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Citizens Watch Newsletter February 2002

Whistleblowers, Watchdogs, Congressman Tell Lab:
Fix Glaring Security Problems

by Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On Jan. 14, Charles Quinones, President, and Mathew Zipoli, Vice-President, of the Security Police Officers union filed "whistleblower" lawsuits alleging they were unlawfully terminated after raising concerns about potentially catastrophic security deficiencies at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). For the past two years, Quinones and Zipoli have brought a series of serious safety and security problems to the attention of Livermore Lab management on behalf of their union members.

The complaints include: inadequate bomb detection procedures, security lapses regarding the "superblock" (facilities that require high security due to the presence of special, bomb-grade nuclear materials), and a lack of practice simulations with local first-responder forces. In addition, the complaints address inadequate protection of officers in radioactive materials areas and other safety issues.

When Lab management did not correct problems brought to their attention, Quinones and Zipoli met with the Dept. of Energy Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG investigated and confirmed the security deficiencies raised by the officers in a report issued Oct. 6, 2001 -- one week after the two men were terminated -- according to Tom Carpenter, an attorney with the Government Accountability Project, which is representing the two whistleblowers. DOE confirms that numerous improvements to security at LLNL were recommended in the report. However, DOE and Lab officials refuse to release it publicly.

The Lab's stated reason for firing the officers is for allegedly leading a labor action -- a "sick out" by security officers. Quinones and Zipoli deny leading it, and attorneys point out that the charge had been rejected by two separate California hearing officers.

Tri-Valley CAREs attended the press conference to announce the whistleblower suits and issued a statement supporting the officers efforts to improve security at LLNL. Our group's long-standing activities to "watchdog" LLNL on behalf of the community have led us to become concerned about many of the same issues -- ranging from serious questions abut whether security officers receive adequate training and equipment to safely perform their duties to even bigger questions about the physical security of nuclear materials at LLNL and the impact on the community in the event of a terror attack or catastrophic accident. (See also the accompanying story, or contact our office for more information.)

On Jan. 23, the week following the filing of Quinones' and Zipoli's complaint, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) slammed nuclear weapons lab security in letters to DOE and other officials in charge of security. Markey charged that "DOE had essentially ignored 25 years worth of reports recommending improvements in security." This information comes from a June 1999, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report titled, "Science at its Best, Security at its Worst: A Report on Security Problems at the U.S. Department of Energy."

Rep. Markey also referenced another study reporting that, in more than 50% of the terrorist simulations conducted to assess the adequacy of security at DOE nuclear facilities, mock "terrorists" were able to penetrate the facility and gain access to its plutonium and/or enriched uranium. Had these been real attacks, suicidal terrorists might have been able to use the nuclear materials to quickly construct and detonate "dirty bombs," which could spread radioactive contaminants over a large area, or "homemade nuclear bombs," which could achieve the same explosive force as a small nuclear weapon. This information came from a September 2001 report titled, "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security at Risk," by the Project on Government Oversight.

Markey also pointed out that, "rather than reward employees for bringing security flaws to the attention of their superiors, DOE has a long history of retaliating against such whistleblowers."

This latest information confirms what Tri-Valley CAREs has been learning from Lab employees and their family members for decades. We will continue to organize and advocate for policies and procedures at Livermore Lab that result in greater safety and security for our community -- and beyond. Tri-Valley CAREs opposes the current storage of large amounts of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium in Livermore, where 6 million people live within a 50-mile radius. We invite our readers to join us in supporting the security officers' and others' efforts to address security issues that affect our lives.

Lab Tells Community: We Don't Have Security Problems

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On Jan. 31 - possibly in response to security questions posed by its security police officers, nuclear watchdog groups and others - the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) invited its closest neighbors to a meeting to declare itself safe, secure and a good neighbor. Some of Tri-Valley CAREs members who live on the easternmost side of town received the Lab's "dear neighbor" letter and attended the meeting. Here is their report.

