Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter February 2004

Groups Victorious as Los Alamos Withdraws Biolab Approval; Vow to Continue Litigation Against Livermore Bio-warfare Agent Lab

By Steven Volker, Marylia Kelley and Jay Coghlin
From the February, 2004 issue of the Tri-Valley CARE's newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Amid growing controversy and federal litigation, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced that it has revoked approval for its newly-constructed bio-warfare agent research facility at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, which was slated to experiment with dozens of deadly pathogens.

Specifically, DOE withdrew the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Environmental Assessment (EA) that it had issued prior to the start of construction. The Los Alamos facility, styled a "Biosafety Level-3" (BSL-3), would have been used for experiments ? including genetic modification ? with live anthrax, botulism, bubonic plague and other agents.

A second proposed bio-warfare agent research facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California remains under construction. The Livermore BSL-3 facility is slated to use the same mix of deadly pathogens and will also contain a special laboratory to conduct aerosol (spray) "challenges" of up to 100 small animals at a time.

In withdrawing approval for Los Alamos, the DOE acknowledged its "continuing obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to consider new circumstances and information" regarding the facility's risks.

DOE?s action withdrawing approval of the New Mexico bio-facility is a second major victory for two environmental organizations, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, located in Santa Fe and the Livermore, CA-based Tri-Valley CAREs.

The two groups filed litigation on August 26, 2003 in the federal district court in Northern California, charging DOE with violating NEPA by approving advanced research on bio-weapon agents at its two principal nuclear weapon design laboratories without conducting a thorough review of the resulting environmental risks and impacts on international non-proliferation agreements. The lawsuit asks the court to compel site specific and programmatic Environmental Impact Statements and public hearings before the DOE can begin operation at either of the contested facilities.

Last month, in federal district court, Judge Saundra Armstrong issued an Order prohibiting any shipment of "select agents" ? those most capable of being weaponized ? to these proposed bio-warfare agent research facilities pending the trial for our lawsuit, to be heard this April in Oakland, California.

The DOE press release admits that it will now need to go back to square one, produce a new environmental assessment and review anew whether the agency will undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement ? a key demand in the lawsuit.

"We are elated that our lawsuit has persuaded DOE to abandon its inadequate environmental assessment," said Nuclear Watch Director Jay Coghlan. "The ?new circumstances and information? which DOE cites likely includes the strength of our two groups? litigation and the weakness of their case," added Coghlan. "The public can now have better assurance that a stringent risk analysis will be completed before bio-weapon agent research begins in New Mexico at a secret nuclear lab with a shoddy environmental, safety and security record," he concluded.

"Although we are pleased DOE has agreed to withdraw its approval of the Los Alamos facility, we remain concerned that construction continues on the extremely dangerous Livermore biolab," stated Marylia Kelley, the Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs. "The risks to public health and safety posed by the deadly pathogens DOE proposed to use in Los Alamos are even greater here at Livermore. The Livermore site is adjacent to the active Los Positas earthquake fault and next to a large metropolitan area," explained Kelley. "Surely, we deserve no less than an immediate halt to the construction of the Livermore bio-warfare agent facility and for DOE to withdraw its approval," she added.

"DOE?s inexplicable failure to halt construction of the equally dangerous facility at Livermore is a huge mistake," commented plaintiffs? lead attorney Stephan Volker of Oakland. "This bio-warfare agent lab could become a magnet for terrorist attacks, exposing the entire Bay Area to potential contamination," added Volker. "Unless DOE promptly agrees to withdraw its approval of the Livermore biolab, we will ask the Court to bar its operation to protect the public?s safety."

Biological containment levels range from BSL-1, which handles agents not known to cause illness, to BSL-4, which houses agents for which there are no known cures. A BSL-3 permits work with potentially deadly pathogens used in both defensive and offensive biological warfare research.

For more information, including our legal filings and DOE's latest press release, visit us at

Contractors to Write Nuclear Safety Rules

By Marylia Kelley
from the February, 2004 issue of the Tri-Valley CARE's newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Dept. of Energy (DOE) is proposing to replace safety requirements at its nuclear weapons sites with new standards ? written by the contractors. The move follows a congressional directive to begin fining those same contractors for violating existing regulations.

