Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter December 2005

In This Issue...

- Nuclear Materials, Dangers to Increase at Livermore Lab. Tri-Valley CAREs Organizes Opposition

- Nuke Weapons Budget Passes Congress

- Campaign to Stop Plutonium at Livermore Lab

- Citizen's Alerts

Nuclear Materials, Dangers to Increase at Livermore Lab -- Tri-Valley CAREs Organizes Opposition

By Loulena Miles and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2005 newsletter Citizen's Watch

On November 29, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Record of Decision (ROD) dramatically expanding nuclear weapons material and activities at Livermore Lab.

The DOE decision doubles Livermore Lab's plutonium limits, doubles a highly enriched uranium storage limit, increases tritium (radioactive hydrogen) storage, boosts the tritium "at risk" limit nearly 10-fold, green lights prototyping plutonium bomb cores on-site, alters the National Ignition Facility (NIF) to include plutonium and other new weapons experiments, and names Livermore Lab as the location to manufacture NIF's fusion as well as new plutonium fission targets.

Moreover, according to DOE's own calculations, worker and community exposures to radiation will rise three-fold.

"This DOE decision puts the entire San Francisco Bay Area at risk," declared Loulena Miles, staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "The community has issued a resounding "NO" to these dangerous plans," Miles continued, "The DOE received 9,000 public comments opposing increases in nuclear materials as well as the weapons activities these radioactive materials will support."

The ROD is the formal document implementing DOE's controversial preferred alternative, set out in the final Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement on Livermore Lab operations and issued in April of 2005. During the legally mandated public hearings and comment period, hundreds, including Livermore Lab scientists and community members, spoke against the proposed increases and thousands more sent emails, detailed technical analyses, comment letters and postcards to oppose the plans.


The ROD doubles Livermore Lab's plutonium storage limit, called the "administrative limit" from 1,540 pounds to 3,080 pounds, enough for roughly 300 nuclear bombs. Now that the ROD has been issued, the plutonium trucks could roll at any time. The ROD also doubles the plutonium "at risk" limit from 44 to 88 pounds, roughly enough for 8 nuclear bombs. The "at risk" limit is the amount of plutonium that workers will use in a single room or process at one time. The expansion is largely to enable the Lab to produce prototype plutonium bomb cores, called "pits," on-site in order to perfect new manufacturing techniques that DOE will use to make pits by the hundreds.

"One microscopic particle of plutonium, if lodged in the lungs, can cause cancer and other diseases," said Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director and close neighbor of the Livermore Lab. "There are 7 million people living within a 50-mile radius of Livermore Lab, and the nearest earthquake fault is less than 200 feet from the site boundary," Kelly pointed out. "Instead of doubling, all plutonium activities at Livermore Lab should be terminated and DOE should prepare and circulate a plan for removing the Lab's nuclear materials."

The ROD also flies in the face of recent congressional criticism of DOE for failing to demonstrate adequate concern about the urgent need to consolidate plutonium and highly enriched uranium away from Livermore and other densely populated sites where the materials are more difficult and expensive to defend.

The House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriation Subcommittee bill to fund DOE for fiscal year 2006 states: "The conferees are disappointed with the lack of urgency demonstrated by the Department when it comes to addressing the security and cost liability of having significant quantities of special nuclear materials at multiple departmental facilities across the complex."

Further, the ROD doubles the storage limit for highly enriched uranium in the Livermore Lab Radiography Facility from 55 pounds to 110 pounds.


The design, scope and mission of the National Ignition Facility, a controversial mega-laser under construction at the Lab, will change, making it much more dangerous to workers and the public, without providing cost estimates for the changes. In the ROD, the DOE directed Livermore Lab to change NIF's design so that it can use plutonium, highly enriched uranium and fissionable materials, such as thorium-232, in experiments. This change will enable the Livermore Lab to collocate materials, straying from NIF's original mission of solely fusion ignition experiments. The ROD vastly expands NIF's usefulness for weapons design. Following these modifications, NIF's day-to-day operations will be responsible for 60 % of the low level radioactive waste generated at the Livermore Lab.

