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Citizens Watch Newsletter June-July 2003

Lab Access Keys Go Missing

From Tri-Valley CAREs' June/July 2003 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
By Tara Dorabji

A team of senior level administrators from the Dept. of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) descended on Livermore Lab at the end of May to assess the top-secret Lab's management of security operations. The high level investigation was prompted by a series of scandals this summer, including two incidents involving lost keys -- first, a set of metal keys went missing for weeks; then it was discovered that an electronic access badge went missing for a month and a half.

Additionally, the investigative team announced it will look into complaints from the Security Police Officers Association that the officers have not received the training, support and equipment they would need to thwart a theft of nuclear materials or repel a terrorist attack.

The first set of missing keys was immediately reported to a supervisor by a security officer. However, the missing keys went several weeks without being reported to upper management -- so locks were not changed and nearly every sensitive area of the Lab was, potentially, left open to an intruder.

The next key that came up missing was the electronic access badge that prompted this latest federal investigation. The access badge, which is still missing, opens an estimated 3,000 doors. When a security officer found the card missing, it was immediately reported to a supervisor. However, the missing key was not reported up the management chain for six weeks, once again leaving the Lab vulnerable to intrusion and theft of nuclear material or secrets.

Livermore Lab Director Michael Anastasio was reportedly furious when he was informed that the second missing key went unreported to upper management for so long. The Lab, now more than a month later, has begun the process of blocking the badge's access. Further, the Lab is checking 300 of the potential 3,000 entry points where the card might have been used. Classified information within these areas is protected by an additional punch code, according to Livermore Lab spokespeople. However, given the lapse in time, it will be difficult to determine what, if any, information, materials or equipment might be missing.

This new list of security and management problems places the University of California's contract for Livermore Lab back under scrutiny. Spencer Abraham already announced that the DOE contract with UC to run the Los Alamos Lab will be put up for competitive bid. This new string of errors reintroduces the question of UC's contract to run Livermore.

Linton Brooks, the head of NNSA, ordered the investigation of Livermore Lab, saying: "Senior management at Lawrence Livermore and the University of California have responded aggressively to revelations about security problems, but I am disturbed by evidence that other managers in the chain of command have been lax in identifying and reporting potentially serious security problems."

Some Lab employees and watchdog groups have a theory about why the missing keys went unreported to upper management for so long. Simply stated, it's the culture of fear of reprisal. The Livermore Lab has a long and dishonorable history of retaliating against workers who report problems. Two very recent examples are Charles Quinones and Mathew Zipoli, President and Vice-President of the Security Police Officers Association at Livermore Lab. Both allege they were fired for blowing the whistle on numerous health and safety violations. Zipoli has since been reinstated, and both have whistleblower suits before the court.

Additionally, one must wonder, if Livermore Lab loses keys and access badges to areas that house weapons secrets and nuclear material, how can we be sure that the proposed new work with biowarfare agents will be secure? Could keys for the planned BSL-3 facility go missing, too? Would anyone notice if a few spores of anthrax get "lost" into our environment? Stay tuned for updates.


Stop the War Makers: Hands Around Livermore Lab

From Tri-Valley CAREs' June/July 2003 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
By Tara Dorabji

On Sunday August 10, as part of a national week of actions to promote global disarmament and challenge U.S. nuclear weapons policy, there will be a major rally and march in the Bay Area at Livermore Lab. Livermore is one of two locations in the U.S. where all nuclear weapons are designed. The August 10 action at Livermore will also commemorate the early August bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Horrified by the death, destruction and desecration of life wrought by those two crude atomic bombs fifty-eight years ago, the world has since maintained a moral "firewall" against the use of nuclear weapons.

Bush Administration policies propel us down the dangerous path toward the use of nuclear weapons again in war. As we gather August 10, a House-Senate conference committee will decide whether to grant Bush's wish to fully overturn a ban on so-called mini-nukes (nuclear weapons with yields of less than 5 kilotons). As we march to Livermore Lab this August, weaponeers inside the fence will be studying the feasibility of turning the B83 nuclear "lay down" bomb into a "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator." As we join our hands to surround the Lab, Congress will debate whether or not it will cut funds for "enhanced readiness" to conduct a full-scale underground nuclear blast in Nevada.

