen other states who are participating in the 20th annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) "DC Days." The Tri-Valley CAREs delegation will meet with Senators and Representatives from California, leaders of congressional committees that oversee nuclear issues, and key federal agency staffers.

Marylia Kelley, the group's Executive Director who lives down the street from Livermore Lab said, "We will demand that Congress and the DOE reprioritize the Superfund cleanup of toxic and radioactive pollution at Livermore and other nuclear sites across the country."

Kelley further explained, "Thirteen facilities at Livermore Lab that had been cleaning pollutants out of soil and groundwater have recently been turned off because of funding cuts. Contamination is moving unimpeded through our environment. I will tell the government that this is unacceptable."

Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, stated, "The 2008 elections will usher in a new administration and Congress, creating the opportunity to redirect U.S. policy. Elected officials need to make environmental protection, public health and compliance with our nation's legal obligations top priorities." Tri-Valley CAREs has been a member group of the national Alliance for Nuclear Accountability since 1989. The ANA network represents more than 30 local, regional and national organizations whose members live downwind and downstream from U.S. nuclear weapons production and radioactive waste disposal sites. The four-day long "DC Days" will be followed by a meeting of the ANA member organizations to share information and strategies.

Your Tri-Valley CAREs team will offer its "report back" at our April 24 meeting. See page 3 for details.

Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

from Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter, Citizens' Watch

Since our last newsletter, we formally filed new litigation in federal court to compel a thorough review of the bio-warfare agent research facility that opened early this year at Livermore Lab. We are asking the court to "stay" (suspend) the facility's operation. At www.trivalleycares.org, you will find our press release, Complaint, Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Reply to the government's objections to our case. Stay tuned.

The Project on Government Oversight released a new report on plutonium in Livermore titled, "Livermore Lab and Plutonium Make Bad Neighbors." Come by the Tri-Valley CAREs office and check out a copy.

Alerts 4 You

from Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter, Citizens' Watch

Thursday, April 24 (Date Change)
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Please note that our April meeting is one week later than usual due to the annual "DC Days" event the preceding week. Your team from Tri-Valley CAREs will be in Washington, DC meeting with Members of Congress and the Administration.

Join us April 24 to get a report back from the nation's capital. Our April meeting agenda will also feature the latest on our lawsuit against the Livermore bio-warfare agent research facility, an update on Lab plutonium issues, what's new in funding for nuclear weapons (and how to help us cut it), the comments on "Bombplex" - and more. There will also be sick worker news, local vigil ideas, and Hiroshima action planning. If you care about peace, justice and the environment, don't miss this meeting.

Thursday, May 11 (Circle the date)
Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
-2 sessions: 4PM - 6PM and 7PM - 9PM
Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Looking for a way to help Tri-Valley CAREs? Volunteers are needed to get the next edition of our newsletter, Citizen's Watch, ready for the Post Office. We will supply food, drink and labels. You bring yourself and a bit of conversation to share. Thank you.

New Law Will Help Many Sick Workers at Livermore Lab

by Rob Schwartz from Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On April 2, 2008, a class of employees from Livermore Lab were officially added to the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) under the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (EEOICPA).

"This designation is important. It will greatly simplify the compensation process for some of the Livermore Lab employees who suffered on-the-job exposures and then developed cancer," commented Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney. "The long wait that many workers in our community have been forced to endure may soon be over," continued Schwartz, who facilitates a quarterly support group for ill Livermore Lab and Sandia Lab workers.

"Anyone who gets sick while in the service of our national interest should receive the benefits they deserve, and even more, these critical services must be delivered quickly," said U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-10th District). The SEC is a "resource for workers and their families to get the assistance they desperately need," she added.

The Livermore Lab SEC allows sick workers who meet certain employment qualifications to receive compensation for specified cancers associated with radiation exposure without having to go through the bureaucratic snarl of individual dose reconstruction, which is impossible to do correctly in the absence of records.

Both Tri-Valley CAREs and Rep. Tauscher had written the Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), Mike Leavitt, urging him to expedite designation of the class of employees from Livermore Lab as part of the Special Exposure Cohort.