NIF's original budget was sent to Congress at $1 billion; current estimates peg it at around $5 billion and rising. The lifetime costs for the facility are estimated at $30 billion - before the as-yet-unknown costs for these new modifications are factored in. Said Kelley, "It appears that DOE is attempting to give NIF a new, enhanced weapons mission since scientists and lawmakers are increasingly convinced that it will never achieve its stated scientific goal of ignition. To make this change without undertaking a new nonproliferation review is reckless."


Tritium (radioactive hydrogen), which escapes easily into the environment and becomes incorporated in plants, animals and humans, will play a larger role at Livermore Lab. The ROD increases the amount of tritium on-site from 30 to 35 grams, and dramatically boosts the amount that a worker can have "at-risk" nearly ten fold, from 3.5 grams to 30 grams. The Lab will use tritium for manufacturing fusion targets for the NIF and for developing new diagnostics to enhance U.S. readiness to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site.

Livermore Lab acknowledges that tritium will escape during these activities as well as during the expansion of the extremely contaminated Tritium Facility. "The community has already been bombarded with this radioactive substance in our air, plants and rain water. It is time to stop dumping tritium onto the unconsenting population of the Bay Area," says retired Livermore Lab staff scientist Marion Fulk. "Thirty grams of tritium is 300,000 curies," Fulk continued. "I don't think people understand the risk that poses." One curie is equal to 37 billion radioactive disintigrations per second.


According to the calculations published in the ROD, Livermore Lab workers' radiation exposures will rise more than three-fold, from 28 person-rem per year to 93 person-rem per year. The radiation dose to the general public will also increase more than three-fold, from 0.5 person-rem per year to 1.8 person-rem per year. And, activities at the Livermore Lab's site 300 near Tracy will increase that surrounding community's exposure to radiation threefold, from 2.5 person-rem per year to 9.8 person-rem per year. The ROD states that much of the increased exposure at the Livermore Lab main site will be due to the use of plutonium in the NIF. Much of the increased exposure at site 300 can be attributed to the go-ahead the ROD gives to resumption of open air testing of bomb parts using tritium as well as "depleted" uranium. Further, Tri-Valley CAREs believes that the actual exposures are likely to be even more severe than the DOE calculated.


The final SWEIS (upon which the ROD is based) chose not to study the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack or internal sabotage. The DOE and the ROD allege the idea of a jumbo jet hitting Livermore Lab is "unforeseeable," and so, therefore, the SWEIS only studied the impact of a small plane hitting the facility, even though the Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco airports are in close proximity.

The SWEIS omitted study of the Livermore Lab's proposed advanced biowarfare agent facility - though Tri-Valley CAREs is litigating the adequacy of the DOE's previous environmental review for the facility, which is slated to spray live anthrax, plague and other bioweapon agents on up to 100 small animals at a time.

The SWEIS and ROD also improperly limit the alternatives analysis by paying far too little attention to civilian programs at Livermore Lab and utterly failing to study any scenario where plutonium is removed from Livermore. They also gloss over the proliferation impacts of the proposed increases in nuclear material and activities.

The ROD notes only three departures from the DOE's original plans in the SWEIS. First, as we reported in January, the DOE has opted not to resurrect Plutonium-Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation at Livermore Lab, which would have used lasers to separate plutonium isotopes for bomb experiments. The ROD reiterates that decision, and cites community opposition as a principle reason for canceling the project.

Additionally, the ROD states that DOE will forgo two new projects at site 300 - an Energetic Materials Processing Center replacement and a High Explosives Development Center Project. However, the ROD formally approves and moves every other terrible project forward, including all of the increases in nuclear materials and weapons work outlined in this article.

Tri-Valley CAREs and other organizations are undertaking a detailed legal analysis of the final SWEIS and the ROD. "With this decision, the DOE is increasing the nuclear dangers we face," stated Miles. "Additionally, DOE is trampling on the health and environmental well-being of Bay Area communities."

