Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter July 2002

Will You Be Silent and Let Them Develop New Nukes?

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

Amid plans to develop new, earth-penetrating nuclear bombs, build a bloated mega-laser and start up a local anthrax lab, it so happens that the meter has run out on Livermore Lab's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) coverage. NEPA is the nation's most fundamental environmental law.

Livermore Lab's NEPA operating document is called a Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS), and the last one, completed in 1992, is now a decade old. On June 17th, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration announced its intent to prepare a new SWEIS to "evaluate the environmental effects of the operation of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)." The DOE's Federal Register notice goes on to "encourage public involvement on the scope [issues] and alternatives" that the new document should consider.

Your Opportunity to Speak.

Public meetings will be held on Wed., July 10, 2002 and Thurs., July 11, 2002. The July 10 meetings will be in Livermore at the Double Tree Club (formerly Holiday Inn), 720 Las Flores Rd. The meetings will begin at 1 PM and 6 PM. On July 11, the public meetings will be held in Tracy at the Holiday Inn Express, 3751 N. Tracy Blvd. The start times are 1 PM and 6:30 PM. The DOE has a toll-free number (877) 388-4930. Verbal and written comments will both be accepted. Tri-Valley CAREs will staff an information table at the Livermore and Tracy meetings.

Where to Send Written Comments.

To ensure their inclusion in the official record, written comments must be postmarked on or before August 13, 2002. Mail them to: Mr. Thomas Grim, Documents Manager, U.S. DOE, Oakland Operations Office, 1301 Clay Street #700N, Oakland, CA 94612-5208.

Talking Points

This is the beginning stage of the NEPA process, called "scoping." Simply put, scoping means that the public is being asked to comment on the issues it expects the document to cover. Moreover, NEPA requires that the document analyze alternatives to a facility's current plans.

The SWEIS being prepared on the operation of Livermore Lab is slated to analyze programs for 10 years into the future. Therefore, it is appropriate to insist that it cover more than "business as usual" at LLNL. In essence, the SWEIS gets to the question of Livermore Lab's mission and provides an opportunity to tell the government what the Lab should and should not be doing over the next decade. Further, it is our chance to demand a careful assessment of LLNL's past, current and potential future harm to our health and environment. Here are some issues to raise:

  • LLNL Plans for an Anthrax Lab. Livermore Lab proposes to obtain a "BSL III" permit, which would allow it to handle anthrax, botulism, bubonic plague and other deadly bio-toxins on site. It is appropriate to demand a thorough evaluation of the hazards a BSL III lab could pose to workers and the community. Additionally, questions could be raised regarding the fine line between "defensive" and "offensive" or military applications of research on anthrax and other biologic agents. Should anthrax research take place at a classified nuclear weapons lab? Should it take place in a heavily populated area?

  • New, Classified "Nuclear Technology." According to the DOE notice, LLNL will build an entirely new "Nuclear Technology" facility. This new "project" will be described only in a classified appendix to the SWEIS. The 1992 SWEIS did not contain a classified appendix. None of LLNL's bomb design programs requires a classified appendix, not even the earth-penetrator. So, what could be so deeply classified it cannot even be named in the SWEIS? Some evidence suggests the Lab may be engaging in "dirty bomb" research and that the new "project" may involve building them. If this is true, is Livermore the appropriate place? In any event, it is important to insist that the SWEIS contain an unclassified description of the proposed project and a full accounting of its potential hazards.

  • National Ignition Facility. NIF will allow weaponeers to continue research on new and "modified" nuclear weapons. Additionally, NIF will be used to test the effects of a nuclear weapon explosion on hardware (like satellites and nearby weapons). Therefore, NIF will be part of the Lab's "Star Wars" research. Should the NIF be completed or abandoned? Livermore Lab is developing plans to use plutonium, highly-enriched uranium and large amounts of lithium hydride in NIF experiments. These radioactive and toxic materials would be in addition to the radioactive tritium that, along with deuterium, will be NIF's "fuel." Plutonium, uranium and tritium from past Lab operations have polluted our environment. What will the future hold with NIF?

