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Citizens Watch Newsletter February 2000

Two Whistleblowers Quit Lab

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

What do David Lappa and Andreas Toupadakis have in common? Both recently quit high-paying positions at the Livermore Lab in disgust, under duress, and for reasons related to their personal integrity and consciences.

Lappa's saga began in 1997 when he was appointed to a team investigating criticality safety errors in the Lab's plutonium facility. Workers had committed 15 violations during operations there machining plutonium for Livermore's "subcritical" nuclear test, code named Holog. Lappa uncovered evidence that staff knowingly breached safety limits. The Lab's final report submerged that evidence, and so Lappa refused to sign it. "I felt I could not sign it in good conscience," he later told us.

Harassment from Lab management followed swiftly. Lappa, a 20-year Lab employee with an engineering degree, was suddenly given a negative job rating, moved to a windowless "office" that had been a closet, denied a transfer and, ultimately, placed in an assignment with no opportunity for advancement.

In 1998, Lappa won a ruling from the U.S. Labor Dept. demonstrating the Lab had retaliated against him. He has since filed a civil suit against Lab management and the University of California, which manages Livermore for the Dept. of Energy, charging continuing reprisals. Further, last year Lappa was forced to file an additional suit against DOE in an attempt to force the agency to produce information relevant to his civil lawsuit. Those two actions are still pending.

In his resignation letter this month, Lappa said the work environment at the Lab had become "unbearably hostile."

Toupadakis brought his Ph.D. in chemistry to the Lab to perform environmental work, but soon found he was the victim of a "bait and switch" operation. "I find myself ...expected to do nuclear weapons work," Toupadakis testified at a public hearing last December on the National Ignition Facility. "I refused because I was hired to do environmental work. And, I found myself one floor down in a cubicle in a week."

"I have decided to resign from this place of insanity," Toupadakis told the DOE panel that evening. "Every one of us is accountable for this [NIF]. How can we have our consciences right, go and have our children on our laps, provide to our families food when we know we are building the machine for Armageddon? ...As a scientist with ...$91,000 a year, a permanent job, I have decided to go [instead] and teach students about the truth - how to save humanity - if we can, if it's not too late."

Lappa and Toupadakis, each in his own way, made courageous decisions and risked going public with the truth. We thank them.

Government Admits Radiation, Illnesses in Weapons Complex

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

For five decades, workers in the Dept. of Energy's nuclear weapons complex have suffered toxic and radioactive exposures resulting in illness and premature death. Throughout those years, DOE and its predecessor agencies have denied responsibility, and have spent untold millions fighting claims brought by sick employees or their widows.

Now, a government report admits numerous workers were exposed to excess radiation and chemical contaminants. The new study also details elevated rates of 22 categories of cancer found at 14 DOE facilities, including Livermore Lab.

"This is the first time the government is acknowledging that people got cancer from radiation exposure in the plants," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told the New York Times, which first reported the story.

The findings are compiled in a draft report prepared by a panel of the White House National Economic Council, reportedly with the cooperation of DOE and a dozen other agencies. The new report is based on dozens of prior health investigations, raw health data and other information, much of which had been heatedly attacked and disavowed by DOE in the past.

The report was ordered by President Clinton in July, after DOE concluded that some of its workers developed an incurable lung disease following exposure to beryllium, a metal used in nuclear weapons development and manufacture. Clinton then asked for a broader study, designed to look at the health hazards stemming from exposure to plutonium, uranium and other toxic and radioactive materials.

Clinton also asked the panel to make recommendations on financial compensation measures, and that work is expected to take shape over the next few months. Unnamed officials have told the media they expect the eligible families to number "in the hundreds, not thousands."

However, former DOE senior advisor Bob Alvarez points out that the number of eligible victims will depend on how many diseases the government will concede are linked to radiation or chemical exposure. If the latest scientific data is taken into consideration, the number could well rise into the thousands.

Abolition 2000: Global Network for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

update by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In 1995, at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference at the United Nations in New York, Tri-Valley CAREs and about 40 allied organizations from around the world founded Abolition 2000. United by a common vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, a truly global movement has grown out of that fateful series of early morning meetings nearly five years ago. Abolition 2000 now includes 1,432 organizations located in 91 countries. There are Abolition 2000-affiliated groups in every continent on the globe!

Help Us Reach 2,000 in 2000

April 25, 2000 will mark the Abolition 2000 movement's 5th anniversary. One of our goals is to enroll 2,000 groups in the network by that date. To do so, we currently need 568 new organizations. You can help by asking a new organization to join. For example: do you belong to a community group in addition to Tri-Valley CAREs? Church group? A neighborhood association? Has that group signed up with Abolition 2000 ? Would it like to? In order for you to invite a group, you will need an enrollment form and a copy of the Abolition 2000 statement and principles, the "foundational" document that lays out the common objectives of the network and its member organizations. You can get copies from us by calling (925) 443-7148.