At present, DOE facilities are not fully subject to outside regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Instead, DOE regulations "mirror" OSHA. Now, under the DOE plan, the current safety standards for nuclear weapons facilities would be reduced to unenforceable "guidelines."

KY Senator Jim Bunning, who authored the 2002 legislation ordering the contractor fines, said the DOE proposal will "likely decrease worker protection." OH Rep. Ted Strickland termed it "the fox guarding the hen house." DOE defended the plan, saying "the proposed rule seeks to fully protect our workers," while simultaneously assuring critics that the agency has not made a final decision yet.

Cheating on Security

By Marylia Kelley
from the February, 2004 issue of the Tri-Valley CARE's newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Security guards at DOE?s Oak Ridge facility were tipped off prior to undergoing drills to test their readiness to repel an attack, according to an internal study. The DOE's Inspector General said that two guards were allowed to view the attack simulation in advance of the test. The guards were told which buildings would be attacked, the number of mock attackers and even where a diversion would be staged. The Inspector General called the four exercises "tainted and unreliable." Further, a broader investigation is underway and has reportedly uncovered widespread cheating at DOE sites.

At Livermore Lab, workers tell us they have watched the Lab conduct "daily exercises" to get ready for a DOE security drill scheduled the first week in Feb. Whether security forces or Lab management have also previewed details of the pending mock attack is not known.

The New American Century

An essay by Arundhati Roy
reprinted in the February, 2004 issue of the Tri-Valley CARE's newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The following is excerpted from the upcoming Feb. 9, 2004 issue of The Nation magazine. To read Roy's essay in its entirety, go to We offer these excerpts in preparation for the report back by Tara Dorabji and Loulena Miles on the 2004 World Social Forum on Feb. 19 (see enclosed flier).

In January 2003 thousands of us from across the world gathered in Porto Alegre in Brazil and declared -- reiterated -- that "Another World Is Possible." A few thousand miles north, in Washington, George W. Bush and his aides were thinking the same thing.

Our project was the World Social Forum. Theirs -- to further what many call the Project for the New American Century.

In the great cities of Europe and America, where a few years ago these things would only have been whispered, now people are openly talking about the good side of imperialism and the need for a strong empire to police an unruly world. The new missionaries want order at the cost of justice. Discipline at the cost of dignity. And ascendancy at any price. Occasionally some of us are invited to "debate" the issue on "neutral" platforms provided by the corporate media. Debating imperialism is a bit like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we really miss it?

In any case, New Imperialism is already upon us. It?s a remodeled, streamlined version of what we once knew. For the first time in history, a single empire with an arsenal of weapons that could obliterate the world in an afternoon has complete, unipolar, economic and military hegemony. It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There isn?t a country on God?s earth that is not caught in the cross-hairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF checkbook. Argentina?s the model if you want to be the poster boy of neoliberal capitalism, Iraq if you?re the black sheep. Poor countries that are geopolitically of strategic value to Empire, or have a "market" of any size, or infrastructure that can be privatized, or, God forbid, natural resources of value -- oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, coal -- must do as they?re told or become military targets. Those with the greatest reserves of natural wealth are most at risk...

In this new age of empire, when nothing is as it appears to be, executives of concerned companies are allowed to influence foreign policy decisions. The Center for Public Integrity in Washington found that at least nine out of the thirty members of the Bush Administration?s Defense Policy Board were connected to companies that were awarded military contracts for $76 billion between 2001 and 2002. George Shultz, former Secretary of State, was chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He is also on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group. When asked about a conflict of interest in the case of war in Iraq he said, "I don?t know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it. But if there?s work to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as something you benefit from." In April 2003, Bechtel signed a $680 million contract for reconstruction.