  • Advanced Simulation and Computing Initiative. Livermore Lab operates ASCI "white," the world's second largest super computer and has plans for "purple"-- an even bigger machine. Livermore's Sandia Lab just broke ground for a third huge computer complex, the 70,000 square foot Distributed Information Systems Lab. These computers and other behemoth mega-machines are enormous drains on our water (for their cooling systems) and energy resources. In California these are particularly precious -- and the SWEIS should include a full accounting of LLNL and Sandia's projected water and power use.

  • Earth-Penetrators and Other New Nukes. LLNL is "modifying" the B83 to give it the ability to burrow into the earth before detonating. LLNL is also modifying the W80 (a nuclear warhead that sits atop submarine-launched and air-launched cruise missiles) along with several other weapons designs. Should this work continue? What would a full accounting of the hazards of new bomb development include?

  • Accidents, Spills, Leaks and Fires. Since its last SWEIS in 1992, when it promised no future impacts, Livermore Lab has continued to put its workers, the public and the environment at risk. Examples include uranium fires, a filter-shredding accident that contaminated workers with curium, a chlorine gas leak that forced an evacuation, tritium accidents, an explosion that sent one employee to the hospital, plutonium that had to be cut out of a worker's hand-and more. The new SWEIS must include a rigorous analysis of the potential threats posed by Livermore Lab operations with hazardous and radioactive materials.

  • Plutonium & Uranium. Livermore Lab's current administrative limit for weapons-grade plutonium is 1,540 pounds, and the Lab's stock is reportedly at or near that maximum limit. In the 1992 SWEIS, LLNL announced a goal of substantially reducing its inventory of plutonium. That has not happened. Livermore Lab may have more plutonium today than in the average years of the 1990s. Moreover, in 1999, LLNL announced plans to raise its administrative limit for enriched uranium from 660 to 1,100 pounds. At the same time, the limit for uranium ore rose to 6,600 pounds. The SWEIS should analyze the potential impacts of these increases. Moreover, it should include the LLNL programs that use these radioactive materials so the public can comment on whether some LLNL programs should be canceled.

  • Security Problems. Are the nuclear materials at LLNL secure from theft and/or attack? Numerous experts say they are not. Lab employees have told us that LLNL management mishandled a bomb threat in the Lab's plutonium facility. Furthermore, the former President and Vice-President of the LLNL Security Police Officers Assn. have brought "whistleblower" lawsuits against the Lab, charging that they were fired for bringing serious security deficiencies to the attention of LLNL and DOE management. The SWEIS should analyze a series of scenarios to determine the security (or lack thereof) of nuclear materials at LLNL.

  • Earthquakes. LLNL is situated within 200 feet of the Las Positas fault, very near the Greenville fault, and in close proximity to other faults capable of generating high magnitude earthquakes. After the 1980 quake on the Greenville fault, LLNL sustained more than $40 million dollars in damages and a tritium leak. The Greenville fault had, until then, been classified as an "inactive fault." At the Lab's site 300 in Tracy, the Elk Ravine fault cuts across Lab property amidst a heavily-contaminated groundwater plume. The earthquake analyses in prior LLNL environmental documents have been incomplete. Moreover, the populations of Livermore, Tracy and the Bay Area have swelled since 1992.

  • Alternatives Analysis. As mentioned above, by law the SWEIS must contain an analysis of alternatives. The Federal Register notice discloses that Livermore Lab plans to gloss over this key requirement. Only three generic alternatives are listed: One, the "no action alternative," will consider all current activities along with unnamed "interim actions." In other words, DOE defines no action as "business as usual." The second is called a "proposed action alternative." It incorporates the "business as usual" alternative and adds possible plutonium use in NIF and the mysterious new "defense technologies" project to the mix. The third is called a "reduced operation alternative," but DOE says this doesn't mean decommissioning LLNL. There is very little description of what DOE thinks it does mean.

So, it's up to us to outline our alternatives for analysis. How about LLNL as a "green lab" devoted to peaceful and environmentally friendly science? What about site 300? Should open air tests with high-explosives and radioactive materials at site 300 continue? Or, should activities there be limited to cleanup and civilian programs? These and other questions must be placed squarely on the table.