Circulate the Petition

Another way to help is to circulate the Abolition 2000 International petition. By gathering signatures, you will be raising public consciousness about nuclear weapons. Call us for copies, or stop by our office at 2582 Old First St. in Livermore to pick up petitions and background materials.

Come to the NPT Review Conference

Tri-Valley CAREs will participate as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations during the NPT Review Conference, scheduled from April 24 to May 19, 2000. We will distribute reports, fact sheets and other literature to delegates from various governments around the globe. We will speak to our government as well, and insist that it take seriously its obligation under the treaty's Article VI to pursue and achieve nuclear disarmament. We will point out the hypocrisy of the Department of Energy's "Stockpile Stewardship" program and highlight its incompatibility with Article VI. Moreover, we will speak in opposition to destabilizing missile defense schemes, and advocate for measures to de-alert nuclear weapons. Does this kind of activity appeal to you? Would you like to be part of Tri-Valley CAREs' NGO team? Are you willing to study up on the Treaty and the issues? Can you commit to spending one week in New York? Call us for more information, and see page 3 for details about a Northern California briefing on the NPT and its review process, to be held later this month.

NIF and New Mexico

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

One of New Mexico's most powerful political leaders has added his voice to the growing crescendo of criticism directed at the National Ignition Facility, DOE's problem-plagued megalaser.

Speaker of the House, Raymond G. Sanchez, sent a January 20th letter to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson stating: "NIF has experienced setback after setback technologically, financially and managerially. Concern over NIF has grown exponentially inside and outside the scientific community; it seems to me as a political leader and a citizen that it is incumbent on us to face this issue squarely..." Sanchez also sits on the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board (SEAB).

Last month, the SEAB sent Richardson an interim report on NIF that, while containing some good information, pulled its punches completely when it came to making its recommendations, focusing mostly on NIF's poor management and planning and failing to suggest a reconsideration or even a slowdown of the project based on the severity of its technical problems.

Echoing his pep talk given during a short visit to Livermore Lab in December, Richardson recently told a group at Sandia in NM that he has confidence in NIF.

Sanchez holds a different view. "I have also had the opportunity to visit with a number of top scientists ...both within and without the National Laboratory system, some of whom are directly involved with NIF at top levels, who have expressed conclusions ...that NIF in its current incarnation has little or no chance of achieving fusion ignition," Sanchez states in his letter.

In an interview with the Albuquerque Tribune, Sanchez said he recently met with Los Alamos and Sandia scientists "in sort of a cloak and dagger late night meeting" as the staffers feared for their jobs.

Further, Sanchez said he had received a negative assessment of NIF from at least 7 "top scientists" at the New Mexico weapons labs who told him, "NIF is in serious trouble and won't be able to do what we were promised it would do."

Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

  • Respite Only. The Dept. of Energy has decided not to sell 6,000 tons of radioactive nickel at its Oak Ridge facility, at least not yet. British Nuclear Fuels, Inc. had proposed to buy the contaminated scrap, melt it down and sell it, possibly for use in consumer products. According to Secretary Richardson, DOE will not sell the metal until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission develops national treatment standards, which will specify how radioactive the metal may be and still be salable. The DOE's decision still leaves open the door for the agency to sell 121,000 tons of surface-contaminated waste, such as piping that had been exposed to radioactivity.

  • This is Nuts. Russia has secretly told the U.S. it will reduce its arsenal to 1,500 strategic (long range) nuclear weapons if the U.S. will follow suit, according to domestic and foreign news reports. Instead, the State Dept. said that the U.S. "needs" to keep 2,000 to 2,500 long-range nuclear weapons. Further the U.S. reiterated its intent to go forward with a national missile defense (NMD) system, despite Russian objections and the NMD's illegality under the existing ABM Treaty.

  • More Nuts. In January, the U.S. conducted the second of three missile defense tests. The target missile carried one decoy and speculation is that this may have caused the "interceptor" to miss its target by "tens of miles." The test cost U.S. taxpayers $100 million. President Clinton is slated to decide this summer whether to go ahead and begin building the first 100 "interceptors" (see "Missile Defense Costs" in this issue). Russia's answer to NMD involves developing a new generation of missiles, called Topol-M, that a German newspaper called "apparently capable of evading all feasible missile defenses."

  • Gimme More. The DOE released the results of an internal review of its "Stockpile Stewardship" program last month. Not surprisingly, the agency concluded that it needed more money for nuclear weapons research, and that it would also need to step up its weapons "refurbishment" rate. More money, more nukes seems to be the mantra.

