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July 2007 Citizens Watch Newsletter

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Site 300: Bombs Away?

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

At this moment, the future of Livermore Lab's Site 300 hangs in the balance. On the one side, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) is studying whether to terminate its bomb testing activities there. Also, the site is massively contaminated with toxic and radioactive debris and in desperate need of cleanup.

On the other side, the same DOE and its Livermore Lab are applying for a new permit to increase bomb blasts at Site 300 indefinitely and to further pollute the air, soil and water with up to 60 chemical and nuclear materials. Then, too, any day now, the Dept. of Homeland Security will announce whether Site 300 is on its "finalist" list to house one of the largest bio-warfare agent research facilities in the world.

Your participation at various events and hearings this July, and in the coming months, can make a difference in swinging the balance ? in one direction or the other.

Here is some of the encouraging news. Concerned residents of Tracy, Livermore and surrounding areas are coming forward to voice their concerns about increased bomb testing, the health of their families and the viability of the environment in which we all live. They are speaking as well of their hopes for a thorough cleanup at Site 300 that will restore it and make it available for civilian uses.

Recently, residents have, for example, hosted a house party in Tracy to educate their neighbors, spoken before the Livermore and Tracy city councils and the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, and participated in a crucial DOE public meeting on the Superfund cleanup plans at Site 300. More opportunities to speak up for peace and the environment are just around the corner, and community participation is critical at this time.

Last year, the DOE budget request to Congress included language that hinted toward a closeout of testing activities at Site 300. High level meetings we conducted at DOE Headquarters confirmed this positive direction. Officials stated that testing at Site 300 was "duplicative and unnecessary" and that residential encroachment made the site less viable as a high-explosives testing range. This was said in light of the increase in population density in Livermore, Tracy, and Mountain House ? and because of the 5,500 homes planned near the Site 300 fence line.

This is why the shock was so acute when the Livermore Lab announced plans to increase annual explosive tests at the site 8-fold, from 1,000 to 8,000 pounds, and its daily limit more than 3-fold, from 100 to 350 pounds. If the permit application is approved, the Lab could detonate up to 4,500 pounds of depleted uranium each year in open-air bomb tests with no control technology to reduce airborne emissions. The permit would also allow open-air testing with tritium, which is the radioactive hydrogen of the hydrogen bomb, and scores of other toxic chemicals and gases.

The bomb blasts would be detonated on flat, above ground "firing tables." Livermore Lab acknowledges that some of radioactive and toxic materials would be released into the air, soil and water in surrounding areas.

Over the years, Site 300 has become extremely contaminated, mostly due to the past bomb blasts that have been conducted there. In 1990, Site 300 was placed on the EPA's Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the country. Site 300 has a 2-mile long underground water plume polluted by depleted uranium and tritium. Other contaminant plumes include perchlorate, RDX and a toxic stew of other pollutants. The TCE plume in one area has extended past the Site 300 boundary and under Corral Hollow Road and the nearby creek.

To get approval to begin the increased testing, the Livermore Lab has applied for a permit from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The District will be holding a meeting to inform the public about the application for these new increased explosions.

As background, we note that the Lab had originally been granted these permits. Then, the permits were revoked when a challenge revealed that the Lab's application lacked vital data about the content of the blasts. The Lab has re-applied, bringing us to "round two."

The public meeting will be 7:30 PM on Wednesday, July 18th at the City Council Chambers, 333 Civic Center Plaza in Tracy. Your participation at this time could really make a difference.

We are also looking for volunteers to table at grocery stores and local events to alert people to the July 18 meeting. We will also gather signatures against the increased bomb testing and circulate "sign on" comment letters to support the full cleanup of existing pollution at Site 300. Call (925) 443-7148 or email loulena@trivalleycares.org to volunteer.

CLEAN UP SITE 300: You have until July 25 to go to www.trivalleycares.org and download a 4-page public comment letter telling EPA and DOE to clean up Site 300 properly. You may send your comments directly to DOE (the address is on our website) or send them to us and we will submit them for you. Don't delay. And, don't be silent. Thank you.

Unlocking Our Right to Know

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Last month, Tri-Valley CAREs settled an open government lawsuit that it had filed in the San Francisco federal court last November. The litigation revolved around the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) reluctance to release information on controversial programs at Livermore Lab, including testing of earth penetrating nuclear weapons, security preparedness, bio-warfare agent research and other planning documents.

Tri-Valley CAREs had filed requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation's primary federal statute guaranteeing public access to the written records of the government unless the records, in whole or in part, are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions to the law.

