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Citizens Watch Newsletter January 2002

An Alarming Nuclear Posture

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Two new Bush Administration reports seek to propel us further along the dangerous road to the design and production of new, more "usable" nuclear weapons and to increase U.S. readiness (and eagerness) to resume full-scale nuclear testing.

First, the Departments of Defense and Energy issued a "Report to Congress on the Defeat of Hard and Deeply Buried Targets." HDBTs are underground bunkers or other facilities reinforced by concrete or tunneled into mountains. The report estimates there are 10,000 such structures that the U.S. wants to hold at risk (read threaten).

The report goes on to say that conventional weapons will not be sufficient to destroy all HDBTs. Therefore, "DoD and DOE have completed initial studies on how nuclear weapons can be modified" for this use (read to mean by adding special effects, enhanced precision, deeper earth-penetrating ability and/or lower and "mini" nuclear yields) (p. 4).

The agencies are now "investigating potential options and costs" (p. 17). These nuclear options would be in addition to the earth penetrating, variable-yield B61-11, already put into the arsenal using so-called Stockpile Stewardship methods. The HDBT study further touts the "unique ability" of nuclear weapons to destroy chemical or biological weapons or facilities, and lays out a rationale for the development of specialized nukes for this task (p. 19).

The report provides additional evidence that the weapons labs, including Livermore, are heavily involved in the research and development of a variety of new nukes explicitly intended for use against nations that do not possess nuclear weapons. The proliferation impacts of developing new and "modified" nuclear weapons and the dangers inherent in "modernizing" the arsenal to make it more readily usable are issues that we have long raised.

The HDBT report points out that decisions about actual procurement of advanced nuclear capabilities will be made in the "broad context" of U.S. nuclear policy (p. 4). As we go to press, the Bush Administration's broad policy document, the "Nuclear Posture Review" (NPR), has yet to be released publicly. However, many of its key provisions can be ascertained with a fair degree of certainty. And, what is known ought to set off alarm bells across the nation.

The posture review is said to shore up the rationale for new nukes laid out in the HDBT report. The NPR is also expected to call for increasing U.S. readiness to conduct full-scale nuclear tests. And, it is said to "clarify" that Bush's handshake agreement with President Putin at the Crawford Summit doesn't mean the U.S. intends to take the weapons out of its arsenal, but rather to move them from the deployed to the reserve arsenal. Stay tuned!

Critics Hang Two Eye-Catching New Exhibits at Livermore Lab

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs, Western States Legal Foundation and the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility installed two, visually stunning, multi-color displays in the Livermore Lab Visitors Center in December. The new exhibits focus on nuclear weapons science and question both the nuclear weapons design activities at Livermore and the environmental and health consequences of airborne radioactive emissions from the Lab.

your mind is a terrible thing to waste

One six foot by four foot exhibit invites viewers to reflect on the Lab's controversial National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the mega-laser's stated goal of training a new generation of bomb designers. The attention-grabbing red, white and blue display features a translucent skull and the spherical NIF target chamber in place of the brain. "Your mind is a terrible thing to waste," the display tells the viewer.

"The exhibit will be seen by prospective workers as well as current employees and their families. It is our intent for the display to spark thought and discussion," explained Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director. "We are calling on scientists and engineers to reflect on NIF's role in creating new and modified nuclear weapons and to forswear work on it and other similar projects."

Over the past few years, Livermore Lab has found it more and more difficult to hire and retain the number of workers it desires for NIF and other so-called "stockpile stewardship" programs. The new NIF display will encourage more scientists to leave the project.

The Livermore Lab Visitor Center exhibit is the second recent art installation undertaken by Tri-Valley CAREs to reach Lab employees and their families. In August, the group placed its nix NIF message on the town's only commercial billboard. (See the September 2001 Citizen's Watch for details.)

your mind is a terrible thing to waste

The companion multi-color exhibit installed in the Lab Visitors Center (reproduced on page 1) is also six feet by four feet and carries its own skull - with a Livermore Lab-designed bomb explosion in place of the brain. The message tells viewers that Livermore has released one million curies of radiation into the local environment. "Your health is a terrible thing to waste," it warns onlookers.

The Lab is seriously contaminated with the toxic and radioactive by-products of fifty years of nuclear weapons research and development, including plutonium, uranium and tritium. These deadly pollutants don't stop at the Lab's barbed wire fence line. They also spread into the surrounding communities.

"The displays speak to workers and community members alike. There is no such thing as a clean, safe nuclear weapon," Jackie Cabasso, executive director at WSLF told reporters at the installation.