It's your future, your community and our one, fragile Earth. What do you want to see happen in the next ten years?

Nuclear Posture: Petition Update and Invitation

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

In our May 2002 newsletter, Tri-Valley CAREs included a petition to: (a) end funding for the development of new, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, (b) reject the Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review, and (c) bring U.S. nuclear policy into compliance with the nation's Non-Proliferation Treaty obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons.

One thousand five hundred people have signed and returned the petitions so far, and we thank you. In June, we brought copies of the signed petitions to California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. This month, we will share them with U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher.

Further, we will mail copies to President George Bush and to key Congressional Committees. And, in September, we will have them at the United Nations.

We are actively soliciting signatures, and we will continue to do so throughout the year. Our goal is to collect many thousands of signatures to demonstrate broad-based opposition to nuclear weapons and the ultra-dangerous Nuclear Posture Review.

The petition is posted here on our web site in PDF format for easy downloading. Paper copies can be ordered from our office by calling (925) 443-7148.

Please circulate the petition among your friends and colleagues (and/or at tabling events, in your group's newsletter, etc.).

Also newly posted on our web site is Tri-Valley CAREs' comprehensive report on U.S. nuclear policy and the role played by the Department of Energy labs and factories. "More Work for the Weapons Labs, Less Security for the Nation: An Analysis of the Bush Administration's Nuclear Weapons Policy," by Dr. Robert Civiak, can be downloaded in PDF or ordered from our office.

Citizen's Alerts -- Calendar Section

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

Wednesday, July 10
"Coffee & Conversation"
Noon - 3 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Dept. of Energy and other atomic workers made ill by on the job exposures are invited to share stories and discuss the Energy Employees Compensation Act and other topics of interest. Family members of atomic workers are welcome to participate. We will supply coffee and sandwiches. Join us and contribute your "2?" to the group's effort to obtain justice for sick workers.

July 10 - 11
Public Meetings on the future of
Livermore Lab; environmental impacts
(925) 443-7148 for details

DOE will hold public meetings in Livermore and Tracy to gather public comments on the issues and alternatives the agency should include in its upcoming Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement on Livermore Lab operations. The Livermore public meetings will be July 10 at the Double Tree Club, 720 Las Flores Rd. at 1 PM and 6 PM. On July 11, DOE will hold two public meetings in Tracy, where Livermore Lab's site 300 is located. The meetings will take place at the Holiday Inn Express, 3751 N. Tracy Blvd. at 1 PM and 6:30 PM. Tri-Valley CAREs will have an information table at both locations. Contact us or call DOE at (877) 388-4930.

Thursday, July 11
Tri-Valley CAREs' study group
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

We will welcome Yoga instructor and friend, Patricia Moore, who will explain the ancient philosophy behind Yoga and its connection to our work for nonviolent solutions in today's world. And, then, she will lead us through several simple Yoga postures for beginners.

Thursday, July 18
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

You are invited. Agenda items will include the upcoming SWEIS on Livermore Lab operations, the latest info on plutonium at Livermore, reports from our Yoga "study group" and our round table for sick atomic workers, plans for our Aug. 3 event-AND MORE! Don't sit idly by while Bush leads us down the path to more war and destruction. Come and find out how you can create peace and positive change.

Thursday, August 1
Tri-Valley CAREs' mailing party
4 PM and 7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs office
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for directions

Can you volunteer two hours for a good cause? You supply the hands and we'll supply the labels and the snacks. Together we will get next month's newsletter ready for the post office.

Saturday, August 3
"Stop the Bomb Where it Starts"
11 AM, rally Carnegie Park,
4th and "J" Sts., downtown Livermore

On August 6, 1945 the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Today, the Bush Administration pushes for new, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons for use in an open-ended "War on Terrorism." Livermore Lab is where these new U.S. nuclear bombs are being developed. We will gather to remember Hiroshima and to say "never again" to the use of nuclear weapons. (See flier.)

Saturday, August 10
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.

Our members, volunteers, staff and board will get together at a beautiful retreat center to plan winning strategies. Circle your calendar today. Be strategic. Be creative. Be there!

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