Join us on August 10 for hands around Livermore Lab. Your presence, your hands and your voice are needed to demand the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Further, in addition to designing new nuclear weapons, the Livermore Lab has plans to operate a biowarfare agent facility, called a biosafety level 3 or BLS-3, by autumn 2003. still support it by sending a symbolic representation of your hands. (See page 3.)

Twenty years ago, thousands of people gathered in Livermore -- bringing their hands together around the Lab. This year, veterans of that event and those new to the peace movement will come together to create a new "Hands Around the Livermore Lab."

It is time to gather again at Livermore and to speak out; saying NO to the design, development, testing and use of all nuclear weapons. It is time for a potent new vision; saying YES to the abolition of nuclear weapons -- in the Bay Area, the U.S. and around the globe.


Biodefense, Agriculture Activists Unite

From Tri-Valley CAREs' June/July 2003 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
By Inga Olson

Two of society's key issues -- genetic engineering (GE) and technology run amok -- have served to unite activists in the seemingly diverse fields of biodefense and agriculture. Recently, leaders from both disciplines made common cause, first at the World Agricultural Forum in St. Louis, MO and then, again, at the international gathering of Agriculture Ministers in Sacramento, CA..

In May, Tri-Valley CAREs joined others facing new biowarfare agent facilities in their communities and agriculture activists from around the world at a convergence at the World Ag Forum. Groups came together to protest and to provide information on the impacts of GE foods, crops and weaponized diseases.

Since the commercialization of GE food crops began in the mid-1990s, biotechnology has been a means for global corporations to concentrate their control over food supplies. International financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization have also supported the expansion of GE agriculture.

The Bush Administration's push for biodefense research has similarly suffered from an undue emphasis on GE and exotic technologies instead of shoring up our public health infrastructure.

In St. Louis, Tri-Valley CAREs called for a freeze on funding for new biodefense labs until there is a national evaluation of what, if any, additional facilities might be needed. Colleagues from across the country asserted that they are being confronted with bioweapons in their communities. These biothreats are not from Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein; they are part of the U.S. program. From Boston to Honolulu, more than thirty new biodefense facilities have been proposed and many are being fast-tracked, often bypassing in-depth environmental review.

At Livermore and Los Alamos, proposed facilities will collocate biowarfare agents and nuclear weapons research, posing risks to the already fragile Biological Weapons Convention as well as local threats to worker and community health and the surrounding environment. (See, for example, the Jan. 2003 Citizen's Watch.)

At the St. Louis conference, community leaders and biodefense experts talked about how these new biofacilities will grow the world's most dangerous organisms and create genetically engineered diseases. They will train numerous people, likely thousands, in various aspects of the perverse science of creating biological weapons. Though the Bush Administration says these facilities will defend the U.S. from biological terrorists, some experts argue that the Bush biodefense program itself is the greater threat to peace, health and the environment.

Another important opportunity to link activist communities came in June at the Sacramento, CA "Ministerial Conference on Agriculture, Science and Technology." It was hosted by Bush's Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, and other agencies. Ministers of agriculture, environment and trade from 180 countries were invited. The purpose: to brief foreign ministers prior to world trade negotiations scheduled for this September in Cancun, Mexico, where agriculture -- and specifically biotech agriculture -- will play a central role.

The activist community held a convergence of its own, combining marches, direct action and educational events to discuss the failure of corporate "solutions" like free trade and biotechnology to remedy the crisis of global food security and world hunger. Speakers covered a variety of risks that the biotech agenda presents including genetically modified organisms, chemical dependent corporate agriculture, and potential biowarfare agent proliferation in the name of biodefense. The benefits of fair-trade, organic and sustainable alternatives and the courage to take nonviolent action for water, land and life were promoted.

