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Tri-Valley CAREs Citizens Watch Newsletter July 2001

Former Lab Scientist Goes Anti-Nuke, Tours Japan to Stop NIF

by Issac Trotts
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Issac Trotts left Livermore Lab on March 3, 2001, and is currently serving as Tri-Valley CAREs' Outreach Coordinator. Most recently, he represented us at a series of key meetings on NIF in Japan. After recovering from jet lag, he has filed this report...

Last fall, I took a computational visualization research & development job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). My funding came from the misnamed Stockpile Stewardship program, which LLNL says is for maintaining the "safety and reliability" of weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

LLNL interviewers told me that no new nuclear weapons were being developed. After working at the Lab for about five months, I discovered that the Stockpile Stewardship program was adding new military capabilities to nuclear weapons. I resigned in protest, and have been speaking out ever since.

In March, I signed on with Tri-Valley CAREs. My work is mainly concerned with making sure that students know the real story about what is going on at the weapons labs so they won't be deceived into contributing to nuclear weapons research.

For my most recent assignment, however, I went to Japan for 10 days to raise awareness about LLNL's mega-laser, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and to explain its role in the Stockpile Stewardship program. The specific reason for my trip is that the Japan-based Hoya Corporation supplies one-half of the laser glass needed for the NIF. Hoya is under pressure from Japanese peace and consumer groups to end its production for NIF.

If NIF is built, it will focus 192 laser beams on a deuterium-tritium fuel pellet in an attempt to achieve a nuclear fusion explosion (i.e., ignition). According to LLNL, NIF's purpose is to ensure the "safety and reliability" of the nuclear arsenal and to investigate the possibility of using fusion as an energy source for civilian use. However, LLNL and DOE records show that NIF will also be used to:

  1. "play an essential role in accessing physics regimes of interest in nuclear weapon design and to provide nuclear weapon-related physics data, particularly in the area of secondary design;"
  2. "provide an aboveground simulation capability for nuclear weapon effects on strategic, tactical, and space assets (including sensors and command and controls);"
  3. increase the accuracy of weapons simulation and design codes;
  4. keep the current generation of weapons scientists and associates employed and skilled; and,
  5. attract and train a new generation of weapons scientists and associated workers.

Hoya and another corporation, Schott Glass, are the only two companies worldwide that are equipped to produce the 150 tons of glass that will be used in the NIF. Over 3000 of these glass slabs are required for NIF's construction, plus replacements. If Hoya stops providing the slabs, then the NIF's glass supply will be roughly cut in half.

According to the Asahi Shimbun (June 5, 2001), "[i]n February, protests from civil groups and the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused the company to temporarily postpone the delivery of the slabs." After corresponding with Livermore Lab management, Hoya officials sent a letter to Japanese groups saying that "[i]t was confirmed that this glass itself will not lead to new nuclear development and the research programs are to contribute to the elimination of nuclear weapons." (Translation as quoted in the Japan Times, June 5, 2001.) It seems that Hoya has been grossly misinformed by LLNL.

It is significant that, although Hoya managers said they planned to resume shipments, Lab officials have not received a formal statement from Hoya about the resumption -- nor, apparently, has LLNL received any more glass from Hoya.

My visit was arranged by a major Japanese peace organization, Gensuikin. In Tokyo, we met with members of the Japanese Diet (Parliament), some of whom expressed an interest in pressuring Hoya to end its involvement with the NIF. Hoya's headquarters are located in Tokyo, and we met with the manager of the vaguely-named General Affairs Group. Gensuiken mounted a spirited demonstration in front of the building while our delegation was meeting inside.

After Tokyo, the whirlwind of meetings and press conferences continued in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Osaka. The tour got a good bit of attention from the Japanese press. So, with any luck, these actions in Japan will bring us one step closer to terminating the NIF.