The presentations seemed designed to assuage concerns rather than detail real problems and outline solutions. The evening began with the recitation of a laundry list of terrorist targets - naming everything from telecommunications to oil lines. Shockingly nuclear materials were not mentioned as a potential terrorist target, despite the recent press fervor surrounding Al Qaeda maps of nuclear facilities.

Joe Krueger (LLNL) began his presentation asking the question if LLNL is or ever has been a target of terrorist threats. He did not allow members of the audience to speak, but answered it himself by saying there is nothing that points in that direction. In so doing, Krueger neglected to mention a February 2000 bomb threat received by the LLNL plutonium facility. He merely noted perimeter defense, K-9 (dog) units and a loyal workforce.

Krueger concluded that since LLNL is a nuclear weapons design facility, it does not stockpile deployed nuclear weapons. He said, that fact "says a lot about the attractiveness of this facility" as a target, inferring incorrectly that warheads from the U.S. arsenal (containing electronic locking systems to prevent unauthorized detonation) would be the only targets of interest to terrorists. In truth, large, loose stocks of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium, such as exist at LLNL, are the more likely terrorist targets.

While the Lab mentioned in passing that it had roughly a metric ton of nuclear material on site, none of the presenters discussed the possibility of terrorist gaining access to these materials and creating a radiological or "dirty" bomb" - or assembling a crude nuclear explosive capable of devastation similar to that experienced in Hiroshima.

Regarding the possibility of an aircraft hitting the Lab, LLNL made a general claim that the US government was taking steps to prevent terrorism. In addition, since the Lab is not a high-rise, it's more difficult for a plane to run into, they said. The Lab presenters did not mention any plans to analyze the impact and potential damage caused by either a commercial or private aircraft - or by truck bomb detonation.

The Lab mentioned that they have a memo of understanding with the Alameda County Sheriff, and stated that if there were a serious problem the needed forces would be dispatched. The Lab did not discuss the training and coordination deficiencies brought up by the LLNL security police officers. The audience was merely assured that this system has never been utilized, except maybe at some peace demonstrations.

Following the tightly-reigned meeting, key questions went unanswered. The hour-long agenda left 5 minutes for Q&A. Questions were collected from the audience on index cards and screened for answerability. No questions were taken directly from the audience. None of Tri-Valley CAREs' questions were chosen from the index cards.

Moreover, LLNL public relations staff tried to physically prevent Tri-Valley CAREs' Community Organizer, Tara Dorabji, from distributing a public statement addressing security risks at the Lab. Tri-Valley CAREs' staff and members were asked to leave the meeting. Only after vigorous debate did LLNL allow them back inside the auditorium.

For a copy of Tri-Valley CAREs' statement and questions, call us at (925) 443-7148.

DOE Budget Will Raise Nuclear Danger

by Bob Schaeffer and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Dept. of Energy (DOE) fiscal year 2003 Budget Request will be delivered to Congress Feb. 4. Based on information gathered from a variety of DOE sources, Tri-Valley CAREs and colleague groups have conducted a preliminary analysis of the pending budget submittal.

We find evidence that DOE is opportunistically using the "terrorist threat" to boost its spending on nuclear weapons projects that are unrelated to the actual threats facing the country. Additionally, the DOE's proposed budget will increase the risk to public health by cutting funds needed to clean up pollution at numerous locations, including at the Livermore Lab main site and site 300.

Tri-Valley CAREs and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability find the budget:

(1) Violates binding, legal cleanup agreements by cutting the base budget for DOE's Environmental Management program by $800 million. (For example, we have been told that DOE plans to abandon its previously agreed upon cleanup goals at Livermore Lab. This flies in the face of the community's hard-won efforts last year to get Livermore's cleanup budget reinstated and put back on track.)

(2) Attempts to "extort" relaxation of cleanup requirements at some of the biggest sites (like Hanford) in exchange for access to money DOE is setting aside in a "slush fund" - to be awarded in 2003 to sites that agree to leave more residual pollution in the soil and water ways for the long-term. (In the case of radionuclides like plutonium the long-term is 240,000 years, putting countless generations at risk.)