This brutal blueprint has been used over and over again across Latin America, in Africa and in Central and Southeast Asia. It has cost millions of lives. It goes without saying that every war Empire wages becomes a Just War... Like Old Imperialism, New Imperialism relies for its success on a network of agents -- corrupt local elites who service Empire. We all know the sordid story of Enron in India. The then-Maharashtra government signed a power purchase agreement that gave Enron profits that amounted to 60 percent of India?s entire rural development budget. A single American company was guaranteed a profit equivalent to funds for infrastructural development for about 500 million people!

Unlike in the old days, the New Imperialist doesn?t need to trudge around the tropics risking malaria or diarrhea or early death. New Imperialism can be conducted on e-mail. The cornerstone of New Imperialism is New Racism... As part of the project of New Racism we also have New Genocide. New Genocide in this new era of economic interdependence can be facilitated by economic sanctions. New Genocide means creating conditions that lead to mass death without actually going out and killing people...

At the World Social Forum some of the best minds in the world come together to exchange ideas about what is happening around us. These conversations refine our vision of the kind of world we?re fighting for. It is a vital process that must not be undermined. However, if all our energies are diverted into this process at the cost of real political action, then the WSF, which has played such a crucial role in the movement for global justice, runs the risk of becoming an asset to our enemies. What we need to discuss urgently is strategies of resistance. We need to aim at real targets, wage real battles and inflict real damage. Gandhi?s salt march was not just political theater...

This movement of ours needs a major, global victory. It?s not good enough to be right... If all of us are indeed against imperialism and against the project of neoliberalism, then let?s turn our gaze on Iraq... To applaud the US Army?s capture of Saddam Hussein, and therefore in retrospect justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq, is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disemboweling the Boston Strangler. And that after a quarter-century partnership in which the Ripping and Strangling was a joint enterprise. It?s an in-house quarrel. They?re business partners who fell out over a dirty deal. Jack?s the CEO...

How do we begin to mount our resistance? Let?s start with something really small. The issue is not about supporting the resistance in Iraq against the occupation or discussing who exactly constitutes the resistance. (Are they old killer Baathists, are they Islamic fundamentalists?) We have to become the global resistance to the occupation...

Opposition Causes DOE to Delay Plans for New Bomb Plant

By Marylia Kelley
from the February, 2004 issue of the Tri-Valley CARE's newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Congratulations are due to all of our members and friends who protested, wrote letters and made phone calls to oppose it. Kudos, too, to CA Senator Dianne Feinstein for playing a lead role in cutting its budget by more than fifty percent.

"It" is a new plutonium bomb factory capable of mass producing 250 to 900 new bomb cores, called pits, each year. Bowing to congressional pressure, the Dept. of Energy announced on Jan. 28 that it would delay plans indefinitely for the new manufacturing plant, called the Modern Pit Facility or MPF.

The decision places a hold on the plant?s final Environmental Impact Statement, which had been scheduled for release this spring. Without a final EIS, the DOE cannot move forward and choose a "winner" among its five candidate sites to house the new bomb plant.

The DOE hit the pause button "in order to address congressional concerns that it is premature to pursue further decisions on a MPF at this time," according to the agency?s carefully worded press release. "I believe we need to pause to respond to concerns that some committees have raised about its scope and timing," said Linton Brooks, head of DOE?s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability heralded the delay, citing "the inevitable health and environmental risks of plutonium manufacturing" and the "simple lack of need" as well as the negative international implications of the facility. The MPF "is one project America can live without," declared the national alliance of groups, including Tri-Valley CAREs, representing communities downwind and downstream of DOE nuclear weapons facilities.

Senator Feinstein said she "welcomed the delay," and pointed out that if the new bomb factory were to operate at only half of its capacity, it could equal or exceed China?s entire nuclear arsenal in a single year. "I believe the development of new nuclear weapons will hurt our relations with other nations around the globe, our non-proliferation efforts, and the environment," Feinstein concluded. DOE's draft EIS made it clear that the MPF would include the capability to make "new design pits," meaning that it could facilitate production of entirely new types of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. currently has about 10,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenal. The Bush administration is overdue with a report to congress outlining the future of the nation's nuclear stockpile.