Lawsuit Doubles State Inspections at Livermore Lab

by Marylia Kelley, Jackie Cabasso and Phyllis Olin
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In Alameda County Superior Court, Judge G. Baranco signed a settlement agreement capping two years of negotiations between three Bay Area environmental organizations and the State agency that regulates toxic waste at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

In Dec. 1999, Tri-Valley CAREs, Western States Legal Foundation and San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility filed an environmental lawsuit against the CA Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

The lawsuit challenged DTSC's issuance of a permit for Livermore Lab to operate its large onsite hazardous and mixed radioactive waste treatment facility, on the grounds that the permit had violated the California Environmental Quality Act. Included in the lawsuit were the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which operates Livermore Lab, and its manager, the Regents of the University of CA.

We initiated the suit to ensure that DTSC did not allow the Lab's waste treatment facility to operate without certain environmental safeguards to protect the workers and surrounding communities.

On June 22, all of the parties reached a settlement agreement to end the litigation. The agreement includes modifications to the permit, additional environmental evaluation, increased surveillance and enhanced reporting. The Court retains jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement.

Among other provisions, DTSC agreed to double the number of inspections it will conduct at Livermore Lab over the next three years. This increase in regulatory attention to hazardous waste practices at the Lab will help cut down on accidents, spills and leaks. To put it plainly, the Lab's record to date has been atrocious, and this was a main reason we brought the lawsuit.

DTSC also agreed to establish a special site on its web page to inform the public about hazardous waste issues at Livermore Lab, including information about LLNL violations, inspection reports, accidents and notice of any proposed permit changes. This level of public disclosure simply had never existed before.

Plaintiffs were represented by Michael Veiluva of Alborg, Veiluva & Cannata, Alan Ramo of the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, Golden Gate University, and Phyllis Olin of Western States Legal Foundation.

Copies of the settlement are available on request.

Five Stories -- Speaking Truth to Power in Washington, DC

by Ann Seitz, Barbara Dyskant, Inga Olson, Issac Trotts and Jo Ann Frisch
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Eight folks from Tri-Valley CAREs traveled to the nation's capital for the 13th annual "DC Days." The event was sponsored by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a national network of organizations, including Tri-Valley CAREs, whose members live around Department of Energy nuclear weapons sites. Here are a few of our stories.

Ann Seitz' experience:

Well, there I was in Washington, city of marble and meetings, poverty and perspiration. As the humidity descended each day so, too, did the collective power of ANA groups upon the officials of this land for "DC Days 2001."

Tri-Valley CAREs did its utmost to inform, educate and pierce the bubble of power and influence-peddling that is pervasive on "the Hill." In meetings, I pointed out the circular absurdity of having nuclear weapons to guard against those who would have nuclear weapons. I'd heard that European countries were characterizing the U.S. as a "rogue state." So it seems to me as well, and I said so.

This was my first DC Days experience. With the help of the Sunday training, I was catapulted up the learning curve and was ready for meetings the next day. Some of the Congressional aides with whom I met were surprisingly uninformed about nuclear issues, while others were quite aware.

DC Days included an award ceremony, held on Tuesday night. Sitting in the Russell Senate chamber, in the room famous for the Watergate, Anita Hill and Iran-Contra hearings, I was moved by the just freed from jail Russian whistleblower, Alexandr Nikitin's speech, translated from Russian into English by our own board member, Will Easton. During that same ceremony, Representative Dennis Kucinich spoke with great conviction about the preservation of the human soul and our precious earth. Another honoree, Norm Buske, was conducting citizen monitoring operations for radiation around the Hanford site. What an inspiration!

Barbara Dyskant's story:

DC Days was an empowering whirlwind. It was my second year there, and that made a difference. I felt more familiar with the process, and enjoyed seeing many friends again. Attending Administration and Congressional meetings along with activists from the former Soviet Union reinforced the knowledge that we are part of a worldwide movement for peace, justice and the environment.

Officials we saw last year remembered my son Erek and me, which made us even more effective. Some welcomed us and said they depended on us for information. Other officials knew almost nothing about the weapons situation and often were willing to give it a look. Additionally, it was important, although scary, to look into the eyes of officials who were very, very set on building up the nuclear weapons arsenal for "national security" -- even at the risk of nuclear war. It was important that they hear our position. Meeting with them also renewed my understanding that we are very needed -- each of us makes a huge difference in the well-being of everyone on this planet.

