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Citizens Watch Newsletter July 2005

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

By Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In July of 1999, then President Bill Clinton announced that his administration intended to compensate the Department of Energy (DOE) workers who suffered occupational illnesses as a result of exposure to the smorgasbord of toxic and radioactive substances used in the design, testing and production of nuclear weapons. Executive Order 13179, "Providing Compensation to America's Nuclear Weapons Workers," was signed on December 7, 2000 and took effect in July 2001. Written into the Act is the promise to compensate workers or their survivors in a manner that is "compassionate, fair, and timely."

The Act has two compensation programs known as "Part B" and "Part E." Some workers or survivors are eligible for one program, but some meet the criteria for both. The Part B pays medical expenses and $150,000 for chronic beryllium disease, silicosis or radiation-induced cancers. Part E covers illness or death due to certain on-the-job exposures to hazardous substances. The dollar amount under Part E is calculated in part according to wage loss and an "impairment rating."

Nationally, close to 100,000 claims have been filed and in California, over 3,500 have been filed. While California houses 35 covered nuclear and beryllium facilities, fully half of all claims filed in the state are from sick Livermore Lab workers?1,526 of them so far.

Nationally, only 22 percent of Part B claimants have received a compensation payment, and, so far, a mere 2 percent of Part E claimants have received a payment. Forty-one percent of all claimants are still waiting for a decision! The long wait means that some claimants who would eventually qualify for compensation will die before they ever receive a check. If claimants do not have eligible survivors, the compensation is lost.

Families with claims from Livermore Lab or nearby Sandia have an additional problem. For workers whose covered illness is cancer due to radiation exposure, a radiation dose estimate is necessary before a decision can be made. The process is set up so that most dose estimates will not be calculated until a site profile is completed. A site profile is a document that maps buildings where radioactive materials were housed, time periods and jobs that involved radiation, and accidents. No site profile has yet been completed for either Livermore Lab or Sandia, Livermore.

Thus, of 829 Livermore Lab Part B cases, 392, or 42 percent, are waiting for dose reconstructions. Many of the workers and family members filed claims years ago, but zilch has happened. Having exposed and sickened workers, it is then cruel to make them wait, year after year, to receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

There are additional problems for sick workers trying to prove their cases. Devices to measure radiation doses were not supplied to all workers, or for all years of employment. Some devices did not measure all forms of ionizing radiation, which makes accurate dose reconstructions impossible. Some radiation exposure records have been lost or discarded. When Livermore Lab workers temporarily went to other DOE sites, such as the Nevada Test Site or Rocky Flats, records of their radiation exposures, frequently, are unavailable. In some cases, the workers' actual employment records no longer exist.

Much of the work at these facilities is classified, meaning that workers could not tell their families what they did. For this reason, it is difficult for eligible survivors to provide information to support a claim if the worker has died.

Moreover, some workers' claims have been denied, though their cancers are aggressive and unusual. In many cases, these employees worked with hazardous materials or in buildings where radioactive and toxic contaminants were widely used. These workers feel the dose reconstructions are incomplete assessments, and the decision to deny compensation was unjust. Thus, many workers who originally felt uplifted by the historic turnaround and commitment on the part of the government to assist them are now becoming discouraged.

Certainly, the promise made to sick DOE workers that the compensation program would be "compassionate, fair and timely" has yet to be fully kept.

If you or someone you know from a DOE or other covered facility may have been made ill by radioactive or toxic exposures, please call Inga at the Tri-Valley CAREs office, (925) 443-7148. For information on the next sick worker support group, please give our office a call.

Death Knell for NIF?

By Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Will this be the year the National Ignition Facility (NIF) finally goes down for the count? Or, will Livermore Lab management succeed once again in reaping mega-bucks for its mega-laser?

In July, the Senate cut $146 million from NIF's 2005 budget, and specified that zero dollars were to be allocated to continue NIF construction at Livermore Lab. The House did not cut NIF, and so the mega-laser's funding fate will be left up to the joint House-Senate Conference Committee that will meet later this year.

The NIF is the most costly element of the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) "Stockpile Stewardship" program, and is intended to train a new generation of bomb designers and enhance U.S. capability to develop new and modified nuclear weapons.

Tri-Valley CAREs has opposed NIF since 1994, when we began investigating its nuclear proliferation and other risks. Later in the decade, we broke the story of NIF's serious, unresolved technical problems and skyrocketing price tag. A new report to Congress by the JASONs, a military science advisory group, contains what its authors call an "incomplete" list of 11 continuing technical hurdles at the NIF.

Originally priced at $677 million, the 192-beam NIF mega-laser will likely cost $5 billion to build. With operating costs factored in over its projected lifetime, we have calculated that NIF's overall cost is $32 billion (and rising).

The NIF's completion date has slipped from 2002 to 2009, according to the Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for Livermore Lab. Fusion (i.e., thermonuclear) ignition experiments are supposed to begin in 2010, but will likely be further delayed by technical problems. The JASONs also reveal that initial "ignition" experiments will not be conducted at the laser's maximum energy, but at something nearer to half-energy.

Thus, NIF will have much less to offer civilian science than was originally advertised. It will, however, reach energies, temperatures and densities that are of interest to bomb designers, even without ever fully achieving its scientific goal of ignition.

Lab management has responded to the Senate budget cut with exorbitant claims that NIF's completion in necessary to maintain U.S. "confidence" in its weapons. Full of dark hints that the U.S. would "need" to resume full-scale nuclear testing without NIF, Livermore Lab Associate Director George Miller told the LA Times that canceling NIF would have "serious implications" for the stockpile.