(3) Wastes funds on "nuclear pork" projects, such as Livermore's National Ignition Facility and other Stockpile Stewardship machines that have no value in dealing with terrorism or other credible threats. (Reports are that the DOE request will increase these programs an extra half-billion dollars over this year's increase!)

(4) Endangers the safety of the nation's surplus plutonium by failing to isolate it securely and, instead, launches an expensive program to convert plutonium into a nuclear reactor fuel (called MOX), thus making reactors and the new conversion plants more tempting terrorist targets;

(5) Ignores scientific evidence that the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is unsound and pursues a transportation plan that will place hundreds of communities in harms way in the event of radioactive shipment accidents; and

(6) Undermines U.S. obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and encourages other nations to pursue nuclear weapons development by pushing ahead with a smorgasbord of aggressive, new weapons research and production programs, including plans for a huge plutonium pit production factory.

Stay tuned!

Project Exodus

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

"Project Exodus" is the name of our campaign to reach scientists and engineers at the Livermore Lab, raise their consciousness about the nuclear weapons work hidden under the guise of "Stockpile Stewardship" and persuade them to renounce all employment on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Project Exodus also focuses on reaching science and engineering students at the colleges and universities where the Lab recruits for its nuclear weapons program. It educates the next generation and dissuades them from accepting weapons-related employment at Livermore or elsewhere. In sum, Project Exodus reduces the labor pool for weapons programs.

"Kick starting" our 2002 campaign, Tri-Valley CAREs participated in the Engineering and Science fair at the University of California at Davis, where Lawrence Livermore was actively recruiting young students. We created quite a positive stir by asking students to pledge not to work on weapons of mass destruction.

The Tri-Valley CAREs' information booth stood in front of our 11-foot poster questioning the National Ignition Facility and nuclear weapons science at Livermore Lab. Students responded to us with a good deal of eagerness, occasional confusion (we didn't look like the usual recruiting booth) and a genuine desire to discuss the real implications of weapons work.

Our table carried Issac Trotts' statement outlining how he was deceived by Lab recruiters and why he quit his job in the Livermore Lab's Stockpile Stewardship program. Students were very interested in Trotts' experiences and snatched his statement off the table. One student, a former classmate of Trotts at Davis, mentioned that he had been out of town when Issac quit, but that everyone was still buzzing about it when he came back.

Many students signed up for Citizen's Watch and a dozen left resumes to intern with us. In addition, numerous students considering future employment with Livermore Lab left with a fistful of literature and a mind full of new questions about the true impacts of their career choices.

You Are Invited...

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Admiral Ramdas, the retired head of the Indian Navy -- and leading advocate for nuclear disarmament, is on a speaking tour in the U.S.. He will visit the Bay Area in March to discuss the current military crisis between India and Pakistan and to explain its relationship to terrorism and the risk of nuclear war.

As a former military chief and current Chair of the Indian chapter of the Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, Admiral Ramdas will offer a unique perspective on the present South Asian standoff and discuss nuclear policy and prospects for regional and global disarmament.

Ramdas' writings on Indo-Pak relations, nuclear weapons and peace and disarmament measures have been featured in many journals and other publications. The first opportunity to hear this important speaker will be at Tri-Valley CAREs "study group" on Thurs., March 7 at 7 PM. Please join us at our offices for this informative event.

Lalita Ramdas, a long -time educator and peace advocate, will also be present to discuss women's rights in India.

The Ramdas' will also present at a special dinner at Sabina's Indian Restaurant on March 13. See Citizen's Alerts for more information.

Peace Flame

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

A flame preserved from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan will burn in Livermore on Feb. 14. Peace walkers, drawn from Japan, the U.S. and other countries, are carrying this flame across the U.S. -- from Seattle to the United Nations in New York.

This spiritual pilgrimage is for world peace, to honor Native people who have been victims of nuclear development and to end the "Star Wars" missile defense program. The events of Sept. 11 have made this prayer walk even more urgent.