Inga Olson's report:

Joining with representatives from 30 citizens groups around the country to advocate for cleanup and disarmament makes for a bigger impact than any of us has as a single organization. Too, it is inspiring and supportive to meet dedicated, knowledgeable, and smart people working on the same issues. The DC Days Sunday training, the issue briefs, and the information packets for participants were very well done and added so much to our effectiveness. The up-front preparation and planning were evident. The schedule was exhausting, however.

We experienced a broad range of reactions to our educational efforts with Members of Congress and Administration officials. At one end of the spectrum was a Rep. who had the person who handles correspondence speak with us briefly standing in the hallway. On the other side, there were people like John Conway, the Chair of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. He had representatives at this meeting from various departments as well as field employees. These people were able to directly answer our questions or took responsibility for following up with us.

Issac Trotts' impressions:

My trip to the capital of the Empire showed me the power of the propaganda machine. The officials I talked with did not believe that the Stockpile Stewardship program has a goal of establishing the capability to design a new nuclear weapon. Most of them seemed to accept the official line about "safety and reliability."

The most positive aspect of my experience was meeting the activists from all over the U.S. and from the former Soviet Union. I was especially impressed by a Russian engineer who had gone to jail for blowing the whistle about radioactive waste emitted from nuclear submarines. Also, Joseph Carson, a whistleblower and DOE engineer, said that he had won seven lawsuits against the Department when it had tried to silence him.

Overall, with the news that Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee offered an amendment to cut NIF's construction budget in half, it appears that DC Days had a visible effect. There's still a long way to go before the nuclear madness is over, but it's nice to see a ray of hope.

Jo Ann Frisch's account:

This was my third DC Days, and I felt knowledgeable about the message - cut NIF and restore the cleanup budget. Some of the meetings with Members of Congress and the Administration were hopeful, but some were disappointing -- and I felt those were a waste of time. But, who knows? I like to think about the pebble dropped into water and the spreading rings reaching out. Perhaps someone will be touched and a positive response will ensue. Nothing we do is ever really wasted. I'm an optimist with a realistic streak.

Often, I felt a sense of suspension this time in Washington. The new Administration coming in after such a disputed election caused many elected officials to take a wait and see approach. As for ourselves, I think we need to always be proactive and that means having a strong strategy in the face of whatever. As time goes on, we'll see where our message reaches. In fact, after returning home, I was heartened when the House voted to increase the cleanup budget for contaminated DOE facilities. We still have a long way to go, but I was glad to see a first step taken.

Community Supports Lab Cleanup

by Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On May 31, about thirty Tracy residents met to learn about pollution, cleanup and the role of the community at site 300. Site 300 is Livermore Lab's high explosives testing range, located just west of Tracy. The meeting had a friendly feel with children playing in a corner filled with toys, books, artwork and puzzles under the watchful eye of Joan deBellis, a teacher from the Danville area. Our "Save the Tracy Site 300 Cleanup" cake and coffee provided a nice way to meet folks and swap stories about site 300.

One issue raised by long-time Tracy residents is the potential spread of contaminants when flooding occurs during rainy winters. Water flows down through Corral Hollow and brings soil from the hills, including from some of the 11 square miles that houses site 300.

The meeting presenters included Peter Strauss, technical advisor to Tri-Valley CAREs for more than a decade and author of our "Community Guide to the Site 300 Cleanup." Strauss said that site 300 has some of the highest concentrations of solvents in groundwater that he has ever seen in his field work and research at Superfund sites around the country. Strauss explained that the complex geology of the site makes characterizing the groundwater flow especially difficult.

Major pollutants include Uranium-238, TCE and other solvents, PCBs, furans, dioxins and metals. Additionally, Lab reports show that 22,670 curies of tritium (radioactive hydrogen) were used at site 300. Tritium has been found in site 300 groundwater at concentrations of 2 million picocuries per liter, 100 times the state and federal maximum contaminant level.

The group's Executive Director, Marylia Kelley discussed how the EPA's Superfund process allows the public to play an active role in ensuring that pollution is cleaned up. Inga Olson, Nuclear Weapons and Waste Program Associate at Tri-Valley CAREs, outlined actions people can take right now to make a difference.

