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Citizens Watch Newsletter July 2000

Congress and the NIF: Budget Honeymoon May Be Ending

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

On June 1, 2000, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) missed its Congressionally-mandated deadline to deliver a certified "rebaseline" of the full cost to taxpayers for the problem-plagued National Ignition Facility (NIF), currently under construction at Livermore Lab.

Instead, DOE requested a three-month extension, until mid-September. This conveniently puts off delivery of the NIF rebaseline until after Congress finishes with the Fiscal Year 2001 budget. So, we taxpayers and lawmakers alike are asked to take it on faith that DOE will control NIF's ballooning costs and successfully resolve the mega-laser's various mission, managerial and technical uncertainties.

On June 27, the NIF faced its first serious budget challenge when two conscientious Congressmen, Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), offered an amendment to cut $74.1 million from NIF's construction funding.

There would be only 36 hours between the time the Rules Committee allowed their amendment and the vote on the floor of the House.

The two Representatives were gathering substantial support from both parties, momentum was building to cut NIF and, as the public got wind of it, there was an encouraging grassroots response.

Still, it seemed an impossibly short turn around time, and the vote wouldn't actually come to the floor until after 10 PM Tuesday. These factors would hamper the valiant efforts of Ryan and Kucinich to achieve the amendment's passage.

Kudos are in order for the fine speeches made by both Representatives, covering all of the following: the multi-billion dollar cost overruns; schedule slippages of a half-decade or more; scientific uncertainties; the pending GAO report; the missing rebaseline; the myth of NIF's necessity to maintenance of the arsenal; its proliferation risks; its role in promoting a return to full-scale U.S. nuclear testing and more.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) submitted testimony citing NIF's radioactive wastes and stating eloquently that NIF "symbolizes the American failure to lead the way on global arms control."

On the other side, Livermore Lab and DOE pulled out all the stops in order to defeat the amendment. Interestingly, but not unexpectedly, several Reps. who rose to oppose cutting NIF offered arguments taken directly from Livermore Lab's lobbying materials, in some cases reading them word for word off the page.

Leading the charge to oppose the amendment was Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Livermore), who relied on the same old fallacies that Livermore Lab has been selling since 1995, namely that NIF is a "cornerstone" of Stockpile Stewardship, and "the best way to ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons." (See box with quotes from prominent scientists, below.)

The one novel argument Tauscher offered was that the U.S. had already spent nearly a billion on NIF and that in and of itself justified spending more.

The House Appropriations Committee Chair, Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), spoke against the amendment but expressed misgivings about the NIF program. The jury is still out, he said.

All in all, the Ryan-Kucinich NIF amendment made a strong showing, but failed on a voice vote.

Now the budget debate will move to the Senate. Sometime after its return from the July 4th holiday, the Senate is expected to vote on its Appropriations bill. That vote will specify how big a check the Senate is willing to write for NIF.

If the Senate cuts (or increases) NIF's budget, then any differences between the House and Senate funding levels would be negotiated in committee.

Stay tuned.

[Update: The Senate vote on NIF funding has been postponed until early September.]

Scientists on NIF

Experts decry the myth that NIF is needed for maintaining nuclear weapons "safety" & "reliability"

  • Edward Teller, known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, when asked about the NIF's utility for this task, replied: "None whatsoever."

  • Los Alamos physicist Rod Schultz wrote in a lab publication that NIF's touted importance to the weapons stockpile does "not reflect the technical judgment of the nuclear weapons design community."

  • Sandia Lab's former vice-president Bob Peurifoy called NIF "worthless" for maintenance of the arsenal.

  • In a separate interview with another newspaper, Livermore weapons scientist Seymour Sack called NIF "worse than worthless" for that task.

  • Ray Kidder, another Livermore Lab physicist, said: "As far as maintaining the stockpile is concerned, [NIF] is not necessary."

(Sources: Tri-Valley Herald, Contra Costa Times, Albuquerque Tribune & Science Magazine.)

U.S. Sets Stage to Design New, Deep-Burrowing "Mini-Nuke"

by Sally Light and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Senate Armed Services Committee Report includes a provision for Fiscal Year 2001 that would "require the Secretaries of Defense and Energy to assess requirements and options for defeating hardened and deeply buried targets. The provision would expressly authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct any limited research and development that may be necessary to complete such assessments." (Sec. 1018)

If approved by the full Congress and the President, this new law would lift certain key restrictions imposed by a 1994 law barring the DOE nuclear weapons labs from conducting research and development that could lead to the production of a precision, low-yield nuclear weapon with an explosive force of less than 5 kilotons.

Thus, the change would enable the Livermore and Los Alamos labs to design an entirely new nuclear weapon for the U.S. arsenal, a "mini-nuke" capable of burrowing up to 1,000 feet underground before detonating.

In the 1990s, the weapons labs "modified" an existing B61 to create the B61-11, with a variable yield beginning at 50 kilotons and an earth-penetrating capability of about 300 feet.