On March 3, 2008, HHS designated the following class of employees as an addition to the SEC: Employees of the DOE, its predecessor agencies, and DOE contractors or subcontractors who were monitored for radiation exposure while working at Livermore Lab from January 1, 1950, through December 31, 1973, for a number of work days aggregating at least 250 work days or in combination with work days within the parameters established for one or more other classes of employees in the SEC.

Under the EEOICPA, a 30-day period generally follows the HHS designation before it becomes law. As stated, the Livermore Lab SEC became law on April 2.

The Secretary's designation differed in some respects from the class definition that was originally proposed. The usual class definition language of "who were monitored or should have been monitored" was replaced with "were monitored for radiation exposure." Also, the language in the original class definition has been changed from "for internal exposure to mixed fission and/or activation product radionuclides" to "radiation exposure." According to the Secretary, this change was made for accuracy and ease of application to compensation decisions by the Dept. of Labor (DOL).

"While this designation is certainly a step in the right direction, I'm concerned that many people are being left out," observed Schwartz. "For instance, employees who worked in administrative areas will not be covered under this class definition. Nor will it cover Livermore Lab workers whose employment, and on-the-job exposures, occurred after 1973. Tri-Valley CAREs will continue to work with community members and elected officials until these workers receive the compensation they so justly deserve."

BACKGROUND: The SEC is a designation given to a class of workers for whom sufficiently accurate dose reconstructions cannot be performed. Without such a designation, sick workers must have their doses reconstructed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a lengthy and confusing process that is often still incomplete when the worker dies. Once given the SEC designation, sick workers need not go through the NIOSH process but, instead, demonstrate that they fall within the SEC class definition and have one of the specified 22 cancers outlined in the EEOICPA.

Now that the class of workers from Livermore Lab has been added to the SEC, all claims at NIOSH will be sent back to DOL. The DOL will then be responsible for determining eligibility for compensation under the new class. DOL will also review all claims currently in its possession for individuals from Livermore Lab.

Congress enacted the EEOICPA in 2000. The Act provides for qualified claimants or their surviving spouses to receive a maximum of $250,000 in compensation. If living, related medical treatment for the sick worker is included.

ACTIONS & NEXT STEPS: Tri-Valley CAREs will be holding its next Sick Worker Support Group meeting at the Livermore Library on Wed., June 4. The meeting will be held in Community Room A from 10AM to Noon. Workers from Livermore Lab, Sandia Lab and other DOE facilities who suffered on-the-job exposures are welcome to participate, as are family, friends and supporters.

In addition, officials from the U.S. Dept. of Labor will hold informational meetings in Livermore on Wed., April 23 at 7 PM & Thurs., April 24 at 10 AM and 2 PM. These meetings will be at the Doubletree Club, 720 Las Flores Rd., Livermore. Tri-Valley CAREs will be there with fact sheets and other materials.

People to Government: We Need a New Future, Not a New Bombplex

by Jedidjah de Vries from Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Dept. of Energy brought its plans for new bomb plants to the Tri-Valley region this past month. Three public hearings on the future of the nuclear weapons complex were held, one in Tracy and two in Livermore. The hearings were the community's opportunity to voice their opinions on the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) proposed "Complex Transformation" (a.k.a. "Bombplex") plan, and voice them they did.

Folks from down the street, around the state and all walks of life came to "speak truth to power." For two days, in 5 minute segments, the people expressed their opposition to DOE's plan to rebuild and revitalize the weapons complex.

Each of the hearings opened with a DOE video, followed by a presentation from Ted Wyka, the DOE document manager for the "Complex Transformation" process. The government portrayed nuclear weapons forever as a "consolidation" because old buildings would be torn down in favor of building new "modern" bomb plants. At the Livermore hearing, Livermore Lab director George Miller and a handful of others made a brief appearance in the morning, and were allowed to speak first to praise the DOE plan.

And then, one by one, the people rose, walked to the microphone at the front of the room and publicly offered their comments. Their testimony ranged from the technical to the passionately personal.