About 20 peace pilgrims will approach Livermore Lab at 5 PM on Valentine's Day to bring the flame of their compassion and awareness to the place where nuclear weapons are still being developed. Tri-Valley CAREs will join the vigil, and then shuttle the walkers back to our office for dinner at 6:30 PM.

To home-stay a walker or join us for the LLNL vigil or dinner, call Tara for more info at (925) 443-7148.

Citizen's Alerts -- Calendar Section

by Marylia Kelley and Ann Seitz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, February 14
Hiroshima Peace Flame Pilgrimage
5 PM, Vigil at Livermore Lab
6:30 PM, dinner with peace walkers
(925) 443-7148 for details, RSVP

The Hiroshima peace flame pilgrimage began in Seattle and will end at the UN in New York. Join us Feb. 14 as we welcome the walkers to Livermore. See accompanying article for more info on this incredible spiritual pilgrimage.

February 16-17
Leaflet "brigade" to publicize the Town Meeting on Plutonium and LLNL
(925) 443-7148 to sign up

Tri-Valley CAREs needs volunteers Saturday and Sunday to hand out leaflets at area supermarkets. We will be offering the enclosed 4-page fact sheet to our Livermore friends and neighbors. Volunteers are needed 11 AM to 1 PM on either day. We will leaflet in groups of two. Call Tara for details, sign up.

Thursday, February 21
Town Meeting - "Playing with Poison"
Plutonium and Livermore Lab
7 PM, Unitarian Church
1893 North Vasco Rd., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

You are invited to this timely and important Town Meeting on the hazards posed by Livermore Lab's plutonium stockpile. Independent scientists include Dr. David Rush, who will explain the health impacts of plutonium exposure, and Peter Strauss, who will speak on LLNL's history of plutonium use. Please see the flier and plutonium fact sheet, also on our web site.

Sunday, February 24
Peace Between Pakistan & India
5:30 PM vigil, Livermore Peace Monument
1000 So. Livermore Ave. (at library)
(925) 443-7148 for details

Distressed at the continued threat of violence in South Asia, people united in Pakistan and India have begun holding simultaneous peace vigils at 5:30 PM on the last Sunday of each month. Indian and Pakistani peace groups have requested that groups around the world host solidarity vigils from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM local time. Join us.

Monday, February 25
NDE's "Monday Night" series
6 PM, Wesley Student Center
Corner of Bancroft and Dana, Berkeley
(510) 527-2057 for details

Marylia Kelley will speak on nuclear weapons, Livermore Lab and the U.C. connection. She will also provide info on new nukes that are being developed for use in the "war on terrorism." Hosted by Nevada Desert Experience.

Thursday, March 7
Tri-Valley CAREs' study group presents
"Nuclear Dangers in South Asia: Prospects for Disarmament"
with Admiral Ramdas, retired head of India's Navy, and Lalita Ramdas
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details, RSVP

Admiral Ramdas will speak on the current military crisis between India and Pakistan as it relates to terrorism and the risk of nuclear war. He will also discuss the growing South Asian movement for nuclear disarmament and the prospects for regional and global abolition of nuclear weapons. Lalita Ramdas will talk on her decades-long experience as a community educator and advocate for peace and women's rights.

A dinner talk is also being organized with Admiral Ramdas and his wife, Lalita. It will be held at 7 PM on Wednesday, March 13 at Sabina's Indian Restaurant, 1628 Webster St. in downtown Oakland.

The U.S. speaking tour is sponsored by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Bay Area events are co-sponsored by Tri-Valley CAREs, Western States Legal Foundation and Women's Action for New Directions. See the accompanying article. And, RSVP, please.

DC Days 2002

On April 14 - 17, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability will host DC Days 2002. Activists from ANA groups, including us, participate in 1 day of training and 3 days of meetings with Congress and the Administration. DC Days is an important opportunity to press for changes in nuclear weapons policy and DOE cleanup programs. Interested? Call us today so we can prepare our delegation and get cheap tickets.

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