We believe a legal challenge may be necessary to stop these dangerous activities. A lawsuit would seek to overturn the ROD and compel the DOE to re-issue the SWEIS with an honest and complete analysis of the approved programs' environmental and proliferation impacts.

We are also launching a petition campaign. Circulate the enclosed petition, and see the article at left for more ideas.

Nuke Weapons Budget Passes Congress

By Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2005 newsletter Citizen's Watch

Many of you made calls or wrote letters to stop the development of new nuclear weapons and constrain the increases the Dept. of Energy (DOE) sought when it sent its fiscal year 2006 nuclear weapons budget request to Congress. Thank you for your efforts, they made a difference.

The Congress, specifically the House and Senate Energy and Water Appropriations conference committee, has just concluded negotiations and issued a fiscal year 2006 budget for DOE nuclear weapons programs. The budget contains some victories for peace and environmental advocates -- and some scary new plans. And, it remains one and a half times higher than the average U.S. spending on nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

First, let us highlight a few of our victories, which include stopping some new nuclear weapons projects, winning funding reductions in others, and increasing positive programs like dismantlement.

The good news includes:

The "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" received none of the $4 million DOE requested. A special thanks to our Rep. Ellen Tauscher and our Senator Dianne Feinstein for playing a lead role in stopping this new, horrific bomb. Another new nuclear weapons project that we have stopped in its tracks for fiscal year 2006 is the DOE's planned Modern Pit Facility. The $7.7 million requested by the Bush Administration to proceed with this new plant to manufacture hundreds of bomb cores per year has been eliminated.

The $25 million that DOE had requested for enhanced nuclear test site readiness received a modest trim to $20 million. Fortunately, Congress also specifically forbade DOE from reducing the time it would require to prepare a full-scale nuclear test from the current 24 months to 18 months, which is what the DOE budget request had asked. This is a key victory, as shortening the time frame to prepare a nuclear test would put us on a slippery slope toward the actual resumption of full-scale testing in Nevada.

In addition, Congress increased funds in 2006 for dismantling nuclear warheads. Money earmarked for dismantlement was boosted to $60 million from the paltry $35 million that DOE had requested.

Despite important victories, we were not able to stop a number of dangerous and expensive nuclear weapons programs.

The bad news includes:

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) received its full request of $142 million for construction in 2006. Additionally, hundreds of thousands were bestowed on more R & D for the megalaser. The NIF is estimated to cost $5 billion to build and $30 billion to operate over its lifetime.

Despite being doused with mega-bucks, NIF seems no closer to achieving its scientific goal of ignition than it was last year, or the year before. Although agreeing to fund NIF for 2006, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici said, "I remain skeptical that DOE will be able to deliver on its promises regarding schedule, cost, and scientific capability."

In addition to funding for dangerous boondoggles like NIF, another new, deceptively named weapons program -- the so-called "Reliable Replacement Warhead" program -- received a funding boost from Congress.

The Reliable Replacement Warhead program received $25 million, considerably more than the DOE's request of $9.4 million. This ill-defined, extremely open-ended weapons design program is intended to "transform" the nuclear enterprise. According to a Secretary of Energy Advisory Board task force, the Reliable Replacement Warhead program "should lead to a family of modern nuclear weapons." (Note: Tri-Valley CAREs will publish an in-depth analysis of this weapons program soon.)

In 2006, funding for DOE's nuclear weapons activities totals $6.43 billion. We at Tri-Valley CAREs will continue working to reduce our nation's bloated nuclear weapons budget, while building opposition to new nukes in the coming year.

The DOE's fiscal year 2007 budget request for nuclear weapons will go to Congress in Feb. 2006. There will be new opportunities for people to weigh in on how they want their tax dollars spent -- on new types of nuclear death or health care and schools. Stay tuned! Stay active!