The law provides the government 20 days to comply. However, instead of the records, we received (a) stone silence, and, in some cases, (b) a seemingly endless parade of excuses for non-compliance, including illnesses, office reorganization and intra-agency non-cooperation. These excuses went on for not just weeks, but for months and years!

Tri-Valley CAREs' mission to "watchdog" Livermore Lab is thwarted when the government refuses to comply with the law. Further, the public's fundamental right to know is abrogated. Thus, we filed litigation.

Our lawsuit also claimed that DOE exhibited a "pattern and practice" of FOIA non-compliance. Groups across the country that monitor activities in the nuclear weapons complex told us of their experiences with DOE stonewalling FOIA requests, and assured us they would go before the court and offer testimony that the Department routinely fails to comply with its FOIA obligations.

The DOE, which was represented in court by the Dept. of Justice, first sought to refuse any negotiation in the lawsuit. However, arguments made by Tri-Valley CAREs convinced the court that our case was appropriate for referral to a special magistrate for settlement discussion. "Almost as soon as we entered Magistrate Judge Laporte's chambers, it was clear that documents could be obtained without further undue delay," said Executive Director Marylia Kelley.

As we go to press nearly all of the requested documents have been released, although some are heavily redacted ("whited out"). We are awaiting the final release of a subset of documents concerning bio-warfare agent research at Livermore Lab. The DOE had shipped those documents to the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the settlement agreement, the DHS will provide a "rolling" production of those records over the coming weeks.

"In the end we got the documents," said Staff Attorney Loulena Miles. "However, we have made a number of more recent requests under FOIA, and so we'll have to stay vigilant to ensure the government does not turn a blind eye to them."

This summer, our legal intern, Michael Stanker, is providing valuable assistance with FOIA efforts in the Tri-Valley CAREs office on a volunteer basis. He has cataloged past requests, filed fresh ones, and is now busy following up to demand the documents due to us.

TVC Warns about U.S. Nukes at the NPT

by Urs Cipolat
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

From April 30 to May 11, the first of three meetings preparing for the 2010 Review Conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) took place in Vienna, Austria. More than 130 of the overall 189 signatory States to the NPT and a total of 400 diplomats participated in the deliberations. The aim of the preparatory committee meeting was to take the international pulse on key nuclear weapons developments and determine the major agenda items for the upcoming, formal Review Conference.

Three hundred activists from 66 non-governmental organizations (NGO) also observed the diplomatic proceedings, among them Tri-Valley CAREs' Development Director, Urs Cipolat.

Tri-Valley CAREs' Two-Fold Aim

Cipolat's mission was twofold. First, he was one of seventeen speakers who -- on behalf of the global NGO community -- addressed the diplomats during a two-hour plenary session dedicated to the voice of "civil society." The NGO statements, collectively prepared in the months preceding the conference, reminded all governments of their fundamental obligations under the Treaty, notably to work in good faith toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

All NGO statements, as well as the official addresses of the U.S. and its fellow Nuclear Weapon States, can be found on the web at 'www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/2007index.html'

Second, Cipolat hand-delivered Tri-Valley CAREs' report about the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) to all participating delegations. Contrary to the official U.S. address, which alleged that the Administration is actively pursuing nuclear disarmament, our report demonstrates that the push for the RRW, and other similar programs, represents a "slippery slope" to new nuclear weapons and hence a violation of the NPT.

The outcome of the Vienna meeting, from a diplomatic viewpoint, was disappointing. Due to differences between Iran and the Western States, including the U.S., over the question of whether or not Teheran's nuclear program was violating the NPT, the conference was paralyzed for over a week. Ultimately, the delegates succeeded in adopting an agenda.

But at the end, they failed to also adopt the Chairman's factual summary of the gathering, which would have set the tone for next year's second preparatory committee meeting and contained language expressing concern over U.S. nuclear weapons activities and postures. Rather than annexing that document to the concluding conference report, the Chairman's summary was merely listed as a "working paper."

From the viewpoint of Tri-Valley CAREs, however, the meeting provided a great opportunity to educate many key decision-makers about what's really going on behind the closed doors of the U.S. nuclear weapons labs and to generate global opposition to aggressive nuclear weapons modernization plans.

Alerts 4 U

from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Wednesday, July 18

Public Meeting on Livermore Lab Site 300 open-air bomb explosions 7:30 PM, Tracy City Council Chambers 333 Civic Center Plaza, Tracy (925) 443-7148 for details

Livermore Lab wants to increase its open-air bomb blasts at Site 300 eight-fold, from 1,000 pounds of explosives to 8,000 pounds. These detonations may contain as much as 4,500 pounds of "depleted uranium" according to the Lab's permit application. This meeting is hosted by the San Joaquin County Air Pollution Control District ? and is intended to give the public an opportunity to discuss the health and environmental consequences of the blasts. Come and tell the air district that you want a complete review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Let the air district know about your concerns. See the article on page 1, and check our website for details.

