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Citizens Watch Newsletter March 2002

New Revelations on U.S. Nuclear Posture

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' March 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

What nuclear watchdog groups had warned in the past is now making headlines. Special teams of weaponeers at Livermore Lab are developing new and "modified" nuclear weapons, including earth-penetrating mini-nukes.

Scientists at Livermore and the other weapons labs are changing U.S. nuclear weapons to improve their accuracy, vary their yields (including below the 5-kiloton, so-called "mini-nuke" level), adjust the height at which they burst, and, in some cases, add new capability to burrow beneath the earth before detonating. These changes all have one thing in common. They make U.S. nuclear weapons more "militarily usable."

New details of the still partially-classified Nuclear Posture Review, published in the LA Times, reveal the likely targets for the new weapons. The Bush Administration has directed the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans outlining the use of nuclear bombs against at least seven countries, five of which do not possess nuclear weaponry. The seven listed nations are: Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria.

Additionally, the posture review mandates that preparations be made for the use of nuclear weapons in the Arab-Israeli conflict, a confrontation between Taiwan and China, an attack by North Korea on the South, an Iraqi attack against Israel or another neighboring country and other, unspecified situations.

The report goes on to outline several general circumstances in which nuclear bombs may be unleashed. For example, it contemplates the use of nukes: against targets of interest (e.g., underground bunkers and caves) that may be able to withstand a nonnuclear attack; in retaliation for an attack with chemical or biological agents; and, "in the event of surprising military developments."

Reportedly, the posture review does not contain specific criteria to be used to determine a threshold level for these contingencies below which the U.S. would forswear nuclear attack

The new posture review expands the role of nuclear weapons -- treating them as just another military option. In so doing, it makes their use in anger all the more likely.

The document apparently neglects to grapple with the moral questions posed by the use of nuclear weapons.

In fact, it seriously undermines the global norm against their use, which has held since the bombing of Nagasaki.

The posture review reinforces the destabilizing message that the Bush Administration is broadcasting to the world. Put simply, it says that U.S. nuclear policy is: "We have nukes, we will keep them, we will develop even more sophisticated capabilities - and we will use them."

The Nuclear Posture Review violates our country's legal obligation to disarm under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It encourages nations that do not possess nuclear weapons to acquire them. It tells the already nuclear-armed states to upgrade their capabilities.

It is reckless and dangerous - and it must be stopped.

Citizen action is imperative. We will send our program associate, Inga Olson, to the United Nations next month for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting. And, five more Tri-Valley CAREs volunteer members and staff will travel to Washington, DC in April to advocate for peace and the environment. Call us to find out ways you can help.

Tri-Valley CAREs is undertaking a detailed analysis of the Nuclear Posture Review and related policy documents. Look for its release soon.

Check out the 4-page Nuclear Weapons Activities budget analysis soon to be posted to our site. The budget is where the Nuclear Posture Review's "rubber meets the road."

Suit Filed to Stop Plan to Truck Plutonium in Unsafe Containers

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' March 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On Feb. 13, Tri-Valley CAREs and attorneys with Earthjustice filed a lawsuit to prevent the Dept. of Energy (DOE) from trucking plutonium from Rocky Flats, Colorado to the Bay Area's Livermore Lab in containers that cannot be certified as safe.

The groups filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco. The suit details how weapons-grade plutonium is slated to be shipped to Livermore in 45-gallon "DT-22" containers that DOE documents acknowledge do not satisfy applicable safety regulations. The containers cannot pass a crush test, which is mandatory for such shipments under Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. Moreover, we have obtained documents disclosing that the container's manufacturer apprised DOE of this fact.

The DOE's plan to put these containers on trucks out on the Interstate highways, which run through many populated areas between Colorado and California, is raising concern throughout the West. According to DOE sources, the surplus plutonium parts are scheduled to be trucked in DT-22s to Livermore Lab in the spring or early summer of 2002.

Once in Livermore, the plutonium parts will undergo high-temperature processing in a furnace. Some years hence, the plutonium is supposed to go back out on the road, some of it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico and some to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Documents obtained in the case show that DOE is hurrying to meet an "accelerated closure" plan for dealing with the mess it made at the old Rocky Flats plant. "Speeding up the project to meet an arbitrary 2006 closure date may save the DOE some money, but at the expense of public safety along the shipment route and in the Livermore community," Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director, Marylia Kelley, told reporters at the news conference held to announce the filing of the suit.

"First, the DOE improperly granted itself a 'national security exemption' from NRC regulations, so that it can more cheaply truck decades-old, surplus plutonium parts in containers that cannot be certified safe in crush scenarios. Then, DOE compounded its egregious violation of law by neglecting to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the basic environmental statute of the land," explained Trent Orr, an attorney with Earthjustice.