Many local residents touched on the effect that the nuclear weapons complex in Livermore has already had on their lives, such as Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs who pointed out that there is a large plume of contaminated groundwater beneath her neighborhood, stemming from Livermore Lab operations, that has yet to be cleaned up.

Others spoke about the international consequences of pursuing a revitalized weapons complex, especially with regard to nuclear proliferation. One young man assured DOE that no matter what "Bombplex" the agency adopted, the next generation would abolish nuclear weapons for good. At the evening hearing, Koji Hosokawa, a survivor of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima who lost his sister to the blast, spoke through an interpreter of the tragedy of nuclear weapons and war and the urgent need for disarmament.

Also well-represented were numerous peace and environmental organizations, including Tri-Valley CAREs, the Tri-Valley Sierra Club, Peace Action West, Western States Legal Foundation, Veterans for Peace, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Mt. Diablo Peace Center, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and many more.

The groups held a press conference before the start of the hearings to illustrate that there was more to "Complex Transformation" than the DOE story. "It's a thin disguise for new nuclear weapons," said one. "We've found the weapons of mass destruction, and they are here," commented another in reference to the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Two interconnected themes ran throughout the hearings. One was the need to honor the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Article VI disarmament obligation. The other was the need for DOE to examine alternatives to its "Bombplex" plan. Speakers highlighted alternative missions for Livermore Lab and other sites in the weapons complex and exhorted the government to look at a future beyond nuclear weapons design and production.

The hearings in Livermore and Tracy, along with similar meetings at DOE weapons sites across the country, were held as part of the public comment period that is required under our nation's most fundamental environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act. Equally important is the law's requirement that the DOE accept written public comments.

The DOE has set a written comment deadline of April 10. However the law also requires DOE to consider comments received after that date "to the extent practicable." Therefore, if you have not yet commented, we ask you to do 2 things:

1. Send your comments (long or short) to DOE immediately. And,
2. Tell DOE to extend the deadline and consider your comments and others received after April 10.

Write: Mr. Ted Wyka, NA-10.1, U.S. DOE, National Nuclear Security
Administration, Complex Transformation, 1000 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20585
Email: complextransformation@nnsa.doe.gov
Fax: (703) 931-9222
More info: www.trivalleycares.org

Every comment counts. We know the DOE has received 50,000 comments so far opposing the "Bombplex." Please add yours. Help show that the people say "no" to more nuclear weapons and pollution and "yes" to a new future.

Urgent Action Alert

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter, Citizen's Watch

More than five decades of nuclear weapons work at the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) Livermore Lab has resulted in massive toxic and radioactive pollution. At the Lab's main site on East Ave., contaminants have entered the air, soil and groundwater. Underground plumes of toxic water have migrated off-site.

Due to the health risks and proximity of drinking water sources, the Lab was placed on the EPA "Superfund" list. Full cleanup of the pollution emanating from Livermore Lab was one of our founding goals - and it remains a priority today.

This year, crucial cleanup activities at the Lab's main site got left out of the federal budget. How did it happen? The DOE moved the cleanup funding request out of its usual place in the budget (called environmental management) and put it into the same part of the budget as weapons. Congress did not understand that this was "core" cleanup funding - and so cut it in half.

To stop pollution from migrating further and to detoxify groundwater (where possible) and conduct "soil vapor extraction," the Livermore Lab needs a minimum of $12 million for 2008. Congress cut the budget to $6 million.

This is a crisis, but it can be fixed. Here's how. The DOE can send a request to Congress to "reprogram" $6 million from another program (e.g., weapons) to the cleanup. As soon as Congress receives the DOE "reprogramming" request it can shift the money.

The problem? The DOE promised that the "reprogramming" request would be completed quickly. But, more than 3 months have passed and it has not been done. Staff has been laid off. Thirteen facilities that are needed to clean up polluted soil and ground water have been turned off. Pollutants are left to move through the environment.

ACTION: Enclosed is a letter to the DOE person who can make the "reprogramming" happen. Please sign and mail the letter. We thank you.

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