On Lasers, Toxic Waste and the Budget

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Congress adjourned for its 4th of July holiday with next year's budget about half-way done. So far, there is some good news to report, some bad news and a lot of need for additional citizen intervention. Bush's first budget request came to Congress with a major increase proposed for nuclear weapons activities. The requested construction budget for NIF rose to $245 million, with another quarter-billion proposed for NIF-related research and development. (See the May 2001 Citizen's Watch for details.)

Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and our own Bay Area's Barbara Lee introduced an amendment to cut the NIF construction funding by half. "The project has already sucked up billions of taxpayer dollars while endangering our environment and sabotaging efforts to reduce nuclear proliferation," said Lee.

Most of the Bay Area Congressional Reps. agreed, and voted to cut NIF. Included in that list are George Miller, Nancy Pelosi, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, Mike Honda, Anna Eshoo and Tom Lantos. They deserve our thanks.

Voting against the funding cut were Bay Area Reps. Ellen Tauscher, Richard Pombo and Zoe Lofgren.

This would be the first recorded vote on NIF, and thus it provides our first opportunity to see where we have support. The amendment ultimately lost, 331 - 91. Still, it is heartening to know that there are 91 Congressional Reps. who stand ready to chop off funding for this project. Next year? More. Many more.

The House also passed its version of the DOE cleanup budget. The input of community members around DOE sites had an impact in that environmental activities received a $699 million increase. However, Livermore Lab is not mentioned by name. This means that the Lab may not get a fair share of the increase - the 48% cut in Livermore cleanup funding could stand. How? The House only mentioned the biggest DOE sites like Hanford and Savannah River by name. This leaves it up to DOE to "pass back" money to its other sites like Livermore. So, the Lab may or may not get any of the increase.

How can this be remedied? The most direct method is to ensure that Livermore Lab is mentioned by name in the Senate version of the DOE cleanup budget. If the Senate specifies the additional $10 million that the Lab cleanup program needs when it passes a budget, then the matter will become part of the "Conference Committee" which happens each year at the end of the process to reconcile the House and Senate budgets.

Citizen's Alerts -- Calendar Section

Thursday, July 19
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Livermore Library
1000 South Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Snacks, cold drinks and air conditioning. All that and a chance to do something good in the world, too! It's our monthly meeting, and new friends and long-time members are invited. Agenda items include the latest budget news from Washington, DC, updates on our efforts to stop the NIF and other new weapons facilities, a look at what's going on at the Nevada Test Site, a preview of our strategic planning retreat - and much more.

Tuesday, July 31
Tri-Valley CAREs' board meets
7:30 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-4372 for details

The Tri-Valley CAREs board meets quarterly and looks after our organizational health. If you are interested in budgets, fundraising and organizational development - and think you might want to serve on the board in the future -- call Janis Kate at the number above.

Monday, August 6
Hiroshima Commemoration
"Peace on Earth and in Space"
7 AM, Livermore Lab
Corner of East Ave. and Vasco Rd.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Commemorate the devastation rained on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan by U.S. atomic bombs. Renew your commitment to peace and the global elimination of nuclear weapons. (See flier.)

Saturday, August 11
Tri-Valley CAREs' strategic planning
10 AM - 4 PM, Holy Redeemer Center
8945 Golf Links Rd., in the Oakland hills
(925) 443-7148. RSVP required.

This annual retreat is open to our members, board, staff and volunteers. Be visionary. Be strategic. Be there.

Tri-Valley CAREs Annual Retreat
August 11, 2001
Holy Redeemer Center
8945 Golf Links Road, Oakland

Purpose: To plan next year's winning strategies -- and to celebrate our successes so far.

Setting: Atop a hill and alongside Arroyo Viejo Creek on 24 acres of nature at the edge of Oakland, easily accessible off I-580.

For: All interested members, staff, board and volunteers.

What do you need to do? RSVP to the Tri-Valley CAREs office or to our board president, Janis Kate, at (925) 443-4372. We will mail you a packet with guidance for strategic planning, an agenda and the directions to Holy Redeemer Center.

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