If developed, the new "mini-nuke," would be tailor-made for use in conventional conflicts, and against non-nuclear adversaries. This continues an already insanely dangerous trend in U.S. nuclear policy, one in which various existing nuclear bomb designs are being "modified" or "refurbished" to make them more "usable."

As soon as it was deployed, the U.S. considered using the B61-11 earth-penetrator against Khadafy, and, according to one former Pentagon official, the current idea would lead to a lower-yield, "deep penetrator that could hold at risk a rogue state's deeply buried weapons or Saddam Hussein's bunker without torching Baghdad."

Design studies for a new "mini-nuke," savage the spirit, not to mention the preambular language, of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and abrogate the disarmament imperative in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

According to a June 12, 2000, article by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post, support for this new, low-yield nuclear weapon comes from a small group of senior Republican Senators and nuclear weapons lab officials (no surprise).

This cadre of Strangeloves also thinks the U.S. should scuttle the CTBT altogether and resume full-scale underground nuclear blasts. As Sandia Lab President C. Paul Robinson explains it, "The U.S. will eventually need a new, low yield nuclear weapon."

In a wider context, the Senate authorization for "mini-nuke" research must be seen as part of an overall U.S. plan to keep nuclear weapons forever. Witness, as two more examples, the current push to revive Star Wars and the U.S. Space Command's plan to militarily control the earth from the sky by 2020, using space-based nuclear weapons and exotic laser technology.

Public outcry is crucial. What we all do, or fail to do, right now will impact our Mother Earth's future.

Call us for copies of the NPT, CTBT or the U.S. Space Command's "Vision 2020" report. See also articles & fliers in this issue.

Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

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

  • Fast, Yes. But to What End? IBM has built a supercomputer that runs 12 trillion calculations per second - the fastest in the world to date. Soon, it will be hauled on 28 tractor trailer trucks from NY to CA's Livermore Lab. Once installed, the computer, called ASCI White, will be used to model nuclear weapons explosions in three dimensions. ASCI stands for Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative. Along with Livermore's NIF, subcritical underground tests in Nevada and other so-called "Stockpile Stewardship" facilities, ASCI will keep nuclear weapons designers busy at their deadly pursuits.

  • UC Not Secure. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, under fire himself from Congress, delivered a blow to the University of California by announcing plans to change the contracts at Livermore and Los Alamos Labs. Calling UC's managerial performance "unacceptable," Richardson vowed to strip the University of its responsibility for security, and indicated the changes could come as early as September. The action's impetus stems from the flap over the formerly-missing hard drives at Los Alamos Lab and the continuing cost overruns at the National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab, although no one is saying how the change will improve the latter situation. Richardson declined to specify whether he plans to put new contracts for the labs' security functions out to bid -- or call in another government agency to run them directly. Richardson told reporters that he favored UC as a continuing manager for "science." He did not, however, define exactly which parts of the contracts are "security" and subject to change, and which parts are "science." The existing Livermore Lab contract comes up for renewal in 2002. Since 1952, when Livermore was founded, DOE has awarded the contract to UC without accepting bids from others. The same holds true for Los Alamos. Watchdog groups say that situation should end. Workers and communities will have better leverage to press for changes in the contracts if the process becomes an open one.

  • Gordon in a Flash. In a separate but related development, the Senate responded to security lapses at the DOE labs by confirming General John Gordon, a former CIA official, to head the National Nuclear Security Administration by a 97 to 0 vote. His nomination had been held up over controversy surrounding the formation of the NNSA, a new, semi-autonomous agency within DOE that in essence elevates the weapons labs, giving them independence even beyond their prior, and mostly unreachable, "rogue" status.

  • Livermore Lab on Fire. We're certain you have read about the very serious fires that raged through Los Alamos and Hanford in May and June. But, did you know that the Livermore Lab site 300 high explosives testing range caught fire on June 22nd? The cause of the fire is not known. According to published reports, workers were retrofitting a nearby structure, but fire fighters were unsure whether that activity ignited the blaze. The fire burned 40 acres of grassland at the site, but did not destroy any Lab buildings. This series of fires should serve as a "wake up" call to DOE and surrounding communities. Even so-called residual contamination in soil and plants may become volatilized or resuspended in a fire, causing an additional health threat. At scorched Los Alamos, the upcoming rainy season will pose added risks due to toxic mudslides. The lesson to be learned: Clean up your messes, DOE. The biosphere is an interconnected whole, and cannot safely be left in a polluted state.

  • Nuclear License at Vallecitos. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted GE Vallecitos Nuclear Center a 10-year extension of its radioactive materials license. The Pleasanton site experiments with nuclear rods and runs a research reactor.

Ballistic Missile Defense "Print Bites"

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

  • Protest at Vandenberg. More than 50 peace activists, including representatives from Tri-Valley CAREs, gathered on Saturday, July 2, to begin a week-long vigil at the gates of Vandenberg Air Force Base outside of Lompoc, CA, to protest the national Ballistic Missile Defense, also called "Star Wars," test scheduled for July 7.