The lawsuit has been filed under NEPA, and calls on DOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposal. An EIS is needed to analyze the risks posed to communities along the route in case of an accident. Further, the law requires an EIS to contain a comprehensive "alternatives analysis," i.e., outlining other options for the plutonium, and include the public in decision-making through hearings and comment periods.

Tri-Valley CAREs and Earthjustice pointed out that there are multiple alternatives that were dismissed out of hand by DOE - without benefit of NEPA analysis - as too expensive or time-consuming. They include but are not limited to:

* Cutting the material to fit into safer containers for transport.
* Processing the material at Rocky Flats, and storing it there.
* Sending portions of the material from Rocky Flats directly to WIPP, rather than to California first then to New Mexico.
* Sending the recovered plutonium directly to Savannah River, rather than to California first and then to Savannah River.
* Processing the material at one of several DOE sites not within urban boundaries, if careful analysis showed this to be safe.

According to Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, an expert in radioactive transport issues, "These DT-22 containers cannot withstand all credible highway accidents. It makes no sense to transport plutonium in unsafe containers to Lawrence Livermore, process the plutonium, then transport it to other government facilities in New Mexico and South Carolina. All this transportation maximizes the risk of an accident."

"Plutonium presents an extreme health hazard to workers who handle it and to the public," explained retired Livermore Lab physicist Marion Fulk. "A tenth micron-sized particle of plutonium, once in the body, is enough to cause cancer or other health problems," Fulk continued. "New scientific studies show a wide range of negative health outcomes associated with radiation doses that authorities believed to be safe in years past. If we must err, we must err on the side of caution," he concluded.

Moreover, the shipments could pose a national security issue. After Sept. 11, the DOE temporarily halted nuclear waste shipments because they pose an attractive target for terrorists. What assurances do we have that these shipments will now be secure?

"Cleaning up the remnants of the Cold War is a worthy and difficult project, but communities should not be endangered in the name of expediency," Kelley concluded. "In a nutshell, that is why we filed the lawsuit."

The press release and a link to the complaint are posted on our website.

Through Plutonium's "Labyrinth"

by Ann Seitz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' March 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Livermore community members listened intently as expert speakers began to untangle the knotty, complex subject of Plutonium-239, the highly radioactive, man-made material that makes up the core of nuclear weapons. The educational Town Meeting, "Playing With Poison... Plutonium in Livermore: Past, Present and Future," was held on Feb. 21 and drew about 75 interested participants.

Dr. David Rush, scientist emeritus from Tufts University and a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, walked the audience through the beginning stage of plutonium's poison maze by explaining basic radiation units - curies, picocuries, grams, milligrams, etc. He then spoke on radiation studies that have been conducted on nuclear workers, and told the audience that although Livermore Lab possesses the most sophisticated plutonium detection equipment available anywhere, the Lab does the poorest job of all the Dept. of Energy facilities in monitoring its workers for exposure.

Environmental scientist Peter Strauss led the audience through Livermore Lab's history of plutonium leaks, spills and accidents. He told of plutonium fires at the Lab, accidents that blew out gloveboxes where employees were working, plutonium spills in outdoor storage areas, incidents where plutonium was dumped down the drains and more. Peter outlined some of the off site consequences of plutonium use in Livermore, including the plutonium found in parks west of the Lab and in air monitors east of the Lab. He concluded that if the rules that govern civilian nuclear power plants were applied to the Lab, it would have been subject to many fines and, possibly, shut down.

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, traced the organization's research and the steps that resulted in the group's recent lawsuit to stop DOE's plan to ship 89 plutonium parts from Rocky Flats to Livermore (see page 1 for more on the lawsuit). The plutonium parts are bonded to substrate materials, such as beryllium. Marylia outlined both the transportation risks and the hazards posed by the high-temperature processing of the plutonium parts once they reach Livermore.

The present plan calls for the Lab to put the plutonium parts in an experimental furnace to hydride the material to make it crumbly. Then, the flakes will be oxidized to minimize their potential for spontaneous combustion on contact with air. Some of the material will be packaged as a mixed waste and sent to New Mexico, and the more pure plutonium oxide will go to Savannah River where it is slated to be made into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for use in nuclear power plants. Marylia pointed out that this plan puts the Rocky Flats plutonium out on a "nationwide tour," which may be desirable for a rock band seeking maximum exposure but not for a poisonous, radioactive substance like plutonium.

A cluster of 1,000 colorful origami cranes displayed by Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of Western States Legal Foundation, and her heartfelt retelling of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb survivors' stories connected the issues of health and peace for the audience. Plutonium-239, with its half-life of 24,000 years is forever in human terms, she said, and so multiple generations will have their lives cut short because of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their possible use again in war.

The panelists and the audience alike traversed much of the labyrinth that is plutonium - from the local to the international, the medical to the ethical consequences, the past accidents to the future risks. At the evening's end, community recommendations were outlined and the audience was encouraged to become active.