In keeping with the theme, Tri-Valley CAREs organized a panel on "technology that harms" for the teach-in at Sac State. We discussed Livermore Lab's nuclear weapons and biofacility. The panel also included Fritjof Capra, Robert Gould and others.


Plutonium Pits: One Step Closer to Armageddon

From Tri-Valley CAREs' June/July 2003 Citizen's Watch Newsletter
By Inga Olson

A recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a new plutonium bomb core plant brings us one step closer to the resumption of full-scale production of nuclear arms. The Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced its intent to begin examination of five sites for the new facility; two in New Mexico, one each in South Carolina, Texas and Nevada. The chosen site is to become a "Modern Pit Facility," or MPF, with the capability to produce upwards of 500 plutonium pits annually, a level that harkens back to cold war bomb production rates. Plutonium pits, roughly the size of a softball, are the fission "trigger" for the thermonuclear explosion in modern nuclear weapons. The MPF will cost $2 to $4 billion to build, $200-300 million more to operate each year -- and many billions to dismantle and clean up in the decades to come.

DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) presents no case for the large future stockpile which the MPF would support, but simply claims that, "classified analyses indicate that long-term support of the nuclear stockpile, which is a cornerstone of U.S. national security policy, will require a long-term pit production capability." Yet, even the DEIS admits that there has been no "significant degradation" of the plutonium pits in weapons due to aging. And, the U.S. is up to its eyeballs in plutonium pits, possessing as many as 23,000 to 25,000 of the bomb cores -- some in weapons, some in storage.

DOE's Notice of Intent for the MPF states that one of the functions for the facility will be to have the ability to produce new design pits for new types of nuclear weapons. (Aha, the real reason for building the facility is revealed here.)

The U.S. is obligated under Article VI of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to get rid of its nuclear arsenal, yet the DEIS ignores this obligation. The document fails to evaluate in any detail the "disarmament option." Instead, the DEIS analyzes three production levels for the MPF -- 125, 250 and 450 pits per year. Moreover, there could be double shifts at the MPF that push production numbers even higher.

The NPT will undergo review by signatory nations in 2005. The move to site a MPF will be viewed by other countries in context; that is, in combination with other U.S. nuclear policy initiatives that include the possible "preemptive" use of nuclear weapons, moves to repeal the ban on mini-nukes, efforts to develop a high yield earth penetrating nuke and preparations to return to full-scale nuclear testing. Taken together, the probable result will be to devalue if not decimate the nonproliferation regime. For, the world's nonnuclear nations have pledged to forgo developing nuclear weapons based on the nuclear weapon states' Article VI pledge to achieve nuclear disarmament. With the MPF potentially capable of producing more than 500 pits a year, it appears that the U.S. is moving in the opposite direction. Thus, the incentive for nonnuclear nations to refrain from nuclear weapons development grows increasingly thin.

Submit comments on the Modern Pit Facility to: Mr. Jay Rose, MPF EIS Document Manager, Department of Energy/NNSA, 1000 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20585, Fax: 1-202-586-5324 Email: James.Rose@nnsa.doe.gov. The comment deadline is August 5, but DOE will accept comments for up to two weeks following the deadline.

For more information on nuclear weapons issues, see the Tri-Valley CAREs website at www.trivalleycares.org or the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability website at www.ananuclear.org. To obtain an analysis of the MPF and disarmament, see www.wslfweb.org or www.lasg.org. For a copy of "sign on" MPF comments that you can easily personalize and send to DOE, see www.nukewatch.org.


Three Ways You Can Help Tri-Valley CAREs Today!

1. Donate: We are in the midst of our semi-annual appeal drive. Your tax-deductible donation in any amount is needed now to support our 2003 work for peace, justice and a healthy environment.

2. Write: We have been nominated for the Working Assets 2004 ballot. If you are a Working Assets customer, please send them a note today to support our nomination. Write to: Lucy Radcliffe, Donations Manager, Working Assets, 101 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.

3. Volunteer: We meet on the third Thursday of the month, and you are welcome to join us. Additionally, we have volunteer opportunities in our office and at special events. Call us at (925) 443-7148 for details.

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