  • International Deadlock. Russia and the U.S. remain deadlocked over national missile defense. On June 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again warned that the proposed U.S. missile defense system would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and lead to a new, "very dangerous" arms race.

  • GAO Cites Uncertainties. Last month, the General Accounting Office released its analysis of the currently-planned missile defense system to Congress. The report concludes that, due to technical uncertainties, it will be difficult to know in advance if the proposed missile shield would function properly in the event of an attack.

  • Panel Warns of Problems. A classified report by a Pentagon-appointed panel headed by General Larry Welch reportedly voices skepticism that the national missile defense system can be made to operate properly by 2005, the deadline set by Congress and the Clinton administration both. The report questions whether the system's "kill vehicle" would be able to pick out and ram a warhead hidden by decoys and other countermeasures. This finding reiterates what many scientists have been saying for years, most recently TRW whistleblower and engineer, Nira Schwartz, and MIT Professor and national missile defense expert, Ted Postol.

  • Pentagon Simplified Decoys. On Friday, June 9, the Pentagon admitted that, beginning with the October 1999 missile defense test, simpler and fewer decoys were used. Can anyone say "rigged?"

  • FBI Asked to Investigate BMD. 53 Congressional Democrats sent a letter asking FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate "serious allegations of fraud and cover-up." California Representatives Miller, Stark, Eshoo, Woolsey, Lee, Filner & Waxman were among those who signed the letter. We thank them.

Citizen's Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch Thursday, July 30
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Calling all peace and environmental advocates. Tri-Valley CAREs invites your participation. At our July meeting we will focus on new opportunities to stop NIF, discuss our latest community outreach initiative and plan for the upcoming Hiroshima events-and more.

Thursday, August 3
Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for directions

Looking for a way to help your favorite peace group? Have only a couple hours to give? Come to our mailing party. Snacks, conversation & plenty of mailing labels to affix.

Sunday, August 6
"Millennium of Peace"
Hiroshima commemoration
8 AM, rally at Livermore Lab
Corner of East Ave. and Vasco Rd.

NOON, Abolition 2000 Northern CA
gathering at Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Commemorate the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan at Livermore -where new nuclear weapons are designed. This year's theme is "Millennium of Peace." Speakers will include Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Energy in Space, Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs and others. Music by Clan Dyken. The program begins at 8 AM at the corner of East and Vasco, and will be followed by a procession to the Lab's gates. Then, at NOON, a meeting of the Northern California Abolition 2000 network will begin. We will order pizza-or you may bring a brown bag lunch. Please RSVP to help us plan the meal, space, etc. See flier for details.

Tuesday, August 8
An evening with Bruce Gagnon
"The Return of Star Wars: the Weaponization of Space"
7 PM, Friends Church, Corner of Sacramento and Cedar, near No. Berkeley BART station
RSVP requested. (925) 443-7148

Pot-luck. Bring a dish to share if you can. This is your chance to learn about U.S. plans to dominate the planet from space by the year 2020, using nuclear weapons and laser technology. We will have extra copies of some of the planning documents of the U.S. Space Command to hand out. See flier for details.

Saturday, August 26
Tri-Valley CAREs' annual retreat
10 AM - 4 PM, San Damiano Retreat Ctr.
710 Highland Dr., Danville
RSVP required to (925) 443-7148 or (925) 443-4372

Located on 60 acres of wooded hillside, San Damiano retreat center offers us a tranquil space-full of gardens and graceful beauty-in which to ponder our group's path and goals for the coming year. Who should attend? Tri-Valley CAREs' members, staff, board and volunteers. Who will facilitate? Back by popular demand for the third straight year will be Dan Geiger of Geiger and Associates. What do you need to do? RSVP to Tri-Valley CAREs at the numbers above. We will mail you a packet with guidance for strategic planning, an agenda and the directions to San Damiano.

Tri-Valley CAREs is Hiring

from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Organization:
Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Tri-Valley CAREs was founded in 1983 by area residents concerned about the nuclear weapons programs and environmental pollution at the neighboring Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a U.S. Dept. of Energy facility whose mission since 1952 has been to design and test nuclear weapons.

Program Associate:
Will perform research, analysis, writing and public education duties on select nuclear weapons and waste topics in support of the organization's program goals. Our programs include: (1) redefining the Dept. of Energy's so-called "Stockpile Stewardship" program in order to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons; (2) stopping the National Ignition Facility, a nuclear weapons research facility being built at Livermore Lab; (3) investigating the potential impacts of nuclear activities on community health; (4) promoting cleanup of radioactive and toxic pollutants; and, (5) safeguarding the community from future contamination.
(Click here for a full job description)

Resources Developer:
Working as an independent contractor, will conduct grassroots, foundation and major donor fundraising and related duties critical to the success and growth of the organization and achievement of its program goals, listed above.
(Click here for a full job description)

To apply:
Please send cover letter, resume and a completely original writing sample to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, 2582 Old First Street, Livermore, CA 94550.

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