Thursday, July 19

Tri-Valley CAREs meets 7:30 PM, Livermore main library 1188 So. Livermore Ave. (925) 443-7148

Get active with your favorite peace group! Our July meeting will include news on U.S. nuclear weapons policy, a report back on Site 300 bomb blasts, our latest efforts to stop live anthrax and other bio-warfare agents, a preview of our Hiroshima commemoration ? and much more. We meet on the third Thursday of each month (except December). If you want to make a positive difference in the world ? join us.

Thursday, July 26

Sick Worker Support Group meets 10 AM, Livermore main library 1188 So. Livermore Ave. (925) 443-7148 for details

The support group is for Livermore Lab, Sandia and other DOE workers made ill by on the job exposures to toxic and radioactive materials?and for their families. At the meeting, we will focus on the recently released Sandia Site Profile, which the government will use to determine the likelihood that workers were exposed. "Special Exposure Cohort" status?a speedier way to obtain determinations?will also be discussed. Worker participation is vital.

Saturday, July 28

Tri-Valley CAREs' annual strategic planning retreat 9:45 AM - 4 PM, United Christian Church 1886 College Ave. (at "M" St.) Livermore, RSVP REQUIRED, (925) 443-7148

We will revisit our accomplishments of the past year, discuss the present and plan our priorities for the coming year. This planning process is part of how we keep the organization focused and effective. If you are a Tri-Valley CAREs volunteer, community member, supporter, staff or board member?this retreat is for you. The planning retreat is limited to 20 people. Please RSVP early if you want to participate. A packet of materials will be mailed to confirmed participants one week in advance.

Monday, August 6

Hiroshima Commemoration 7:30 AM, Livermore Lab Westgate entrance on Vasco Road (925) 443-7148 for details

On the morning of August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb used in war on the people of Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. We gather to say "never again" at the nuclear weapons lab that is developing the NEXT U.S. nuclear weapon, euphemistically-named the "Reliable Replacement Warhead." Join us for a solemn vigil and memorial for the victims, and to advocate for an end to nuclear weapons and war. The keynote speaker will be Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada who refused deployment to the Iraq war on moral grounds. For those who so choose, there will be an opportunity to nonviolently risk arrest following the ceremony. See the enclosed flier and article on page 4 for details.

Hiroshima Memorial at Livermore Lab

by Jackie Cabasso and Jedidjah de Vries
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Sixty-two years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, we find ourselves still "In the Shadow of the Bomb."

We invite all who cherish peace and justice to join us on August 6 for a vigil and nonviolent direct action at Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab to commemorate the victims of nuclear horror, from Hiroshima to the present.

We will honor the suffering of those who died instantly and those who endured lingering illnesses, and of the Hibakusha who survived, as we speak up to insist that the U.S. government acknowledge and apologize to the people of Japan for what it has done.

We gather, too, because we understand that the devastation that accompanies all aspects of the nuclear cycle continues to the present day ? polluting our lands and poisoning our children, here in the Bay Area and around the world.

We choose to gather at the place where the next U.S. nuclear weapon is being designed. We will demand that the U.S. implement its nuclear disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, not create new horrors.

We ask you to gather with us to make our message loud and clear.

What: Hiroshima Memorial, Action
When: Monday, August 6th, 7:30 a.m.
Where: Livermore Lab, Westgate at Vasco Rd., Livermore

Through poetry, music and spoken word we will recall the history of that terrible day and the ongoing effects of the nuclear complex.

Our keynote speaker will be Bob Watada. He is the father of Ehren Watada, who refused orders to deployed to Iraq because he holds the war to be illegal. Bob has been speaking out on behalf of his son and peace ever since.

The first atomic bomb unleashed in war was dropped on the people of Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning. We will mark the exact moment with the sound of an air raid siren followed by a moment of silence to honor the memory of the dead and to reflect on the existence of nuclear weapons in our current world.

We will then open the circle for vigil participants to share their thoughts and feelings about Hiroshima and nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, those who choose may nonviolently risk arrest.

This year's commemoration is designed to be solemn and reflective, more a memorial than a traditional rally. For more information, call (925) 443-7148, or go to www.trivalleycares.org/aug6.

Sponsors include: Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore Conversion Project, Western States Legal Foundation, American Friends Service Committee, First Congregational Church of Oakland, Ecumenical Peace Institute, and Physicians for Social Responsibility - S.F. Bay Area.

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