Also present for the installation was New Mexico artist Deborah Reade, who created the exhibits for the three organizations. "I am excited to work on a project so relevant to contemporary life," Reade said. "Nuclear weapons are the defining issue of our era. I hope the power of the imagery will make the old-time weaponeers pause and the prospective new hires say no," she concluded.

A prior lawsuit enabled the groups to place the displays. The Court ruled in 1985 that, since public funds were used by the Lab to operate the Visitors Center, two of the wall spaces must be set aside for alternative viewpoints.

Town Meeting on Plutonium and Livermore Lab

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Playing with poison -- Livermore Lab is one of two facilities in the country that has designed and tested every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Livermore is currently allowed to possess up to 1,540 pounds of plutonium on site, enough for about 150 nuclear bombs.

In the mid-90s Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary revealed that the Lab then had 880 pounds on site. Livermore is thought to have more plutonium today -- but just how close the Lab is to that 1,540 pound limit is "classified."

Plutonium is produced in nuclear reactors and its weapons-grade isotope (pu-239) makes up the core or "primary" in modern hydrogen bombs. A minute quantity of plutonium can cause serious health effects and, ultimately, death if it is inhaled or enters the body through other pathways such as ingestion or through a skin scrape or cut.

Over the past five decades, Livermore Lab has released plutonium into our air, dumped it down drains and put it into our soil - onsite and in the surrounding community. We have documented 30 releases of plutonium, uranium and other radioactive materials from the Lab due to fires, spills, explosions, faulty equipment, failure to implement safety precautions, and criticality.

Today, there are serious questions about Livermore Lab's ability to fend off a terrorist attack - potentially putting all of the Bay Area and Northern California at risk. Tomorrow, Livermore Lab has plans to obtain additional plutonium from Rocky Flats in Colorado and Los Alamos in New Mexico. It is past time to say "enough is enough."

On Thursday, February 21, independent scientists and community leaders will gather in Livermore to discuss the plutonium problems at the Lab with the public. Presenters will include Dr. David Rush, scientist emeritus at Tufts University, and environmental scientist Peter Strauss, author of a soon to be released study of plutonium and Livermore Lab.

This urgently-needed Town Meeting will begin at 7 PM. It is sponsored by Tri-Valley CAREs, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Western States Legal Foundation.

Circle your calendar today, and check our February newsletter for location and other details. See you there!

ABM Treaty is Worth Saving

by Marylia Kelley with Tara Dorabji and Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On December 13, President Bush announced that he will unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the widely-recognized cornerstone of arms control agreements. The Treaty's Article XV allows a party to withdraw on 6 months notice, "if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme national interest."

What, then, are the relevant extraordinary events? Certainly not the terror attacks of September 11 because they are not related to the subject matter of the Treaty (i.e., ballistic missiles). And, while Bush cites the "age" of the Treaty, that is neither extraordinary nor posing a threat to national security. Moreover, while there exists a genuine possibility of attack from a "rogue" state, withdrawing from the ABM Treaty and developing missile defense schemes will not help us. A "rogue" is likely to use a boat or a truck or even a cargo container as a delivery vehicle -- not an intercontinental ballistic missile. What will help us are nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation measures -- where are they?

Instead, could it be Bush's ideology-based aversion to treaties that is the precipitating "extraordinary event"? Or, his desire to militarize space? If either of these is the case, it should be argued that Bush jeopardizes our supreme national interest -- not the Treaty, which has helped the U.S. and the world avert nuclear war for three decades.

In the Senate, Carl Levin (D-MI) has promised to hold hearings and Joe Biden (D-DE) has threatened the "power of the purse strings" to cut programs that would violate the Treaty. In the House, Lynn Woolsey (D-Santa Rosa) has offered a Resolution opposing U.S. withdrawal. 28 Reps. are original co-sponsors and it is open for signature as H.Res. 313.

Objectively, there are six months left to influence the decision. It's my Treaty, and yours. What action will we take to save it? Contact our office for ideas and info.

Lab Wants Changes to Haz Waste Permit

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

We recently sent letters to Livermore Lab and the CA Dept. of Toxic Substances Control to request a second public meeting on proposed changes to the Lab's waste permit. The permit governs a large variety of hazardous and "mixed" (i.e., both chemical and radioactive) wastes generated by the nuclear weapons program and other activities. Originally, the Lab had scheduled only one public meeting, at 2 PM on January 3. Due to the close proximity to the holidays, the afternoon time slot and the unavailability of materials for review sufficiently prior to the meeting date, we asked for a second meeting.

We are pleased to say that our request was granted. A second public meeting will take place on Thursday, January 31 at 6:30 PM at the Livermore Lab Visitors Center auditorium, just off Greenville Road.