A plutonium fact sheet and recommendations are available on request. It will also be posted on our website.

Vigils for Peace Between India and Pakistan:
March 24 & April 28 at 5:30 PM

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' March 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries, continue a dangerous border standoff, now entering its fourth month. This tense situation could lead to a disastrous war that, like previous conflicts, would bring death, destruction and more poverty to the region. Further, a new war would risk the use of nuclear weapons that could culminate in a radioactive holocaust for this and future generations.

People in Pakistan and India understand that dialogue is the only way to move forward and secure a nonviolent resolution of the conflict. To this end, peace advocates in Pakistan and India have begun holding simultaneous monthly vigils. People united for peace in South Asia have asked for supporters around the world to vigil with them one Sunday of every month at 5:30 PM local time.

Tri-Valley CAREs has answered the call, and will hold vigils in Livermore on Sunday, March 24 & Sunday, April 28 (the fourth Sundays of the month) from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. We will meet at the Peace Monument near the Livermore Library at 1000 South Livermore Ave. All who cherish peace are encouraged to participate.

A second Bay Area vigil will be hosted by Friends of South Asia, a student-led group in Palo Alto (

The vigils, now worldwide, are conducted under the banner of "People for Peace Between Pakistan and India," and support the 5 actions that organizers are demanding of both their governments. They are:

First, open all communication and travel links between the two countries. Second, immediately sign a No War Pact. Third, set up a permanent dialogue process for continued and uninterrupted negotiations to settle all outstanding issues, including (a) the question of Kashmir, whose resolution must involve people of Kashmir on both sides of boundary lines, and (b) the problem of cross-border terrorism. Fourth, act to end and to reverse the nuclear arms race and actively engage in Global Nuclear Disarmament initiatives. Fifth, establish trade and commerce links.

Become a force for positive change in the world. Join one or more of the local vigils.

Citizen's Alerts -- Calendar Section

Meetings * Events * Actions * Call-In Days * Volunteer Opportunities

by Marylia Kelley and Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' March 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, March 21
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us for our monthly meeting. Agenda items include updates on our plutonium suit, the Nuclear Posture Review, disarmament actions and more.

Saturday, March 23
Abolition 2000 Northern California gathering
10:30 AM - 4 PM, Hart Center
915 - 27th St. (near J), Sacramento
(916) 448-7157 for details, RSVP

This gathering of the Abolition 2000 Northern California network is hosted by Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action. The meeting will include presentations on U.S. nuclear weapons programs and strategy sessions. Join us for info and support. Pizza will be served for lunch. Please RSVP, so we can be certain of buying enough food.

Sunday, March 24
Peace between India & Pakistan
5:30 PM vigil at Livermore Peace Monument
1000 So. Livermore Ave. (at library)
(925) 443-7148 for details

Calling for an end to violence, people united in Pakistan and India have begun holding simultaneous vigils. Indian and Pakistani groups have asked peace-loving people everywhere to join them for one hour-at 5:30 PM local time one Sunday each month. In Livermore, we will meet on Sunday, March 24 at the Peace Monument. We will bring statements from India and Pakistan. Bring a candle and your favorite song or poem to share.

Friday, March 29
Good Friday Action
From Whence Cometh Our Security?
6:45 AM, East Ave. & Vasco Rd., Livermore
(510) 548-4141 for details

Participants in the liturgy will include Carla de Sola, a noted liturgical dancer and teacher, and a host of wonderful speakers and musicians. Following the liturgy will be a procession to the gates of Livermore Laboratory where participants may choose to risk arrest. The Good Friday Service will end with a community gathering nearby at Marylia Kelley's Rec Room, 5720 East Ave., 10 AM - Noon, refreshments provided.

April 1 - 5
"Star Wars II" Call-in Days
(202) 224-3121, Capitol Switchboard, Capitol Directory

Join with thousands across the country by taking a minute to call or email your Senators and Rep. to express your opposition to the Bush Administration's plans to (1) withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (scheduled to happen in June 2002), (2) militarize outer space, and (3) construct various missile defense schemes. Tell your elected officials to say no to space-based lasers and other destabilizing weapons systems. The call-in is sponsored by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Thursday, April 4
Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
2 shifts: 4 - 6 PM and 7 - 9 PM
Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Only have a couple hours to volunteer? Tri-Valley CAREs needs you! Come and help us get our next newsletter ready for the post office. You supply the hands, we'll supply the labels and the snacks.

Saturday, April 6
Radiation and Health Workshop
9 AM - 1 PM, Bayview Opera House
4705 - 3rd St., San Francisco
(415) 468-4372 for details, RSVP

Tri-Valley CAREs is partnering with the Bayview Hunters Point Health and Environmental Resource Center (HERC) to present a workshop on health issues faced by residents in the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods. The topics will include the Hunters Point Shipyard and more. Lunch provided. RSVP.

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