The Moscow Treaty, concluded in 2002, does not require the actual dismantlement of any nuclear weapons. However, many in congress have been pressing for modest reductions. Thus, the tardiness of the Bush report most likely caused some of the questions regarding the "scope and timing" of the MPF.

The DOE press release states that the agency is not abandoning the idea of a new bomb factory to replace its Cold War-era Rocky Flats plant, shut down in 1989 due to severe environmental contamination. The new MPF is "an essential element of America?s nuclear defense policy," Brooks declared.

We expect we will need to confront this issue again in one to three years. We pledge to remain vigilant ? and ready to act anew when DOE's plutonium bomb factory rears its ugly head once again. We invite you to continue to promote nuclear disarmament and oppose new nukes with us. Stay tuned!

Toward a Global People's Movement: Tri-Valley CAREs sends delegates to the World Social Forum in India

By Loulena Miles
From Tri-Valley CAREs' February 2004 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On Jan 16-21 in Mumbai (Bombay), India, over 80,000 people attended the World Social Forum from 2,660 organizations representing every continent on earth! Imagine a grand staging ground where activists from all different walks of life come together, meet each other, and talk about how to communicate and coordinate for international action. Tri-Valley CAREs mission in attending the forum was to illuminate the social, environmental and moral costs of continued reliance on nuclear weapons.

The main themes of the conference this year were imperialist globalization, patriarchy, militarism, peace, fundamentalism, and racism. Some 800 workshops were offered, each in 3 hour increments, scattered across the expansive grounds. Choices had to be made, sacrificing one anti-militarism workshop might be worth the trade-off for an anti-Bush workshop given by activists from Korea. It was challenging and fun to think broadly about how nuclear weapons connect to many people's struggles and to forge new relationships with peace advocates across the globe.

Opening speeches were given by luminaries such as Indian author and anti-nuclear activist Arundati Roy, and Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Roy appealed to those gathered to target two corporations profiting from the reconstruction of Iraq and shut them down. "Iraq is the culmination of imperialism and neoliberalism", declared Roy.

A call went out to mobilize on March 20, the first anniversary of the US attack on Iraq. Ebadhi called for reform in international institutions to make them serve the will of the majority of the people on the earth and to make human beings the center of globalization rather than international capital. In effect, she called for a movement to make the economy serve the people instead of the people to serve, and live only, for the economy.

Tri-Valley CAREs hosted and participated in panel discussions on citizen weapons inspections, the nuclear cycle from mining to designing, nuclear weapons and the youth forum. We also met activists from anti-nuclear groups in many countries including India, South Africa, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. As a result of this meeting, many groups are forming a network to organize broadly against all aspects of the nuclear cycle from production of the weapons to disposal of the waste. We also publicized the May 1st international day of action against nuclear weapons that coincides with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty preparatory conference in New York and the August 7th day of remembrance of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What This New Movement is About

There is an unprecedented movement afoot within the activist community to improve ways for citizens to organize for social change on an international scale. After the massive anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, a group of people decided to link up all the organizations that network in the mass protests and to arrange another kind of meeting on a world scale - the World Social Forum - directed at social concerns. The World Social Forum was originally convened in 2000 in Puerto Allegro, Brazil, as a non-governmental, citizen led alternative to the World Economic Forum, which is an annual meeting of elite political and business leaders to create global partnerships and coordinate business decisions on global issues in Davos, Switzerland.

In contrast, the World Social Forum in India was the 4th in a series of annual "world-wide" meetings to discuss problems that span the globe and to envision collective solutions. Regions are beginning to host their own forums as well including the European Social Forum, the Pan-Amazon Social Forum, and the Mediterranean Social Forum. It is a forum for vigorous debate on an international level, an opportunity to realize connections between movements and issues, and it is a place for activists to discard their assumptions about "foreign" countries and "foreign" peoples and evolve toward a more complex understanding of our common challenges.

Next year's forum will again be in Brazil. Tri-Valley CAREs members interested in attending next year should please step forward!

Back to Citizen's Watch Index