Tri-Valley CAREs members and friends Janis Kate, Joanne Freemire, Stephen Kelly, Rene' Steinhauer and staffer Inga Olson attended the first meeting, which lasted for 2 hours -- and included plenty of time for questions & answers.

One of our group's concerns is the Lab's request to store 32 additional hazardous substances at the main site for up to a year's time. Currently, the Lab must move these substances offsite in less than 90 days. A second issue is the Lab's plan to reduce the distance that separates incompatible solid wastes from 8 feet to only 2.5 feet. Tri-Valley CAREs members pointed to past drum ruptures and container explosions at the Lab due to the mixing of incompatible wastes.

Considering the many accidents that have occurred, the work condition problems the Lab Security Officers have identified and the studies that suggest the Lab is vulnerable to terrorist attack, we want to be certain that no permit requirements are weakened. We invite you to join us. Call us for details and talking points.

Thank You!

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As we begin a new year, we would like to pause a moment to thank all of our supporters who keep our organization and its work going strong.

Last month, we mailed our year-end appeal letter. Many of you have already responded, and we want you to know how much we appreciate your contributions. Individual donors like you help us publish this newsletter, keep our phone connected and the office door open. We are especially pleased to report that with a surge in donations last week, we are on track to reach our appeal goal. Your gifts -- large and small -- have totaled $6,000 so far.

With your help, we are putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive report on plutonium problems at Livermore Lab. In February, we will co-sponsor a Town Meeting on plutonium featuring the study's author, environmental scientist Peter Strauss.

Your donations are also helping us expand our campaign to oppose the development of new nuclear weapons and to circulate the Scientists' and Engineers' Pledge to Renounce Weapons of Mass Destruction at colleges, universities, job fairs and other locations where Livermore Lab goes to recruit. Our efforts have already paid off -- for example, the Lab is having trouble hiring for the National Ignition Facility -- and we will be redoubling the campaign in 2002.

Thank you so much for your partnership in this important work!

We also want to thank the foundations who have supported our work over the past year. Without them, we could not have accomplished all that we have.

"Thank you" Ploughshares Fund, Town Creek Foundation, John Merck Fund, Public Welfare Foundation, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Monitoring & Technical Assistance Fund, W. Alton Jones Foundation and the donor-advised fund at Vanguard. In addition, our work on the Superfund cleanup at Livermore Lab received a technical assistance grant from the EPA and our collaborative health education work was awarded a CDC grant.

Citizen's Alerts - Calendar Section

from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tuesday, January 15
Fly a Flag for Peace on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday

During his lifetime, Dr. King was a powerful force for peace and justice. Nationwide, groups will honor King's memory and purpose by flying flags for peace on his birthday. We invite you to participate. You can download various peace and earth flag designs at,, and Or, call our office for some paper flag prints.

Thursday, January 17
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Livermore Library
1000 South Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Make getting active with Tri-Valley CAREs your New Year's resolution! Join us in safeguarding our environment locally - and in getting rid of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction globally. Learn about plutonium and security problems at Livermore - and what you can do about it. At our January meeting, we will plan for our February 21 Town Meeting on plutonium, discuss what we have learned about serious security breaches at the Lab, strategize actions to stop new nuclear weapons development at Livermore - and more. Light snacks and great conversation. Meet your neighbors and make new friends who are making a difference.

Monday, January 21
NDE's "Monday Night" series
6 PM, Wesley Student Center, Berkeley
(510) 527-2057 for details

Corbin Harney, traditional spiritual leader of the Western Shoshone, will speak on the impacts of the nuclear cycle, Western Shoshone sovereignty issues and more. Sponsored by Nevada Desert Experience. Please note that the Wesley Student Center is at the corner of Bancroft and Dana, across from UC. Bal Pinguet will speak on January 28. Call NDE for details.

Thursday, January 31
Livermore Lab Public Meeting
Hazardous Waste Storage & Treatment
Proposed Permit Modifications
6:30 PM, LLNL Visitors Center
Greenville Road entrance
(925) 443-7148 for details

Livermore Lab is proposing numerous changes to its operating permit that could result in reduced standards for safety procedures and storage requirements for toxic waste on site. If you can attend the meeting or submit written comments - call us for talking points. Please also see the article above.

Thursday, February 7
Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
2 shifts: 4 - 6 PM and 7 - 9 PM
Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Come and help us get the next edition of Citizen's Watch ready for the post office. We will provide healthy (and not-so-healthy) snacks. You affix labels and partake of the food and conversation.

Thursday, February 21
Urgent - Town Meeting
Playing With Poison: Plutonium Problems at Livermore Lab
7 PM, location TBA
(925) 443-7148 for details

Circle this date on your calendar now. Independent experts will discuss plutonium in Livermore. Please also see the article above.

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