Campaign to Stop Plutonium at Livermore Lab

By Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2005 newsletter Citizen's Watch

The Department of Energy wants to do what? Yes, it's true that DOE issued a decision to double the plutonium storage limit at Livermore Lab. And, yes, the Lab's plutonium facility has been on "stand down" for 11 months this year due to safety problems. And, yes, the DOE plan raises unexamined storage, transportation, and security questions. And, yes, despite advice from experts in its own Department to consolidate plutonium out of populated areas like Livermore, and amidst Congressional concern that the current plutonium at the Lab may be vulnerable to theft or terrorist attack, the DOE is moving to double the plutonium here. We must not stand idle and silent while DOE thumbs its nose at the 7 million who live within what official documents call the "directly-affected" 50-mile radius around Livermore Lab.

Tri-Valley CAREs is launching a campaign to stop the plutonium before it is brought to Livermore. We need your support, your spirit, and your concern for life in order for this campaign to succeed. There are many ways that you can help. Circulate the enclosed petition among family and friends. Take it to events and gatherings you attend. We can provide you with extra copies. We can also "partner" you with another volunteer so that you can petition with a friend. Some of you may remember the petition drive we launched some years ago to stop a radioactive and toxic waste incinerator at Livermore Lab. It took us 10,000 signature to win that battle -- but we did win it. Now, we are aiming to repeat history. Will you help us gather some of the 10,000 signatures we need to stop these dangerous plutonium plans?

Here are four ideas to get you started: (1) House Parties are coming back into vogue. We'll provide a speaker, petitions, and lots of good information -- you provide friends, a few snacks and the power of your personal commitment. (2) Table with a friend. We will help set you up with a table, a partner and the petition at grocery stores, post offices, or any other locations or events of your choice. You and your partner pick the dates and times that work for you. (3) Write letters to editor of your favorite newspaper. Speaking out through the written word is a powerful way to let others in your community know that they are not alone. (4) Your idea here. Let us know what your skills and interests are -- and we will help you "plug them in" to the campaign.

In order to stop the DOE's plan for more nuclear materials and weapons programs at Livermore Lab, we need your active participation and support! Please call Loulena at (925) 443-7148 today to discuss how to get involved.

Citizen's Alerts

From December 2005 Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter Citizen's Watch

Thursday, December 15
Tri-Valley CAREs' volunteer and
member appreciation party
4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, drop-in any time
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Dear volunteers, friends and supporters - please join us for food, camaraderie, music and fun as we celebrate YOU and all that you have done for peace, justice and a healthy environment throughout the year. We could not have accomplished everything that we have in 2005 without you. Let us show our appreciation.

Thursday, January 19
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 South Livermore Avenue
(925) 443-7148 for details

Now that the Record of Decision has been released, what can be done to overturn it? LOTS. We will have answers to this and other questions. Make "getting active" your New Year's resolution. Together, we will stop nukes and protect the Earth. At our meeting, we will also have the latest on our lawsuit to stop bioweapon agents at Livermore Lab -- and more. Lots of volunteer opportunities available. New and long-time members alike are needed.

Thank You!

Tri-Valley CAREs is in the middle of its year-end funding drive. More than 200 of our members and friends have contributed individual gifts ranging from $10 to $10,000 over the past 30 days -- and we thank you. Your generosity gets our message out, keeps our front door open and ensures that we have needed tools to stop nukes and pollution.

If you have not yet donated to Tri-Valley CAREs, let me invite you to do so today. Our goal is 200 additional contributions in the next 30 days. Your gift in any amount is tax-deductible and will be most gratefully welcomed.

Let me also offer thanks to a very special "angel" -- Dee Kotla. Dee helped blow the whistle on sexual harassment at Livermore Lab by testifying on behalf of a co-worker, and the Lab fired her for doing the right thing. Oakland attorney Gary Gwilliam took her case and after 8 years, two trials and an appeal, the Lab's manager, the Univ. of Calif., finally conceded Dee was right. They have paid the verdict, and Dee has generously donated $10,000 to Tri-Valley CAREs. Dee's fervent hope is that her victory will empower more Livermore Lab employees to come forward. We thank Dee and share her desire for justice.

For peace, Marylia Kelley

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