Independent scientists, including many weapons designers, are disputing those claims. This month, Livermore Lab's most prolific bomb designer, Seymour Sack, told the Tri-Valley Herald that NIF is "worse than useless" as a tool to maintain the existing arsenal. Another persistent NIF critic, Sandia Lab's former chief of stockpile maintenance Bob Peurifoy, offered this assessment: "NIF has little if anything to do with the present and future health of the existing stockpile." Ray Kidder, founder of Livermore Lab's laser directorate, has used similar words -- as have numerous other experts both inside and outside of the DOE nuclear weapons labs.

There is no doubt as to the strategy Lab management is employing in its effort to retain NIF funds. The $146 million question on the table, however, is whether Livermore Lab will succeed in scaring NIF dollars out of Congress. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Livermore) has vowed to rescue the mega-laser when the Conference Committee meets, but thankfully there has been no groundswell forming behind that effort -- so far.

As Tri-Valley CAREs has consistently pointed out, not only is NIF not needed for maintenance of the arsenal, it dangerously propels U.S. nuclear weapons policy in the wrong direction by providing a new tool for weaponeers to continue their deadly pursuits. If the U.S. truly is to live up to its disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it must ramp down both its current nuclear weapons stockpile and the infrastructure and facilities used to design new nukes. Put simply, NIF must go.

Yet, even as its death knell may finally be sounding in Congress, DOE and Livermore Lab are dreaming up new missions for NIF. The final SWEIS envisions mixing fissile fuels, like plutonium and highly enriched uranium, with fusion fuels in NIF. This will increase the type and nature of new bomb design activities that can be carried out on NIF. Perhaps the best way to prevent its use in developing new and terrible nuclear weapons is to ensure that 2005 is the year that NIF construction is finally terminated. Stay tuned.

Newly-Released CD Builds Culture of Peace Through Music

Promotes Rally and March to Livermore Lab August 6

By Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The newly-released CD, "Seeds of Change: No Nukes! No Wars!," chronicles key voices, music and poetry spanning six decades of resistance to nuclear weapons. From folk to hip hop, rock to spoken word, these artists offer unique perspectives on empire, the bomb and the imperative to create positive social and political change.

Tri-Valley CAREs produced this exceptional CD, which marks the historic 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to raise awareness in new and diverse communities about the still-present threat of nuclear weapons. The title, "Seeds of Change," refers to the upcoming August 6th rally and march to the Livermore nuclear weapons lab. Livermore, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is one of two locations where every nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal is designed; the other is Los Alamos in New Mexico.

Michael Franti of Spearhead spoke about his band's musical contribution to the new CD. He said, "May the remembrance of 60 years since the bombing of Hiroshima remind us not only of the potential of humankind to destroy, but of the value of each breath, each blade of grass and each individual's dream." Franti continued, "No life is worth more than any other, no sister worth less than any brother. In this time, let us commit ourselves to loving the planet as much as we love our nations and families. My recent visit to Iraq, Israel and Palestine made me realize one thing, all bombing is terrorism."

The new "Seeds of Change" CD offers music from many cultures and for all ages, providing songs of hope, inspiration and truth. "The peace movement grows with the music and culture that sustain it," noted Tara Dorabji, CD co-producer and Community Organizer at Tri-Valley CAREs.

Utah Phillips, a politically-conscious folk singer, master storyteller and veteran of anti-nuclear actions at Livermore Lab, contributed his song, "Enola Gay." It was the Enola Gay, named after pilot Paul Tibbetts' mother, that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Phillips' song offers a thoughtful look at what a child in America experienced, thought and learned over time about the bomb.

Some bands, including the Company of Prophets, a hip-hop group from Oakland's underground, wrote and performed brand new material created especially for this CD compilation. Their song "Party at Ground Zero" speaks to the younger generation, integrating social justice themes and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a CD contributor, award-winning journalist, and prisoner on death row since 1982, had this to say: "It's been 60 years since the U.S. nuclear bombing of Japanese people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, in that more than half a century, it's interesting to note that no other nation has used nuclear weapons." Abu-Jamal added, "And, plans are afoot, under the so-called Bush Doctrine, to remake nukes, this time into ?limited' and even ?conventional' weapons! In Livermore, California, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is hard at work designing new nuclear weapons for the new millennium."

Also featured on the CD are: Universal Language, a musical melting pot, fusing traditional Latin music with grooves from all parts of the globe; Tatsumaki, a five member Japanese rock band from Nagasaki; Cesar A. Cruz, an internationally-renowned poet, educator and human rights activist; Clan Dyken, an activist band that has played in clear cut forests, proposed nuke dumps, nuclear test sites, Indian reservations and the Livermore nuclear weapons lab; and, Emma's Revolution, an award-winning songwriting duo who create musical uprisings of truth and hope. In all, the CD features 18 artists and more than 2 dozen tracks.

The songs and poems in the CD are woven together by the oral history of Mr. Matsushima, a Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) from the city of Hiroshima, who toured the Livermore nuclear weapons lab in April, 2005.

"People respond to music on a visceral level. It inspires us in a way that a lecture or the written word alone may not," explains Kelly Franger, an intern at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Combining the passionate and creative sounds of resistance to nuclear weapons with Mr. Matsushima's first-hand story of survival, this CD moves not only the youth, but the youth in us all."

The CD can be purchased on the web at here.

Citizen's Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2005 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

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