  • Gimme Lots More. Former Los Alamos Lab chief, Sig Hecker, told the New York Times that Russian scientists had discovered a plutonium "aging" problem that more than 50 years of similar studies in the U.S. had failed to uncover. Hecker hinted the result of this new information might be that the U.S. would "need" to ramp up its weapons production complex. Suspiciously, this "news" comes to light just as a report by former Livermore Lab director Johnny Foster is released, recommending (surprise) that the U.S. should build a new plutonium facility. It is worth noting as well that Hecker did not release the Russian studies or any details that could be analyzed independently by other scientists. Therefore, it is unclear at this juncture whether the aging observed in the Russian experiments is minor or not. Moreover, Hecker told the Times that DOE lab teams will conduct these new aging studies after raising the temperature of the plutonium to speed its rate of decomposition. Since some plutonium reactions occur only with elevated temperatures - and not at room temperature - Hecker's pronouncement bears further scrutiny.

  • Blind Gunman. Russia's early warning system is in such bad shape, Moscow cannot detect whether or not some parts of the country are targets of an incoming nuclear attack for at least 7 hours each day, say U.S. officials and military experts. Further, only 4 of Russia's 21 early warning satellites are actually working, and the country has little to no warning time against a submarine-launched attack, say analysts. Clinton has reportedly offered to help the Russians finance the rebuilding of their early warning system. We have a better idea. Why doesn't the U.S. de-alert its nuclear arsenal, for example by removing the warheads from the missiles and storing them separately? The Russians could do likewise. That way, there is little danger of a surprise attack - or of an accidental nuclear response triggered by misinformation or early warning "blindness" - by either country.

  • Lie Detector. A letter opposing DOE plans to begin routine polygraph testing for some employees at the weapons labs garnered hundreds of signatures among the workers. The petition was organized at Livermore Lab by the Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers, and circulated as well to Los Alamos and Sandia. Last month, shortly after SPSE mailed the petition to Congress, it was revealed that the FBI had lied to Wen Ho Lee, telling him he had failed a polygraph exam, when, in fact, he had not.

Missile Defense Costs

by Rene' Steinhauer and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As we go to press, President Clinton is asking Congress for a $2.2 billion increase for national missile defense. One year ago, Clinton raised the missile defense budget by $6.6 billion.

Clinton is also considering whether to build 100 "interceptors" as an initial stage in the system, at a projected cost of $13 billion, not including the research and testing costs expended thus far.

The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates it will cost $18 to $28 billion to deploy a small system.

Analysts say the total amount spent on research & development for various missile defense schemes weighs in at $120 billion.

Sadly, the U.S. taxpayer's hard-earned dollars are not the only costs involved in missile defense. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty hangs in the balance, relations are souring with Russia and China (not to mention other nations, as the UN General Assembly Arms Control Committee recently voted for strict adherence to the ABM Treaty by a 54 - 7 margin), prospects for disarmament are continuing to become dimmer, and the ugly specters of a massively renewed arms race and the weaponization of space are raised.

For a backgrounder on missile defense, call Tri-Valley CAREs' Community Organizer, Rene' Steinhauer, at (925) 443-7148. To sign a petition, go to

Citizen's Alerts

the calendar section
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, February 17
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

We welcome new members and "old-timers" alike! Come and get the latest news on what's going on at Livermore Lab and other nuclear weapons facilities. Join with friends in the Livermore and Bay Area communities to safeguard our environment locally - and promote the elimination of nuclear weapons globally.

Thursday, February 24
Public Meeting
GE Vallecitos and Nuclear Rods
6 PM, informal Q & A and posters
7 PM, meeting begins
Pleasanton Library
400 Old Bernal Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

After a disappointing session in October, Tri-Valley CAREs and others complained to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and received a promise that the agency would host a new meeting - one focused around the questions and concerns raised by the public. This is that meeting. If you are interested in finding out just what goes on behind the fence at the GE Vallecitos Nuclear Center, come to the Pleasanton Public Library. For copies of articles, fact sheets and other information in advance of the meeting, call us at (925) 443-7148.

Saturday, February 26
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
9 AM - 9 PM, day-long briefing session
Womens Center, UC Santa Cruz
(925) 443-7148 or (215) 563-7110

Want to find out how the NPT affects your life? Interested in exploring Article VI and its requirement for nuclear disarmament? Like to better understand the detrimental role played by the U.S. weapons labs? Thinking about coming to the UN for the NPT Review Conference in April? If so, does the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom have a briefing for you!

Note: If there is sufficient interest, WILPF may schedule a second training on Sunday, Feb. 27 in the East Bay. Please phone Tri-Valley CAREs or WILPF at the numbers listed above if you would prefer to attend an East Bay session.

Thursday, March 2
Tri-Valley CAREs' mailing party
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148

Tri-Valley CAREs needs a few (more) good volunteers to help us prepare our next edition of Citizen's Watch for the post office. Easy work, just affix stickers and labels. Meet great people, enjoy good snacks. Join us.

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